At first glance, skiing* and yoga might seem pretty far removed. Though they do say that the opposites attract! It goes a lot deeper than that and, when you start comparing the two more closely, many similarities become obvious as well as the many ways in which they complement each other.
I'd go as far as to say that skiing IS yoga.
I know I know. You are wondering how flying down the mountain with a couple of planks attached to your feet and adrenaline soaring relates to that gentle, peaceful practice that you do on your yoga mat.
Well, to begin with, what we do on the mat, i.e. asana, is just one element of yoga. Yoga goes way beyond the mat. It permeates every part of our lives, outward and inward. Going back to the source, the Yoga Sutras, the definition of yoga is chitta-vritti-nirodhah or 'the stilling of the changing states of the mind'.
I can personally testify that skiing is one of the surest ways to still my mind, without fail. In other words, skiing IS yoga!
The concentration and single pointed focus required to ski down to the bottom of a mountain in one piece is the same concentration and single pointed focus required to perform a warrior, or a tree pose, or any asana really. Stilling the changing states of the mind is essential to staying balanced.
Dharana, or concentration, is one of the eight limbs of yoga as set out in the Yoga Sutras, and as such just as (if not more) important as the practice of asana. Asana practice helps us cultivate this concentration and single pointed focus and skiing is the perfect ground to apply it. Or, in fact, the other way around!
Next week: The physical benefits of yoga for skiing...
* I am prety sure the same applies to snowboarding but skiing is what I know!