Saying om outdoors may help beat your winter blues, but read these #snowga safety tips before taking your yoga lesson into freezing temps
Between hot yoga, pot yoga, and naked yoga, there’s a practice for every type of yogi. Now there’s a version for all the snow bunnies out there: snowga.
It’s not just about practicing asanas in the snow—snowga is normally combined with snow sports like skiing, snowshoeing, or even just a winter hike.
A typical class looks like this: You strap snow-friendly transportation to your feet and hike to a designated spot to meet the class (or you all leave from a studio together), then practice for 45 minutes. Not only are you warmed up from the trek—negating the enemy of flexibility, cold muscles—but the uneven snow and environmental elements like the wind activate and challenge your muscles and balance in different ways, says Jen Brick DuCharme, founder and guide of Flow Outside in Bozeman, MT. Her studio specializes in blending yoga and nature, as she offers outdoor and stand-up paddleboard yoga classes in the summer. And, like all good northerners, she thought why should the fun (and fitness!) stop just because of the snow?
But it’s not even necessarily about the physical practice: “In the studio, you’re present—but it’s more of an internal presence,” says Lynda Kennedy, owner of Yogachelan in northern Washington. “When we’re outside, breathing the fresh air, appreciating the views, bringing the awareness to what you see and feel—it’s much more of an external presence, making you aware and mindful in a different way.”
And in towns where snow sports are more commonplace than eastern practices, snowga can also be a way to introduce newbies to yoga. “A lot of people may be nervous about trying yoga, but they aren’t afraid to go snowshoeing, so snowga breaks down the barriers of what they think yoga is and introduces it in an environment people already comfortable in,” says Kennedy. (See 30 Reasons Why We Love Yoga.)
#Snowga may be blowing up your Instagram feed lately, but a powder practice isn’t a new idea. Yogis in the Himalayas have been practicing outside for centuries—many of whom are in the best health, says Jeff Migdow, M.D., both a holistic physician and yogi. The fresh artic air and invigorating winds are wonderful for the immune system and vitality, he adds. (Plus, you reap these 6 Hidden Health Benefits of Yoga.)
But just like with every form of yoga, anyone can practice snowga on their own—which is where the risk comes in. Instagram is chock full of people rocking poses in the snow, but some are barely bundled, sometimes even barefoot. "It's really important for people to stay warm enough to not lose vital heat which can cause stress to the internal organs and stress their nerves, leading to muscle tension and inflammation," explains Migdow.
“I send out a detailed list of what to wear and bring for all my outdoor classes so people are well prepared, which is the only way to guarantee snowga is done safely,” DuCharme says. With the proper gear, though, snowga can inject some excitement into your winter workout, and help thaw your zen just in time for spring. Just look at these snowgis!