If you want to get better at almost anything, mobility will help – especially with climbing. As climbers, we often focus primarily on our pulling strength. Still, if we want to get the most out of our climbing and stay injury-free, we need to stretch our climbing muscles (agonists) and strengthen our non-climbing muscles (antagonists). Here are my top 10 yoga poses to get the job done:
As climbers, we tend to do a lot of pulling exercises, and if we overdo it, we can end up with tendonitis, rounded shoulders etc. This is a great pose to create strength on the front of our body to balance our shoulders.
Start from plank pose (top of a pushup)
Lean forward, so your shoulders are over your fingertips
Bend your arms to a right angle (elbows over wrists)
Note: don't let your shoulders drop below your elbows as that can impinge the shoulder joint.
Repeat 2-5 times (resting in Downward Facing Dog in between)
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">2.Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)
BKS Iyengar called this the Queen of the asanas because it targets so many essential muscles in one pose. This one is also a godsend to all the runners out there. You get a fantastic glute and I.T. band stretch as well as a great tricep and shoulder stretch.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front.
Take your right knee on top of your left knee and try to get your thighs close together (keep your left leg straight for now)
Lean on to your right buttock and try to bend your left knee and sit in between your feet
You may need to sit on a block or folded pillow if you are tight.
Take your right hand in between your shoulder blades, crab walk your left hand up your back and hook fingers.
Use a towel/belt if you can't reach your fingers together.
Iyengar himself would meditate for hours in this pose. For the rest of us mere mortals, 60-90 seconds will suffice. Be sure to repeat on the opposite side.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">3.Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
One of the best poses to test your balance and concentration. It's also an excellent stretch for our shoulders and leg muscles. Imagine you are an eagle perched on a branch waiting for the perfect moment to swoop in and catch your prey.
Stand with your feet together, then take your right knee on top of your left knee and squeeze your inner thighs together.
Latch your foot around the back of your calf if possible (not essential)
Take your right elbow under your left elbow and press your hands together while squeezing forearms together
Take the elbows to the height of the shoulders.
Bend your knees more for added ankle and glute mobility
Hold for 30 seconds, or 5 breaths then repeat on the other side.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">4.Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
This is a pose anyone can do, and it's a pose we should all be doing. If you want to avoid being hunched over when you're 70+, start doing this pose daily. It is one of the best poses to strengthen our erector spinae muscles. When doing this one, try to avoid putting all of the load in your lower back (stay low to the ground), lift the shoulder first and balance the working muscles through the entire spine and legs.
Lie face down on your belly and bring your arms alongside your body (palms facing down)
Lift your head, chest, arms and legs 5cm off the ground
Hold for 30-60 seconds and breathe deeply into your belly.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">5.Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
A little more advanced than locust pose, but such an excellent pose for climbers and office workers alike. Designed to open the front of your body while strengthening the back
Lie face down on your belly
Bend your knees and grab your ankles
Point your toes to the ceiling and bring your big toes together
Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then lift your head, chest and thighs.
Hold for 30 seconds and breathe deeply into your belly (it's very easy to unconsciously hold your breath in this one).
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">6.Skandasana (Cosack squat)
If you've ever been climbing and had to get your foot out to a foothold way off to the side, but couldn't because of tightness in the legs – then this one is for you. It is a fantastic stretch for our inner thighs and an essential prerequisite if you ever want to work towards the side splits.
Stand with your legs wide apart and turn your toes out 45 degrees.
Bend your right knee, shift your hips to the right and keep your left leg straight
Variation 1: Keep left foot completely flat (this will stretch the inner thighs)
Variation 2: Pivot onto the back of your left heel and point your left toes up (this will stretch your hamstrings)
Either hold for 30-60 seconds on each side. Or move side to side holding for one breath 5-10 times.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">7.Malasana (Yogi Squat)
If you go to a bus stop in India (or anywhere in Asia really), you will see people doing this pose while waiting. Similarly, if you go to a toilet anywhere in Asia, don't expect to sit down, squatting on the toilet is the only way.
It's a skill that many of us have lost in the West, but it's an amazing pose for building hip flexion as well as ankle and spinal mobility. Also gives a little massage to our inner organs, so it's a great way to go to the loo as well!
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and turn your toes out 45 degrees.
Squat down as deep as you can, but keep your knees tracking in the direction of your toes.
Press your hands together and press your elbow against your inner thighs
Hold for 30-60 seconds.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">8.Prasarita Padotanasana (Hands Bound Forward Bend)
If you want to avoid the dreaded hunch back, you need to be doing this pose daily! It’s also going to help build leg mobility and release a lot of the tension we feel in our shoulders/neck. Be sure to actively squeeze your shoulder blades together when doing this pose to reap the benefits – imagine you have an orange in between your shoulder blades, and you are trying to squeeze the juice out of it.
Stand with your feet about 1m apart or slightly more if you're tall.
Interlace your fingers behind you:
Squeeze your fingers together and keep wrists apart if you're tight
OR: Squeeze your palms together if you can
Bend forwards and lift your arms overhead
N.B. You can also hold a strap or towel and then widen the hands if you can't lift your arms much.
Hold for 30 seconds.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">9.Parsva Anjaneyasana (Lunge Twist)
This is another fantastic pose that does so many things for our body and thoracic mobility (where we're often very tight), back strength and leg stamina. A 30-second hold on each side should be sufficient on this, repeat once or twice more if you have time.
Step your right foot forwards and stay on the ball of your left foot
Lean forward 45 degrees and take your left elbow on the outside of your right knee
Press your right on top
Try to revolve the shoulder blades (the rest of the spine will twist automatically)
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
h2 style="white-space:pre-wrap;">10.Hasta Bandha Parvatasana (Hands Bound Mountain Pose)
Another one to avoid rounded shoulders and maintain a healthy spine for our whole life. Added benefits include great forearm and hamstring stretch in an area where climbers are often tight – enjoy!
Step your right foot forward and pivot your back foot flat at a 45-degree angle (aim to line up your front heel with the middle of your back foot)
Press your palms together on your back
Front of palms together (advanced)
Back of palms together (intermediate)
Hold onto opposite forearms (beginner)
Fold forward until your spine is parallel to the ground (fold less if you are tight)
Make sure to keep your spine straight
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
There you have it! That's my top 10 Yoga Poses for climbers. Feel free to try them all out and spend more time on the poses you struggle with. Stay healthy, happy and active everyone!
Shawn Mclaren has been a yoga instructor at Climb Fit for over 10 years and now runs online sessions via The Collective Yoga in the Shire. He’s an accomplished highliner and teaches slackline basics to beginners and cool tricks to the professionals. He’s explored climbing areas all around the world and when he’s not pulling on rock he enjoys running on secluded bush trails.
You can follow Shawn below on his website and social