Wellness Wednesday- 8 Yoga Postures for Backpacking and Hiking
Currently swinging in my hammock beneath some cottonwood trees. Watching silk worms seemingly float from the sky down to the canyon floor. Noticing that every inch of my feet are tender from blisters and my body is aching with pride and accomplishment.
Three days ago we ventured from the edge of the canyon at 5am. Stumbling down the dark switch backs to find ourselves in an oasis of Caribbean like clear blue water just 4 hours later. If I didn't already know the destination I swear I'd have come upon a mirage in this hot desert floor.
In four days we will have completed 30 miles round trip. Venturing down sheer canyon walls next to 200' waterfalls to continue to discover more and more hidden gems in this Jurassic like magical land. Using every inch of muscle to trudge in and out of crystal clear river crossings and spider monkey up make shift ladders and “rock climbing” ropes.
Other than lying in this hammock nothing sounds more appealing than stretching my aching body next to the turquoise blue River on the last afternoon of relaxation. Knowing that tomorrow we will wake up hours before down to reverse our journey back up to the top of the canyon.
This summer I've had several VPUY yogis ask me for some great postures for hiking and backpacking. I thought I'd share some postures we did in our little impromptu Pop Up Yoga class this morning.
Childs Pose (Balasana):
Coming to your shins fold your body over your knees and allow your forehead to rest comfortably on the ground. Arms can actively reach forward for a nice shoulder stretch or extend back to reach towards your heels and offer relief to the sore pack carrying shoulders. Focus the breath into the hips and the spin. Allow yourself to find stillness here for 5-10 breath cycles.
*Benefits- A great overall stretch for a body that has endured miles and extra weight from a backpack. The forward fold offers a length back to the spine while stretching the tired legs, hips, ankles and shoulders.
Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasna):
Shifting from hands and shins, curl your toes under and bring your hips towards the sky to create an upside down v-shape. Allow your shoulders to soften down your back. Any stress on your wrists can begin to transfer up towards your hips as you lengthen through your spin. Allow this weight transfer to continue down towards the heels as you shift your heels towards the earth. Create a nice hollow belly, remembering to breath deeply. Focus on length of the spin and the backs of the legs. After several breath cycles offer a peddling of the feet to provide an amazing stretch to the backs of the thighs and calves.
*Benefits- Lengthens the backs of the hamstrings and calves. Allowing the head to remain heavy (glance towards big toes) in this posture brings length back to the neck, spine and shoulders.
Kneeling Half Bow Pose (Ardha Dhanurasan):
Starting in table top pose and extending left hand and right foot. Keep belly nice and hollow to firm the core as you continue to breath. Toes will be lifted but facing the earth to square the hips. From here bending lifted leg. Pausing here to allow the stretch to happen, or deepening by taking the opposite palm to the inside of the bent foot. To go even deeper allow the foot to kick into the hand. Breath here as you focus on one spot in front of you for 5-8 breath cycles. Repeat on the opposite side.
*Benefits- The active kick from the lifted leg allows the shoulder to open and provides a nice firm stretch into the quads. The stretch can be felt from the ankles to hips and on into the spine. Stimulates the heart.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) w/ Psoas Stretch:
Shifting from down dog bring your right foot between your hands. Drop your left knee to the ground and toenails to the earth. Square your hips towards the front of the mat and inhale your hands overhead. Finding a focal point here take several breath cycles.
Option to use your right hand to give a gentle tug of the left wrist to the right side. Deepen the stretch into achy psoas muscles. Breath here for 3-5 breath cycles. Repeat low lunge on opposite side.
*Benefits- Low lunge relieves sciatica. Stretches into the knee muscles and lengthens into the thighs and hips. The added side bend allows the posture to get into the hard to reach psoas muscle.
Yogi Toe Stretch:
(PS- this is my first ever yoga student. Thankful for this girl pushing me to move my yoga practice to teaching and allowing me to find my teaching voice)
Sitting on your shins with knees and heels together, begin to curl toes under and to face directly back. Ankles will be inline with yoru shins. Sit back onto your heels and bring your head inline with your spin. Breath into this posture for 30 seconds.
*Benefits- Stretches into the backs of your toes and strengthens your arches. This can work wonders after several miles on the trail each day.
Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana):
From down dog bring your right shin forward and onto the mat. Left leg will extend straight back behind you with your left knee pointing towards the earth. Bending into your right knee and flexing your foot. The further the right foot is from the hips the deeper this stretch goes. Inhale to the tops of your finger tips to length the spine and square the hips. On the exhale extend forward to the forearms or melt completely to the earth into this posture. Breathe into the hips and thighs for 10-15 breath cycles. Repeat on the left side.
*Benefits- Stretches into the hips, thighs, spine, chest, shoulders, neck and abdomen. A great posture for sciatic relief. The perfect posture to let yourself relax into each day after hiking.
Cow Face Arms (Gomukhasana):
Kneel and reach right arm to the sky. Bending your right elbow allow right hand to fall between shoulder blades. Bring your left hand to your right elbow to lightly allow the weight of the hand to deepen the stretch. If you’d like to go deeper bring left arm down, bend the elbow, and reach left hand up the center of your back, taking hold of right hand. Alternately holding onto a towel with the right hand you can begin to walk the left hand up the towel towards the right finger tips. Lean back slightly into arms. Breathe into the shoulders for 5 steady breaths. Repeat on opposite side.
*Benefits- This one is all for the sore neck and shoulders that held the weight of your pack all day. Take this only as deep as your body will allow.
Supine Twist (Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana)
Lying on your back bring both knees into your chest. Hanging onto the left knee lengthen the right leg all the way onto the earth. Actively squeeze the left knee into the chest and armpit for a deep stretch. On an exhale twist your left knee to the right side. Open your arms and shoulders. Complete the twist by allowing your glance to come to the left side. More important than your knee connecting with the earth as that your shoulder stay grounded and connected to the mat to protect your spine. Breathe into the twist with deep belly breaths for 8-12 breath cycles.
*Benefits- This is the best posture to end any day in but especially a day where your spine has endured a lot. This twist allows the spine to realign naturally and you may get a couple of pops as you twist and relax into this posture. The deep belly breathing benefits the organs and resets the digestion. Really great for all of those meals you eat on your journey that your digestive system may not be used to.
Big thanks to the crew Red Light for helping me out with a mini yoga practice!
We would love to hear how yoga has helped your extracurricular activities. Do you use yoga an enhancement to any other sports or workouts?