The great thing about yoga is that it can be easily and successfully combined with any other physical activity, including your hiking. And you get plenty of benefits from yoga.
No matter what your perception of yoga is (and it’s not stretching for old women), or if you’ve never tried it before, yoga postures (asanas) help you to warm up, strengthen muscles and quickly recover after a long hike.
It’s no coincidence that multiple sports professionals are dedicated yogis and yoginis.
Simple yoga stretches before, during, and after hike brings a number of benefits. It will make you feel good, increase your flexibility and range of motion, and at the same time helps to keep you injury-free.
Don’t worry, you’re not expected to perform challenging postures you often come across on social media, such as headstands, sun salutations and the lotus position. Nor are you obligated to chant or Ommmm.
You don’t even have to be all that flexible either. Simply performing the asanas below will as best you can will work the areas of your body you most use for hiking. And by regularly performing yoga asanas you will naturally gain flexibility – mentally, emotionally and physically.
A quite simple set of asanas and basic yoga stretches you can do in nature, even without a yoga mat, will strengthen the muscles and stabilise your joints which is highly important for successful hiking and feeling good in your body.
1. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Fold)
This asana is great for your hamstrings, calves, and ankles and provides really intense stretch through the inner thigh. It helps you start building strength and flexibility in your lower body.
How to do it?
Start in a wide stance and stretch your arms out to the side. Feet are parallel to each other, toes could be pointed a little bit inward. Engage your legs, lift the kneecaps and suck the belly in.
Soften the shoulders and place the hands on the hips. Inhale, lift the gaze, and slowly hinge from the hips, keeping the back straight.
Place the hands down on the mat. If you want to stretch the shoulders as well, clasp the hands behind your back and reach your arms overhead.
Hold for 5 to 10 seconds and return to standing.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
You’re probably familiar with this foundational yoga asana which strengthens the core and improves circulation, providing a full-body stretch, targeting the lower body especially.
How to do it?
Come onto your hands and knees. Knees should be under your hips, hands moved a bit in front of the shoulders, palms spread.
Lift the knees and hips, lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and straighten the legs(knees) as far as you can. Heels ideally should touch the floor.
Tighten your knees but don’t “lock” them. Twist your thighs inward and narrow your pelvis. Tighten the blades, spread them out, and pull them towards the back of the head.
Hold your head between your hands and look at your thighs. Hold for 5-7 breaths then return to the centre and twist the opposite side. Perform this exercise 3-5 times on each side.
3. Low Lunge
This asana will stretch hip flexors, thighs, and groins and open the chest.
How to do it?
From downward-facing dog, exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning the right knee over the ankle.
Lower your left knee to the floor, sliding the foot back until you feel a nice stretch in the left hip and thigh.
Keep your hips low and in the same line. Then inhale and lift the arms above the head, keeping the chest away from the thigh, engaging your core.
If it feels good for your lower back, come into a gentle backbend. Otherwise, look straight ahead, hold for 10 seconds and return to downward-facing dog. Repeat with the other leg.
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