Yoga for Skiers?

I love my work!  Maybe in a future blog I will write about ALL the reasons but for now I want to share one story that is particularly heart warming and satisfying.

Oleksa
Oleksa

I was asked by a friend of a friend if I would teach yoga to two ‘boys’ – Oleksa 13 and Julian 11 years old.  My name came up because of my work with runners and endurance athletes and these boys are serious skiers – the pictures say it all. They love to ski and race in addition to playing many other sports – just active all around!

As always my first session with clients is to take them through a practice while assessing strengths, weaknesses and specific needs.

Julian
Julian

Well, physically these brothers could not be more different, both in build and physicality. Oleksa is  tight, especially in hips and legs  – not surprising as you watch his skiing stance and the amount of skiing and racing he does. Julian, on the other hand, is overly flexible in some parts of his body – lower back in particular. He was wobbly in standing poses which explained why he was falling in many of his races.

My work was laid out for me.  Oleksa’s was more straight forward – stretch out his tight spots mostly. Julian’s a bit more delicate – stop him from going too deeply into poses that he could do easily yet hurt himself – lower back mainly.

Julian & Oleksa
Julian & Oleksa

We met weekly and I worked them through sufficient stretching and strengthening – hearing the oohs and aahs of Oleksa stretching his tight quads while Julian would comment that the felt nothing. Witness Julian struggling to hold a steady lunge while Oleksa was able to ground firmly.

In spite of being tired and homework beckoning, these boys persevered and always expressed how great they felt after the class.  Occasionally there was an opportunity to work with them one-on-one and this allowed me to focus more directly on their needs. Their understanding of their body’s strengths and weaknesses grew.

The common affliction of tight neck and shoulders also arose. This allowed me to give them a lesson in body alignment while sitting, standing, working at their computer or doing homework. What a great lesson to learn at such a young age!

julian-hip
Julian stretching his inner thighs

Over several months I was able to hone into their evolving needs. More stability and strengthening work for everyone while tailoring the stretch component to their needs. Even at this age, core strength is so important. We even found areas where Julian was tight – adductors. It didn’t take long for Julian to hold his lunges firmly and to feel the benefits – he was falling less in his races!

Oleksa steady and focused
Oleksa steady and focused

Over time Oleksa was able to articulate his needs – better focus for his racing.  I began to do additional work on breathing (ok, it was meditation but I didn’t call it that!) and visualization of his race from start to finish.  Bingo – that was helping him in his races also.

To say that I love working with my ‘youngest’ clients is an understatement. For starters, I feel privileged to be able to influence them on the benefits of yoga at a very young age. They make me laugh out loud with their wicked sense of humour. They even make me raise my voice when they compete and horse around – now that is not what I am accustomed to when teaching!!

The funniest, and most interesting, is that in spite of their energy level and rambunctiousness – they LOVE savasana!  But not any savasana – one where I get to spoil them with shoulder, neck and head massages. They are in heaven with this end to their practice.  A small thing I can give to them for sharing their energy and humour with me!

We are entering our second year of yoga sessions. Many of us know that the benefits of yoga compound. I can’t wait to see how their racing and other athletics continues to be affected by yoga.

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