Yoga for Climbers: 4 Yoga Poses to Prevent Shoulder Injuries

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The below poses are a great addition to any training plan. For a more in-depth routine, check out our 20-class Yoga for Climbers online course developed by pro climber and yogi Heidi Wirtz.

Shoulder injuries are among the top culprits responsible for taking climbers off of the walls. Between tendonitis and tears of the rotator cuffs and labrums, shoulder injuries are frustrating to deal with and often take a long time to heal. The four poses below, adapted from our Yoga for Climbers online course, will help keep your shoulders stable and your posture in check so you can keep climbing injury-free.

Downward-Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog Yoga for Rock Climbers

Photo: Shutterstock

  1. Drop to your hands and knees with knees directly below your hips.    
  2. Spread your hands wide and slightly in front of your shoulders, with index fingers slightly turned out.    
  3. Lift your buttocks and slowly straighten your legs, without locking your knees.  
  4. Stretch your heels down. It’s OK if your heels don’t touch the floor and your legs are slightly bent.    
  5. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly into the floor, and lift your inner arms.
  6. Pull your shoulder blades away from your ears, broadening the collarbone.  
  7. Do not allow your head to hang; keep it between your upper arms.        

Climbing Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches shoulder muscles, strengthens latissimus dorsi, and stretches hamstrings, calf muscles, hands, and Achilles tendon.
  • Helps prevent rotator cuff injuries.    
  • Stronger shoulders improve stability in gaston moves and mantels.    
  • Stronger lats help you reach farther.    
  • Flexible leg muscles help your endurance on slab and face climbs.   
  • Elongates and releases tension from your spine.       
  • Calms the nervous system and relieves stress.    

Plank Pose

Yoga for Climbers Rock Shoulders Plank Pose

Photo: Shutterstock

  1. From downward-facing dog, shift your weight forward to plank.    
  2. Maintain a long line through your ankle bones to the center of your skull.      
  3. Lean into the floor evenly through each limb. Notice if you are dipping to one side or dumping your pelvis into an anterior or posterior tilt. Find a neutral pelvis.     
  4. Once stable, lengthen your spine without distorting it, and get a sense that you are hugging or squeezing your two frontal hip bones together.      
  5. Stay here for five long breaths, then come back to down dog.     

Climbing Benefits

  • Strengthens core.    
  • Improves shoulder stability

Side Plank Pose

Yoga for Climbers Rock Side Plank Pose Shoulders

Photo: Shutterstock

  1. From downward-facing dog, slide your right hand a few inches to the left, toward your midline.
  2. Turn onto the outside edge of your right foot, and stack your ankles on top of each other.      
  3. Roll your hips open to the left, without sagging; open your left arm toward the sky.
  4. Imagine a magnetic pull connecting the inner lines of your legs; this engagement supports your spine. To wake up your external obliques and serratus muscles (which stabilize your dorsal spine and shoulder girdle), feel as if you are wrapping your right rib cage toward your left frontal hip bone, and vice versa.       
  5. Keep your shoulder blades and collarbones wide. Puff up the space in between your shoulder blades.  
  6. Stay for five breaths, then transfer your weight through plank pose, down dog, and to the other side.             

Climbing Benefits

  • Tones arms and shoulders.    
  • Works core.    

Seated Twist Pose 

Yoga for Climbers Rock Shoulders Seated Twist Pose

Photo: Shutterstock

  1. Sit evenly on your sit bones, and straighten your back. If your lower back is sagging, prop yourself up on a folded blanket.
  2. Extend your legs in front of you without locking your knees.    
  3. Bend your right knee, and place your right foot flat on the ground outside of your left knee.   
  4. Bend your left leg, with ankle close to the right hip.       
  5. Lift your right arm and stretch the side of your body, while twisting your torso to the right. Place your right hand or fingers on the ground behind you.     
  6. Lift your left arm up and place the outside of your left elbow on the outside of your right knee to help maintain the twist. However, be sure to move from the base of your spine as you twist. Do not force the twist with the strength of your arms.       
  7. Look over your right shoulder.    
  8. Repeat on other side.    

Climbing Benefits

  • Strengthens and stretches back.    
  • Strengthens shoulder muscles.    
  • Opens shoulders by stretching pectoral muscles.  
  • Facilitates fluid twisting movements while climbing.     
  • Relieves lower back pain caused by muscular tension.     

Want more? Yoga for Climbers is the first comprehensive online yoga course made specifically for climbers. This self-paced program will help you learn how to be more flexible, strengthen your entire body, boost your confidence, and help you stay calm after a fall, in the middle of a crux, and even sitting in traffic. Developed by Climbing magazine and pro climber and yogi Heidi Wirtz, this online class focuses on aspects of mental and physical training that can benefit every climber, whether you're a veteran big waller or putting on climbing shoes for the first time. Register now at AIMAdventureU.com/yogaforclimbers and enter promo code YOGA4CLIMBERS for a $40 discount (normal price $189).