We’re beginning to see more rock climbers make time for yoga and more yoga teachers create programs specifically for rock climbers. But why? Here at Rock Iguana, we’re no strangers when it comes to climbing or yoga. To us, there are few things as complimentary as climbing and yoga. (Peanut butter and bananas come close.) Read on for just a few of the reasons climbers will benefit from adopting a regular yoga practice.
Strength and Flexibility
The obvious physical benefits of yoga include increased strength and flexibility. That’s right – you can be both strong AND flexible! A common misconception is that you need to be flexible to start practicing yoga and that yoga is all about becoming flexible. Yoga is so much more, even in just the physical realm. You’ll stretch in yoga, but you’ll also build muscle endurance from holding poses or flowing through the same series of poses. If you’re already a climber, you know that climbing can be a full-body sport and toning your upper body, lower body, and core is important. Depending on the style you choose, yoga can help lengthen and strengthen your whole body, as well.
Balance and Body Awareness
You’ll find your balance tested in nearly every class. From the basic crescent lunge to advanced arm balances, you’ll learn how subtle shifts in body positioning can drastically impact your stability. In climbing, we need to position our weight in such a way that we can support ourselves without overexerting ourselves or becoming off-balance. As route difficulty increases without the terrain getting steeper, you’ll notice how subtle changes in your weight distribution and body positioning can be the difference between sending and falling.
If you’re holding your breath, you might be over-gripping and tensing up, as well. Full, deep breathing like we use in yoga allows for oxygen to reach the lower lobes of the lungs. In the lower lobes of the lungs, we have nerve receptors for our parasympathetic nervous system. Whereas short shallow breathing triggers a fight-or-flight anxiety response, the deep breathing stimulates a sense of calm. A calm climber is a focused climber and a focused climber sends.
Let’s talk more about that focus. In yoga, we move with the breath. When our thoughts wander, we practice bringing attention back to the breath or noticing the subtle sensations in our body. These things keep us in the present. You know what’s not in the present? Your project’s crux 30 feet above you. This type of distracted thinking or unfocused climbing takes your attention away from what is right in front of you. This can lead to careless mistakes or anxiety and that’s not going to help you finish the route OR have fun. (Climbing is supposed to be FUN, remember?)
Positivity and Detachment From Outcomes
How many times have your thoughts drifted toward the negative on a climb? Whether it be about your skill, the route, or even yourself as a person. The spiritual component of yoga that’s woven into most classes can alter your thought process. You learn to look for the beauty, for the good. Similarly, you won’t let the outcome of your climb impact your mood or your views toward yourself. This way of thinking permeates all aspects of your life. A popular saying about yoga is, “it’s not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” The same could be said for rock climbing and yoga helps train you to view nearly everything in this way.
If your next climbing trip lands you here in the Cayman Islands, join us at the Yogi Wall for a few classes. Don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of time for all this beautiful limestone!