So I’ve met a lot of people that love to rock climb. I’ve also met a lot of people who love to do yoga. How many of them do you correlate the two together that often? Not that many from those that I’ve met and discussed it with. So why are yoga and climbing the perfect fit together?
Here’s my 5 top reasons you should be using the both of them to counterbalance once another. Other than one HUGE overarching theme that they’re A LOT of fun to do.
- They use opposite dominant muscle forces – Yoga is predominantly push focused. E.g. whether you in Down Dog, Chaturunga (half push up), Updog or Plank you’re literally pushing the floor away. In which case you’re likely using push muscles like the quadriceps, calves, pectorals, anterior (frontal) deltoids and triceps. Rock climbing is predominantly pull focussed. Eg. When you reach for a hold and you pull yourself up the wall you’re (guess what!?) Using pull focussed muscles. Pull muscles used are likely to be a combination of prime movers such as the hamstrings, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, biceps, forearms, obliques, and abdominals. A well rounded fitness regime will factor in both push and pull focussed exercises. The posterior chain (back body) strengthening is an area that is particularly neglected in training so climbing provides an excellent way to train this.
- Meditative state – In yoga we focus on keeping the mind in a steady state. By using what we call our “Ujjayi Breath” we keep our breathing steady even in challenging situations. By doing this you access a meditative state where you are completely present and conscious in the moment. Yogis argue that by keeping this steadier state of breathing on the mat (even in challenging situations), we will be better suited to calm the mind off of the mat in our everyday life. This absolutely translates to the climbing wall. In situations where we are challenged on the wall it can be easy to make rash (unsafe) decisions. By using the practice of breathing and accessing a state where we are fully present we will be better able to make more mindful decisions on the wall.
- Strength in range – As much as yoga translates to climbing, climbing is a huge help to yogis! Often yoga can focus on primarily lengthening the back body. Passive stretching is also very common within the yoga practice. This can mean that we create an excessive end range of motion in muscles like our hamstrings (hello downdog). If we create the range (space) in an area through techniques like passive stretching, without building the strength needed in this range of motion, then we can lack the ability to control our movement. This leaves us susceptible to injury. No good for yoga or climbing. Climbing uses the opposing dominant muscle groups. So when you’re climbing you’re creating strength in the ranges that yoga can lack. Time to get your monkey on yogis!
- Flexibility in Strength – You know when you’re on the wall and you can’t quite reach that extra hold? Or when you inadvertently muscle your way through an overhang route? Having flexibility (how much passive range of motion you have) and also mobility how much range of motion you can actively control) – will help with both your climbing and yoga practices. Strong and mobile muscles is always the end goal for movement – whichever movement you choose to do. Breathing practices from our yoga practices allow us to calm our nervous system down, ease into movements and breathe space into the body.
- Movement Prep & Cool Down – How often do you warm up properly to climb? Really warm up? How often do you prepare your mind for getting on the wall (or the rocks) and then how often do you take the time to down regulate after your climbing? It’s something we’re all guilty of not spending enough time. If we mentally prepare the mind and body, we put ourselves in a better state to both climb better, and keep ourselves safe. Yoga can be a great way to get the mind centred prior to climbing. It can also be an amazing tool post climbing to allow the body to come off of it’s stress mode (fight or flight) and into its rest and digest mode.
So you see my friends, Rock Climbing and Yoga certainly do go together like birds of a feather. Why don’t you try a little combo out for yourself and see how amazing you feel from it?
Till next time. Keep rockin’ team,
Photography by: Claire Pepper