6 Restorative Yoga Poses for Hikers

6 Restorative Yoga Poses for Hikers
All hikers know that the trail offers its fair share of rewards—beautiful vistas, serene lakes, and a sense of accomplishment. But hiking also has its challenges—uneven rocky terrain, altitude, and possibly a nagging sense of uncertainty. Adding a yoga practice before, after, or during your hiking adventure can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health, allowing you to conquer nature’s challenges and fully appreciate its rewards.

Hiking up and down a mountain carrying a day back can be a strenuous activity, putting a lot of pressure on your joints and muscles. It also requires focus, stamina, strength, balance, mobility, and lung capacity.

Practicing yoga before a hike can improve strength and stability, which helps to reduce incidents of falls and injuries while navigating difficult terrain. Not to mention, if you’re like me and have a poor sense of direction, navigating a trail requires a lot of mental focus and yoga can help you get into the right frame of mind and stay on-track. Practicing yoga after a hike can help relieve what’s known as the “hiker hobble”—the feeling of stiff leg and back muscles after a long, strenuous hike.

Perhaps the best time to practice yoga is while you’re on the trail. There is something majestic about practicing yoga outdoors in nature’s beautiful (and sometimes hidden) spots. Hiking and yoga events are starting to sprout up, where leaders take yogis atop beautiful mountain vistas for an outdoor yoga experience. In addition to being able to enjoy nature’s beauty, there are also physical and psychological health benefits to receive from being immersed in nature, including reduced anxiety and stress.

Below are some yoga poses that target your legs, knees, ankles, chest, back, and glutes—all areas used extensively during a hike. You can practice these poses before and after your hike, and along the trail—to release tightness and help prevent injury.

1. Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)

This pose is great for hikers because it stretches the calves, hamstrings, and hips, all of which can get tight after a long hike.

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, arms at your sides.
  • On an exhale, bend forward at the waist and reach your hands toward the floor or your toes (bending knees slightly if needed).
  • Hold for 7 to 10 breaths.
  • As an option, cross your arms and grab opposite elbows, gently cradling your head and rocking gently from side to side.
*For an added shoulder stretch, you can clasp your hands behind your back.

2. Standing Backbend Pose (Anuvittasana)

This energizing pose opens up the chest and allows you take a deep breath of fresh air. If you’re on the trail, try this pose during a break or when you reach a vista—you’ll feel more energized!

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, arms at your sides.
  • On an inhale, lift your gaze and arms up to the sky, fingertips energized.
  • On an exhale, bend at the elbows, gently bend backward at the waist, and lift your heart toward the sky. Elbows come forward and fingertips gently lift up and back.
  • Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

3. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)

This pose is great for stretching your hamstrings and calves, relieving any tightness that might build up while hiking. If you’re used to sitting at a desk all day, this is also a great prep pose to prevent any trail injuries.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
  • Step your left foot back about 3 feet, angle your left toes 45 degrees, and keep your hips facing forward.
  • Inhale your arms overhead, and with a flat back, hinge at the hips and slowly fold forward over your right leg, arms reaching for your foot. If your fingertips don’t quite reach your foot or the ground, you can reach for your water bottle as a prop.
  • Hold for 5-7 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
*For a deeper stretch, lift your front toes off the earth for a few breaths.

4. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Opening your hips and hip flexors is important when you spend a lot of time on your feet. Pigeon pose not only opens those overworked hip muscles, but it will also release tightness in the glutes and stretch your thighs. If you’re on the trail, find a soft and open spot on the ground to practice.

  • From downward-facing dog, slide your left knee behind your left hand.
  • Extend your right leg straight behind you.
  • Square your hips toward the floor and flex your left foot.
  • Walk your hands out in front of you, resting your weight on your forearms or stacking one fist over the other and resting your forehead on your fists. Eventually you may be able to relax your head on the ground.
  • Hold for 7 to 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
*For an added quadriceps stretch, lift your torso upright, bend your back knee, reach behind you with your hand, and grab your foot.

5. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Once you’ve stretched your outer hips, try Bound Angle pose—also known as Butterfly pose—to open up your inner thighs, knees and groin, and release tension in the lower back.

  • From a sitting position, bring the soles of your feet together toward your pelvis.
  • Firmly grab the outsides of your feet with both hands, and sit up tall.
  • Allow your knees to fall open to the sides.
  • With each exhale, gently press your knees and thighs toward the ground. You can use your elbows to support this opening.
  • Hold for 7 to 10 breaths.

6. Hero Pose (Virasana)

Finish your hiking yoga practice with Hero pose to strengthen your ankles, shins, knees, and thighs. If you’re on the trail, find a soft spot on the ground to practice. Note: this pose is not recommended if you have a knee or ankle injury.

  • Kneel on the floor so that your knees are touching (put a folded piece of clothing or blanket under your feet, shins, or knees for added comfort).
  • Shift your feet slightly open and away from your hips, keeping the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly rest your glutes on your feet. If you experience any discomfort, sit on a yoga block, a large rock, or your daypack to alleviate some of the pressure on your ankles or knees.
  • Hold for 10 breaths.
Getting in the habit of stretching before, during, and after your hikes will help you enjoy many injury-free adventures for years to come!

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