Yoga for Hiking
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." - John Muir
Last weekend, I visited Denver, Colorado with my family and we headed up to Estes Park to walk some of their gorgeous trails. The melting snow made the trail a bit more of a challenge than it should’ve been, but it was such a wonderful time. We hiked towards the top of the waterfall, to incredible view of the flowing water, snow-capped mountains, and some of the earths’ natural beauty.
On our way out of the parks, we got to witness some herds of elk trekking across the valleys and the streets. So sweet!
By no means would I ever call myself a hiking pro; however, I do like being outdoors and adventuring, which leads to some hiking and walking trails. Like all forms of exercise, it is important to stretch yourself out before and after a hike. I sometimes like to stretch and do different yoga poses throughout the hike as well.
A lot of the poses below would work nicely to stretch you out after the hike and help to elongate the muscles worked throughout the trail. I would suggest some basic moves prior to your walk, such as circling the ankles, stretching the calves (see the pose on the bridge below), and swinging out the legs.
Below are some yoga poses for after your hike:
Calf Stretches & Supported Downward Facing Dog
Calf stretches: Using a tree or fence or bridge, hold on with both hands. Place your right foot closer to the support structure and step the left foot a couple steps back. Bend into the right knee and keep the left leg straight, pressing the heel towards the ground. If you are not feeling a stretch on the calves/back of the ankle, step the feet further apart until you feel it. Switch to the other side.
Downward Facing Dog: Step the right foot back to meet the left and continue to walk back, keeping the hand holding onto the fence. Like normal downdog, we want to keep the legs and arms as straight as possible and let the head fall down between the arms.
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings (back of the legs), shoulders, and back.
Utthita Trikonasana - Triangle pose
From standing, step the feet apart 3 – 4 ½ feet. The left toes will point forward and the right toes point to the right, creating a 90-degree angle with the feet. Keep the legs as straight as feels good. Pretending there is a wall behind you which the entire back body presses into, begin to reach your right arm forward as far as you can, then drop your right hand down to your right thigh, calf, or toes. Stretch your left hand up towards the sky or rest your left hand on your hip, keeping the chest open and the idea of pressing your back body into the wall. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: It nearly stretches everything! Stretches and strengthens knees, thighs, ankles, hips, groins, hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest, spine, and side body.
Uttanasana - Standing forward fold
This pose is so yummy! Stand with your feet hip distance apart or bring the big toes together (heels about an inch apart). Bend gently into the knees and hinge forward at the waist, releasing the head and arms towards the ground. Feel free to keep the knees generously bent or straighten the legs to your own comfort level. Options for arms: leave them dangling, hug the legs, bend the fingers behind the back of your head, hold opposite elbows, etc.
Benefits: Gives incredible relief to the low back and neck while stretching the backs of the legs (depending on how much you straighten your legs). This is my favorite pose!
Parsvottanasana - Pyramid pose
With your right foot in front, step your left foot about 3 to 4 feet back. Right toes point forward while the left toes point slightly out to the left (45-degree angle) and the legs remain straight(ish). The torso and chest should face forward as you hinge at the waist, dropping hands towards the floor. Relax the head and neck. Attempt to keep the hips squared forward. (repeat on the other side)
Benefits: Stretches hamstrings, spine, and hips. Strengthens the legs and improves posture while stimulating the abdominal organs.
Prasarita Padottanasana - Wide legged forward fold
This is similar to standing forward fold, but we have widened the legs and added a shoulder stretch. Stand from standing, step the feet as wide as comfortable (3-4.5’ apart) keeping the toes pointed forward. Bring your hands to your hips and begin to hinge forward, keeping the chest lifted and back straight as long as you can, then round the back and release the head and neck. Hands can reach for the ground or the ankles.
Option to add the shoulder stretch: before hinging, reach the hands behind the back and clasp fingers together. As you fold forward, keep the arms and back as straight as possible, reaching the hands up above. As you fold forward, release the head and neck.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs, hips, and backs of the legs. Release back pain and calm the mind.
Malasana – garland pose/yogi squat
Squat with your feet as close together as they can be while keeping the heels on the ground. If your heels do not touch, feel free to put the heels on a folded mat/blanket or anything else handy along the trail. Open the thighs wider than the hips and open your chest forward. For balance, place your hands on the floor in front of you while continuing to open the chest forward. If balanced, bring the elbows to the knees and hands to heart center, attempting to press the knees further apart with the arms, continuing to lift through the chest. Picture squeezing the shoulder blades closer together
Benefits: stretches the ankles, calves, outer hips, and the groin.
Virabhadrasana I - Warrior I
With your right foot in front, step your feet about 3 to 4 feet apart. Right toes point forward while the left toes point slightly out to the left (45-degree angle). Bend into the right knee (not allowing the knee to pass in front of the ankle) while keeping the left leg strong and straight. If shoulders are tired, keep the hands on your hips. Otherwise, extend open palms towards the sky while relaxing the shoulder tops and keeping your chest facing forward. If possible, square the hips forward. (Repeat on the other side)
Benefits: Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, and groin (psoas). Strengthens back muscles, thighs, calves, and ankles.
Standing Quad Stretch (can be extended to Lord of the Dance)
Standing with your hips shoulder distance apart, bend your right knee while bringing the ankle up towards your butt. Grab your foot with your hand while trying to keep your knee pointed towards the ground and hips level. The more you can drop the knee, the deeper of a quad stretch you will get. For balance, hold onto a tree or fence. Switch to the other side
Benefits: stretches the quads, or front of the thighs. Increases balance and focus.
Option: extend into Dancer Pose to work on balance
Bandha Konasana – Cobbler or Bound Angle or Butterfly pose
Sitting on a relatively flat surface, bring the soles of the feet together. The knees should fall apart as much as comfortable. Pose options: Sitting tall, keep the back straight and chest open, holding the ankles. Elbows can help press the knees wider apart, continuing the reach the chest forward. Or, fold forward and allow the head, neck, and shoulders to relax
Modified pose: My brother-in-law is doing the same pose sitting up on a rock which is a gentler approach to cobbler pose.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs, groin, and knees while stimulating the organs and relieving fatigue.
Blissasana - Enjoying the Moment Pose(s)
It is important to sit and relax, taking in the beauty around you. Also, celebrate your hike and gorgeousness around you!
Old Man Pose (my dad)
(Sometimes, you just need to lay out on a nice rock)
I cannot wait to tell you more about the Colorado trip... but I have to wait until I can give it the attention/amount of time it deserves... but I can give you another preview...
Let me know how these stretches work for you! If you have any questions, please comment below.
Namaste, Taryn <3