Yoga for Climbers: 4 Poses to Improve Balance and Back Flexibility

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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.

The four poses below, adapted from our Yoga for Climbers online course, will help keep your back bendy and your balance in check so you can improve your climbing technique and stay injury free.

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend

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  1. Stand sideways on your mat with your feet wide apart.
  2. Turn your thighs and big toes in slightly.
  3. Interlock your fingers at your sacrum. Keep some space between your wrists.
  4. Press evenly into the four corners of your feet, fold forward at your hips, and take your arms overhead, sliding them toward the floor.
  5. Experiment with turning your palms toward your back (which will open your superficial shoulder muscles and fascia) or turning them out and externally rotating the shoulders.
  6. Stay for five breaths. Come up to standing and bring your feet together.

Climbing Benefits

  • Loosens hamstrings.
  • Opens shoulders.
  • Finds midline for more stability.
  • Lengthens the spine.

Eagle Pose

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  1. With knees slightly bent, lift your left foot and balance on your right.
  2. Reach up with your arms and sink into your hips to create a sense of the spine lengthening and straightening.
  3. Cross your left thigh over the right, left toes pointed to the floor. Then, try to wrap the top of your left foot around the lower right calf. Hips face forward.
  4. Cross your forearms, placing your right above left, and bend the elbows. Press the inside of your left hand against the lower part of the palm of your right hand.
  5. Raise the arms and bend at the elbows so that the upper arms are parallel to the ground, fingers stretched upward.
  6. People with knee pain should simply stand or cross one ankle over the other, leaving both feet touching the ground.

Climbing Benefits

  • Improves balance and stretches the upper back, shoulders, and outer thighs.
  • Strengthens legs, knees, and ankles.
  • Opens the pelvic area and creates space between shoulder blades.
  • Limber upper body muscles have increased blood flow, which promotes faster recovery.
  • Strengthens knees and ankles and improves overall balance, helping climbers stand on small holds.

Tree Pose

Tree Pose.jpg
  1. From mountain pose, shift your body weight onto your left leg and lift your right leg off the floor.
  2. Place the sole of your right foot as high on the inner left thigh as you can (above the knee or below the knee, but never on your knee).
  3. Open the right hip.
  4. Press the foot into the thigh.
  5. Feel your midline and press your standing leg into the ground, feel your spine grow long out of this rootedness.
  6. Stay for five deep breaths.
  7. Release, and repeat on the other side.

Climbing Benefits

  • Finds your center.
  • Improves mental focus.
  • Gains balance.
  • Opens the hips.

Bridge

Bridge Pose.jpg
  1. Lie flat on your back, arms by your side.
  2. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your buttocks.
  3. Lift your chest and raise your hips, keeping your thighs parallel to each other. Don’t clench your buttocks.
  4. Press your feet into the ground, and draw your knees forward over your ankles as you lift your pelvis and lengthen your tailbone.
  5. Clasp your hands together under your back and stay high on your shoulders.
  6. Lift your chest, chin away from the sternum, and push your head into the floor.
  7. Tuck your tailbone, while broadening back and shoulder blades. Firm your entire body.
  8. Roll the spine slowly down to finish pose.

Climbing Benefits

  • Strengthens spine.
  • Stretches and opens muscles in the chest, neck, and spine that climbers compress and contract through constant pulling.
  • Stretches psoas muscles.
  • Improves back flexibility for reachy moves.
  • Strengthens butt muscles, which helps in reachy leg moves, high-stepping, maintaining balance on small holds, and heel hooking.

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).