Imagine you just finished a backpacking trip. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t think much about doing anything but walking each day. At the end of the trip, your legs and feet are sore. Your back aches from carrying your pack.
Why do you have all these aches and pains? You forgot to stretch!
Lucky for you, the open space of the wilderness provides the best setting to compliment any outdoor activity with a little yoga. These 5 poses are perfect for stretching and working your entire body, preparing you for any adventure. Use them to loosen up beforehand, get in a mid-trail stretch, work out the kinks, or better yet, make yoga part of your daily routine. Either way, your body will thank you and be ready for the next adventure.
1. Downward-Facing Dog
- Focus: Forward Bend/Balance
- Stretches: Shoulders, Hamstrings, Calves, Arches, Hands
- Strengthens: Arms and Legs
This is literally a downward facing dog when you do it…facing your dog! But dog or no dog, this is a great pose to help calm your nerves if you’re facing any anxiety in the wilderness. It also improves your digestion after a hearty backcountry meal.
Start by finding a flat surface and then support yourself in plank pose. Keep a slight bend in the knees, push down with the entire surface of your hands and send your butt up and back, trying to maintain a flat back. From there, you can work on straightening your knees and stretching your heels back down to the ground, however much your body feels it can.
Try to make yourself into the shape of an “A” or an upside down “V.” If you have an adventure buddy with you, ask them how your posture looks in this pose.
To advance this pose, try lifting one leg off the ground and lowering it back down. Continue with each leg and hold for about 10 seconds or more.
2. Upward Bow (Wheel)
- Focus: Chest Opener/Backbend
- Stretches: Chest and Lungs
- Strengthens: Arms, Wrists, Legs, Butt, Abdomen, Spine
Whether you’re visiting Colorado and feeling the altitude or hiked and gained significant elevation, this pose will help stretch out your chest and lungs and is therapeutic for asthma.
The wheel pose increases your energy so that you can carry on the rest of your adventure, and even counteracts depression. Talk about a pose that really benefits your entire body system?
Start by laying on a flat surface. Grassy areas or open meadows are perfect for this. Bend your knees and set your feet as close to your butt as possible. Place your hands on either side of your head, palm down, so that your fingers are pointing towards your shoulders. Push your tailbone up and lift your butt off the ground. As you breathe, work on pushing your tailbone up farther and lifting the crown of your head. Also try to strengthen your arms, keeping your triceps inward, and firm your thighs.
Your body should look like an upside down “U” and not a “V.” The common mistakes in this pose is not lifting the head up enough so that your gaze between your hands and forgetting to keep your arms and armpits long and stretched.
3. Extended Hand to Big Toe
- Focus: Balance/Hip Opener
- Stretches: Backs of Legs
- Strengthens: Legs and Ankles
Find a flat surface and start by bringing your right knee toward your stomach. If you’re feeling super flexible, find a rock and stand on that for balance.
Reach your right hand toward your knee and try to grab your foot. If you can’t grab your foot, use a layer of clothing, tying it around your foot and grab the layer of clothing with your hand instead.
As you are able to grab your foot, start to extend it forward and then while you balance that pose, swing your leg out to the right side. As you breathe, try to raise your foot higher and hold. Bring your left hand up to the sky at the same time.
Repeat on the other side as needed.
4. Lord of the Dance
- Focus: Balance/Chest Opener/Backbend
- Stretches: Shoulders, Chest, Thighs, Groins, Abdomen
- Strengthens: Legs and Ankles
This is my favorite pose because depending on how flexible you are feeling that day, you can take it as far as you’d like it to go. It also feels good to stretch your legs out after a long day of hiking.
If you’re just starting out with this pose for the first time, grab an adventure buddy or the side of a large boulder/canyon to hold onto.
To start, take your right hand and place it at your side. Bend your right foot and start to reach your right hand to your foot. If you can’t grab your foot, use a layer of clothing and wrap it around your foot and try to grab the clothing with your hand.
As you are able to form a connection with your hand and foot, kick your foot out and away from your torso. Stretch your left hand forward and bend at the hips. As you kick your foot up and away, your body will shift downward and your left hand will float forward.
Feel free to repeat with the left leg and work the other side of the body as needed.
5. One Legged King Pigeon Pose II
- Focus: Backbend
- Stretches: Front of Torso, Ankles, Thighs, Groins, Abdomen, Chest, Throat
- Strengthens: Deep Hip Flexors and Back Muscles
The best thing about this pose? You will look great doing it. Even if you fall over to one side or the other while you’re practicing it. In the long run, this pose will help you improve your balance and posture.
Those of you beginning this pose for the first time, use an extra clothing layer to create a loop that you can use to help grab your back foot with your hands.
Begin in a forward lunge position with your left leg forward and right leg back. Bring your right knee to the ground and start to bend your right leg.
Reach back with your right hand and grab your back foot with your right hand. Reach your left arm straight into the sky.
To advance this pose, try reaching back with your left hand and grab onto your foot with both hands.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.