Yoga Practice for Hikers: Variations on the Dragon Pose…

I recently went hiking/trail running with a buddy of mine who had been hitting the trail pretty hard over the course of a couple of weeks.  He’s never been big on stretching and was starting to feel it.  Prior to our hike, he mentioned needing to find some stretches he could do to open up his hips a little bit.  I suggested a couple of things and quickly walked him through a simple sequence to help relieve some of the muscle tension he’d built up in his legs and bring some flexibility back into the hip joints.  That morning I introduced him to variations of Anjaneyasana (The Low Lunge) known as the Dragon Pose.

Basic Dragon Pose...

Putting it to practice…

Now I’ll walk you through the sequence.  This is a great short sequence for stretching leg muscles and opening the hips before or after a long hike.  As always, you should start in a relaxed position (either seated or standing) and practice proper Yoga breathing until your mind is calm, focused and present.  You can actually use the beginning of the Sun Salutation sequence to get into position and I often do two or three sequences of Sun Salutation before attempting the Dragon Pose:

  1. When ready, bring your palms together at your chest, thumbs resting against your sternum (Mountain Pose). Exhale.
  2. Inhale and raise your arms stretched above your head, shoulders back and pelvis forward (slight backward bend in your spine) (Forward Salute Pose).
  3. Exhale and bend your knees slightly, bending at the waist and keeping your back straight, lower your hands to touch the mat on either side of your feet (Forward Fold Position).
  4. Inhale and move your right foot back, knee touching the floor (Lunge). – (THIS IS OUR STARTING POSITION).
  5. Make sure your left knee is aligned with the big toe of your left foot and your knee is directly above the ankle.  Point your right foot so that your right knee and the top of your right foot are resting on the ground (you may need additional padding under your knee).
  6. Exhale and slide your foot back as far as you can comfortably go while allowing your pelvis to drop toward the floor.  You should feel the stretch in your hips and groin.  Make sure to keep your hips squared to the front of your mat, don’t let your torso twist as you reach back with your right foot.
  7. Continue breathing in this position and with each exhale, try to drop your pelvis more toward the floor and deepen the stretch in your hips.  You really don’t want to hold this pose for much more than 2 or 3 minutes, but for now we want to shoot for about 10 to 15 breaths.   To advance the pose:
  8. Inhale and lift your torso bringing the back straight and chest out, shoulders back.  You can either rest your hands at your side, or rest your hands on your left thigh using them to help support the position and take some of the strain off your left knee and quad.  To deepen the position even more, you can raise your hands above your head (similar to Warrior I Pose), fingers toward the sky, while keeping your back straight, chest out and shoulders back.  Once finding your position, hold for 10-15 breaths.
  9. Exhale and lower your torso to your left thigh and bring your hands to the ground supporting your body.
  10. Inhale and slide your right knee forward slightly then curl your toes under your foot.
  11. Exhale and straighten both legs, raising your tailbone, rolling your weight to your toes and the ball of your foot then push your right heel to the ground.
  12. This position offers a great stretch of the left hamstring.  Keep your hips squared to your mat, flex the right quad and push your weight toward the right heel.  Maintain your left foot on the ground and push into your big toe.  Straightening the left leg can be difficult in this position if your hamstrings are tight, stretch as much as is comfortable and breathe.
  13. When ready, Exhale and bring your left foot back to join your right foot in Down-ward Dog, pushing your tailbone to the sky and feeling the stretch.
  14. Inhale and swing your right leg into lunge position and repeat the sequence with the other leg.

There are more variations to the Dragon that I will discuss in a future post.  For now, enjoy the freedom gained from this liberating stretch and don’t forget to Breathe!

 BONUS:

Here are further variations on the Dragon I found at YinYoga.com.  I especially like Winged Dragon and Fire-Breathing Dragon for a good hip stretch.

Alternative Dragons:

  1. The first alternative pose is a simple low lunge called Baby Dragon, as shown in the picture at the top of the page. If you like, you can rest your hands on blocks.
  2. The next option is to rest the arms or hands on the front thigh and lift the chest, increasing the weight over the hips. This is called Dragon Flying High.
  3. A deeper option, Dragon Flying Low, is to place both hands inside the front foot and walk hands forward, lowering the hips. For more depth, come down on the elbows or rest them on a bolster or block.
  4. In Twisted Dragon, one hand pushes the front knee to the side, while the chest rotates to the sky.
  5. In Winged Dragon, with hands on the floor, wing out the knee a few times, rolling onto the outside edge of that foot and then stay there with the knee low. You could come down on the elbows or rest them on a block or bolster.
  6. Overstepping Dragon exercises the ankle. From Baby Dragon, allow the front knee to come far forward and/or slide the heel backward, until the heel is just about to lift off the ground.
  7. Dragon Splits offers the deepest stretch for hip flexors. Straighten both legs into the splits. Support the front hip with a bolster under the buttock for balance and to release weight; this relaxes the muscles. Sit up tall or fold forward for different sensations.
  8. For Fire-Breathing Dragon, in any of the above variations, tuck the back toe under and lift the knee up, lengthening the leg. This puts more weight into the hips, increasing the stretch.

