05/03/14: How yoga helps me as a climber

Big thanks to Nicola who has supplied this brilliant blog about how yoga has helped her climbing...


Yoga and climbing may seem the most unlikely of bedfellows, but they actually complement each other perfectly. I had already been practicing yoga with Tara for a couple of years before I took up climbing. Now, three and a half years later, I do Jivamukti yoga once a week (plus some extra headstand and handstand practice when I can!) and climb indoors three times a week, including at least one intense training session. Whilst most people think yoga and climbing are polar opposites there's three main areas where I think yoga helps me climb better and be stronger: 

Injury prevention

Climbing is one of the most physically demanding sports out there; it puts huge demands on your body, and injuries are pretty frequent. Tendonitis is a common injury in climbers, particularly in hands, shoulders and ankles. Those who are new to the sport are at greater risk since their muscles develop much faster than their tendons can keep up with. Yoga can help prevent these kind of injuries, which essentially result from strain and overuse. Firstly, a rigorous practice will physically stretch out the body and give muscles and tendons the chance to relax and recover. Plus, the practice of focusing on areas of discomfort during Asanas and relaxing into them can be really beneficial too - it's not about pushing your body too far, just learning the limits of your body on that day. And, that's a lesson I take to the climbing wall.

Core strength, flexibility and balance

Climbing is more complex than people think, and strong arms alone will only get you so far. To be a good climber you need to have strong core muscles, be flexible and have good balance. Yoga has no doubt strengthened my core, and enhanced my flexibility and balance. In fact, I've even introduced poses like 'boat' to the core sessions we do after a climbing session to help others.

Mindset

Both yoga and climbing are activities that you can't instantly be good at - everyone has to practice to get better. Yoga helps me push myself and focus, and work at things for the long term, for example, I still can't do the splits or a handstand, but I know that with practice I'll get there in the end. Climbing is similar, you need to build up your muscles and your tendons, and learn new techniques and ways to move your body to reach moves. Yoga has also taught me that if I can't do a certain move on the climbing wall that day, I move on and try it next time I go in, and don't dwell on the fact that I can't do it. Live in the present. Listen to your body and ask what you can do that day.

Nicola, 32, Manchester