Bouldering is a challenging activity. It requires openness, strength, and concentration. Bouldering differs from climbing in that no ropes or harnesses are required, and because of that climbers often do more horizontal than vertical courses (uh-hem, especially if they have a fear of heights.) Yoga is a perfect complement to bouldering and climbing as it opens the joints, stretches out the muscles, builds strength, and calms the mind.
Here are some yoga poses to incorporate into your next bouldering or climbing session.
Warm Up Simple Sun Salutations will get those hamstrings and glutes warm. If you’re not familiar with Sun Salutations then do your own little warm up, if you’re ready to get on the wall quickly, then be mindful not to go beyond your limit in these warm up stretches.
SHOULDERS You want to be sure to warm up your shoulders before a shoulder intense activity like bouldering, this is especially true if you have tight or previously injured shoulders (I’m looking at you, dislocators!) While doing Sun Salutes, focus on drawing your shoulder blades down and in towards each other as you raise your hands overhead. Here are more shoulder openers:
- Down Dog at the Wall With feet hip-distance and a slight bend in your knees, raise your arms overhead and place the palms flat on the wall. As you exhale, sit back like your going to sit into a chair, but don’t go so far that your hands come off the wall – keep contact. Go until your hamstrings say to stop and focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and in towards the middle of the back. Hold and breathe for five breaths or longer before inhaling up.
- Garudasana/Eagle Arms Start with the arms, bring them to a T, palms facing down. Exhale and cross the right arm over left. Bend at the elbows and touch either back of the hands or wrap until the palms touch. Hold and breathe deeply, release on an inhale and switch the arm that was on top.
- Gomukasana Arms While standing with feet hip-distance, inhale the right arm next to the right ear, palm facing forwards, exhale and bend at the elbow so that the right palm slides down the back. The left arm stays by the left leg, bend at the left elbow, palm facing back behind you, and as much as you can bring the two hands to touch (use a towel or hold your t-shirt if need be.) Hold and breathe five breaths. Inhale release, and switch sides.
HIPS Often times while bouldering you will take a stance which requires really open inner-hips. The knee and toes will face away from the core as the front body is almost totally flush flat against the wall. The outer hips and glutes help push off from the legs to find the next hold. Warm up with these inner-hip openers:
- Utthan Pristhasana/Lizard Pose Come to a low lunge with the front foot to the outside of both hands. Point the front foot and knee at a 45 degree angle, bend deep into the back hip, bringing it forward to get a stretch in the psoas. Hug the front knee in towards the front shoulder to get into the inner hip.To make the pose more intense, lower down onto your forearms, bent at the elbows. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides. To make the pose more intense, lower down onto your forearms, bent at the elbows.
- Utkata Konasna/Goddess Pose Stand with feet wider than hip-distance, knees and toes point out at a slight angle. Bend at the knees until you feel a good burn in your quads or glutes. Keep your torso upright, shoulders over hips, hold and breathe. Straighten knees and rest. Then go into again and place the hands on the top of the thighs. On an exhale, push into your right thigh with your right hand as you gently gaze over your left shoulder. Switch sides after holding five breaths.
- Malasana/Deep Squat Stay with your feet pointing out and knees following in the same direction just as you just did in goddess pose. Bend at the knees and allow your hips to sink towards the floor. If this isn’t possible for you, then lower only as low as is possible (meaning your bum might be in the air a bit.) Place your elbows inside your knees and press into them to open up the inner-hips. Palms come to prayer. Be aware of your spine and try to keep it erect as opposed to rounding. Stay and hold, straighten the legs to release.
- Kapotasona/Pigeon Prep Bring your right knee to your right wrist, right foot to left wrist. Left leg shoots straight back behind you on the floor. Stay upright with weight in your hands, or forward fold, being sure there is no pain in the right knee. Switch sides.
TOES Climbing shoes are small and sometimes pinch the toes together to enable more control in standing and pushing off of placements or juts of rock. Crimping toes together is very anti-yoga and doesn’t feel nice, so as soon as you pull your feet out of your climbing shoes I suggest giving the toes a big stretch. You can reach down and do this manually, sticking one of your fingers in between each toe and giving it a wiggle, or if you have the bodily awareness and control, you can simply find yogi toes.
Enjoy your climbing or boulder session with openness and awareness!