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Pro climber and yogi Heidi Wirtz has six poses to help you get strong and flexible so you can climb harder and stay injury-free. This sequence is adapted from the Yoga for Climbers online course she developed with our sister publication Climbing magazine. Want more? Register for the course now using code YOGAJOURNAL for $40 off.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
Drop to your hands and knees with knees directly below your hips. Spread your hands wide and slightly in front of your shoulders, with index fingers slightly turned out. Lift your buttocks and slowly straighten your legs, without locking your knees. Stretch your heels down. It’s OK if your heels don’t touch the floor and your legs are slightly bent. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly into the floor and lift your inner arms. Pull your shoulder blades away from your ears, broadening the collarbones. Do not allow your head to hang; keep it between your upper arms
- Strengthens and stretches shoulder muscles, strengthens latissimus dorsi, and stretches hamstrings, calf muscles, hands, and Achilles tendon
- Helps prevent rotator cuff injuries
- Stronger shoulders improve stability in gaston moves and mantels
- Stronger lats help you reach farther
- Flexible leg muscles help your endurance on slab and face climbs
- Elongates and releases tension from your spine
- Calms the nervous system and relieves stress
2. Plank Pose
From Downward-Facing Dog, shift your weight forward to Plank. Maintain a long line through your ankle bones to the center of your skull. Lean into the floor evenly through each limb. Notice if you are dipping to one side or dumping your pelvis into an anterior (forward) or posterior (backward) tilt. Find a neutral pelvis. Once stable, lengthen your spine without distorting it, and get a sense that you are hugging or squeezing your two frontal hip bones together. Stay here for 5 long breaths, then come back to Down Dog.
- Strengthens core
- Improves shoulder stability
3. Side Plank Pose
From Down Dog, slide your right hand a few inches to the left, toward your midline. Turn onto the outside edge of your right foot and stack your ankles on top of each other. Roll your hips open to the left, without sagging. Open your left arm toward the sky. Imagine a magnetic pull connecting the inner lines of your legs; this engagement supports your spine. To wake up your external obliques and serratus muscles (which stabilize your dorsal spine and shoulder girdle), feel as if you are wrapping your right rib cage toward your left frontal hip bone, and vice versa. Keep your shoulder blades and collarbones wide. Puff up the space in between your shoulder blades. Stay for 5 breaths, then transfer your weight through Plank Pose and Down Dog to the other side.
- Tones arms and shoulders
- Works core
4. Seated Twist
Sit evenly on your sitting bones and straighten your back. If your lower back is sagging, prop yourself up on a folded blanket. Extend your legs in front of you without locking your knees. Bend your right knee, and place your right foot flat on the ground outside of your left knee. Bend your left leg, with ankle close to the right hip. Lift your right arm and stretch the side of your body, while twisting your torso to the right. Place your right hand or fingers on the ground behind you. Lift your left arm up and place the outside of your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help maintain the twist. However, be sure to move from the base of your spine as you twist. Do not force the twist with the strength of your arms. Look over your right shoulder. Repeat on other side.
- Strengthens and stretches back
- Strengthens shoulder muscles
- Opens shoulders by stretching pectoral muscles
- Facilitates fluid twisting movements while climbing
- Relieves lower back pain caused by muscular tension
5. Bridge Pose
Lie flat on your back, arms by your side. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your buttocks. Lift your chest and raise your hips, keeping your thighs parallel to each other. (Don’t clench your buttocks.) Press your feet into the ground, and draw your knees forward over your ankles as you lift your pelvis and lengthen your tailbone. Clasp your hands together under your back and stay high on your shoulders. Lift your chest and chin away from the sternum, and push your head into the floor. Tuck your tailbone, while broadening back and shoulder blades. Firm your entire body. Roll the spine down slowly.
- Strengthens spine
- Stretches and opens muscles in the chest, neck, and spine that climbers compress and contract through constant pulling
- Stretches psoas muscles
- Improves back flexibility for reachy moves
- Strengthens butt muscles, which helps in reachy leg moves, high-stepping, maintaining balance on small holds, and heel hooking
6. Eagle Pose
With knees slightly bent, lift your left foot and balance on your right. Reach up with your arms and sink into your hips to create a sense of the spine
lengthening and straightening. Cross your left thigh over the right, left toes pointed to the floor. Then, try to wrap the top of your left foot around the lower right calf. Hips face forward. Cross your forearms, placing your right above left, and bend the elbows. Press the inside of your left hand against the lower part of the palm of your right hand. Raise the arms and bend at the elbows so that the upper arms are parallel to the ground, fingers stretched upward. People with knee pain should simply stand or cross one ankle over the other, leaving both feet touching the ground.
- Improves balance and stretches the upper back, shoulders, and outer thighs
- Strengthens legs, knees, and ankles
- Opens the pelvic area and creates space between shoulder blades
- Limber upper body muscles have increased blood flow, which promotes faster recovery
- Strengthens knees and ankles and improves overall balance, helping climbers stand on small holds
Yoga for Climbers is the first comprehensive online yoga course made specifically for climbers. This self-paced program will help you learn how to be more flexible, strengthen your entire body, boost your confidence, and help you stay calm after a fall, in the middle of a crux, and even sitting in traffic. Developed by Climbing magazine and pro climber and yogi Heidi Wirtz, this online class focuses on aspects of mental and physical training that can benefit every climber, whether you’re a veteran big waller or putting on climbing shoes for the first time. Register now at AIMAdventureU.com/yogaforclimbers and enter promo code YOGAJOURNAL for $40 off.