Gear Review: Manduka eKO SuperLite® Travel Mat…

Yoga gear and apparel provider, Manduka (@MandukaYoga) recently started a regular contest on their Facebook Page for 2012.  The nature of their “Happy YOU Year” contest is to “Tell us what you plan to do, or be, in 2012” and every day that week they were giving “a Manduka gift to help that intention become reality“.  An amazing and honorable, well-intentioned promotion that I really thought had a great message behind it.  So I entered a comment explaining my plan to bring Yoga Practice to the hiking and backpacking community to promote better health and fitness.  Well, my story won their attention on that particular day and they announced they were sending me their lightweight travel mat!  This was the perfect choice to help bring Yoga to the trail.

The eKO SuperLite® Travel Mat is made of natural tree rubber and is a 100% “biodegradable rubber that won’t fade or flake” and offers “superior grip“.  The mat is very light for a Yoga mat (2lbs) and is as flexible as a towel or blanket.  It easily folds, rolls or wraps up into any duffel, case or backpack.  They come in a variety of colors and all have the awesome “Upward Frog” Manduka logo.  The mat doesn’t offer a great deal in the way of padding, but it’s the trade-off for having the luxury of being able to take the mat virtually anywhere.

I’ve been able to use the mat several times now, some inside just to try it and some outside. I’ve only had it out on the trail once so far and I loved it.  It was just enough padding to soften the rock outcropping I used it on.  It also packed easily, I simply folded it in half and then rolled it like a bed-roll and strapped it in to the pack where the bed-roll would usually go – perfect!  I imagine being able to use it as an extra layer under an inflatable sleeping pad on overnight trips.  It would protect the inflatable from potential puncture issues and the grip would keep things from sliding around in the tent.  And it would be there waiting for me in the morning for some nice tent-side Sun Salutations!

So far I am really happy with this generous gift from Manduka and would recommend it to anyone interested in making trail-side Yoga a part of their hiking and camping experience.

Manduka eKO SuperLite® Travel Mat – $39

Manduka Sojourner Package – $60 (normally $75)

Yoga Practice for Hikers: The Downward Dog vs. The Cobra Pose…

We all love our outdoor pursuits, but hiking and backpacking can put unique strain on your body.  The forward bending posture and, often, prolonged uphill climbing creates stress in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.  Carrying a pack, even of light weight, puts strain on the upper back, shoulders and neck.  Then there’s the usual fatigue in the calves, ankles and arches of the feet that will happen to anyone who is on their feet for long periods of time.  There are two basic Yoga Asanas (Poses) that will specifically help stretch and strengthen all of these muscle groups to help reduce the risk of injury.

Both asanas are found in the Sun Salutation sequence.  If you followed my previous Yoga Practice for Hikers article you are already familiar with the Downward-Facing Dog and the Cobra Pose as they are both an integral part of that sequence.

The Downward-Facing Dog

Downward-Facing Dog Pose...

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) puts focus on strengthening the upper back while also stretching the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands.  Holding this pose and moving through this pose also work to strengthen the arms and legs.  It is also said to be beneficial for digestion and relieves headaches, back ache, insomnia and fatigue.  For our purposes, we will be focused on the muscle contraction in the upper back at the apex of the pose, and getting as much of a stretch as is comfortable in the hamstrings, calves and arches while maintaining a tight core.

The Cobra Pose

Cobra Pose...

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) is used to strengthen the spine and stretch out the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen.  At the deepest stretch in this pose it will also firm the glutes and stretch your quads.  Proper deep breathing in this pose will help to stretch and open the chest.  Cobra is supposed to stimulate the digestive organs, help relieve stress and fatigue, sooth the sciatic nerve and be therapeutic for Asthma.  We will be focused on keeping shoulders back and chest out, pushing the hips to the floor to strengthen the glutes and get a good stretch in the quads.

