When it comes to outdoor adventuring, balance is key! Whether we are spring skiing or rock climbing, we want to make sure our bodies stay safe, limber, and strong. So as you train for your sport of choice, look for checks and balances. Counter your strength training with flexibility and endurance and vice versa. One of my favorite counters is yoga.Yoga is a whole body pursuit, for both your physical body as well as your mental one- both of which are incredibly important for full time athletes and weekend warriors alike!
Pranayama, the Sanskrit word for intentional breathing, is the foundation of any yoga practice. As we pay attention to our breath, we can learn how to calm ourselves as our adrenaline spikes, focus as our bodies begin to tire, and improve our blood circulation, allowing for our bodies to more efficiently move oxygenated blood to our muscles, improving performance.
Practicing pranayama is simple, just taking five minutes to sit, settle, and breathe deeply can make a world of difference. One of the most common pranayama practices, Ujjayi Breath, which is translated as Victorious Breath, is a wonderful tool for athletes. To practice Ujjayi breathing, we slightly constrict the opening of the throat so the breath is audible and then focus on drawing our breath all the way down to our diaphragm and abdomen. This sounds slightly strange, as Ujjayi creates a more powerful breath, but think of when you place a thumb over your garden hose and the spray becomes more powerful! So, when you need that one last oomph to pull yourself over a boulder or pound that last stake, bring back your Ujjayi breath and allow your breath to give you that extra boost of power you need!
Asanas, the most easily recognizable aspect of yoga, are the physical postures or poses that we practice in the studio. These postures simultaneously improve flexibility, core strength, body awareness, and muscle engagement, all of which are necessary for physical exertion.
The wonderful thing about these poses is that there are so many to choose from, and yet they all overlap, work together, and counter each other. A steady yoga practice can improve your overall fitness level, but practicing specific poses are also wonderful for improving your outdoor activities.
Take for instance a skiing or snowboarding trip; you want to warm up the muscles you're going to use as you jump off that lift into (hopefully) feet of powder. Practicing Chair Pose (Utkatasana) warms up your legs and hips and the pose uses many of the same muscle groups as you would on the mountain! Then, after a day on the slopes we often feel tightness in our hips, especially around the hip creases, as in winter sports we spend quite a bit of time in a squat-like position. Upward Plank (Purvottanasana) is a great pose to counter that stiffness as well as open your shoulders!
The same can be applied to hiking, rock climbing, and any other outdoor adventure you can think of! I know after a day of hiking with a pack and a heavy pair of boots my shoulders and the arches of my feet feel a bit tired and stiff. Diamond Pose with Bound Arms (Vajrasana) is a wonderful stretch for your feet, that can help relieve some of the tension in your arches that being on your feet all day can cause. Adding bound arms helps to open the chest and gives a great shoulder stretch, for a whole body relief. So as you set up camp, pop down and hold this pose for 30 seconds to a minute on each side and feel instant relief!
Those are just a few specific examples, but the catalog of poses is extensive and the benefits are endless!
Yoga: An Adventurer's Best Friend
Essentially yoga is a wonderful tool to improve your outdoor activities. From breathing to physical postures, it can help you focus, grow stronger, more flexible, and become more body-aware-preventing injuries and overall improving your adventuring! Yoga is for everyone, yes, even you crazy adrenaline junkies and hardcore athletes! Incorporating yoga into your daily routine will help you get the most out of the outdoors- adventure on!