They may seem like an unlikely duo; one encourages you to slow right down and enter a relaxed state, the other is rigorous and adrenaline-fuelled. One pushes you to your physical limits, the other asks you to be kind to yourself and promotes healing. Both require presence and will often create a meditative state. Although it may come as a surprise to many, yoga and extreme sports do in fact go hand in hand, and can benefit one another immensely.
Here’s why it’s well worth treating yourself to some yoga sessions after sending it off a cliff in the winter or ripping through the bike park in the summer.
The intense but brilliant thrills we experience on the mountain cause the body to release adrenaline. This elevates our blood pressure and increases our heart rate. Sometimes, in the face of potential danger—say, at the top of a steep snowy chute— cortisol, the stress hormone, gets released into the body. Yoga balances this out by allowing your body to enter a deeply relaxing state, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest and digest. This is great for healing.
Practicing yoga increases flexibility, core strength and balance. These directly transfer over to extreme sports, enhancing performance and reducing risk of injury too.
Lastly, rigorous sports often lead to a tightening of the muscles which puts us in danger of pulling a muscle, but yoga provides an opportunity to unwind and release this tension.
I decided to ask Emily Kane, owner of Yogacara and avid snowboarder, for her insight on this, and found that it resonated with my own:-
“The gift of yoga gives a new lens to see the world with. Using that lens during extreme sports keeps me from damaging myself (either physically or mentally) by re-patterning certain held beliefs. There’s the realization that “no pain, no gain” doesn’t have to apply. The mindset of yoga can also be used during moments of being physically challenged, while respecting healthy boundaries. This lens has also allowed me to be more present in these activities that I love so I can fully enjoy the time I have while doing them.”
Absolutely, the kindness and patience that we show ourselves when we practice yoga will eventually permeate all aspects of our lives, including sports.
While many of us experience moments of presence in extreme sports, we are often in a fast-paced mode, perhaps chasing fresh lines on a powder day, and so I still find it
incredibly important to attend a yoga class, where the goal is to stop thinking and tune in to complete presence.
To conclude, it is clear that these activities create a harmonious balance for us in body and mind. Yoga counteracts the adrenaline and potential stress to the body that is created by the thrilling activities we love here in Whistler. Giving our bodies the chance to rest and relax speeds recovery, prevents injury and generates a healthy mental state.
Author: Helena Gerelli