Alternate: The Upward-Facing Dog

Upward-Facing Dog Pose...

If you want to add focus to strengthening the arms and wrists, we can replace the Cobra Pose with Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).  The benefits and muscles affected are similar but the Upward-Facing Dog requires pushing up and forward, with the hands firmly planted, using the arms, shoulders and upper back to hold the position.  There is a tendency to “hang” on the shoulders in this pose, which compresses the neck and lowers the chest.  Be mindful of your posture here, shoulders should be drawn back toward the tailbone lengthening the neck.  Head should be straight, looking forward, or slightly bent back.

Putting it to practice…

Now I’ll walk you through the sequence.  For those of you who have done Hindu Push-ups, this will be very similar.  As always, you should start in a relaxed position (either seated or standing) and practice proper Yoga breathing until your mind is calm, focused and present.  You can actually use the beginning of the Sun Salutation sequence to get into position:

  1. When ready, bring your palms together at your chest, thumbs resting against your sternum (Mountain Pose). Exhale.
  2. Inhale and raise your arms stretched above your head, shoulders back and pelvis forward (slight backward bend in your spine) (Forward Salute Pose).
  3. Exhale and bend your knees slightly, bending at the waist and keeping your back straight, lower your hands to touch the mat on either side of your feet (Forward Fold Position).
  4. Inhale and move your right foot back, knee touching the floor (Lunge).
  5. In pause between breaths, move your left foot back, both knees on the floor (or into Plank Position – THIS IS OUR STARTING POSITION).
  6. Exhale and raise your tailbone, straightening your arms and legs, pushing your chest toward your feet and your heals toward the ground (Downward Dog Position).  Focus on knitting your shoulder blades together, upper back tight, chest out, shoulders back and arms straight.  Keep your neck in line with your torso (spine straight).  Feel the full stretch in your glutes, hamstrings, calves and arches.  Do NOT force the stretch beyond what is comfortable.  The pose should not hurt.  You may hold this pose for several breaths if you like, but continue proper, controlled breathing with your core strong.
  7. Exhale and slowly lower your chest and nose to within an inch or two of the mat, your hands firmly planted and elbows in close to the body (Chaturanga or Four-Limbed Staff Pose).  Your knees may touch the mat if you prefer.  You can pause at this position briefly or you can glide through this pose and straight in to Cobra Pose.  If you will be moving into Upward-Facing Dog instead of Cobra, keep your legs straight here and do not let your knees touch the floor.
  8. Inhale and lower pelvis while pushing the chest up, arms supporting the posture and shoulders back (Cobra Position).  Focus on knitting the shoulder blades again with your chest out and shoulders back.  Don’t worry about forcing your back to arch uncomfortably, but focus more on keeping your shoulders back, head up, and pushing your hips to the ground.  The arch should be held using the back muscles, not by pushing with your arms (unless you are using Forward-Facing Dog here).  Feel the stretch in your quads.  If you are comfortable with it, roll off the balls of your feet and point your toes.  This will move you forward a little and deepen the stretch.  Breathe deeply in this position opening the chest and lungs.
  9. Exhale and raise your tailbone, straightening your arms and legs, pushing your chest toward your thighs again and your heals toward the floor returning to Downward Dog Position.  Repeat steps 6 through 8.

To come out of the exercise, reverse steps 1 through 5 until you are back in Mountain Pose.  This sequence is as much a strength training exercise as it is a stretch and I treat it as I would push-ups (Hindu Push-ups).  So, for pre-hike stretch I would maybe do 15 or 20 of these to warm up.  If your breathing becomes too forced and erratic, you are working too hard…reduce the reps or slow down.  Remember to maintain controlled movements, slower is better.  You should not be throwing your body into any of these postures, you should move into them naturally.  As you practice, the postures will feel more natural and comfortable as your strength and flexibility improve.

Yoga Practice for Hikers: Sun Salutation…

Yoga Practice for Hikers: Sun Salutation

Yoga Practice for Hikers: Sun Salutation

As lovers of the outdoors, hikers and backpackers alike have a close, almost reverential relationship with the sun.  We love spending our days under the warmth of it’s rays, we use the sun for navigation, we plan our excursions around sunrise and sunset.  Our connection to the sun when we are outdoors is as tied to our survival as the air we breathe and the water we drink.  It is only fitting that the first posture (or asana) sequence we will review for Yoga Practice for Hikers is the Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation.  According to many authorities, the Sun Salutation goes back over 2,500 years to Vedic times when it was used as ritual prostration to honor the dawn.  Tradition was to perform the ritual salutation outdoors, facing the sun for a complete 108 cycles.

