I am Cristina, the owner and creator of Conquer the Crux, a climbing blog dedicated to climbers that are interested in improving their performance through a combination of training, yoga, nutrition, and mindset. I am a fan of Don McGrath and am honored that he reached out to me to guest post on his blog. We both share an interest in the mental side of climbing I admire Don’s knowledge on this particular topic. Keeping on this theme, I created this guest post for Master Rock Climber that shares how you can use yoga to open the doors to your true climbing potential. Enjoy!
Nothing quite compliments climbing as perfectly as yoga does. They both rely heavily upon our ability to harness our connection between mind and body. Yoga is the way to master this connection. With a regular yoga practice you are essentially training yourself to gain better control of your mind and body; a powerful skill that translates to epic results in the climbing world. It is this combination of mental and physical training that will provide you with next-level results. When you open up the channel that allows the mind and body to seamlessly work together, you also open up the opportunity to tap into your true climbing potential.
For many, the physical benefits of yoga are obvious. With practice you gain flexibility, strength, balance, lean muscle mass, and endurance; all of which are great assets in the climbing world.
Yoga provides the perfect balance for climbing because it counters all that contracting and tightening involved in climbing with stretching and lengthening. Improved flexibility allows you to keep a structurally sound body and is crucial in keeping our muscles and joints safe. You will also begin to restore your natural range of motion, which allows you to move your body more freely and opens up the possibility to experiment with a greater variety of movements. With limited flexibility you may only have one or two movements to chose from during any particular part of a climb, whereas with enhanced flexibility, you may be able to reach that high step or throw up a wicked heel. This in turn leads to more efficient climbing and saves your precious energy for when you really need it.
Another physical benefit is strength. Both climbing and yoga build strength by consistently holding up our own body weight, however, yoga is a great way to build strength throughout the entire body, as well as improving endurance and developing lean muscle mass. A consistent yoga practice will strengthen both your main muscles as well as the under-utilized muscles that support and surround them. Also, virtually every pose performed in yoga requires engagement of your core muscles. As a climber, I’m sure you are aware of the importance and need for core strength. A strong core is not only essential for a healthy back and healthy body, but also improves your overall stability, accuracy and control of your body on the wall.
Body control is also achieved in yoga through improved balance. Many of the yoga asanas (poses) involve great coordination and balance in order to be articulated as intended. With practice you will quickly notice improvements in your balance, which is essential to developing better climbing technique and form.
Now, the mental benefits are not as obvious, and unfortunately, they are often overlooked. Although the physical gains from yoga are vast, they are nothing when compared to what you can gain on mental side. Having your mind on your side is truly what makes your capabilities limitless.
Yoga is much more than a great workout if you allow it to be. First we begin with the breath. Without breath awareness, yoga is just that, a mindless workout. Once you introduce the breath, you bring presence into your practice, and with presence you achieve the focus necessary to properly articulate each pose. This is how you begin to develop that connection and awareness between mind and body. Presence allows you to build a strong body awareness by focusing on the sensations that arise based on they way you manipulate your body. You learn the feel of proper alignment and the muscles responsible for bringing you there. In time, you build strong neurological connections between your mind and your body that serves as an incredible skill for climbers. With enhanced body awareness, you will be able to improve your form, body positioning and technique. In general, you will have more control over how you move your body, which means improved accuracy and efficiency as you climb.
But that is not all the breath offers. A focused and controlled breath also serves to calm the mind. With practice, the endless thoughts and mind chatter begin to slow down. The mind will become clear so that you can climb with incredible focus and stay rooted in the present moment. This is where the real big benefits lie. A controlled mind is what differentiates the good from the great and is by far the most powerful skill you could ever imagine to attain. Just imagine being able to climb unrestrained by fear, or limiting thoughts, or doubts about your capabilities. Whether we realize it or not, these are all things that hold us back and keep us from becoming the great climbers that we dream to be.
So now the real question isn’t whether or not yoga can help you improve as a climber, but rather, if you have the dedication to maintain a consistent practice. This is what distinguishes the average climber from the best climbers. The physical benefits are indeed valuable, but the real magic lies in the changes that begin to occur in the mind and the connection you develop between mind and body. However, skills this great don’t come easy. Patience, practice, and perseverance are key. Put in the time, and in the end, I assure you that you will be rewarded.
Climb and Conquer!