It might seem hard to believe at first, but a regular yoga practice can actually significantly improve your rock climbing abilities. If you’re brand new to yoga, start by practicing these five poses a few times a week to improve your mobility and to flexibility and strengthen the muscles you use most when you climb.
5 Yoga poses for Rock Climbers:
1. Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is a basic yoga pose that packs a major punch when it comes to stretching and strengthening the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and legs. Downward facing dog is particularly effective for preventing rotator cuff injuries.
To do this pose properly, start by kneeling on all fours. Your hands should be slightly in front of the shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and turn your index fingers out slightly. Then, press down into the floor to lift your hips and straighten your legs.
As you straighten your legs, avoid locking out the knees as you try to bring your heels down toward the floor. Keep pressing into the ground with your hands while you press your shoulders down and try to lift your inner arms.
2. Plank Pose
Plank pose helps strengthen all the muscles in the core, including the abdominals, lower back, and glutes — all muscles you need for stability while you climb. Planks also help strengthen the arms, wrists, and hands.
To get into plank, start on all fours just like you did for downward facing dog, but make sure your wrists are right below your shoulders. Press into the ground with your hands and step your feet back so your legs are straight behind you.
Make sure your body forms a straight line from your head all the way to your ankles — don’t let your hips sag toward the ground or lift up toward the ceiling. Pull your abdominals in, too, to support your low back.
3. Eagle Pose
Eagle pose is a great pose that stretches the muscles in the upper body, specifically the lats, deltoid, and trapezius muscles. The more mobility you have in these muscles, the faster you’ll recover after tough climbing sessions.
Eagle pose also strengthens the ankles and calves to improve your balance and stability.
To do eagle pose properly, stand straight with your knees bent slightly. Then, lift your left foot and extend your arms to the side. Keep your back straight and sink your hips down toward the ground while crossing your left leg over your right, wrapping the left foot around the right calf.
As you cross your legs, bend your elbows and cross your forearms with the right above the left. Continue wrapping until your left hand meets your right. Hold for about five breaths, then switch sides.
4. Reverse Prayer Pose
If you’re regularly using hand exercise equipment to improve your grip strength, reverse prayer is a great counterpose. It can help stretch out the wrists and fingers, as well as the chest and shoulders.
To do reverse prayer properly, start by standing up straight or sitting cross-legged on the floor with your spine straight. Relax your shoulders and then lift your arms to the side. Rotate your arms inward so your thumbs face the ground.
Once your arms are rotated, wrap them around your back, rotating your wrists as you go so that your fingers face upward and your palms touch. Press your palms together to deepen the stretch.
5. Seated Spinal Twist
This pose is great for stretching the chest, shoulders, and upper back. It can also help relieve lower back pain while also improving your ability to perform twisting and reaching movements as you climb.
Start by sitting with your back straight and your legs stretched forward. Then, cross your right leg over your left leg, bending at the knee and positioning your right foot flat on the ground. Lift your left arm toward the ceiling, twist toward the right, and cross your left arm over your body so your elbow is resting on the outward-facing side of your right thigh. Use this arm as leverage to help you deepen the twist.
By practicing these poses consistently, you’ll start seeing major improvements in your climbing abilities.