Recently, I went climbing on a weekend for the first time in months. I used to climb regularly: two years living near Squamish, student days spending weekends at crags in the UK, Easter trips to Fontainebleau, and a mountaineering-obsessed boyfriend (now husband).
I’d had a long hiatus, but on a sunny gritstone crag, I ‘broke the seal’ and it felt good. I could not believe how well my body moved up the rock, sticking like a gecko (well, probably not exactly like a gecko, but to be fair they have a genetic advantage), strong and well-balanced.
My nerves were a bit shaky after the break, but my body performed above expectations. I shouldn’t have been surprised; during the time I haven’t been climbing, I’ve been practicing a lot of yoga and have no doubt that it enabled me to pick things up pretty much where I’d left off.
Yoga and climbing are an ideal combination, as a quick internet search will attest to, but I still know many climbers who have never taken to a yoga mat. Well, reluctant ones, take heed—here are my five top reasons all climbers should do yoga!
1. It enhances your mental focus.
Yoga teaches us how to be present in the moment. All we should be thinking about when teetering above the ground is the task at hand; we are climbing, and thinking about anything else is counter-productive, detracting from performance and enjoyment, and increasing risk.
2. It teaches you humility.
A healthy respect for the rock is essential. A strong, ego-driven approach has no place in climbing. Yoga helps us to release the grip of the ego on our actions, keeping us safe and giving us the focus we need to climb to our best ability.
3. It improves your balance.
To keep balance, the core region of the body, which includes pretty much everything in the torso, needs to be tense. Every time we reach out for a hold, tip toe along a traverse, or pad up a slab, our core muscles are working hard.
Yoga is a phenomenal tool in building core strength as it requires all muscles in the body to work together. Holding a yoga pose is much like holding your position on the rock; all muscles in the body work in unison.
4. It increases your flexibility.
Stretching helps the body to move through its full range of motion. Increased flexibility helps us to secure holds that may seem out of reach.
5. It helps protect your joints from injury and damage.
Climbing puts us into unlikely positions, as we contort ourselves in order to make best use of available features in the rock.
This can leave our joints vulnerable to overextension. Yoga helps to develop the strength needed to secure joints in place, avoiding dreaded ligament and tendon damage.
So, climbers, find a teacher near you, join a regular group class, practice at home, take an online course—do yoga and see how it changes your climbing for the better!
Image credit: Fiona Lines