Rock climbing is an adrenaline-pumping sport that builds arm, shoulder, and core strength, improves flexibility of hips and hamstrings, and sharpens mental focus. It can include bouldering, outdoor climbs, and indoor climbs, and requires knowledge of proper technique and usage of equipment for the safety of the climber and anyone else involved in the climb.
It has increased in popularity over the last decade, which is evidenced in its first appearance as a competitive sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Yoga can help climbers further increase their focus, agility, and strength. The following are 5 postures in particular that, when practiced regularly and consistently, can improve a climber’s performance.
1. Sukhasana or Seated Meditation
Meditation is known to have a myriad of benefits like reducing levels of stress and anxiety, increasing sense of well-being, and improving focus, to name a few. Since most climbing routes, particularly in an indoor gym, are as physically challenging as they are mentally (they are akin to figuring out a puzzle), being able to focus under pressure will serve any climber.
Practice seated meditation at the start of your practice, or better yet, before a climb, and you’ll be mentally prepared for the challenges that ensue.
2. Prasarita Padottanasana C
The flexibility of the hamstrings can determine a climber’s ability to reach the next hold on a climbing route. Having space in the hamstrings will help to step up and across with greater ease. It can also prevent hamstring strain, especially if the same step is taken by a climber whose hamstrings are tighter.
This particular variation of the Wide-Legged Forward Bend, with the added shoulder opener, is excellent as it will strengthen the legs while lengthening the hamstrings, and also do the same for the shoulders.
By working on increasing the mobility of the shoulders are, you also decrease the possibility of injury, and the leg strength you get will help you pull up as you climb.
3. Sucirandhrasana or Thread the Needle
Credit: Julia Lee
A climber’s ability to externally rotate the hip (in conjunction with open hamstrings) helps when stepping up to their next hold. A climber is always front-facing, and quite close to, the wall.
The more open the hip is in external rotation can help a climber be static with ease (imagine being in Warrior II with the front of your pelvis facing the wall, with your hands above your head, gripping two holds).
Eye of the Needle pose will increase range of external rotation by opening up the outer hip and outer thigh.
4. Phalakasana or Plank Pose
Understanding how to recruit the core muscles to support the entire body will be useful for a climber in progressing their skills. All movements are centred around, and initiated from, the core. A strong core is also useful in preventing injury.
Practicing Plank pose will help strengthen the core muscles while demonstrating how it stabilizes the pelvis, taking any strain out of the lower back.
5. Ardha Pincha Mayurasana or Dolphin Pose
Just like Plank, Dolphin pose is excellent for strengthening the shoulders and core. With active shoulder adduction in Dolphin, practitioners also build stability in the shoulders which will greatly benefit the climber who spends a lot of time stressing the shoulders—whether when hanging, or pulling up.
Creating stability and strength in the shoulders will protect them from the wear and tear of climbing.
Rock climbing builds confidence, strength, and focus. It challenges the climber to know their body and its strength, and calls on the need to utilize said strength intelligently to help them, especially on long climbs.
A yoga practice is a great complement to a climber’s training regimen as it strengthens and stabilizes the body, improves suppleness, and sharpens the mind. As greater connection to the body is made, a climber can move with greater confidence and ease.
Image Credit: Paige Yeaton