Trekking, which is usually more demanding than day-hikes, lasts for two or more days and is rigorous and challenging. Though it does not require any specific technical knowledge or skill, it does require a certain level of commitment and mind and body discipline and at the same time, it is a wonderful activity for the mind and body as you walk with a specific purpose of being present and observing the surroundings, which is usually amidst nature and wilderness.
It involves hiking through remote areas with quite challenging trails often with steep ascents and descents, making the experience even more thrilling. This walk, through the lap of nature, produces a sense of physical and mental well-being. In the olden days, one would often find yogis and sages walking through the wilderness and mountains to explore the outer and inner world, to perfect their sadhana and also to spread the knowledge. The practice and discipline of Yogic techniques such as asana, pranayama, mudra, and dhyana helped them preserve their energy and gave them the strength to carry on and survive even in tough conditions.
“Yoga is a dance between control and surrender.” -Joel Kramer
Yoga and trekking is a great combination and teaches you how to live in harmony with nature, to improve focus, find balance, while training the mental and physical bodies. Trekking has many health related-benefits ranging from physical workout to emotional and mental relief that comes from being amidst nature. It trains your muscles, making them strong and dense, helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improves your respiratory, and circulatory functions.
The heart-warming sceneries help calm down the mind by eliminating stress, tension, and anxiety. Hiking with friends or a group helps refine our communication and life skills by working as a team to achieve a single goal. However, as in Yoga, the journey in itself enriches your life by helping you explore, unlearn and learn, accept the circumstances and find your way around it.
How Yoga poses benefit during trekking?
Trekking through uneven trails with steep ascent and descent can be exhausting and can cause fatigue or even injuries. Especially if you’re new to this experience, trekking for 3-4 hours or more can make you feel tired and low on energy.
Warming up is a necessary part of every workout as it alerts and prepares the body for the upcoming regime. Opening up our cramped muscles and stretching them by practicing certain Yoga poses can help you get back on track with restored energy and confidence. Here are some benefits of doing yoga poses while trekking:
It helps reduce the risk of getting sore muscles after a daylong hike.
Prevents common hiking injuries by increasing the range of motion of joints and allowing them to work flexibly.
Breathing exercises can help stimulate your nervous and circulatory system letting you feel relaxed.
Yoga asana and pranayama can help you preserve energy longer and make you more mindful and aware of your body. You will thus be more in tune with your body and know when you have to pause.
Yoga asanas help to maintain the balance which is important while trekking through uneven places.
Yoga practice helps build stamina and strength which can help you hike longer or even carry the weight of a backpack with less difficulty.
Below are a few yoga poses that you can practice before, during and after your Trekking adventure.
Yoga poses to strengthen your body during trekking
Standing Forward Fold
This warm-up exercise is a great way of getting your hamstrings in action for a good head start.
Stand straight with feet hip-width apart.
Exhale and slowly begin to bend forward from your hips such that the belly touches the thighs.
Bend your knees slightly to keep your spine straight and avoid rounding of the back.
Push the buttocks out a little (upward) as you move the torso closer to the lower body and let your hands come down.
Let the crown of your head hang down while you keep the neck and shoulder muscles relaxed.
Bend the elbows and lock your hands around opposite elbows. Exhale deeply and hold for 5-6 breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
Warm-up your calves for an energetic sprint across the trail and do not let fatigue come between you and your adventure time.
Come to a tabletop pose with palms shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart.
Spread your fingers and lift the knees of the mat as you push your hips up towards the ceiling to make an inverted ‘V’.
Spread your shoulder blades and then draw them down the back, keeping the neck muscles relaxed.
It is fine if the heels are not touching the mat. You can instead keep the knees slightly bent and push the chest back, closer to the thighs.
Hold this position for 5-6 breaths and feel the tension in your calves go away.
Work on your hip flexors with this exercise and take every step effortlessly.
While in the downward dog pose, lift your right leg upward and then bring the leg forward to place the right foot between your palms.
Place your left knee on the ground for balance. You can balance on left toes or even place the left instep on the mat.
Lift your hands off the mat and place the palms on your right knee.
Push your hips forward and make sure your right knee maintains a 90-degree angle.
Hold this stretch for 5-6 breaths and then switch legs by bringing the left foot forward and repeat the same stretch.
As you hold the pose, become more aware of your body and see if you can deepen the pose and know when you require rest.
You can use yoga props like a knee pillow to cushion the knees and deepen the stretch.
Increase your stamina with this pose while stretching your legs, knees, ankles, waist, and shoulders.