This is a great sequence for practice outdoors because you are mostly on your hands and feet and it can be practiced with, or without, a mat.  Find a nice quiet place, free from distraction, on relatively level ground with room for the length of your body to stretch out.  Your hands will be supporting your weight at points, so make sure the ground around you is free of sharp objects that may hurt your palms.  If practicing in the morning, it is tradition to face east toward the rising sun.

Sun Salutation

Stand, relaxed, arms at your side and your feet together.  Breathe deeply (breathing should be through the nose as described in the Three Breath Practice.)

  1. When ready, bring your palms together at your chest, thumbs resting against your sternum (Mountain Pose). Exhale.
  2. Inhale and raise your arms stretched above your head, shoulders back and pelvis forward (slight backward bend in your spine) (Forward Salute Pose).
  3. Exhale and bend your knees slightly, bending at the waist and keeping your back straight, lower your hands to touch the mat on either side of your feet (Forward Fold Position).
  4. Inhale and move your right foot back, knee touching the floor (Lunge).
  5. In pause between breaths, move your left foot back, both knees on the floor (or into Plank Position).
  6. Exhale and lower your chest and nose to the mat (Chaturanga or Four-Limbed Staff Pose).
  7. Inhale and lower pelvis while pushing the chest up, arms straight and shoulders back (Cobra Position).
  8. Exhale and raise your tailbone, straightening your arms and legs, pushing your chest toward your thighs and your heals toward the ground (Downward Dog Position).
  9. Inhale and bring your right foot forward again, left knee to the ground (Lunge).
  10. Exhale and bring your feet together, hands on the floor on either side of your feet (Forward Fold Position).
  11. Inhale and with a straight back, slowly bring your hands up above your head, shoulders back, pelvis forward (Forward Salute Pose).
  12. Exhale and return to starting position (Mountain Pose).
12 Stations of the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara) - Yoga Practice for Hikers

12 Stations of the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskara)

Repeat these steps with your left foot for one full cycle.  Complete at least 3 cycles.  You can repeat your Sun Salutations for as long as you like, until your body feels warm, relaxed and flexible.  There are many variations of this asana, but the point is to master breathing through the movements and practicing proper form.  Do not move so fast as to allow sloppy posture, or so slow that you can not breathe in sequence with the movements.  You should feel the full stretch of each position before allowing yourself to transition to the next one.

This asana is a fantastic full-body warm up and is often used at the beginning of many Yoga workouts to get the blood flowing, the muscles warmed up and the body ready for more advanced work.  It is also a great sequence to practice first thing in the morning to wake the body and get the blood flowing after your night’s rest.  Consider practicing this sequence in front of your tent after a night camping trail-side, or to loosen up your body after a long car ride to a remote trailhead.

And don’t forget to BREATHE!

Yoga Practice for Hikers: The Importance of Breathing…

As you sit at your computer reading this article, I want you to be conscious of your breathing.  Consciously exhale long and easy through your nose, do not force the breath, just let it escape through your nostrils.  Feel it leave your body.  Then, begin to inhale.  Bring the air in through your nose at the same pace of your exhale, slow and deliberate but not forced.  Now pause for a moment.  Try it again.  Try counting this time as you slowly exhale, try to count slowly to at least 5 or 6.  Then inhale again, use the same count as you did for your exhale.  Repeat this process, and with each breath be mindful and conscious of your breathing.

Why is the way we breathe important?  Why do we breathe like this?  Practicing breathing in this way demands our focused attention, keeping our minds engaged in the moment.  Mindful, conscious breathing increases physiological awareness.  Focused, mindful breathing also reduces stress, strengthens the respiratory system, energizes your mind and body and focuses the brain on the now.  Breathing is an integral part of Yoga Practice and these breathing techniques, when used properly, can also help us on the trail when fighting fatigue, stress or altitude.

Posture is also important as we practice breathing.  Make sure you are comfortably seated with your spine straight and your arms and shoulders relaxed.  Your head should be balanced and in line with your spine.  Make sure your pelvis is tilted in line with your spine and your weight is evenly distributed and balanced.  Chest out and strong, shoulders relaxed and core solid.  Keeping this posture, continue your breathing practice from above.  Out through the nose (count if you need to), pause, then in through the nose (counting again) and pause.  Repeat.  You should be able to feel your muscles relax with each exhale and energize with each inhale.

