Yoga for climbers (9 yoga poses that increase flexibility)

Flexibility and climbing go hand in hand. Those who are flexible, have an immediate advantage on vertical terrain. As you may have noticed, professional climbers are very bendy. They can perform moves that some of us can only dream about. And sure, some flexibility comes from spending a lot of time on the wall. But there is always something extra we can do to improve our bodies. So why not practice some yoga?

Ashima Shiraishi performing a split during a climbing competition. Flexibility is important in rock climbing and can be trained by doing yoga daily
Ashima Shiraishi performs a split during the 2017 USA bouldering national championship

Too many climbers are held back by their lack of bendiness. Practicing stretches or yoga is essential to the training schedule of an avid rock climber. And why not opt for the latter? After all, yoga is not only a phenomenal way to increase your flexibility, it is in many ways similar to rock climbing.

Why should climbers practice yoga?

Both climbing and yoga share similarities. For one, they both target core strength, stability, and flexibility. But more than that, they both help you focus and achieve mental control.

Furthermore, focusing on breathing is a key aspect of yoga. Practicing this kind of control over your inhalations will translate very well to rock climbing. It will help you maintain focus and achieve full control while you are on the wall. Proper breathing can help to increase oxygen flow to the muscles, which can help to improve endurance and decrease fatigue.

Another worthwhile benefit of yoga is that focus on your breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety. Having yoga is part of your climbing training, can thus lead to improved well-being on top of the other named benefits.

I’m convinced all climbers can benefit from practising yoga. Be it to improve your breathing, your well-being, your flexibility, stability, or increase core-strength. I could not recommend the practise enough.

9 Yoga exercises for climbers

1. cat cow pose

cow pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increase their flexibility and help with breathing
cat pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increase their flexibility and help with breathing

We’ll start off with two popular yoga poses that are often used in repetition, the cat and cow pose. These are a great opener to any yoga session as they open up the spine and its easy to sync the breathing with the movement.

  1. Start in the tabletop position. Keep the wrist under the shoulder and the knees under the hips.
  2. Inhale and SLOWLY assume the cow pose. Gaze up at the sky as the belly falls down, and shoulders roll back.
  3. Exhale and SLOWLY assume the cat pose. Curve your belly inwards, pop the ribcage up, and gaze inwards.
  4. Repeat the exercise. Continue inhaling as you assume the cow pose and exhaling as you assume the cat pose.

2. downward facing dog

downward facing dog is a great yoga pose for climbers
  1. Start in a tabletop position (all fours)
  2. Curl your toes under and lift from your knees and push your hips back
  3. Ensure that your back is straight and does not round

Downward facing dog is a staple in yoga but is far from an easy excersise if you have tight hamstrings. If you can’t do this pose without bending your back (I sure couldn’t do it right away), keep your knees bend.

3. child pose

childs pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increae hip flexibility
  1. Start in the tabletop position. Keep the wrist under the shoulder and the knees under the hips.
  2. Bring your toes together and open your hips bringing both knees to sit on the ends of the yoga mat
  3. Inhale and reach your arms in front of you
  4. Exhale as you lower your hips towards your heels and place your forehead on the floor

4. garland pose

garland pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increase their flexibility and help with breathing and stress relief
  1. Start in a standing position with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointing outwards
  2. Bring your hands in a prayer pose and squat down.

Use a blanket to support your heels if they don’t touch the floor yet.

5. cobra pose

baby cobra pose is an easier variation of the cobra pose
cobra pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increase their flexibility and keep a healthy spine

The cobra pose strengthens the back muscles and corrects the spine. I love doing this pose in the early morning when I just get out of back (highly recommended, it feels great!)

  1. Start in a lying position with your face down and your palms right next to your chest and your elbows bent.
  2. Use your back muscles to lift your chest off the ground.

⚠️ Never fully straighten your elbows during this excercise.

6. Locust pose

locust pose is a yoga pose for climbers to increae core streight, back muscles, flexibility and more
  1. Start in a lying position with your face down and your hands resting next to your hips
  2. Exhale and lift your arms, chest, and legs off the mat
  3. Keeping your legs straight and together and your arms parallel to the mat

7. tree pose

garland pose is a yoga exercise that helps climbers with stability, flexibility, hip mobility and breathing
  1. Start in a standing position with your legs together
  2. Lift one leg off the ground and hold it at the knee while trying to maintain balance on your standing foot
  3. Grab your lifted leg by the ankle and bring it toward your standing leg resting with the foot flat against your thigh
  4. Bring your hand in prayer position
  5. Repeat with the other leg

If this exercise is too difficult you can also place your foot lower on your standing leg.

8. lizard pose

lizard pose is a great stretch for the hips and hamstrings to increase flexibility in rock climbers
  1. Start in the downward dog position
  2. Place one foot next to your hands as illustrated
  3. Bend your elbows to further the stretch (if possible)

9. boat pose

half boat pose is a yoga pose for those who can't do a full boat pose
boat pose is a yoga pose for climbers that works the core muscles
  1. Start in a seated position with your knees bent and hands behind you resting on your fingertips
  2. Lift your chest up and lean back slightly and lift your legs up. Depending on your flexibility, keep your legs bent for a half boat pose or extend for a full-boat pose.
  3. Squeeze your thighs together and engage your core
  4. Send your arms forward in line with your legs

how to fit these yoga poses into your training schedule

Ideally, yoga should be performed every day. But I understand not everyone is ready or has the time for such a commitment. But if you can spare just 20 minutes a day, a yoga routine will make you more flexible and this will translate to your climbing.

One thing you will constantly hear in yoga is that the most important thing is to show up. It’s not your form or your flexibility, the important factor is that you do it.

So if you can’t commit to daily practice, at least promise yourself you will do it 3X per week.

And the best way to keep yourself accountable is to schedule these days upfront and hold yourself to it.

Do this for a whole month and I promise you will feel more flexible and you might even notice yourself feeling better, less stressed, and more relaxed.

yoga for climbers videos

The above yoga poses will help you become more flexible as a rock climber. But I understand the ‘do-it-yourself’ approach is not for everyone. Some people perform better with a follow-along video. If you think you are one of those people, here are a couple of my favorite climbing-specific yoga follow-alongs!

yoga for climbers by yoga with adriene

If it wasn’t clear enough already, I’m a huge fan of Yoga with Adriene. Call me nostalgic as she was my first introduction to yoga, but she has AMAZING videos. What I love about Adriene is that she never makes you feel bad while practicing yoga. She guides you through every move and doesn’t force you to go into moves that are absolutely impossible for a beginner.

I cannot recommend her videos enough (which is why so many are listed in this article). The video below particularly, yoga for climbers, is a great addition to your weekly training schedule as a rock climber.

yoga for climbers by Lattice Training

I’m a big fan of Lattice Training. Definitely worth checking out their yoga-follow along and maybe add it to your routine!

Leave a Comment