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Now as I teach yoga for climbers, I have a chance to dive deeper into the sport of climbing and the mindset of my students. Working with this specific group of athletes, I have seen a few of the typical injuries and limitations climbers develop in their bodies, and how yoga can help. Among other things, a climber typically feels stiffness, or muscular tension, in the shoulders, hips and hamstrings. To counter-balance these limitations, I design my yoga classes for climbers around specific yoga postures and movement sequences.
Here are 5 yoga postures designed especially for climbers, but these can apply to any other type of athlete as well! Practice these postures individually as needed, or combine as a sequence, following the order given and repeating on both sides.
- Garudasana or Eagle Pose
- Start in mountain pose. Bend both knees and shift the weight onto the right foot, while moving the left thigh over to cross the right. Either landing the left foot on the mat, as a “kickstand”, or pointing the toes and wrapping the foot behind the right calf.
- Reach the arms out and cross the left arm under the right, and then bend the elbows. Raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor, while taking the hands to press towards each other.
- To deepen the stretch in the back body, press the elbows away from you and the fingers towards the roof. To deepen the hip stretch, sink the hips down, while lifting the chest slightly.
- Stay here for 5 breaths, dropping the top foot as a “kickstand” when needed.
Benefits: A great posture for practicing balance. This works to release tension in the upper back and shoulders, while giving a deep stretch to the hips and thighs. Also strengthening the calves and ankles while balancing on one foot.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog
- Come onto your hands and knees, hands under the shoulders and spreading the fingers wide.
- Tuck your toes under and engage your core. Slowly lift your hips towards the roof while straightening the legs, without locking your knees.
- Stretch through the heels, to lengthen through the backs of the legs. The heels don’t have to touch the floor, so keep the knees bent if it is more comfortable.
- Firm the outer arms and press down through the whole hand, spreading the weight out to the fingers.
- Draw the shoulder blades away from the ears, broadening through the collarbone.
- Relax through the neck, keeping the head between the arms and looking back towards your toes or navel.
- Stay here for 5 breaths and then transition into the next posture.
Benefits: Strengthens and stretches the wrists, arms and shoulder muscles, while stretching the hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendon. Also, works to elongate and relieve tension in the spine. As an inversion, this posture is great for balancing the nervous system and reducing stress.
- Plank Pose
- Start in Downward-Facing Dog, gazing forward to the top of the mat and shifting the weight forward to the hands. Shoulders move directly over the wrists.
- With the core engaged, press out through the heels to engage the calves and quadriceps.
- Maintain a long line through the body from the heels to the crown of the head.
- Keep all weight evenly throughout the hands and feet. Keep the core engaged as you breathe.
- Stay here for 5 breaths and then continue to the next posture. A modification is to drop the knees and focus on alignment in the upper body, while still engaging the core.
Benefits: Great to incorporate into a daily practice or flow. Works to strengthen arms, wrists, spine, and core.
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana or Pigeon Pose
- Start in Downward-Facing Dog or Table Top pose then shift the weight to the hands.
- Take the right knee forward towards the right wrist, landing this knee to the floor. Move the right foot towards the left hip, with the shin at a diagonal angle.
- Tuck the back toes to lift the knee and try to move this leg backward, while keeping the back foot in line with the left hip.
- To square the hips, move the left hipbone forward and the right outer hip back and in. If the hips are lifted off the mat, place a block, blanket or bolster under the right hip for support.
- Either stay with the weight on the hands or start to walk the hands forward, moving the chest down towards the front leg. Rest the forearms on a block, bolster, or relax onto the mat.
- Stay here for 3 – 5 minutes, finding stillness in the hips and legs. When ready, slowly transition back into Table Top and continue onto the next posture. Be mindful: come out of the posture if you feel pain or discomfort in the knees.
Benefit: This posture works to increase the external range of motion of the femur in the front hip socket. Works to stretch the quadriceps and hip flexor of the back leg. A moderate backbend, compressing the low back.
- Gomukasana or Shoelace Pose, with Eagle Arms
- Start in Table Top, placing the left knee behind the right to cross the legs. Sit back between the feet.
- Stack the knees and sit firmly onto the sit bones, while extending tall with the spine.
- Reach the arms out in front of you, crossing the right arm under the left and then bending the elbows. Raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor, while taking the hands to press towards each other.
- To deepen the stretch in the back body and the hips, start to lean forward, leading with the elbows. Pausing halfway down, or continuing forward to hook the elbows on the outside of the knees, or resting the elbows on a block.
- Keep working to move the arms away from you.
- Stay here for 3-5 minutes. If the hips are tight, modify by sitting on a blanket or bolster. If the bottom knee hurts, extend the bottom leg.
Bethany found yoga to cross-train when she competed in professional watersports over 10 years ago. The love for the practice transitioned into teaching, as an E-RYT 200 hour certified yoga teacher and studio founder of Yoga Roots in Sweden. She is originally from the US and currently resides and teaches teaching in Malmö, Sweden. To her teachings, she brings influences from an athletic background, international environment and a pure joy for sharing yoga with others.
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