Sarah shares advice on how breathwork and perspective shifts can help when you’re riding this season.
Sarah Mark is a yoga teacher, business owner, and Never Summer team rider. In the winter, you can find her on the trails of Sierra-at-Tahoe, lapping the park and searching out natural features all over the mountain. For Sarah, snowboarding and yoga are deeply intertwined, not only because of the benefits of yoga in terms of balance, strengthening, and injury prevention and recovery, but also due to the mental calmness and clarity that can be achieved through yoga practice and breathwork. In this month’s Women Empowering Women Zoom discussion hosted by Never Summer, Sarah shared insight on preparing your mind and body for winter. We checked in with her after the virtual event about where snowboarding and yoga intersect for her and to get a few tips on mindset when it comes to learning new things in the park.
When and how did you get into yoga?
My mother is a yoga teacher and says that “I have been practicing yoga since I was in her womb.” I truly began to practice yoga when I was 4 years old. I realized my appreciation for yoga when I was an adult and broke my arm in half while snowboarding. I was told that even after multiple surgeries my arm would never work the same. However, in less than a year, my arm was back to 100%. I believe focusing on yoga played a huge role in my recovery. Since then, I have followed in my mom’s footsteps and become a yoga teacher (E RYT 200). Yoga has aided in the recovery of my additional snowboarding injuries. Over the years, these include a broken fibula (outside leg bone), broken rib, lacerated spleen and liver.
In addition to helping with injury recovery, where does snowboarding and yoga intersect for you?
Snowboarding allows me to take what I have learned on my yoga mat and apply it on the mountain and into the world. They both complement each other. They are about balance and going with the flow. When I am dropping into a kicker I use my breath to calm my heart rate by focusing on my exhale, which helps to calm the mind and body. When I need energy and strength, I focus on my inhales to invigorate the mind and body. Being flexible in my mind and body allows my brain to be creative and my body to adapt.
Where do you normally snowboard and what kind of terrain do you enjoy?
I typically ride park at my home mountain, Sierra-at-Tahoe. However, they just announced that they will not be opening in 2021 due to damage caused by the Caldor Fire. Their large kicker line in the Alley park is my “happy place.” I was evacuated for over two weeks during the Caldor fire–my Never Summer teammate, Shawna Mayo, is one of the many firefighters that saved my home.
How long have you been riding for Never Summer? What makes you stoked to be a part of the NS team?
I have been riding Never Summer boards since 2010. I began product testing for Never Summer in 2016. During the 2020-21 season, I became a Never Summer team rider, which has been a dream of mine since I started riding their boards. I am stoked to be part of the team because I truly believe in their boards. I like to jib on rocks and their boards can handle it, since they are made strong right here in the USA.
What inspires you in snowboarding right now in terms of your riding?
Marie-France Roy was the first female to inspire me, and still does to this day. I have watched her parts in the Rome videos over and over. The more I learn about her, the more I want to be like her, both on and off the mountain. Not only does she shred, but she cares about being a good person; she cares about the Earth and others. I reached out to her years ago and she replied, gave me advice, and has kept in touch. I also am inspired by magazines, podcasts, video parts, and my teammates. So many females inspire me that I am going to have to narrow it down to five that come to mind, not in any particular order: Jamie Anderson, Jess Kimura, Anna Gasser, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, and Jill Perkins.
One of the things that you talked about in the Women Empowering Women Zoom session is ways to be in a good headspace when you’re snowboarding. Can you explain a little bit about why this is important?
I struggle to progress my riding if I am complaining; the negative noise in my mind does not allow my mind to listen and think about how to improve. When I can quiet my mind, I create space for the answers to come to me. When I am being positive and having fun, I find that I naturally progress.
You also talk about the idea that you can’t control a situation, but you can control your mind. That’s great advice. In terms of how this relates to the terrain park, specifically, what is your take on building confidence for anyone who is new to or wants to get into the park?
It is normal to feel intimidated in the terrain park. We have all been there and I still find myself intimidated when I enter a new park. My heart tends to beat fast when I get nervous, so I like to take time to allow myself to catch my breath and focus on calming my nerves by focusing on my exhales. I like to use the mantra, “I am confident.” On an inhale I silently say to myself, “I am” and on an exhale silently say, “confident.” You can replace the word “confident” with what word you are looking to feel. As soon as I am able to slow my heart rate, I try to drop sooner than later, because if I stand there too long I start to get in my head and I’m less likely to commit to the feature. If I am not feeling confident, I try to trick my mind by standing with confidence: shoulders back, head up. It is similar to how if you smile, it tricks your mind to thinking you are happier.
What about when you’re battling a feature? What do you do when you’re trying to land a new or difficult trick and it’s a challenge? How do you stay positive?
I try to visualize myself accomplishing the trick. If I begin to find myself getting discouraged, I try to imagine the joy I will feel when I do accomplish it. I envision myself completing the trick and see the huge smile on my face. I think about times before when I have struggled to learn tricks that I now have on lock.
You also created your own yoga mat! Can you talk a little bit about that and why It is unique?
The CopyCat Yoga mat is an instructional yoga mat with hand and foot placements along with images of common standing poses. There are nine sequential poses on the mat which can be used as a routine. If you hold each pose for thirty seconds on both sides, it only takes nine minutes a day, but that adds up to over an hour a week. My desire to share yoga with the world drove me to learn how to run a business, and continues to drive me today.
Could you suggest a few stretches and/or yoga poses that are helpful particularly for early season riding and getting the muscles back in snowboarding shape?
– Garland pose
– Triangle Pose
– Side Angle Pose
– Revolved Triangle Pose AKA crail grab
– Horse Pose
Upon waking, taking a moment to take a deep breath, look outside and list something you are grateful for before looking at a screen. Yoga is about the body, breath, heart and mind.
Tahoe is starting to get snow now and mountains are opening up! What do you have in store this season?
Well, with my home mountain being closed for at least the start to my season, I get to put my positivity skills to the test. Instead of focusing on the fact that I can’t ride my favorite mountain, I am going to focus on the opportunity to get to ride places out of my comfort zone and terrain that I am not familiar with. It will open the door to something fresh and create growth in my riding.