Your mind should be on your breathing, noticing the subtle movements in your body as you practice.  If your mind wanders (which it will at first), don’t get frustrated.  Simply refocus, gently, bringing your mind back to the task at hand.  Try this exercise from YogaEverywhere.com:

The Three Breath Practice: By Jillian Pransky

You can practice Three Deep Conscious Breaths anywhere, anytime and as often as you wish. However, when you are just starting out, it can be helpful to follow these few simple steps to enhance the effectiveness of your practice. For more seasoned yoga practitioners, please skip down and begin at #4:

  1. Please stop whatever activity you are involved in so you can give your full attention to the breath. Over time you will be able to consciously breathe in any moment – while you are walking, talking, listening, working, waiting, or even eating, however, in the beginning, it’s good to stop what you’re doing so you can concentrate more easily.
  2. You can sit in a chair or on the ground with your back relaxed, but straight or stand with your weight distributed evenly on each foot.
  3. When you are new to the practice, and if you are in a safe environment, you may close your eyes so your attention is on the breath and not on outside activities and scenery. However, eventually, you actually want to do this practice with your eyes open, aware of your environment. This way, you learn to connect to your breath as you are moving regularly from moment to moment, engaged in the world around you.
  4. Relax and take a deep breath, slowly breathing through your nose, then breathe out again through your nose. Allow your mind to follow your breath in and back out of your body. You can focus on the tip of the nose where the breath enters and leaves or you can mentally follow the breath on its complete path in to and back out of the body.
  5. After you have completely exhaled, allow another natural breath to flow in. Don’t pull or suck the breath in, it will come to you naturally. Once you have a full breath in, exhale again without forcing or pushing the breath out. Allow all of the breath to empty from your lungs without jumping ahead to the next inhale. Simply rest your mind on the breath and feel its effects; observing and sensing. Stay relaxed and allow your awareness of the breath to be soft, not heavy with concentration.
  6. Each inhalation and exhalation is one cycle. Do three cycles and allow your mind to rest fully on the breath. You may notice that your mind wanders even after the first breath. When you notice that the mind has tripped out to your to-do-list, dissecting a past conversation, or balancing your check book, just acknowledge that you’ve been distracted and gently guide your mind back to your breath. The attitude in which you guide yourself back to the breath is KEY. So when you find yourself tripping out, just be humored, and with the warmth you’d offer your best friend, guide your mind back to the flow of your next breath. (We tend to go where we feel welcomed, to relax and expand more when we are not bullied.)
  7. After getting the hang of paying attention to Three Conscious Breaths bring the practice into your every day life as often as you can. You skip parts 1-3 and jump right to 4-6. Use this Three Breath Pause through out your day in any moment, when you are walking to your office, eating lunch, in a conversation with a friend, working on your computer, waiting on a line, stuck in traffic, when ever. You will find this practice transforming your day. And, eventually, you will find the “Pause” more accessible to you in those harder moments, like when you’ve just been insulted, or your child or parent is pushing your buttons, or anytime you feel your anger or irritation building.

Proper Breathing is not only an important part of your Yoga Practice, it’s a great way to reduce stress, quiet the mind and control the body.  It brings you fully into the moment, allowing you to completely connect with the present.  Whether it’s Yoga Practice, a short hike, a quiet moment outside or an afternoon at a breathtaking vista…mindful, conscious breathing can put you in the right mindset for a deeper, more meaningful experience.

Tips for the Yoga Beginner

As I start out with posting Yoga Practice for Hikers over the coming months, I want to filter in some advice and tips from the experts.  For beginners, the idea of starting a Yoga Practice can be intimidating.  The underlying tone in the advice given over and over again is to have a sense of humor, enjoy yourself and find your own reward in the act of doing.
 
Below is some great advice found at the Whole Living Blog.

Tips for the Yoga Beginner

Body+Soul, October 2007

New to yoga? Notable yoga experts offer these 5 tips.

