Whether you’re pullin’ on plastic in the gym, bouldering at your local crag, or multi-pitching somewhere high above the ground, Rock Climbing happens to be one of the most exhilarating yet simultaneously meditative sports out there. By nature, it’s a perfect partner to a physical yoga practice. Because yoga asana (the physical practice of poses) is innately and mechanically focused on the anterior chambers of body with pushing motions, rock climbing is a really great balance as its primary muscular focus is on the back and posterior shoulder girdle in pulling motions. Add to this the forearm and wrist strength as well as the focus and practice of keeping one’s cool in the face of challenge– and yoga and rock climbing go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Remember that video?
I’ve been climbing for nearly a decade and it’s actually how I found my yoga practice. So call me ‘biased’ as a huge lover of both, but I’ve seen firsthand how the flexibility and breath control of yoga have aided my climbing, and how the strength and skill gained from climbing have managed to deepen my yoga practice. I’ve even created an entire series of yoga classes for climbers on YogaGlo, alongside my ‘Glo Sis and fellow climber, Olivia Hsu, with classes like Maintain Top Climbing Shape, Rest Day for Climbers, and Warming Up for a Day of Cragging.
So, here’s a nice little sequence you could use for both a warmup/prep or even a little cool down after climbing (just skip the chair and plank to cool down). These poses when held for a few deep breaths each will open up and support the parts of the body needed for a good climb. Enjoy!
- Seated shoulder stretch— you can either clasp the hands behind you or use a towel/strap/scarf in order to help reach behind you. Hold 5-8 breaths.
- Seated tricep/shoulder stretch— take your left arm overhead, towel in hand, and reach the right arm back behind you. Find the towel with your right fingers and sit up tall. Feel free to walk the hands along the towel closer to one another. Hold 5-8 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Side plank— come into plank and then walk your left hand slightly forward, roll onto your left side and stack the feet or step the right foot slightly in front or behind you to modify. Reach the right arm high and hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Cheetah— From plank, draw your right knee to your chest, round the back and act like you’re going to kiss your right knee. Press the ground away and hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Low lunge with chest stretch— step your left foot forward and drop the right knee to the ground. You can cushion the knee with a blanket or do this pose on a crash pad. Take the arms high and then open the arms up like a cactus. Press the arms back in space and lift your chest. Pull the shoulder blades toward each other on the back and stretch for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
- Thigh warmer and hip stretch— take the feet wide, turn the toes out and heels in. Sink the hips while keeping the chest up straight and don’t worry about how low you go, just lunge deep enough to begin to warm the thighs and stretch the adductors. Hold for 5 breaths.
- Chair balance— come into chair pose by bringing the thighs together and sinking the hips like you’re about to sit back in a chair. Now look down for balance and rock the weight forward into your toes, lifting the heels almost like your wearing high heels. This will wake up the feet and get them ready to cram into your climbing shoes. Send the hands back and keep your back flat, like you’re skiing for 5-8 breaths.
- Seated inner thigh stretch— sit on your tushy, bring the feet together and let the knees open wide. The closer the feet are to you, the more intense, the farther you slide them away from you, the less intense. Fold forward at the hips until you feel a gentle stretch on the inner thighs. Hold for 5 breaths.
- Go send your next route!