Being new to climbing, I’ve really been studying how different yoga poses can benefit your climbing game. There are a few that I have noticed to be beneficial to improving my climbing technique. I like to do these stretches after my runs to prevent my leg muscles from tightening. These poses help to keep my muscles loose and flexible, which is essential in maneuvering yourself up a mountain.
I am really into Yin Yoga as it is all about deep stretching. Yin is designed to open up the fascia (the tissues between the muscles) in our bodies. In Yin, you hold each pose for at least three minutes (generally from 3-20 minutes) and once you hold the stretch for about 90 seconds, you move from stretching the superficial tissue to the deep fascia. Deep fascia is comprised of collagen, which is a protein that provides strength, elastin and resiliency. With a regular Yin Yoga routine, you are better protected from experiencing pain and injury from your exercise, particularly more active exercise regimens, such as climbing and running.
So to get to it, these are the Yin poses that I love to do to keep my body open. These primarily focus on the lower body, which is the largest source of strength in rock climbing, but I will do a post later on about upper body Yin poses that can benefit climbers. I’m still very new to climbing so I really don’t know quite yet what upper body Yin poses are benefitting my climbing.
With each pose I discuss, I’m including a link to my favorite yoga instructor’s website, Ekhart Yoga, where you can see a photo of each pose and a step by step tutorial.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
This is my go to pose. I do it everyday and it doesn’t require much space to stretch out. I first remember doing this pose in ballet class when I was little. It’s a great one. It’s beneficial for climbing because it stretches out your inner thighs, groin area and knees. Being open and loose in these areas will allow you to achieve more high knee moves up the mountain.
Here is Ekhart Yoga’s guide to Bound Angle Pose.
Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
I have been practicing Pigeon Pose regularly since I’ve become more of an experienced runner and it has help improved my running technique immensely. I used to get sciatica from running so much and practicing this pose helped to eliminate that issue in my body. Pigeon Pose really helps to stretch the piriformis muscle in the buttocks. When the piriformis muscle is tight, that is when it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, which causes pain in the leg and foot. By practicing Pigeon, the piriformis muscle loosens, which decreases the likelihood of sciatic pain. For climbing, practicing Pigeon is beneficial because it stretches not only your gluteal muscles, but also your hips. Having open hips is integral to climbing because maneuvering up the mountain requires some twists and high steps, moves that you couldn’t effectively do with tight hips.
Here is Ekhart Yoga’s tutorial on Pigeon Pose.
Virasana (Hero’s Pose)
I practice this pose probably about 3-4 times per week because it feels so good. Virasana helps to stretch out the fascia at the bottoms of the feet, which is an area that we often forget to stretch. This pose is deceiving though. It looks easy, but once you hold it for over one minute, it takes some foot strength to stay in the pose. For climbing, that is one of the primary benefits of this pose. It helps to stretch and strengthen the ankles and the arches of the feet. Having strong ankles and arches, and flexible feet in general will aid in footholds, particularly more challenging ones. Also, we all know that climbing shoes are designed to be quite tight so stretching out the feet after a climb can help to counteract this tightness.
Here is Ekhart Yoga’s tutorial on Hero’s Pose.
Dragonfly (Straddle) Pose
There is something about this pose that automatically relaxes me. Depending on how tight I am, there is generally a little bit of discomfort at the initiation of this pose, but then once I settle into it, it feels great. I always breathe a little deeper after I have practiced it. This pose provides a deep opening of the inner thighs, groin, and hips. I always feel the deepest stretch in my inner thighs when practicing this pose. Being open in these areas helps with climbing so you can achieve those high knee steps. This openness also can aid in endurance moving up the mountain.
Here is Ekhart Yoga’s tutorial on Straddle Pose.
If you are getting into climbing like me and you enjoy practicing yoga, try incorporating these poses more into your practice and see how they benefit your climbing routine. =)