1. “Along with your yoga mat and your towel, bring a sense of humor to class. Students who get hung up on doing everything ‘perfectly’ are less likely to come back.”
–Seane Corn, creator of the Vinyasa Flow Yoga DVD series and national yoga ambassador for YouthAIDS

2. “Don’t force your way into yoga. Adapt your movements to accommodate your level of strength and stamina, so that you avoid injury and feel comfortable in every pose.”
–Baron Baptiste, founder of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga

3. “Watch out for what I call ‘self mutilation’ — spending your time talking to yourself about what you can’t do. This will make your practice dismal. The more you stay connected to feeling the pose — to breathing into the pose — the better your experience will be.”
–Ana Forrest, founder of Forrest Yoga

4. “To jump-start your practice, go on a yoga retreat. By temporarily shelving all the distractions in your normal life, you’ll learn enough in just two or three days to make a big difference in your weekly yoga class experience.”
–Richard Faulds, former president of Kripalu

5. “When you get to class, keep an open mind. Tune in to your own infinite possibilities. And drink water.”
–Guruatma Singh Khalsa, co-owner of Franklin Yoga and yoga instructor for 32 years

Introduction to Yoga Practice for Hikers…

The outdoors is good for mind, body and soul...and so is Yoga...

Hiking  and backpacking is fantastic exercise.  For many, though, it’s also an opportunity for injury.  Hiking over the rugged, uneven terrain we love puts specific strain on the tendons and joints in our legs, causes muscle fatigue and forces a forward leaning posture that is very hard on the long muscles of the back.  The additional challenge of carrying weight in a backpack magnifies our potential for injury.  Creating an even bigger problem, many of us have day jobs that keep us bound to an office chair staring at a computer screen.  This combination of sedentary work mixed with active outdoor pursuits can lead to torn muscles, strained tendons, and pinched nerves.  With a little off-trail conditioning and post-hike stretching using basic Yoga movements, we can reduce our risk of an injury that can force us off the trail for good.

Yoga has, in one form or another, been around for over 5,000 years.  Believed to have been introduced to the West in the 1800′s, it’s gained popularity in recent decades as a way to improve overall health, sharpen mental focus and reduce stress.  Of the 8 steps attributed to Classical Yoga typically physical exercise (asana), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (pratyahara) are the general focus of Modern Western Yoga.  Yoga has been proven to increase physical strength, build stamina and improve cardio-vascular health.  The combination of slow, focused movements and controlled breathing allows us to exercise systems in the body that don’t otherwise see much action.  For all active people, but hikers and backpackers specifically, Yoga offers a great way to maintain the strength we need for the climb, while also improving balance, flexibility and recovery time.

Starting in January, I will make Yoga Practice for Hiking a regular part of my Blog.  I will be introducing new forms and movements with step by step instructions, explanations and some tips and tricks.  I’d also like to include some pictures and video for reference but that part may have to wait.  For those of you who are new to Yoga, I will go over some of the basics here to get us started.

Where to Practice…

Anyplace where it is quiet and without distraction.  I like to have my morning stretch in the backyard on the patio.  I get up early and start my morning coffee, while it’s brewing I take a few minutes to go outside and stretch.  Warming up my muscles, soaking up the morning sun, breathing in the crisp morning air while I wait for my coffee is the perfect way to wake up.  For post-hike stretching, a quiet trailhead or parking lot or even an open picnic area is all you need.

When to Practice…

As I mentioned, I like to stretch in the morning when I get up.  I also try to stretch a few times throughout the say because I spend my days working behind a desk.  So, for me, whenever I start to feel my muscles stiffen up or my back or neck start to ache, it’s a good time to stretch.  It’s also recommended a good stretch after any extensive exercise.

What do I need…

You really don’t need anything special.  I have a very basic Yoga Mat, I make sure I have loose comfortable clothes that won’t restrict movement and a towel.  Other than that, all you really need is a distraction free location, time to complete the routine and a plan.

Why are we doing this…

Very simply put, Yoga will improve performance and reduce the potential for injury.  Athletes at all levels of competition have experienced increased performance with the addition of Yoga to their training regiment.

How do I know if I’m doing it right…

I’m really going to try to make sure I explain the process clearly.  The rest is practice.  The important thing is being aware of your body and paying attention to how you feel.  If something hurts, or doesn’t feel right…stop.  Focus on breathing through the movements and transition slowly from one position to another.  Practicing slow, deliberate movements while keeping your core tight and your breathing controlled will allow us to get the most out of every exercise.

If you follow along with me, we are learning together.  I have some experience with Yoga and have taken several classes, followed a few video workouts and have done a fair amount of research on the subject.  I am, by no means, an expert.  I plan to pursue this subject as a learning process and will be consulting with experienced Yogi’s, Yoga instructors and instructional books to determine which movements and combinations will have the greatest advantage to hikers and backpackers.  I want to try to provide suggestions for basic everyday routines, post-hike routines as well as therapeutic exercises for when injuries do happen.

If you have any specific problem areas or post-hike discomfort, let me know so we can look for a way to work through it.