I wasn’t taught to cross my legs in a jump until I was 13 and started training in a different city. My first coaches were good-hearted people with a love for skating whose techniques had come from a different era. I was learning to jump like Sonia Henie.
I am a daughter of teachers, so I always see things from the teacher’s point of view, and I wanted to trust my coach. But I watched a lot of skating on TV in the 80s and paid attention to the good skaters, so something didn’t seem right. When the technique didn’t make sense, I knew there was deeper instruction to be found.
Once I began crossing my legs, it was like a whole world of possibilities opened up. I actually started to land some jumps!
Maybe this is why I love exercises that work on back spins and crossed legs so much. They bring me back to that light bulb moment when my skating world changed forever.
Yoga Can Help You Land Jumps
If you’ve read any of my other posts, I talk about how yoga is excellent for mental training, building a positive training environment, breathwork, stamina, balance, flexibility, and strength.
For jumps, yoga is helpful in developing balance, proprioceptive awareness, flexibility, and strength.
For example, many poses strengthen the posterior chain muscles needed to withstand a landing (we land with the force of approximately 8 x our body weight), while nearly all poses focus on core strength.
Who doesn’t need a strong posterior chain and core to land a jump?
You might get away with some weakness on singles when you are young, but not once you get older, and definitely not if you are jumping doubles or triples.
When we get into the nitty-gritty of it, some yoga poses give you more bang for your buck because they mimic specific skating positions. Garudasana, Eagle Pose, is one of those poses.
The position a skater takes right after the moment of impact when they begin the check-out process is sometimes called a “trap” because it helps trap the jump landing. Well, that position is Garudasana.
Practicing Garudasana off-ice without the support of the skating boot absolutely can help you learn to land. Or, as Christy Krall teaches, Garudasana can help you learn the “language of landing”.
Eagle is the Best Pose for Learning to Land
Some skaters and coaches focus obsessively on the “landing position”, or the beautiful follow-through after a landing. And, of course, you want to practice this position–it is very pretty and the judges reward it with solid GOE’s. (Not to mention that, when done correctly, it is the same position as pretty much an open forward stroke)
Sometimes, though, the focus is too much on kicking the leg high and not on pelvic stability or alignment. In other words, the emphasis is on appearance, and this can put excessive strain on the lumbar spine.
Eagle pose is quite the opposite–the intention is alignment and stability, rather than flashiness. It mimics this moment of impact with crossed legs and a bent standing knee, and when regularly practiced with intention, can develop muscle memory for this crucial position.
Eagle pose tones the ankles, knees, thighs, glutes, core, back, and shoulders.
It enhances awareness of proper alignment and develops the sensation of opposing forces required to land.
The glutes squeeze towards each other in the back while the inner thighs, shins, and arms are doing the same in the front body. The standing leg roots into the mat, while the elbows and torso rise up tall–just like the “third UP” of a jump.
And when practiced on the mat, you can really notice the feet working to maintain stability.
How to Do Eagle Pose - Step-by-Step
The instructions below are how I usually teach Eagle with traditional yoga instructions. In the next section, I will offer some variations and different options for making the pose even more skating-specific.
Land Like a Pro with Eagle Pose Variations
The instructions above are for a standard Garudasana (Eagle Pose). Below are are some skating-specific variations to try after you’ve gotten the hang of the basic posture.
To summarize, Garudasana is very helpful in learning to land because it tones the posterior chain, core, feet, and ankles and develops balance and proprioceptive awareness. In addition, when practiced with some of the above variations, it very closely mimics the crucial trap position in the jump landing process.
It’s always a great practice to take the ice out of the equation when learning skills because doing so allows us to bring awareness to deeper aspects of the skill. And while strength and conditioning are also crucial elements of off-ice training, often the focus of an S&C session is on intensity, power, or quickness.
The mindfulness and breathwork that is inherent in yoga can bring a much deeper level of awareness to the body and the skill, helping skaters in a different, very important, and effective way.
Want to know more about how yoga can directly help you in your skating journey? Check out my Peak Performance Package for Skaters. It has some short practices to help guide you along your skating and yoga journey and beat performance anxiety. And it’s free!
Author // the skating yogi
My name is Sarah Neal. I have been immersed in the world of figure skating for over four decades. I have seen firsthand the abuse that happens at the higher levels of our sport and experienced how that trickles down into unhealthy training practices and habits at the grassroots. I have seen this play out in the operations of the very institutions that control our sport. Whether for a profession or hobby, pursuing skating should be a joyful, rewarding process, an opportunity for athletic and personal growth, and a place to build lasting friendships.