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Yoga for Yokonori

Why is yoga good for yokonori sports? If you’ve never heard of yokonori, it’s a Japanese term used to categorize “sideways riding” sports like snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. These are all active sports, which require a certain amount of mobility to enjoy at any age.

Yoga does have a rep that you have to be really bendy. You don’t! The key is you need to be able to breathe. As long as you can do one or more of the above yokonori sports, you’re more than capable to do yoga. It’s a lot less scary than extreme yokonori sports, after all.

So why is yoga good for yokonori? Its effects are calming for your nervous system and it helps you to be mindful and in the present moment—a skill you can use when out in nature enjoying your yokonori sports, so you can be focused in the moment to avoid any falls.

Being more mindful can also help you relax if you’re in a challenging situation, like underwater while surfing or stuck in powder snow. You’re better off being mindful, in the moment and breathing rather than panicking and causing more stress than is necessary.

Incorporating a few yoga poses to your exercise routine helps to add mobility and flexibility into your body and a bigger range of motion. This warms up your body and aids in avoiding injuries.

Yoga is also a great way to cool down so you can go to bed and wake up the next day without feeling as sore after a day on the slopes or your snowboard. The yoga poses I’ve included below are great to stretch out your sore legs and lower back, which get extreme use in any yokonori sport.

If you’re still feeling too shy to pop to a local yoga studio, you can always try it at your local gym. There are also plenty of videos online including my yoga instructional videos for snowboarders and skiers.

Here are several poses you can try at home. These poses can be done in minutes before you head out or after your yokonori sport of choice. 

Pose 1: Reclining Hand to Big Toe

Lengthen those hamstrings! Lying down and facing up, place a little strength into your left leg, pointing the left toes up towards the sky. Bring your right leg up, place your hands behind your right thigh under the right knee. Your knee can be bent here, but keep pressing your right foot’s toes towards your face, the heel of the right foot up towards the sky, the knee pressing away from your face.

Don’t forget to do the same on the other side, bringing your right leg up.

Pose 2: Reclining Hand to Big Toe

Lengthening the hamstrings and feeling a bit of a hip opener at the same time, relieve the hips and lower back in this pose. This is similar to the last pose, but you’ll be bringing your leg down and out to the side.

Lying down and facing up, place a little strength into your left leg, pointing the left toes up towards the sky. Bring your right leg up and place your right hand behind your outer right thigh below the knee. Bring your right leg out towards the right. It can hover above the floor. Your knee can be bent here, but keep pressing your right foot’s toes towards your face, the heel of the right foot up towards the sky and the knee pressing away from your face.

Repeat with your left leg.

Pose 3: Reverse Pigeon Pose

Stretch those glutes and gently let your hips open a little too. Bring both legs down on the floor while lying down. Bring your right foot above your left knee, clasp both hands behind your left thigh, left hand on the outer side of your left leg and right hand against your inner left thigh. Press that left knee in towards your face while pressing the right knee away from your face.

Reverse legs and repeat.

Pose 4: Seated Cat Pose

Stretch the spine while seated. Bring yourself into a seated, cross-legged position. Pressing your shoulders down, bring your belly back as you exhale. Inhale and bring your shoulders back to straight and relax the belly.

Repeat this five times.

Pose 5: Seated Cow Pose

Stretch and lengthen the spine. Still in your seated cross-legged position, as you inhale, bring your shoulders behind you feeling your chest puffing up, spine with a slight backbend to it, belly in and your head back (if you don’t have a sore neck). Then as you exhale, come back to your seated position.

Repeat this five times.

Pose 6: Down Dog

Lengthen your whole body and stretch your spine. Press your palms down from your seated position, bring both legs behind you and put yourself into a plank position. From there, push your butt up towards the sky and a little further back. Bend your knees as much as you need to, feel your lower back straighten as you press your chest down further towards the mat and press your fingers down into the mat. Relax your head.

Pose 7: Forearm Plank

This is a little work for your core as it strengthens it to support your lower back. From the down dog position, press your forearms down and your feet back as you’re in forearm plank position. Stay here for about five breaths.

Pose 8: Pigeon Pose

Stretch your hips out in this pose. From forearm plank pose, bring yourself into a table top position, hands under your shoulder joint and knees below your hip joint. Bring your right knee towards your right wrist and bring your right foot up towards your left wrist. Bring your left leg back and settle into pigeon pose.

Repeat on your left side.

Pose 9: Low Lunge Quad Stretch

Stretch your thigh muscle out. From the previous pose (pigeon pose), bring yourself into a low lunge, right foot forward and left knee on your mat. To balance, place your right hand on your right thigh, bring your left hand behind you grabbing your left foot. Make sure your hips are square and face the same way as your shoulders. Press the left foot towards your left glute. Use the strength of your left foot to bring it up. You should feel a deep stretch in your left thigh. 

Repeat this on the other side. Low lunge left foot forward, right knee down and reaching back for your right foot, feeling the stretch in your right thigh.

I hope these yoga poses help you with your next outdoor adventure!

Nanaco Kawai is a yoga instructor based in Myoko Kogen, Niigata Prefecture, a popular ski resort area. She runs Nano Yoga and teaches skiers and snowboarders yoga in the winter season to help them add yoga to their exercise routine and feel a little less sore and reduce injuries. During the rest of the year, she continues to teach yoga in a way that’s accessible and fun to beginners and enjoys sharing the positive aspects yoga can have on your life beyond the mat. 

Visit Nano-Yoga.com or @nano.yoga on Instagram where Nanaco will be hosting paid live yoga sessions you can join from home. 

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