Sarah Lou praises the benefits of Yoga, and how stretching and breathing can greatly improve your success as a new rock climber. Our advice: hold on tight!
One major benefit that a yoga practice brings to the rock climber is balance: many levels of balance.
I know quite a few climbers (and athletes in general) who are very single track minded about their sport—because it’s a passion! A love affair. A dopamine rush! A high.
It might just be my biases, but from my experience and from my observations, the climbers I know who also have a consistent regular yoga practice not only enjoy the benefits of physical balance, but mental balance as well. As I like to say, balance and being flexible are products of practicing yoga, not prerequisites.
I’ve been climbing for over decade, longer than I’ve been practicing yoga. I’ve worked in the industry—it’s a strange combination of super driven, motivated, talented and passionate dirt-bags. I say dirt-bag with the most endearing intentions. People who are successful at their jobs as engineers and climbing shop employees alike shed their skin and get dirty as hell on the weekends and after work.
A yoga practice doesn’t change this passion or drive. In fact, it can bring it into hyper focus. It makes resources more available to the climber both mentally and physically.
Here are a few reasons to get over the hype and popularity show that yoga in America can be. These are some really solid, overwhelmingly positive reasons to get into yoga in some way, shape or form. This list is in no way complete. It’s just a sampling of my favorite benefits from an athlete’s perspective.
Yoga brings clarity to the mind, in many ways.
- When you take time to separate yourself from the thought-barrage that usually takes up most of your conscious awareness, you can find ease and grace in the present moment. Many climbers love climbing for this very reason.
- The rhythm of focused and slow breathing brings a calm and restful state of mind, allowing the climber to practice parasympathetic nervous system response. This helps balance the ever-threatening fight-or-flight response that comes with perceived dangers of being high off the ground.
TIP: Highly motivated climbers sometimes push themselves in their climbing to excel. This practice is not recommended on the yoga mat, because it may lead to injury. If you know you have a competitive nature or are a Type A, try practicing at 50 percent effort.
Breath practice learned in yoga offers a simple and effective way to increase the flow of oxygen to the body and brain while working hard on the rock.
- This keeps the blood oxygenated, therefore muscles are fed. Often without knowing it, the breath is held during tricky cruxes, thus depleting the muscles.
- This is beneficial in delaying “The Pump.”
TIP: An excellent practice for those new to yoga might be Alternate Nostril Breath, or Nadi Shodhana. This beautiful breathing technique helps keep the mind calm, happy and peaceful. A few minutes of Nadi Shodhana pranayama a day is best to de-stress the mind and release accumulated tension and fatigue. This breathing technique helps clear out blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind. (nadi = subtle energy channel; shodhan = cleaning, purification; pranayama = breathing technique)
The physical benefits are more than the obvious.
- Looser hamstrings and hips are incredible for everyday maneuvering, but on the rock, high steps and open-hip stem positions will no longer pop you off the route with a cramp.
- Shoulder conditioning in a Vinyasa style class for example, will not only strengthen underused muscles and balance overused muscles, but provide Injury Prevention—the increased blood flow, energy flow and removal of toxicity may promote years of joyful, pain-free climbing conditions.
TIP: Also try Restorative and Yin style classes on rest days to foster muscular and connective tissue release, as opposed to constant strength conditioning.
[image via pixabay]