16 Easy Yoga Poses for Healthy Hikers and Backpackers
Honestly, I don't think I really consider myself a "yogi", I feel like for that you have to be able to do the splits and hold a stretch for 10 minutes, both of which are not in my practice. What I can say is that I have been practicing yoga daily for about a year and a half now and doing 20 minutes every morning has changed my life by waking up new muscle groups and helping me perform my best for my other favorite activities like hiking and backpacking. So I couldn't help but share what I've learned and used to up my hiking game for the last year.
I want to preface with not to feel overwhelmed by the word "yoga", it's not something that has to be perfect or even takes a lot of learning, time, or flexibility. It's simply a way of moving and stretching that gets you and your muscles ready for any activity you have in front of you. It helps prevent injury and can help with those aches and pains from climbing uphill or carrying a heavy pack. Whether it's a casual day at the office or hiking up an entire mountain I believe a few fun and simple yoga poses and movements can really make a difference in your health and wellness. So if you're ready to take your outdoor adventures to the next level, then let's dive in.
Table of Contents
Calf and Hamstrings Stretches
Probably the most important section of the body for any hiker or backpacker, since our calves and hamstrings are what keep up moving up that trail. Here are a couple stretches to combat those tight leg muscles when hiking uphill. Keep in mind that all of the stretches should hit both major areas, so sink lower if you can't quite feel them.
This is one of the deepest calf stretches you can do which is why I try to do it before practically every hike. You go down on your knees and then stretch one leg out straight in front of you, flexing the toes back toward you. From there, you can lean forward with a straight back and attempt to pull your toes back toward you at the same time.
This simple yoga pose often gets overlooked, but it actually helps stretch so many areas of the body, from your back to your shoulders, to your hamstrings, and is the easiest pose to accomplish.
Stand up nice and tall, then bend down at the hips reaching your arms forward towards your toes. A couple of things to keep track of, make sure not to arch your back too much, but try to keep a straight spine. And don’t be discouraged if you can’t actually touch your toes, you still get all of the benefits by simply bending over and reaching towards them.
This is another simple stretch that you can do just about anywhere on the trail. Flex one foot at a time against anything such as a rock, tree, or another person’s hiking boot. Usually just doing that much already gives you a stretch, but if you need more than that you can reach down and try to touch your flexed toes to go even deeper.
Hiker Quad Stretches
Your quad muscles are the powerhouse of your legs, that thick section of the front of your thighs that really gives you that push you need. They also hold a lot of the weight when you’re backpacking, meaning you’ll need to take extra care of them. So try a couple of these stretches regularly to take care of them.
This is an easy pose that will get both quads at once, just be careful if you have bad knees, this stretch might be difficult for you. To do this pose simply sit on your knees and then lower your torso back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thighs.
Don’t feel like you have to lay all the way back, just keep your hands behind you to support you as you lean back.
Dancer or Standing Quad Stretch
These are stretches for each leg individually and are easy to accomplish while on the trail. For the dancer pose, you’ll have to find a bit of balance. You’ll start standing and pulling one foot to your butt in a standing quad stretch, you can stop here and enjoy the stretch, but if you want to push yourself you can pull the foot up behind you, bending your back and adding a bit of a shoulder stretch.
The dancer is a bit more advanced and intense, so don’t feel like you have to push past the standing quad stretch. But sometimes it’s fun to get a little extra yoga-ish about your stretches.
The low lung pose is a great one for hips and thighs and is rather gentle as long as you can kneel. For this pose, you kneel on one leg, place your hands on your hips and push your hips forward. Just make sure your knee stays over your ankle and doesn’t push too far over.
Yoga Poses for Hips
Your hips are especially important for backpacking or for steep inclines when hiking. It’s a part that is often forgotten about unless you’re trying to accomplish the splits, but your hips carry most of your weight and healthy mobility of them can drastically improve your hiking performance.
This is basically a very low lunge, and it feels so nice (I love all hip stretches). To accomplish this yoga pose, you’ll kneel on the ground with one leg bent in front of you. Place that front foot slightly to one side (if it’s your right foot push it slightly to the right side, same for your left), then lean forward as far as you can toward the ground next to your bent leg.
If you want you can push your bent knee out to the side and stay up on your other hand or go down to your elbows, whatever feels best for your body.
Here’s one you probably already know from any gym class you’ve ever taken, but it is a seriously effective stretch. While standing, take one large step back with one foot leaving the other leg bent in front of you. This is also an easy stretch to do on the trail during a quick snack break.