Yoga for Hiking: 5 Asanas to Help You Wind Down

This entry was posted on Jun 29, 2017 by Charlotte Bell.

yoga for hikingLast week I wrote about specific yoga asanas that can support your hiking practice. Hiking requires good balance, and the ability to negotiate uneven terrain. Asana practice is replete with poses that build stability and balance.

But what comes after your hike? Often, sore, tired muscles and achy joints follow. Hiking—especially when there’s lots of uphill and downhill trekking—can tighten muscles and jar our joints. Winding down with a few choice asanas after a hike can help restore your legs.

Yoga for Hiking: Winding Down

There are lots of yoga asanas that can help you wind down from a hike, including anything that focuses on the quadriceps, hamstrings, inner thighs and/or feet. But if you want to do a relatively short practice, here are a few poses that I’ve found to be helpful after a long hike:

  1. TLC for Your Feet: Our feet take a beating, both in daily life and even more so when we hike. This is especially true in downhill stretches. Start your post-hiking practice with a gentle foot massage.
  2. Ardha Supta Virasana (Half Supine Hero’s Pose): Our quadriceps muscles do double-duty when we hike, especially when we walk uphill. Stretching them out right after a hike, in my experience, can lessen the muscle soreness that often happens the day after a vigorous hike. I prefer Half Virasana to Full Virasana when I want to concentrate on quad stretching. My legs—and likely yours—are quite different from each other. Practicing one leg at a time allows me to adjust for these differences.
  3. Janu Sirsasana (Head of the Knee Pose): Hamstrings, of course, also tighten when we hike. As with Ardha Supta Virasana, I like to stretch them out one at a time after a hike. Janu Sirsasana is my favorite pose for accomplishing this. It’s also the best pose I know for stretching the quadratus lumborum (one of the major muscles in the lumbar area).
  4. Supported Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose): If you carried a backpack, camera or water pack, your shoulders may need relief. Supported Fish Pose expands your chest and allows your shoulders to relax. You can use yoga blocks or a yoga bolster for support.
  5. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose): My favorite overall asana to practice after a long hike is Viparita Karani. Inverting the legs after miles of pounding your legs and feet just feels great. Practicing full Viparita Karani, with yoga bolsters and blankets, is a great way to calm your nervous system, as well as give respite to your legs and feet. But you can practice this pose, lying flat on the floor and simply extending your legs up a wall. Practice for 5 to 10 minutes, or more if it feels good.
About Charlotte Bell
Charlotte Bell discovered yoga in 1982 and began teaching in 1986. Charlotte is the author of Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice and Yoga for Meditators, both published by Rodmell Press. Her third book is titled Hip-Healthy Asana: The Yoga Practitioner’s Guide to Protecting the Hips and Avoiding SI Joint Pain (Shambhala Publications). She writes a monthly column for CATALYST Magazine and serves as editor for Yoga U Online. Charlotte is a founding board member for GreenTREE Yoga, a non-profit that brings yoga to underserved populations. A lifelong musician, Charlotte plays oboe and English horn in the Salt Lake Symphony and folk sextet Red Rock Rondo, whose DVD won two Emmy awards in 2010.

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