Yoga for climbers can be active, gentle or a combination of both, depending on whether it is used for cross-training, recovery or just warm-up. Climbers have their own rockside rituals, and many stretches will be variations of what yogis recognize from practice. Even in a simple sun salutation, which is probably the most well-known series of movements in yoga, planks work the chest, which may be ignored in the back-and shoulder-focused world of climbing, and downward dogs stretch the arms, legs and back.

“Yoga is beneficial to climbers,” says longtime rock climber Melissa Compton, who is working toward her yoga instructor certification at Mellow Monkey Yoga Studio in Spokane Valley. Besides increasing flexibility, she says, the benefits range from improving mental and core strength to aiding strain and injury with restorative poses. “There are many poses in yoga that require engagement with one muscle while relaxing another,” says Compton. “Situations that require moves like this arise often when I’m on the rock.”

Either stack your knees or cross your legs and take a side stretch toward the leg that's on top. Photo: Benjamin Zmuda

Either stack your knees or cross your legs and take a side stretch toward the leg that’s on top. Photo: Benjamin Zmuda

Noelle Zmuda, who runs Noelle Zmuda Yoga, held frequently at Wildflower Day Spa in Sandpoint, agrees. “Almost all of my rock climbing friends and family also have a yoga practice. Yoga and rock climbing complement each other well, because both deal with facing fears and employ breathing techniques, taking one move at a time, moving from the core, and [creating] a balance of strength and flexibility.”

Individual moves will vary depending on the particular climber’s goals, but Zmuda offers a sample workout for those already familiar with yoga practice. //

Roll your mat and place it at about the level of your armpits. Lie down with the les straight or in butterfly as shown and hold for up to five minutes, relaxing the whole body and slowing the breath. Photo: Benjamin Zmuda

Roll your mat and place it at about the level of your armpits. Lie down with the les straight or in butterfly as shown and hold for up to five minutes, relaxing the whole body and slowing the breath. Photo: Benjamin Zmuda

Noelle Zmuda’s Yoga for Climbers

Start with the Cat and Cow Poses to unwind the spine. Incorporate standing lunge poses, like Crescent Lunge with Gomukhasana (Cow Face arms) and Warrior 2 with Eagle arms, to open both the hips and shoulders. Try Warrior 2 with Eagle arms and drop your head forward onto your upper arms, letting go in the neck. Cobra and Locust Pose variations or other belly backbends are nice to strengthen the back and open the chest and shoulders. For some gentle seated poses, take Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) or just cross the right shin in front of the left, reach your right arm overhead, and take a sidebend to the left, keeping the hips firm on the floor. Make sure to switch sides and hold for at least one minute. Next, sit cross-legged, take your right arm behind your back, bringing the back of your hand to the smallest part of your left side waist, and then clasp your left hand in your right. Bring your shoulder blades toward each other and drop your left ear toward your left shoulder. Hold for one or two minutes on each side. Finally, for a supine pose, roll your mat (the bigger the roll, the more intense the pose) and place your mat right under your shoulder blades. Cross your arms above your head and grab at about mid-tricep, letting your head drop back into your forearms. Your legs can be resting flat on the ground, or for an added hip opener, take Baddha Konasana (butterfly legs) where the soles of the feet come together and knees come out wide resting on the ground. Finish with Savasana. //