Rock climbing and yoga reinforce the mind-body connection through similar types of movement. Become a better climber with these six poses.
Whether you’re an advanced or novice climber or you prefer enjoying mountain views from the window, this exclusive yoga sequence from Lydia Zamorano is for you. Not only will it improve athletic performance, it can get you thinking outside the box and lead to valuable insights about your body and your limits.
THE BENEFIT: This series of poses will facilitate a strong internal core, supple hips, a balanced shoulder girdle, and a sense of ease. Practice it at least three times a week, before or after climbing, or any time you want to change up your practice.
THE WARM-UP: Practice 2–5 Surya Namaskars (Sun Salutations) to prepare, then come into Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
GOOD FOR Strengthening your core
From Downward-Facing Dog, shift your weight forward to Plank Pose. Maintain a long line through your anklebones 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 or posterior 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 hipbones together. This will tone your transverse abdominal wall and support your lumbar spine. Stay here for 5 long breaths, then come back to Down Dog.
See alsoPerfect Pairing: Yoga + Climbing
Side Plank Pose
GOOD FOR Toning your arms and shoulders
From Downward 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, Down Dog, and to the other side.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
GOOD FOR Loosening your hamstrings
Stand sideways on your mat with your feet wide apart. Turn your thighs and big toes in slightly. Interlock your fingers at your sacrum. Keep some space between your wrists. Press evenly into the four corners of your feet, fold forward at your hips, and take your arms overhead, sliding them toward the floor. Experiment with turning your palms toward your back (which will open your superficial shoulder muscles and fascia) or turning them out and externally rotating the shoulders. This posture opens up a tight back line (calves, hamstrings, sacral area, and spinal muscles) and gives pulling muscles a welcome release. Stay for 5 breaths. Come up to standing and bring your feet together.
GOOD FOR Finding your center and gaining balance
From Tadasana or Mountain Pose, shift your body weight onto your left leg and lift your right leg off the floor. Progress slowly, and notice if you strain to align your center. Relax. Place the sole of your right foot as high on the inner left thigh as you can (above the knee), and open the right hip. Lean the foot and thigh together. Find your centerline, a pathway of ease, over the grounded leg. Just like in rock climbing, lean down through your feet to go up. If you try too hard or pull up too much, you’ll fatigue and fade. Root down into the earth to find balance. Stay for 5 deep breaths. Release, and repeat on the other side.
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
GOOD FOR: Opening outer hips and thighs (which can get tight from frog-like positions on vertical walls)
From Downward-Facing Dog, lift your left leg into the air. Bend that leg and bring the knee toward your left wrist, forming an angle through your left shin and thighbone. Inch your hips back by turning your right toes under and picking up your hips and setting them down evenly. Come down onto your elbows or forehead, and relax into a forward fold over your left shin. Release the big muscles of your left hip, which softens the hip flexors of the back leg (and will give you space to reach those high steps). Stay for at least 1 minute and up to 5 minutes. Release, and take the pose on the other side.
GOOD FOR: Stretching sore feet
Climbers’ feet get very tight from using their toes to climb, as well as from wearing specialized footwear with narrow toe boxes. This pose counters that. Tuck your toes under (even that stubborn pinky toe), and sit back on your heels. Relax your weight down gradually for 5 breaths. Progress slowly. Work up to staying 3 minutes daily. If this feels like too much, lean forward and place your hands on the floor to take some of your weight off your heels. This pose will open up tight plantar fascia, as well as the connective tissue and muscles around the calves.