Just as the snowshoe season was getting underway, an old back problem flared up. A trip to the chiropractor reassured me I should continue to stay active. “Let your pain guide your activity” was my doctor’s welcome advice, with one exception: no twisting. This meant an adjustment to my yoga practice—and no shoveling–but otherwise, I could get back outside on snowshoes.
With spectacular weather earlier this season, I couldn’t wait to take advantage of prime conditions. However, the pain flared all too soon when out on the trail. I decided if ballet on skis is possible, why not yoga on snowshoes?
I know some of you have been doing it for years and I don’t know why I never thought of it before. However, I tried a little on the spot yoga my next outing and it helped extend my “pain guided” time on the trail.
Yoga As A Remedy
My problems are in the lower back—L3, and L4—so some of the best yoga moves are the ones done bending from the hips. You will have to adjust according to your injury—consult your physiotherapist, chiropractor, or physician for specifics to your condition—but as long as you’re still mobile, there’s probably some moves suitable for you.
When I’m indoors, cat/cows, planks, and cobra poses are ideal. While outdoors and on snowshoes, I’m limited to mostly upright yoga positions, but some low to the ground poses are possible. And if I’m feeling really adventurous, I can throw in a happy baby or a back roll from a squatted position.
It’s all up to what you’re comfortable with and your ability–you don’t want to make your issues worse. Depending on your ability and experience, you can execute a fairly well-rounded routine on the snow in a short time frame, helping to make your hikes as pain-free and rejuvenating as possible.
Example Outdoor Yoga Poses
Here are a few poses that can be done on snowshoes. But remember, always check with your health provider prior to completing these, especially if you have an injury.
Mountain Pose & Forward Fold
Forward folds from mountain pose are easy yoga poses to accomplish outside, and balance is enhanced by the snowshoes.
For mountain pose, stand straight up with your hands touching in front of your chest (see photo 1).
Then, complete the forward fold (see photo 3). Be sure to bend from the hips, and keep your knees soft. Relax and breathe into the pose. Grab your elbows and sway gently from side to side if you like. Roll up one vertebra at a time.
Downward Dog, Garland Squat, Child’s Pose
Downward dog, squatting (garland pose is my favorite), and even a child’s pose can be performed with relative ease on snowshoes.
To complete a downward dog (see photo 4) from the forward fold position, walk the palms forward as far as is comfortable with sits bones pointing skyward. Relax shoulders. Walk the hands back to the forward fold to come out of position.
For a garland squat (see photo 5), keep the feet in line and hip-width apart, then squat with tail bone tucked under. With hands in namaste position, gently push elbows to inside the knees. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and back straight.
For a child’s pose, kneel on the floor and touch your big toes together. Then sit on your heels and separate your knees apart, about as wide as your hips. Then reach your hands above your head or lay your hands, palms side up along the sides of your torso. Remember to breathe.
Warriors & Lunges
Warrior I, II, III, lunges and other balance poses can be added too. However, since some of these poses incorporate twisting, it would be best to add them as the back heals if you have an injury like mine.
To complete Warrior I (see photo 6), step your right leg back with the foot turned in slightly. Deep breath and raise arms over your head with a slightly curved back. Step legs together and repeat with left leg. Don’t forget to breathe!
For Warrior II, face the long side of the mat. Widen your feet to as far as comfortable, bend your front leg, while keeping your back leg straight. Then rotate your back foot so it’s parallel with the back of your mat and outstretch your arms, parallel to your body.
For Warrior III, stand straight and then slowly bend forward at your hips. Keep your back straight. Then, extend one leg straight back behind you. Finally, extend your arms forward, lengthening your spine.
To complete a lunge, start in a standing position, then step your left foot back, bending your right knee.
Tips To Keep In Mind
Do what feels good, and don’t overextend yourself in your yoga poses, whether indoors or outside. Yoga is an inherently gentle exercise, meant to soothe and realign our lives, not a “no pain, no gain” workout. Focus on maintaining proper alignment of the hips and feet, holding each pose while breathing deeply, and relaxing into the position.
I love yoga’s adaptability and inclusiveness—anyone, any age, any ability. If you can’t straighten your legs without discomfort, keep your knees bent. Can’t touch your toes? Don’t force it. Are you limited to one or two moves? Be patient with yourself, and add new poses when you feel ready.
Snow conditions are unpredictable, so don’t sabotage your time out on the snow by overdoing it. Just a few minutes can aid in the healing process and extend your time on the white stuff.
Go Enjoy Some Yoga Outside In The Snow
Now that my back issues have cleared up, I intend to keep doing some of my daily routines outside on the snow. Our season has been short and sporadic, but a big Nor’easter may be headed our way over the weekend. Other than a tropical beach in the oftentimes nasty month of March, I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to practice yoga than out on the snow.
Have you ever completed any yoga poses outside in the snow? Which poses are your favorite? What other recommendations do you have? Let us know in the comments below!
Please remember to consult your doctor before attempting any exercise, including the yoga poses and activities listed in this article. Article updated formatting changes and additional pose descriptions, March 2020.