Practicing yoga helps me so much in feeling good and strong when I go hike and backpack. Even more, it helps me recover faster so that I can get out on the trail more often. Personally, when I hike, I like to be on the trail at sunrise and I tend to push my hikes so long that the only thing I’m doing afterwards is opening up a cold one. I find that focusing on my yoga and stretching on my non-hiking days works best for me, but you absolutely can add this routine before or after you hike.
Yoga is not about being flexible in body. It’s more about being flexible in mind. Don’t limit yourself by being too atttached to what your poses look like. Use the time on your mat to connect with how your body feels and letting go of the ruminating thoughts that might be weighing your down.
Not Just For Hikers
While this yoga sequence is great for hikers, it’s greatness lies in the fact that it targets the muscles of the outer hips, hip flexors, and the chest. If you read my blog Train for a Strenuous Hike, you’ll see how the repetitive nature of walking and stepping up causes a shortening in the hip flexors and often a rounding through the upper back causing shortening in the chest and shoulders.
But so does sitting, especially sitting in front of a computer or even sitting on the couch staring at a phone.
This sequence is great for anyone who finds themselves spending a lot of time in a seated position. As a blogger myself, this is my go-to yoga flow because no matter how much I try to change positions while working, I’m still spending an obscene number of hours in hip flexion with rolled in shoulders and a forward head.
Before I get into the best yoga poses for hiker, here a few quick reminders when practicing yoga:
The breath matters more than the form
The biggest benefit you can get from yoga is learning to breathe deeper. When holding these poses, it’s important to only go so deep that you can still regulate your breath work. If you find yourself struggling to breathe deeply or holding your breath, you are going too far.
Steady the breath
Seal the lips and breathe slowly through your nose taking about 5 seconds on the inhale and matching it with 5 seconds on the exhale. On the exhale, think about releasing tension and relaxing the muscles. With practice, you will feel like the breath is helping you melt into each posture.
When we hike (myself included), we tend to let our posture slump. The shoulders roll forward, the neck drops down to keep and eye on the trail, and our lower backs tend to arch. When doing these postures, think about these postural tips:
- Align the ears with the shoulders
- Draw the shoulder blades down your back and towards each other
- Keep the spine long especially through the neck
- Lift the chin slightly
- Draw the belly in toward the spine
Open and Twist
The repetitive hip flexion and the weight of a heavy backpack tends to cause your chest, hip flexors, and quads to tighten up. Also, the side to side movement of the hips and spine while you are hiking make the paraspinals (the muscles on the side of your spine in your lower back) have to work hard. My favorite yoga postures involve a lot of hip and chest openers with lots and lots of twisting to counteract this natural swagger while I’m on the trail.
These are advanced postures so please go into them slowly and be mindful of your breath when holding them.
Make It Flow
I’ve linked these poses together to create a full practice for you. The poses are sequenced to help you twist and untwist the spine and to alternate stretching different muscle groups. You should feel amazing by the end!
Yoga for Hikers: Hips + Chest Sequence
Yoga pose 1: Angled Child’s Pose
- Starting on your knees, bring your toes to touch
- Take your knees out wide
- Drape your belly on your thighs and extend your arms out in front of you
- Hold here first to connect with your breath
- Walk your hands off your mat to the left side
- With some pressure in your left hand, try to press your right hip onto your right heel more
- Hold for 5 breath cycles before switching sides
- Then, step forward with your right foot and go through pose 2-8