By Nichole Crandall, Salt Pump Yoga Instructor
“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try” –Seth Godin
Yoga and climbing are an odd match – with one mostly limiting the participant to the 2’x6′ mat space and encouraging ‘looking in’, while the other is inherently more social and more exploratory (at least in the physical sense). But many climbers find great joy and benefit from their yoga practice. Nichole Crandall lists four ways that you may find the same.
- Improve Your Breathing
Most people hold their breath under physical and mental stress. The primary goal of vinyasa yoga is to practice strong and steady breathing in physical challenge. The calming “ujjayi” yoga breath will help keep oxygen flowing to your muscles and brain and calm your mind in difficult climbs allowing you work your edge.
Yoga teaches us to turn down our thinking mind and tune into the body. Over thinking can dull and distort our perception of what is really going on. In climbing, this could potentially hold you back from that next level or cause you to go too far and incur injury. The practice of calming our mind on the yoga mat will then translate into your climbing.
- Body-Weight Against Gravity
Yoga and climbing both work with strength against gravity. In vinyasa flow yoga, poses are held and you explore where in your body you are holding tension that is not necessary and how you can redirect that effort to engage areas of the body where strength is needed. Yoga teachers almost always call attention to the core–a key stabilizer for yoga and climbing.
- Lengthens and Strengthens Muscles and Connective Tissue
A combination of vinyasa yoga and yin yoga will help you stay in great climbing shape and prevent injury. Vinyasa yoga lengthens key muscle areas by finding stability in the depth of poses. Yin yoga safely and gently stretches the connective tissues for increased range of motion. By strengthening our connective tissue in yin yoga, we reduce the likelihood of injuring our connective tissue in other activities, like climbing.