Updated: Jan 17, 2020
Hiking is by no means easy on your body. A long hike will not only push you to your physical limits, but it will also expose all your weaknesses. There are many ways to ensure that your body is in good shape for hiking, we have found that yoga is extremely beneficial. Including a regular yoga practice in your workout routine (and even from time to time on your hikes) can have a serious impact on both your body’s ability to recuperate, and your hiking performance. It can be a great complement for many sports as it can help you to improve flexibility, boost performance, accelerate recovery and even prevent injuries.
Yoga is much praised for its benefits for both body and mind. Long and demanding hiking trails will become less challenging with a sturdy body and a steady mind. Not convinced yet?
Here are 5 reasons to support this claim:
Reduces soreness post hiking and can prevent injuries
Hiking is fantastic exercise, but a long trail can leave us feeling very fatigued and can even lead to injury. Yoga can play an important role in reducing the risks of hurting yourself. It helps to build strength in essential muscles such as your quads, hamstrings and lower back as well as loosening our bodies up when we are feeling stiff. Yoga is low impact and is a great way to stretch out our muscles before and/or after hitting the trail!
Yoga is a fantastic tool for those who need to improve their flexibility and gain a greater range of motion in their joints. Hiking is not easy on the body: squeezing yourself through the small crevices on the trail, bending over to avoid trees, taking big steps over rocks, carefully treading over slippery surfaces. Improved flexibility will make much of this easier to pull off. Yoga is a huge help here, teaching our body multiple twists and turns that are vital for the trails.
Better balance will help a lot with climbing over rocks, crawling along exposed passages and crossing rivers. Hiking also requires a lot of core strength which plays a role in your balance too. Good balance on a hike can mean the difference between a silly stumble and a serious injury. There are many standing postures in yoga that focus on single leg strength and balance. Working on these stabilizer muscles in your legs and core will also permit you to find balance while using better posture. Good posture plays a key role in relieving back pain.
In addition, practicing yoga also allows us to work on maintaining a good balance mentally (mindfulness) working on focus and control in difficult postures. This balance in both body and mind is extremely helpful on and off the trail.
Hiking uphill on uneven surface will leave the best of us feeling a little out of breath, this wears us out much faster. Yoga can boost our lung capacity by working on breathing techniques, it also teaches us how to calm down in stressful situations. These breathing techniques can be used to calm our nervous system, which helps to pace ourselves and preserve our energy for longer stretches.
Yoga builds endurance
Improved endurance means that you will be able to cover much longer distances without feeling fatigued. Yoga helps to build both strength and endurance, holding poses for prolonged periods of time. Building up your strength will also allow you to walk for longer.
In a nutshell
When we hike a lot, we open ourselves up to injury through repetitive movements. We have found that yoga is the perfect complement for hiking, it helps to balance out the body and works on both flexibility and strength which allows us to thoroughly enjoy all the pleasures of hiking without the aches and pains.
Yoga helps to bring us internal peace, a better awareness of our body and can be practiced almost anywhere. As well as being a great source of strength work, it is also restorative. It helps to restore suppleness, speeds muscle recovery, lessens stress and supports injury prevention.
If you are new to yoga try incorporating a few of the poses below into your routine (you can even do them while you are out on a hike!).
The subsequent poses are great for both a pre-hike warm up which can help to lessen the chances of achy muscles as well as a post-hike cool down.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) This pose helps to stretch out the entire back of the body, working deep into the hamstrings.
Wide-legged forward bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) This pose strengthens and stretches the hamstrings and hips and can relieve mild backache.
Forward fold (Uttanasana) This pose helps to both stretch and cool down the whole body after a hike. It eases tension along the spine, shoulders and chest, and into the upper back. Release tension in your back and spine by ‘rag-dolling’ your arms.
Cat Cow (Bidilasana) This is a great drill to mobilise the shoulders and warm up the spine before or after hiking.
Garland pose (Malasana) Also referred to as the Yogi squat. This is a great pose to throw in mid-hike to relieve your lower back and hips from the repetitive movement of walking on uneven ground.
Eagle Arms (Garudasana) This pose is fantastic to stretch out the upper back and shoulders (especially if you have been carrying a heavy backpack).
The following poses can help with strength and flexibility:
Sun Salutations These work on full body strength and flexibility and provide a great opportunity to work on breathing.
Plank This is the ultimate core work and teaches us how to brace our shoulders and upper back.
Tree Pose (Vrkasana) This pose helps to build strength in ankles and calves as well as the core. It also works on single leg balance which is a great tool for strengthening knees.
Half Moon – Ardha Chandrasana A great pose for working on stability, leg, ankle and core strength.
Chair – Utkatasana This pose reinforces the core, quads and glutes, strengthens the knees, stretches the calves, and helps to train balance.