Cross training plays a key role in improving your climbing. You might be thinking that means hanging from a fingerboard more, but we want you to think about skills other than upper body strength. What about coordination and body awareness, what about mobility, what about mindset? Yoga provides a really great option for climbers in improving all these skills, this is why we have a weekly yoga class (starting again Wednesday 5th August at 7pm).
But we don’t want you to just take our word for it, so we asked our in-house yoga teacher and climbing coach Freya how her yoga practice has affected her climbing, then you can decide.
- A key component of yoga is the breath, both awareness and control. Yoga enables me to listen to my breath more intently and know when and where different types of breath are needed most. I think breathing can be overlooked in climbing, perhaps we are not aware of our breath when we are on the wall as we are focused on where our feet are going. I have found that by first working with breath practices off the wall they are easier to then bring into your climbing, and hopefully after time things will start to feel more connected.
- I came to yoga with a lot of flexibility already in my body, so I’m not someone who can say ‘yoga made me flexible’. But having a regular yoga practice helps to keep me as mobile as I was ten years ago when I first found the practice. And mobility plays a big part in becoming a well-rounded climber. For movements such as heel hooks, the amount of external rotation and abduction at the hip joint has a big effect on how close you can get into the wall and drive down through the foot. Greater mobility will also allow you to get those high feet, or foot to hand moves that are often so awkward.
- Following on from that, coordination and body awareness are skills built through yoga. I see students develop this over time, flowing more gracefully through flows. That internal map of where your body is in space can be so useful when half way up a wall, giving you confidence in your body and the coordination to engage, push, reach, breathe.
- The other element that helped me when I first started climbing was core strength. And not the type of core strength you might think of from sit ups and crunches but that which comes from lots of sun salutations, standing balances and backbends. This functional core strength from yoga gave me a foundation to start from when developing my skills on the wall.
- Often people make the mistake of thinking that we recommend yoga because of strengthening, and don’t realise it is all this other stuff (above) that they are benefiting from. Climbing uses a lot of the opposing upper body muscles to yoga, all pull and very little push. So in this sense yoga did not prepare me for venturing into the climbing world, perhaps the opposite. Climbing has improved my awareness of my back body and helped me to feel the strongest I’ve been in a long time.