Photo: EB Adventure Photography/Shutterstock

6 Yoga Poses for Rock Climbers

by Benita Hussain Sep 21, 2010
Whatever level you climb at, these six yoga poses can help you pull harder and avoid injury along the way.

LIKE SURFING AND YOGA, climbing and yoga are naturally symbiotic. Similar to many board sports, climbing requires a lot of core strength and a good grasp of how small movements affect your balance.

Climbing and yoga form a particularly interesting partnership because body-positioning in climbing mimics the “feel” of many yoga poses, although the latter’s base comes from below, and the focus in climbing is in front of the body. Yoga can therefore help you improve your performance without having to get on a wall.

Below are six poses for rock climbers that will strengthen some necessary muscles and help to get the creaks out of some of the most overused ones.

1. Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II

Benefits: Holding this pose on each side will strengthen both the legs and arms while also stretching them out. These are important to increase range of motion in the hips and endurance in the legs, which will also help prevent injuries and sewing-machine leg during exhausting climbs.

How: Step out to the side and stretch your arms out on both sides of your body, bringing your hands up to shoulder height, and gaze over your right hand. Turn your right foot so the toes point in the same direction as your right fingers, and turn the toes of your left foot in slightly. Bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Stretch your arms out away from your shoulder blades and suck in your belly. Breath deeply and hold for 30-60 seconds on each side.

2. Garudasana / Eagle Pose (full pose)

Benefits: This pose requires core strength and open hip flexors; it also stretches out the back of the shoulders like nobody’s business.

How: From a standing position, bend your right knee up and cross it over your left thigh, eventually wrapping your right leg and toes fully around your left leg. At the same time, extend your arms out to the side, bend your right elbow, and wrap it under your left elbow, eventually making a palm in front of your face. Sit into the pose as you push your fingers higher towards the ceiling. Hold for 15-30 seconds before switching sides.

3. Padahastasana / Hands to Feet Pose

Benefits: This pose helps stretch the hamstrings, which helps with big extensions, and strengthens the core and wrists, both of which help you out on small finger holds.

How: Standing up and bending at the waist, bend your knees as much as you need to tuck your hands under your feet, so the toes meet where the wrist creases. As you breathe deeply, begin to straighten your legs, without pulling your shoulders, and shift your weight more into the balls of the feet so you’re using your core muscles. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

4. Ardha Chandrasana / Half Moon Pose

Benefits: This isometric pose strengthens all parts of the legs and ankles, also minimizing shaky-leg syndrome. Additionally, by opening the chest and pressing out through the balls of the extended foot, you get a stretch down your front side, which is great preparation for big reaches and dynos.

How: Starting from Warrior II on the right side, float forward so that your right fingers touch the floor about a foot and a half in front of your right foot, and lift your left leg high off the floor. Catch your balance on the right leg, and then open your chest so your torso is facing the wall. Then raise your left hand towards the ceiling and gaze up at your fingers. Hold for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.

5. Gomukhasana / Cow Face Pose

Benefits: This is an intense hip opener, and an incredible shoulder stretch for those overdeveloped muscles in the shoulders and back. If you have any knee problems, sit up as high on a blanket or pillow as you need to take any pain out of the knees while still maintaining a straight back.

How: Sitting down with your legs extended in front of you, bend both knees, then slip your left foot under your right leg until the right knee stacks up on top of the left. Each foot should now be near the opposite hip. Raise your right arm straight up, and then bend your elbow, placing your palm on the nape. Extend your left arm and fold it behind your back until you can grasp your right hand with your left, palm-to-palm. You can use a strap or belt between the hands if your fingers don’t touch. Hold for 60 seconds before switching sides.

6. Dhanurasana / Bow Pose

Benefits: Strengthens the back line of the body and stretches the front. These are great to counteract all the weight that is put on the front section of the body when climbing.

How: Lying down on your stomach, pad the hip bones and thighs with a blanket before reaching back to grab the outside of your ankles with each hand. As you inhale, lift your torso and thighs off the ground, while trying to bring the weight towards your legs and not crunch your gluteals. Do this after warming up; it can be repeated 2-3 times, holding each for 15-30 seconds.

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