Most climbers would give anything to get just a little bit more on their climbs. Yet we do the same training as always, expecting to achieve more. Year after year doing the same thing getting the same results. If this is the case, you might want to try something new. Yoga can be a great tool in anyone’s life but yoga and climbing fit together like Velcro gloves and sheep farming. If you have a hard time seeing the connection, just take a look at a few yoga poses and than check out some bouldering, you’ll be amazed at how a reverse warrior looks a lot like good positioning for climbing. Yoga also brings out a lot of the strengths needed while climbing: core, injury prevention, breathing and balance are a few key components of any good yoga practice that will aid in climbing.
Personally I never thought I’d be the guy going to yoga three times a week, working on my Crow pose. But I can tell you as a climber, yoga has definitely made a difference in my climbing. I started yoga when my wife, who happens to be an awesome climber, opened her own yoga studio. Thinking it would be fun and it couldn’t hurt to do a little stretching and maybe even earn some brownie points with my beautiful wife. I had no idea there was so much more to yoga than siting on a mat trying to touch my toes. Yoga has become part of my climbing routine, the pay-offs are too great to pass up. Most climbing gyms offer some type of yoga or will be able to recommend a yoga studio. In addiction to those classes here are a few areas I recommend focusing on as a climber in a yoga class.
I can’t tell you how important it is to breathe properly. You might be thinking “yeah I got that one, hell I’m breathing right now”, next time you are out climbing take a look at how many people hold their breath right before the crux move. The most important time to breathe and we hold our breath likes it’s burrito Tuesday at the office. I can’t stress how important it is to breath. Breathing will also set the pace for your climb, plus give your hard working muscles some much needed oxygen. If you can control your breathing you are in control of your climb. If you take nothing else from yoga “breathe”.
Core strength is an important component for any climber. I use to viewed core training as pretty much straight up climbing with the odd evening of crunches, sit-up, and planks. This is all well and good but in climbing we must be able to use our core muscle to move through tough sections. Any good Yoga class with a focus on climbing will challenge you to use core strength to flow from one pose to another. This is a lot like climbing where you are using core muscles to move through a route. Having abs of steel (like mine) doesn’t mean much if you can’t use them to get to the next hold.
Most climbers will figure out the more balance you are the less energy it takes move making it easier to climb. Learning how to center your weight is key to climbing more smoothly. Weight transfer in yoga is perfect training for this, sharing your weight out evenly as possible. After doing yoga for a while you’ll start to notice how your mind will focus on body position, about keeping your hips centered as your body moves through sentences. After doing yoga for a while you’ll almost be able to tell what climbers are going yoga just by watching them climb.
Injury and Injury prevention
As climbers, we often push our muscles to their limits with little or no time for recovery. Personally, I’d climb until my elbows hurt too much to keep going and until yoga, my idea of recovery was a container of chocolate milk and a rest day watching Honeymooners reruns. It’s important to learn how to listen to your body, learn the warning signs of an injury. Yoga can be a good way to slow down movements and listen to what your body is telling you. This is also a chance to get blood flowing in a less stressful environment given your body time to heal. This is the part of my yoga practice I really focus on. Take your time and feel out what my body is telling me. Yoga can teach you how to center yourself and listen to your body. Now when I climb I know when I’m pushing the limits or when to back off a bit.
I love climbing. Most of my life centers around climbing and because of that yoga has become part of my routine. I could go on about why yoga is good for climbers and the benefits of adding a yoga routine to your climbing practice. But really the best thing would be to give it a try. There’s nothing to lose but lots to gain. If nothing else it’ll be a good way to end a stressful week and maybe even earn some brownie points with your other half.