Yoga for Rock Climbers

Yoga is one of the simplest ways to improve your rock climbing. It not only increases your flexibility, but it also promotes balance, improves your strength, calms your mind, helps with injury prevention, and teaches you how to be mindful of your body. New Jersey-based yoga instructor, and avid rock climber Malka Abreu says, “I believe yoga and rock climbing are a symbiotic practice, supporting each other to push you out of your comfort zone while strengthening the connection between your mind and body through similar types of movement, breathing, and mindfulness. Yoga has really challenged my ability to sit with uncomfortable situations.”

After all, when you’re in class holding a posture that feels unbearable, you have no choice but to tune into your body in that moment and breathe through the discomfort. Yoga trains you to concentrate on your breath and let everything else fade away. By doing so, your brain and body can focus on movement and increase intuition. As long as we keep showing up and putting in the work, physically and mentally, we will see results. “The same thing goes for climbing. When you reach the crux of your climb and you feel like you can’t make it through or you just took a huge whip and don’t feel like moving forward, you must challenge yourself to be in that hard and uncomfortable situation and to learn how to breathe through it. Only then will we be able to truly make progress and reach that next hold.”

By adding these 10 poses into your daily routine you can say goodbye to tight hips and hamstrings and say hello to heel hooks and high feet! In this sequence, Malka will guide you through some of her favorite stretches to wake up your mind and prepare your body for climbing, or to soothe and release your body after a climb. 

10 Yoga Poses For Climbers

Tabletop Pose

Christina Fleming

Begin on all fours, placing your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Slowly begin to rotate your hands outward until your fingers are pointing back toward your knees. If this feels too intense, you can have your fingers face the outer edges of the mat. Hold for 10 breaths. If you would like to intensify the stretch, gently ease your hips back towards your heels. 

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose helps lengthen and realign your spine and it strengthens your wrists, arms, and shoulders.

Virasana (Hero’s Pose)

From Tabletop, tuck your toes and slowly walk your hands back toward your knees so that you can sit up on your heels allowing your toes and arches to stretch. If this feels like too much, you can place your hands on the mat to take some of the weight off of your heels. Hold for 10 breaths.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches and strengthens the arches of your feet and ankles, helping build flexibility in your hips, thighs, knees, ankles, and feet and improving circulation in your legs. All climbers should do this daily to counteract wearing those small shoes!

Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)

Begin in Tabletop, resting the tops of your feet on the mat with your toes pointing straight back. Keep your hips stacked directly over your knees and slowly begin to walk your hands out in front of you as you lower your chest toward the ground and gently release your forehead to the mat. If you would like to intensify the stretch, bring your chin to the mat. If you need to dial back the intensity, let your head and/or chest rest on a yoga blanket. With every inhale, find length in your spine. With every exhale, lower your chest closer to the ground. Hold for 10 breaths.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your spine, shoulders, upper back, arms, and abdominal muscles. 

Try this yoga blanket to support you in this pose.

Scorpion Stretch

Begin by lying down on your belly with your arms extended out to the sides forming a “T” with your palms face down. Bring the right side of your face to the mat and place your left hand palm down in front of your face. Bend your left knee and step your left foot back behind your bottom leg, resting your toes or entire sole of the foot on the floor. Continue to press your left palm or fingertips into the mat, feeling a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your pectoral muscles, shoulders, and arms. It is also a twisting posture which stimulates your abdominal organs and aids in digestion. 

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Variation (Downward-Facing Dog Pose with Knee Taps)

From Tabletop, walk your hands one palm print forward on the mat, tuck your toes, straighten your legs, and move your hips back to move into a Down Dog. Inhale and raise your left leg up and back. As you exhale, bring your knee in toward your nose, round your spine, and push your fingers into the mat (keep your elbows stacked over your wrists). As you inhale straighten your left leg back and as you exhale bring your knee outside your left elbow. Inhale straighten the left leg back and as you exhale bring the knee outside your right elbow. Repeat three times. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose improves core strength/balance and strengthens your upper and lower body. 

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

From Downward Dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, bringing your right knee over your right ankle. Lower your left knee to the ground, untuck your toes, and bring your hands to your right thigh, or if you feel stable, extend your arms to the sky. Push your right heel into the ground so you feel the activation in the back of your right leg while simultaneously finding spinal length, growing taller. Keep engaging your abdominals to support your backbend. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your hamstrings, quads, and groin. It can also release tension in the hips and build strength in your knees. 

Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey God Pose)

From a Low Lunge, bring your hands down to frame your front foot, coming onto your fingertips. Take a full breath in and as you exhale begin to straighten your front leg, moving your hips back, peeling your toes off the ground, and flexing your toes toward your face. With every inhale find length in the spine. With every exhale fold a little bit deeper over your front leg. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your thighs, hamstrings, and groins. It’s a great preparation for a good high foot!

Pigeon Pose

From Downward Dog, bring your left knee toward your left wrist and lay your shin across the mat. Elongate your right leg behind you as you lower your hips closer toward the ground, toes untucked. If your left glute is not resting on your mat, place a blanket, towel, or yoga block under your hip for support. As you inhale, walk your hands towards your hips and puff up your chest. As you exhale, walk your hands forward on the mat and lower your forearms or forehead to a yoga prop or the mat. Hold for 20 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your hips and glutes, plus it can really challenge your ability to sit with discomfort, breathe through it.

Try these yoga blocks to support your hips and/or torso in this pose. 

Ankle-to-Knee Pose

Begin seated in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with both legs extended straight out in front of you and a tall spine. Bend your right knee so that your shin is parallel to the front of your mat and stack your right foot over your left knee. Then begin to bend your left knee so that your shin is stacked under your right and that your legs are stacked ankle to knee. Keep your fingertips on the mat beside your hips and actively flex both of your feet as you press your hips down and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling. Either stay here and breathe, or if you’d like to move deeper, explore walking your hands out in front of you and folding forward over your legs as you maintain the length along your spine. Hold for 10-20 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose deeply stretches your outer hips and glutes (and your low back if you fold forward!).

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Begin seated in Staff Pose. Then bend your knees, pull your heels toward your pelvis, drop your knees out to the sides, and allow the soles of your feet to gently peep apart. As you inhale, lengthen your spine. As you exhale, either stay or begin to fold forward, leading with your chin. Hold for 20 breaths.

Why it’s great for climbers: This pose stretches your inner thighs, groins, and knees (and your low back if you fold forward!)