From the lunge pose, bring the palms down on the mat on either side of the front right foot.
Lift your left knee off the mat and extend your left foot further and place it flat with toes pointing to the side of the mat. Do not bend the left knee.
The front right knee remains bent with the right knee directly over your heel at a 90-degree angle, toes pointing to the front of the mat.
Inhale and stretch your left arm up towards the ceiling and slowly extend it over the top of your head such that the left bicep is in line with the left ear. The fingers are pointed to the front, the same direction.
Continue to keep the right palm down, in line with the right foot. You can also balance on your fingertips first and then work on placing the right palm down.
Keep your torso open towards the left and gaze at the left middle finger pointing to the front or simply gaze upwards, without straining the neck and shoulder muscles.
If placing the right hand down is challenging, you can rest your right palm on a block instead of the mat or bend the right elbow and place it on the right knee with the fingers pointing to the left side.
Hold this pose 5-6 breaths and switch sides and practice with the left leg in front.
Leg Splits (half and full)
Say goodbye to the tightness in your legs and stretch your thighs, hamstrings, and groin with this wonderful pose.
From the Downward Facing Dog pose extend your right leg forward between your palms and slide the right foot forward with the heel on the ground and toes pointing upward.
You can balance on your fingertips and also slightly bend the right knee.
Lower down your left leg and rest the left knee, shin, and in-step on the mat.
Keeping your hips straight so they face the front of the mat, slowly straighten your right leg as much as you can, comfortably.
Allow the left thigh to sink deeper as you push your hips forward. Straighten your spine and hold the stretch for as long as comfortable, allowing the split to deepen with every breath.
You can use props like blocks or folded blanket to sit straight and sink deep into the stretch.
Hold this pose for 5-6 breaths and then switch sides and bring the left leg in front.
Alternatively, you can work on the front leg alone, by keeping the back knee down at a 90-degree angle, keeping the hips square, stacked over your left knee.
Work on straightening the front leg as much as you can and keep the front foot flexed. Lengthen your spine and fold over the front leg.
This beautiful pose is a great combination of flexibility, strength, balance, focus, and grace. As you build strength you can deepen the pose by deepening the backbend, which will leave you feeling stronger, graceful and confident.
A good warm-up is recommended for any balancing pose. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and become aware of your stance, all four corners of your feet and if need be work a little on shifting the weight between the toes and heels.
When you are ready and are feeling grounded, shift the eight on the right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the mat.
Bend your left knee and clasp your left hand around the left inner ankle
Engage the right arm and extend it upward or take the support of a tree or wall till you are confident enough to balance on one leg.
Focus on keeping the hips square as you kick the left leg into your left hand to deepen the stretch in your quadriceps.
Hinge at your hips and focus on opening your chest. To avoid hyperextending the standing knee, engage the thighs and micro-bend the right knee.
Keeping your gaze fixed at any object/point helps improve balance. Hold this pose for 5 to 6 breaths and then switch legs and practice balancing on the left leg.
Plank pose (half and full)
This extensive yoga pose is very beneficial for the overall body and strengthening of the arms, shoulders, legs and the core muscles.
Lie down straight on your stomach with your arms on either side.
Bend your elbows and place your palms on either side of your torso.
With your knees on the mat, slowly lift your upper body off the mat.
Align the palms so the wrists and shoulders are in one straight line.
Your palms, knees, shins, and insteps should be the only parts touching the mat.
Keeping your body straight, engage the core and keep the chin slightly tucked in..
Hold this position for 5-6 breaths and release.
If you have been practicing planks and push-ups, you can move directly into a full plank pose with knees of the mat or even practice an elbow plank pose with your forearms on the mat.
No matter the intensity or duration of the trek, adding a little yoga always helps and makes the journey memorable. Are you planning to go for a retreat that combines trekking and Yoga? Yoga and Trekking tours and retreats in India and Nepal offer magnificent views of the breathtaking Himalayas and the virgin lush green forests that touch your soul, leaving you in a state of eternal bliss.
The spiritual practice of Yoga finds its roots in ancient India and even today, you will find Yogis and sages in the remotest mountain ranges and wilderness, engrossed in their sadhana. Thus Yoga and Trekking in the Himalayas have gained much popularity in recent years and people from around the world are looking at Trekking tours in India as well as Nepal which offer exquisite sceneries that are very calming, rejuvenating and offer a unique experience, filled with adventure and serenity.
Author Bio :
Bipin Baloni is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He organizes 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh. Bipin Baloni conducts Yoga Teacher Training in India in different cities. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature, Himalayas and Nepal Trekking Packages.