For those of you who enjoy the great outdoors and embark on multi-day hikes, this post is for you. With all the walking and busying about setting up and dismantling campsites, it can be near-impossible to sustain a regular yoga practice while on the go in the wilderness. As such, I have suggested some simple poses that can easily be integrated into a typical hiking day.
Special thanks to my ‘partners in climb’, Em and Dennis, for lending a hand as the model and photographer respectively!
Be kind to your feet
We often neglect our feet, but they have been carrying us along the trail for 7 – 9 hours each day and deserve our care and attention. The following exercises focus on relaxing the muscles and joints in the foot and can be done in your tent at the edge of your sleeping bag.
Place your right foot on your straightened left leg, slightly above the knee. Interlace your fingers between your toes and rotate your ankle clockwise, and then anti-clockwise. With the toes and fingers still entwined, invert your sole so it faces upwards. Invert the other way so that your sole faces downwards. Repeat with the left foot.
Rub the sides of your feet, your heels, and the arches. Spend more time on the areas that need it. If you have extra space in your backpack, bring a small bottle of Geranium-based oil. It will facilitate blood circulation in the feet and the relaxing wafts will prepare you for a good night’s sleep.
Reward the hardest working muscles with a good stretch
When hiking, we mainly work our hamstrings and quadriceps, and you will also feel it in your calves and glutes if the gradient of the trail is steep in places. As such, these are the muscles that you want to be stretching out at the end of the day, and I suggest doing the following poses on top of your sleeping bag, just before tucking in for the night.
Sucirandhrasana (Eye of the Needle)
Lying on your back, rest your left foot slightly above your right knee. Bend your right leg and grab it with both hands at the shin or back of the thigh. In this position, pull your right leg towards you without compromising your neutral spine and without lifting your tail bone from the ground. After several deep breaths, repeat on the other side. This pose presents a gentle release for the lower back, and also stretches the shoulders and hip flexors. To introduce a good stretch to the hamstrings, you can straighten your bottom leg and pull it from the back of your thigh.
Supta Vajrasana (Reclined Thunderbolt Pose)
Start in Vajrasana with both legs tucked under you in a kneeling position. Separate your legs slightly, resting your bum on the floor. Slowly bend backwards, placing your forearms on the ground first. If you feel comfortable in this position, go deeper by lying down all the way. This pose stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors, and lengthens the abdominal muscles and rib cage. Once you are in its full expression, close your eyes, breathe and enjoy.
Fire up before hitting the trail
You’ve been up since the crack of dawn to pack up for the road, and need to get moving as soon as you can so that you can avoid walking too much during the height of day. While there is usually little to no time for a full practice during a hike, do try to carve out a few minutes before setting off to fire up and stretch your muscles. The following are standing poses that can be done with your hiking boots on, so no need to waste any time fiddling with them.
Prasarita Padottasana (Wide-legged Forward Fold)
Start in a wide-legged stance with feet parallel to each other and toes pointing forward. Place your hands at your waist, take a deep inhale, and fold forward from the hip flexors on the exhale. Take several deep breaths here. This pose provides a nice stretch to the back of your legs and lengthens the back.
Utkattasana (Chair Pose)
Standing in Tadanasana with your feet slightly apart, bend your knees into a squat. Make sure that your knees are not over your toes – you should be able to see all ten of them when you look down. Raise your arms overhead, press your palms together and gaze towards your fingertips. There is a tendency to stick the bum out and arch the back in this pose, so you should consciously maintain a neutral spine position. This pose strengthens the ankles, calves and spine, and fires up the quadriceps, making it the perfect companion for the hiker.
Ailin (200h YTT April – June 2017)