There is a myriad of reasons as to why yoga is good for the body, and specifically in regards to hiking. Yoga complements hiking by:
- Stretching out sore muscles
- Increasing your body’s full range of motion
- Strengthening muscles
- Improving balance
- Helping to prevent hiking related injuries
- Encouraging full, diaphragmatic breathing
Saying that, it is difficult to know what poses are good for hiking, which is why we have formed a handy how-to guide of the best poses for before and after a hike. The following stretches and yoga poses include a description on how to do each pose and why, with modifications. For asymmetrical poses, make sure to do the poses on both sides! These have been broken down into the best poses to do before and after hiking, but the most important thing is to do what feels good for you!
If you are staying at one of our chalets during the summer you may doing our self-guided walking holidays. Over the course of the week you will cover between 50km – 70km involving a few thousand metres of vertical incline. A lot of the hiking is done between 1500m and 2000m. In short our walking holidays involve a lot of exercise! All our walks are possible with a good level of base fitness – you don’t need to be a super fitness fanatic – but if you are we have more challenging options available for you.
Pre Hike Yoga Poses
For pre-hike yoga poses, stay in the poses for 5 breaths before coming out, and try a few repetitions to increase circulation around the body.
1. Cat Cow – Bidilasana
Benefits: A great way to mobilise the shoulders and warm up the spine for the day after rolling out of bed, whether you’re going for a hike in the mountains or not.
How to: Starting on your hands and knees, make sure your wrists are directly below the shoulders and knees below the hips. Inhale and draw the scapula (shoulder blades) back as you open your chest out to the front. As you exhale, round the spine, moving the shoulder blades apart and looking towards your naval, like an angry cat. Keep moving with your inhale and exhale for at least 5-10 breaths.
2. Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
Benefits: A great all round pose to stretch the hamstrings, the calves and the upper body.
How to: From all fours, inhale, tuck your toes under, and exhale lifting your hips up into the air to come into your Downward Facing Dog, creating an inverted ‘V’ shape, and work your heels down towards the mat (it doesn’t matter if they don’t quite reach!). You want to lengthen out the spine, so if you feel your back arching or you have any lower back pain, you can bend your knees.
3. Low Lunge – Anjaneyasana
Benefits: This pose is perfect for stretching out the hip flexors
How to: From Downward Facing Dog, step one foot through to the front of your mat, in-between your hands. Lower the back knee, untuck the toes, find your balance and raise the arms up overhead, or rest your hands on your hips.
4. Half Splits – Ardha Hanumanasana
Benefits: A deep stretch in the hamstrings. Most people have tight hamstrings from sitting down at work and these only get tighter from hiking.
How to: From your lunge, lower hands down to the mat either side of your front foot and move your hips back, straightening the front leg and lifting the toes off the mat. You should feel a stretch in the back of the thigh, in the hamstring.
5. Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Benefits: Pigeon releases tension in the hip openers, hip flexors and the glutes. This is great for both loosening up before a hike and post-hike. For a gentler version, see Eye of the Needle Pose.
How to: From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right knee up to your right wrist on the mat and bring your foot out towards the left hip. The further up you bring your foot, the more intense the stretch, but listen to your body as to how far it will go. Slide the left leg back so you are lowering down onto the hips (use a block or cushion under the right hip here if it doesn’t reach the mat). Gently lower down onto your forearms or all the way down to the mat. This is an intense pose, so make sure you keep breathing!
6. Cow Face Arms – Gomukhasana
Benefits: You might think yoga for hiking will only be for the lower body, but this pose stretches the shoulders and pectoral muscles, a great counterpose for carrying a rucksack. Even if you are only carrying a light pack, this can put pressure on the neck, back and shoulders, creating soreness and tightness. Try this pose before a hike to mobilise and loosen up the shoulders, or after, to relieve any aches from the day on the mountain trails.
How to: Bring your right arm up overhead and bend your elbow, reaching behind your back. Then, bring your left arm behind the back reach for the opposite hand. If you can’t reach, then you can use a belt or towel to bring your hands closer together.
Post Hike Yoga Poses
Some of these poses and stretches target similar muscles to those in the Pre-Yoga section, but are more suited to a relaxed practice after being on your feet all day. Try to stay in these poses for at least a minute to fully stretch the muscles and the fascia, promoting speedier recovery.
1. Eye of the Needle
Benefits: This pose is similar to the Pigeon Pose described above. Eye of the Needle also targets the hamstrings, groin and outer hips, but is a more gentle variation where you can control the intensity. You can also do this pose instead of pigeon if you have any knee issues.
How to: Lying on your back and bending both knees with your feet on the mat, cross your right ankle over the left thigh. You can stay here with your foot down, or lift the left foot and reach for your thigh with both hands to deepen the stretch into the hip.
2. Low lunge with a quad stretch
Benefits: Another pose that we have come across already, but stretching out those tight quads (front thigh) in addition to the stretch in the hip flexors.
How to: Come into your low lunge and then bend your back knee to catch hold of the foot with your hand or a belt. Bring your foot closer towards your body to deepen the stretch if it is not already deep enough!
3. Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose – Supta Padangusthasana
Benefits: Deep stretch in the hamstrings with the added benefit of lying down. Also great if you have any back ache from your hike in the mountains.
How To: Pretty much what it says on the tin; lie down on the mat, and reach for your big toe, lifting your leg up into the air. This is difficult for a lot of people so grab a belt or a towel to wrap around the foot so you can still feel the stretch in your hamstring without compromising the spine. Keep your spine flush with the mat and gently draw the foot closer to your head to increase the stretch. Bend your knee slightly if your hamstrings are feeling super tight.
4. Legs up the Wall
Benefits: A gentle inversion which has a calming and grounding effect and relieves tension and pressure in the feet and legs after a long days hiking. This is probably the best possible pose to do after a hike and you can stay here for any length of time, from a minute to half an hour!
How to: Another self explanatory pose; lie down bringing your legs up against a wall with your hips as close as possible to the wall. You can have the legs straight up or bring the legs wide, whatever feels best for you. If you don’t have any free wall space, you can do this without a wall, either using a belt around the feet, or propping your hips up onto a block or a book.
One last thing…
Make sure you drink plenty of water during and after your hike. If you are dehydrated, then you are sure to feel this in your muscles the next day, no matter how much you stretch!
Happy hiking and namaste!