Yoga in the Snow

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, I couldn’t wait to take advantage of prime conditions. However, the pain flared all too soon when out on the trail. So 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 on my next outing. It helped extend my “pain-guided” time on the trail.

yoga in the snow: woman doing a wide forward fold on snowshoes

Yoga is a gentle exercise perfect for speeding up the healing of back issues. Here is the wide forward fold: With feet turned slightly in and spread as wide as is comfortable, bend forward from the hips with a nice flat back.  Photo: Laura Rose

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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. Of course, 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 are probably some moves suitable for you.

Cat/cows, planks, and cobra poses are ideal when I’m indoors. While outdoors and on snowshoes, I’m limited to primarily 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 quickly, helping to make your hikes as pain-free and rejuvenating as possible.

woman completing a garland squat yoga pose

As long as you’re still mobile, there are probably some moves suitable for you. It’s all up to what you’re comfortable with and your ability. Photo: Laura Rose

Example Outdoor Yoga Poses

Here are a few poses that can be done on snowshoes. For example, downward dog, garland poses, and child’s pose can all be accomplished with relative ease on snowshoes. Furthermore, Warrior I, II, III, lunges, and other balance poses can be added too.

But remember, always check with your health provider before completing these, especially if you have an injury. 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.

Mountain Pose and Forward Fold

For mountain pose, stand straight up with your hands touching in front of your chest (see photo 1).

A forward fold from mountain pose is an easy yoga pose to accomplish outside, and the snowshoes enhance balance.

To accomplish the forward fold, lower your upper half from mountain pose. 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.

You can also do a wide forward fold. With feet turned slightly in and spread as wide as is comfortable, bend forward from the hips with a nice flat back.

Read More: Don’t Forget To Stretch for Snowshoeing

side by side: L: woman doing mountain pose on snowshoes R: woman doing forward fold yoga pose on snowshoes in snow

L Mountain Pose: Stand straight with hands at heart. R: Forward Fold: Be sure to bend from the hips and keep your knees soft. Photos: Laura Rose

Child’s Pose

For a child’s pose, kneel on the floor and touch your big toes together. Then sit on your heels and separate your knees, about as wide as your hips. Finally, reach your hands above your head or lay your hands, palms side up, along the sides of your torso. Remember to breathe.

Downward Dog

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.

Read More: Back Exercises for Snowshoers: Back to Basics

Woman on snowshoes in downward facing dog position surrounded by snow

Downward facing dog: 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. Photo: Laura Rose

Lunge

To complete a lunge, start in a standing position, then step your left foot back, bending your right knee.

Garland Squat

Keep the feet in line and hip-width apart for a garland squat (my favorite), then squat with the tailbone tucked under. With hands in namaste position, gently push elbows to inside the knees. Be sure to keep your shoulders down and back straight.

Read More: 3 Leg Exercises Every Snowshoer Can Do Without Weights

woman squatting on snowshoes in a yoga pose

Garland Squat: Keeping the feet in line and hip-width apart, 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. Photo: Laura Rose

Warriors

To complete Warrior I (see photo), step your right leg back with the foot turned in slightly. Deep breath and raise your arms over your head with a slightly curved back. Step legs together and repeat with the left leg. Don’t forget to breathe!

For Warrior II, face the long side of the mat. First, widen your feet to as far as comfortable, and bend your front leg while keeping your back leg straight. Then rotate your back foot parallel to the back of your mat. Finally, outstretch your arms parallel to your body.

For Warrior III, stand straight and 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.

Read More: Strengthen Your Hips for Snowshoeing With These At-Home Exercises

side by side: women completing Warrior I yoga poses on snowshoes

Warrior 1: Step right leg back with the foot turned in slightly. Deep breath and raise your arms over your head with a slightly curved back. Step legs together and repeat with the left leg. Photos: Laura Rose

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 healing and extend your time on the white stuff.

Read More: Impacts of Snowshoeing and Chiropractor-Approved Injury Prevention Tips 

woman squatting in a yoga pose

A wide variety of yoga poses are doable on snowshoes. Photo: Laura Rose

Enjoy Some Yoga Outside in the Snow

Now that my back issues have cleared up, I intend to keep doing daily routines outside in the snow. Other than a tropical beach (and sandshoeing) in the frequently nasty month of March, I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to practice yoga than out in 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 consult your doctor before exercising, including the yoga poses and activities listed in this article. This article was first published on November 17, 2016. Formatting changes and additional pose descriptions were added in March 2020, and it was most recently updated on December 1, 2022.

Read Next: Reap the Health Benefits of Snowshoeing

Author

  • Rose Doucet

    Rose Doucet is a freelance writer living in New Brunswick, Canada where there is often six months of winter. She enjoys snowshoeing in the woods behind her house, observing nature and tracking wildlife. In the off season you'll find her in the kitchen, her vegetable gardens or swimming in the brook. Contact with nature is a part of Rose's daily routine and has helped shape her outlook on life in general. She passed on her love of nature to her children and now has a grandson who's already a budding naturalist.

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