Written by Alena Hall, editorial intern
Growing up in the south, I can safely say that I’ve hopped onto a pair of skis a mere three times in my life. I can also say that those three times started with a fair amount of trembling, anxiety and general fear that I would lose control and go flying off the mountainside. But if I had met Anne Anderson back then, I’m sure my skiing experiences would have turned out a little differently.
A yoga and snow sports enthusiast, Anderson began teaching yoga classes and ski lessons in 2000, and by 2008, she discovered the organic connection between the two practices. “It was magical; it worked beautifully,” she says. “The breath is the greatest tool we have to calm the mind and body.” Since coining the term “snowga” and successfully launching the hybrid class at Connecticut’s Mohawk Mountain in 2012, Anderson has watched the mindful practice help transform the way newcomers and veterans alike experience snow sports.
Each class is structured similarly to Kripalu yoga. “The mountain becomes the yoga studio; the slope becomes the yoga mat,” says Anderson. Beginning in a circle at the base of the mountain (no skis strapped on at this point), she begins class with a relaxation breath and centering mediation lesson to calm the minds of her students. After setting a positive intention for the day, the group warms up and moves through asanas to relieve tension and stretch the body (in other words, make sure you bring gloves). The actual ski lesson follows, incorporating a few yoga postures while clipped in, like Mountain, Eagle and Chair pose, which creates an experience similar to Vinyasa flow. “Everyone loves to ski with this natural rhythm,” says Anderson. “It's like dancing on the snow and lots of fun!” The class ends off the skis with her teaching the importance of deep-relaxation pose Savasana, or the always-popular corpse pose. It may not be conventional, but we wouldn’t be opposed to tossing in a few snow angels at the end. After all, you are already in position.
The one question on our minds: why hasn’t someone thought of this before? “Students told me that practicing snowga helped them break through to a new level of skiing, and they experienced a new sense of serenity and connection... they could relax and enjoy skiing,” she says. So basically, we’re sold.
Although classes aren’t offered across the nation yet, there’s no reason you can’t give it a go on your own. “Take time to warm-up and get centered before heading off to the chair lift. Notice the surroundings; get in touch with your breath, your body and all of the senses,” she says. “While on the mountain, think flow instead of force. Keep calm through conscious breathing," and if you need to take a few minutes for yourself, go for it.
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