Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Yoga and rock climbing as different as they are, cross-training Yoga with climbing is beneficial to improve flexibility, balance and recovery. If rock climbing is your primary sport and you want to improve in it, jazzing it up with Yoga is the way to go. You might ask, "Wouldn't it be better if I just climb more?". Yes, of course, you will improve if you climb more hours but after a certain point, you will reach a threshold where your progress slows down or reaches a constant. This is when yoga can complement your climbing skills and help you push through that barrier and up your climbing game.
The easiest and the quickest way to warm up and stretch all parts of your body is by performing 7-10 rounds of Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) just before climbing. This will get your heart pumping and the dynamic stretching will avoid unnecessary muscle cramps on the wall. Every part of your body will feel warm and your joints will feel loose when you are adequately warmed up.
TIP: Neck exercises such as a few rounds of simple neck rotation before climbing can help you to avoid neck pain from looking up for a longer period of time.
Improves your balance and co-ordination
Climbing is both a physical and mental sport. At the mental level, climbing and yoga really require you to just stay present in your body. Yoga trains you to concentrate on breathing and let everything else fade away. When climbing, you can not be thinking about your personal problems or doing other things. If you are not focused on what you are doing right then and there, you are going to fall off the wall. Yoga also improves another important aspect of your daily life and climbing, which is "Body Awareness". Body awareness helps you to correct your posture, maintain your balance and sense the ideal power-to-weight ratio.
Asanas that help you with balance, concentration and focus are Vrkasana (Tree Pose), Virabhadrasana (Warrior 3 Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose) and for advanced level yoga practitioners, Salamba Sirasana (Headstand).
Improves flexibility and corrects asymmetry
Yoga improves flexibility and flexibility helps you move through tricky sequences with creative footwork and keep your body close to the wall, allowing you to climb gracefully and efficiently. Yoga also helps to prevent injuries by correcting muscle imbalances, increasing the functional range of motion and stability in your joints. People are usually more flexible and stable on the dominant side of their body. For example, a right-handed person tends to be more flexible on the right side of his/her body than the left side. Iyengar yoga style is especially renowned to correct this asymmetry. Yoga for climbers is like lubricating your bike chain. If your bike chain is rusty, it is harder to pedal and chances of breaking your chain are higher.
Almost all the yoga asanas improve flexibility but after careful thought and consideration the following are my personal recommendations:
Asanas that help you with flexibility, mobility and stability in your lower body are Eka Pada Rajakapotasana variations (One-Legged King Pigeon Pose), Malasana (Garland Pose), Virabhadrasana (Warrior 1 Pose) and Prasarita Padattanasana variations (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend). These poses stretch the arches of your feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings, groin, hip adductors, thorax and abdomen.
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch Pose) is a good pose not only for your lower body but also it deepens the range of motion in the shoulder girdle. Another asana that helps you with the flexibility and mobility of your shoulder region and the hip opening is Gomukhasana (Cow-face Pose).
Grip, forearm, upper arms, shoulders, legs and core strength are crucial for climbers. A weak core can leave you susceptible to lower back pain and muscle injuries. You will definitely find many props to work out at a climbing hall, to exercise your grip, arm and core muscles. Asana such as Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose), Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose) and Chaturangadandasana variations (Plank Pose) help beginners you gain core and arm strength before you try advance strength training exercises.
I hope all the above Yoga asanas and tips help you with your climbing adventures. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any special queries. Click here to book a 60mins Live-Online Yoga trial session for FREE!
(1) 12 Yoga Poses for Climbers to Do Daily (https://www.outsideonline.com/2412939/everything-you-need-know-about-running-heat)
(2) Yoga for Climbers (https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/cross-training/yoga-and-climbing)
(3) Light on Yoga, by BKS Iyengar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_on_Yoga)