After the Hips & Core yoga video for more strength in your mid section and flexibility in the legs, this Yoga for Climbers tutorial is targeting your upper body: heart, shoulders, chest, core and back.
Depending on your focus, you can use this pose in two ways: to stretch out and open the heart & shoulder area after a day of climbing, or to build up strength and power in your core & back before your next trip to the mountains (or the climbing gym).
Ustrasana // Camel Pose
Either way, start with this gentle variation and work your way up from there if your body is ready and you don’t feel any strain in your body, especially the back. Warm up with a couple of rounds of Sun Salutations or some free movements.
Come to kneeling on your mat, thighs under the hip joints. Tuck your toes behind you (make sure they don’t splay out to the sides) and press your big toe mounts into the ground. Place your hands on your sacrum (lower back, close to the hips) for support, fingers pointing upwards if your wrists allow. Firm your lower belly by pulling your navel in towards your spine, inhale and lift your shoulders up towards your ears to lengthen your side body. Exhale and gently start leaning back from your heart, opening your chest towards the sky. Only go as far as you don’t feel any compression in your lower back!
Stay for 3-5 breaths, then use your core strength to pull you back forward with an inhale. Sit on your heels for a couple of breaths to feel the effects of this pose and prepare for a second round.
Set yourself up for a second round and if your lower back is strain-free and you feel comfortable to go further, take one hand away from your sacrum and reach for your heel. If you find it, place your hand there and reach back with the second one. Keep pressing down through your big mounts and pulling your navel in to reach your heart up higher. Stay for 3 breaths, then come back to sitting.
To go further, for the next round place your feet flat on the mat and ground down through your toe nails. Keep your hips above your knees and avoid bringing your thighs to an angle. This is quite a deep backbend so make sure your body is ready before you try! Keep your focus on lifting your chest and opening your heart instead of bending further back.
If your neck allows, you can gently lean the back of your head back as well, but don’t just thrust it back or let it hang unsupported. Use the strength of your front body to come back out.
For the Core Power strengthening variation of Camel Pose, come into the version that is appropriate for you, engage your core as much as you possibly can and lift one hand up from your heel. For the beginning, it’s enough to simply stretch one arm out to the side so you have less support and need more muscle strength to hold yourself here, then repeat on the other side.
As you grow stronger, you can start lifting the arm up and reaching back behind you. This will not only increase the stretch through the front body but also increase the lever and thus adds to what your core needs to be holding up, so work up to this slowly and with care.
Once you feel super strong in your core and in your back, you can try leaning back without additional support. Start in your regular Camel Pose, pressing down through knees and feet like crazy, and carefully start lifting your hands one by one to bring them together in front of your heart. Keep your head up or lean back and if your spine feels super happy here, try to see the backside of your room or even the mat. Yet always make sure you have enough power left to pull yourself back up!
Sit still on your heels with closed eyes for a couple of breaths to calm back down & center your energy again once you’re done with your practice. Add a little meditation or even a longer rest in Savasana if you have time.
Want to learn more yoga poses that are great for climbing and practice sequences dedicated to warm you up or calm you down from your day in the rocks? Come join us by the beautiful Lake Garda this Spring:
May 5-7 2017