Yoga can help hikers relieve soreness, recover faster, and even strengthen the major hiking muscles.
How Yoga is Beneficial for Hiking
- Yoga helps reduce both the risk of being sore after your hike and the risk of injury on your hike.
- It helps build strength and stamina so you can hike longer, more intense trails with ease. Also, that strength and stamina will help greatly if you are carrying a heavy pack or a child on your hike!
- Yoga helps with your balance, and balance is great for hikers!
- You’ll really find a deep connection to your breath, your life force. Through yoga, you can learn breathing techniques to calm down the nervous system, helping to pace yourself and preserve energy longer. Learning breathing tricks can also help eliminate cramps.
- Yoga helps you become more aware of your body and lets you know when you might need to take a break so you don’t push yourself too hard.
Hiking Yoga Poses
The following poses work well for both a pre-hike warm-up to help reduce the risk of muscle soreness and cramping, as well as post-hike cool-down and soreness relief.
- A simple downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) can help stretch out the entire back half of the body, working into those hamstrings.
- A wide-legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) opens the hamstrings and the hips.
Pigeon (Kapotasana) or a figure four helps open up the hips.
- The bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana) is great for externally opening up the hips.
- Hero pose (Virasana) helps with internal hip rotation.
- Cat/cow breaths (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana) stretch out the core.
- Eagle Arms (Garudasana) and cow-faced arms (Gomukhasana) stretch out the shoulders (especially if you are carrying a heavy pack or a child). You can also do a full eagle pose or cow-faced pose to stretch and work the hips and legs as well.
- A gentle “rag-doll” forward fold (Uttanasana variation) helps stretch and cool down the whole body after a hike. This can be followed by any/all of the above poses to help the muscles recover more quickly!
The following poses can help enhance strength and flexibility:
- General sun salutation helps build core and leg strength.
- A good strong lunge (High: Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana or Low: Anjaneyasana) helps one find stability while also feeling strong and stretching things out.
- Warrior poses (Virabhadrasana I, II, and III) strengthen shoulders, arms, legs, and core.
- Balancing poses, such as tree (Vrksasana), Lord of the Dance (Natarajasana), and half-moon (Ardha Chandrasana) poses can work the full body and improve coordination and balance.
- Chair pose (Utkatasana) strengthens ankles, calves, thighs, and spine.
- Four-limbed staff (Chaturanga Dandasana), plank, and forearm plank poses work the core, arms, and shoulders. Sunbird is a gentler alternative that is also great for the core.
Remember: When holding these poses, it’s important to only go so deep that you can still regulate your breathwork. If you find yourself struggling to breathe deeply or holding your breath, you are going too far.
When Practicing these postures, keep these 5 postural tips in mind:
- Align the ears with the shoulders
- Draw the shoulder blades down your back and towards each other
- Keep the spine long, especially through the neck
- Lift the chin slightly
- Draw the belly in toward the spine