Yoga for Hikers: Building Strength Between Hikes

The wilderness is healing, a therapy for the soul.
~Nicholas Kristof

Shoulder stretch yoga at the trailheadIf you are new to hiking, getting back into it, or building up to a long hike or backpacking trip, your body will thank you for practicing these yoga poses on days between hikes. This sequence strengthens your hips, low back, shoulders, knees, calves, ankles and feet. Additionally, take fast-paced, aerobic walks, 20 to 45 minutes each, two to three times each week. With adequate conditioning, you can enjoy longer and more difficult hikes, injury-free, for even better summit views.

Warm up with two or three gentle Sun Salutations before moving into these poses.

Downward-Facing Dog

From hands and knees, move your hands forward and lift your hips, straighten your legs and drop your heels toward the ground. Keep your tailbone lifted while stretching up out of your wrists, elbows and shoulders, letting your chest drop toward ground. Relax your neck and gaze at your knees. Hold for two to five breaths as your spine lengthens.

High Runners Lunge

From hands and knees, step your right foot forward between your hands, directly under your bent knee. Curl your left toes under and lift the left knee, straighten your leg and press through the left heel. Lift onto your fingertips and draw your heart forward and up. Look ahead for a breath. Repeat with your left foot forward.

Warrior I

Standing, step your left foot back. Keep your hips squared and angle your left toes forward. Bend your right knee until it lines up with your ankle. Lift your heart and extend your arms overhead. Hold for two to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Warrior II yoga pose on the beach

Warrior II

Standing, step your left foot back and turn your hips and torso to open to the left. Turn your left toes toward the left side. Bend your right knee until the knee is directly over your ankle. Lift your arms to shoulder height in the same line as your legs. Gaze over your right fingers and hold for two to five breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Goddess

Stand in a straddle with your toes angled outward. Bend your knees over your toes and, keeping your torso erect, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Reach your arms overhead, then bend your elbows and lower them to shoulder height. Draw your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Hold for two to five breaths.

Horse

Stand in a straddle with your toes angled outward. Bend your knees over your toes and, keeping your torso erect, lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to ground. Press your hands into tops of your thighs, fingers forward. Lift your shoulders toward your ears as your hips sink lower. Hold two to five breaths.

Chair

Stand with your feet under your hips. Lift your arms overhead. Bend your knees, reach your tailbone back and lift your heart. Hold two to five breaths.

Tree

Stand on your right leg. Bend your left knee and open the knee to the left side. Bring the bottom of your left foot to your right calf (or into your right thigh, provided you can get your toes higher than your knee). Lift your arms overhead. Gaze at a focal point and balance for at least two breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Airplane

Stand on your right leg. Extend your left leg back, as straight as possible, with your left foot flexed. Lower your torso and lift your left leg until both are parallel to the ground. Extend your arms back slightly away from your sides like wings. Gaze at a focal point on the ground slightly ahead of you and balance for at least two breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Plank

From hands and knees, reach your feet back with your toes on the ground and your legs as straight as possible. Keep your shoulders over your hands and reach through your heels. Engage your core muscles to hold your hips in line with your shoulders and heels. Hold at least two breaths.

Cobra

Cobra yoga pose in the grassLay face-down with your chin on the ground, your elbows bent and your hands under your shoulders. Press the tops of your feet into the ground and lift your chin and the top of your chest as high as is comfortable. Relax your shoulders back and reach through the crown of your head. Hold at least two breaths.

Locust

Lay face-down with your chin on the ground, your elbows bent and your hands on either side of your chest. Lift your feet, your chin, and the top of your chest. Keep your gaze at the ground slightly in front of you. Hold at least two breaths.

Boat

Sit with your legs bent and your feet on the ground. Rest your hands on the ground on either side of your hips. Lengthen your spine, lean back slightly, and lift your feet until your calves are parallel to the ground. Lift your hands and reach toward your feet. Hold at least two breaths.

Table Top

Sit with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Bring your hands to the ground slightly behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the hips. Lift your hips off the ground until your body, you’re your shoulders to your knees, is parallel to the ground. Press your arms straight and drop your head back to gaze up. Press your knees forward to lengthen the front of your body. Hold at least two breaths.

Bicycles

Lay on your back with your knees bent over your hips and the lower legs parallel to the ground. Interlace your fingers behind your head and open your elbows to the sides. Keeping your feet flexed, press your right foot forward and straighten that leg while lifting your head and shoulders and twisting your torso to bring your right elbow to the left knee. Return to the starting position, then extend your left leg and bring your left elbow to the right knee. Repeat as many times as desired.

Always end your yoga practice with a final relaxation.

While practicing on your own is good, yoga is awesome in a group. Find some hiking friends and head to your nearest yoga studio for a class. In the Adirondack High Peaks region, join me or another talented teacher at True North Yoga.

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