Back to Basics

Originally written 08/12/2015

My crossing professions as yoga teacher and figure skater have hugely influenced each other. Very prominently, my training, methodology, and perspective from the yoga mat show up on the ice. Because my involvement in the field of yoga is mostly in a home practice and through social change initiatives I don’t maintain a studio presence which makes it more challenging for skaters to access what I’ve been teaching for 4 years for mat to ice learning. This blog, therefore, will be a commitment to sharing weekly insights into the physical/mental practice of yoga with practical applications for practicing figure skaters.

So for this week, let’s start at square one. The basics. Whether I’m teaching a clinic for 20 skaters using yoga or I pick up a 1-time lesson with a vacationing skater, my biggest recommendation is to listen to your stroking. Feel the ice under your blades. Don’t just fly through your 3–5 lap warm-up routine. Don’t let those patterns become habit. In yoga there is also an emphasis on physical practice that includes a similar warm up- progressing from slow movement engaging all the movements of the spine to building heat to warm the muscles. What’s different, is that it also specifically engages the “warming up” of the breathe, and attention.

When our stroking warm-up becomes habit we are no longer paying attention to much more than the 6-year-old skater we need to repeatedly dodge. I’m suggesting you run him or her over, but the warm up is much more than about getting warm. Engage your senses. Feel your blade in contact with the ice, listen to the sound of the movement and your breathing, inhale the cool air and notice your transition from taking your guards off to feeling prepared for double axels. What this does is involved your brain space in the process so that when your body- all warmed up and ready- is diving into new jumps and spins, your brain and emotions aren’t surprised.

You can do this off-ice too. When you go for a walk or run, be present to what’s around you. I dare you to do this without headphones in. Smell the air, feel the temperature and the ground beneath you, observe the smallest details of your surroundings, listen to the environment. Believe it or not, increasing your attention to your surroundings either off-ice or on will improve your ability to focus. When you’re in a show or competition your practice with increased attention with help you fine-tune your focus similarly to how cross-training improves your physical adaptability.

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