7 Yoga Moves for Hikers 

Tight hips, sore ham­strings, an aching back…after a day on the trail, your body could use good stretch or two, but often all you want to do is crawl into your sleep­ing bag and call it a night. Add these moves to your evening rou­tine or first thing in the morn­ing before you pack up camp. Not only will your body reap the ben­e­fits and feel bet­ter as you hike, but these yoga pos­es will restore your sense of calm and focus that so many of us ven­ture into the woods to find in the first place.

Start out with a basic vinyasa flow. Breathe slow­ly and deeply, let­ting your­self length­en into each stretch as you exhale.

Down­ward Fac­ing Dog—Adho Mukha Svanasana
This is one of the most basic and com­mon yoga pos­es out there, yet it still has much to offer the most expe­ri­enced yogi. Push against the earth with your hands on either side of your sleep­ing mat as you bend your knees and lift your hips into the air. Tight­en your quadri­ceps to deep­en the pose and tar­get your ham­strings. Alter­nate between press­ing your heels down to the mat and bend­ing your knees to increase your cir­cu­la­tion in those tired muscles.

Plank Pose—Utti­hi­ta Chat­u­ran­ga Dan­dasana
In Down­ward Fac­ing Dog, exhale and low­er your hips, focus­ing on your low­er back, shoul­ders and core to hold you here for a few moments. Your back and shoul­ders are tired from your hike, but in this pose you can engage those mus­cles in a dif­fer­ent way, allow­ing them to loosen up and pre­pare for round two. You can also deep­en the stretch in your low­er calf and Achilles ten­don here—hiking can be rough on the small­er but essen­tial foot and ankle tendons.

Cobra Pose or Upward Fac­ing Dog Pose—Urd­h­va Muk­va Shavasana
Low­er your chest to your sleep­ing pad and pre­pare for either Cobra Pose or Upward Fac­ing Dog Pose. Those less expe­ri­enced with yoga or those tired and worn out from their hikes should prob­a­bly stick with Cobra, where you rest your palms light­ly on the ground and use your low­er back mus­cles and glutes to lift your chest up. Lead with your ster­num to avoid giv­ing your­self a crick in the neck. If you are famil­iar with the posi­tion and would like a deep­er stretch, straight­en your arms and look upward to move into Upward Fac­ing Dog. Flex your quads to bring your thighs off the ground as your weight is sup­port­ed by the tops of your feet and your hands.

Move through these three pos­es until you feel loose. Syn­chro­nize your breath with your move­ments, inhal­ing as you come into upward fac­ing dog, exhale as you move back into down­ward fac­ing dog. When you feel relaxed, you can incor­po­rate the next few poses.

Cat/Cow Pos­es—Mar­jaryasana to Biti­lasana
On your hands and knees, take a deep breath. Then as you exhale, round your back, spread­ing your shoul­der blades and tuck­ing your tail­bone to cre­ate a C shape. This is Cat pose. To tran­si­tion to Cow, inhale and allow your bel­ly to drop and loosen as you arch your back to reverse the C shape. Allow your hips to rock side to side to stretch the mus­cles that con­nect with your spine. Con­tin­ue to tran­si­tion between the two pos­es each time you switch from an exhale to an inhale and vice ver­sa for about four or five cycles.

Bridge Pose—Setu Band­ha Sar­van­gasana
While lying on your back, draw your knees close enough to your hips that you can touch the back of your ankles with your fin­ger­tips. Lift your hips upward and arch your back. If you can, roll your shoul­ders back and inter­lace your hands under­neath you. This pose is a great tor­so stretch, calms the mind, and relieves insom­nia, a per­fect way to wind down. If you can, grab your ankles and trans­form this into a half wheel pose.

Half Spinal Twist Pose—Ard­ha Mat­syen­drāsana
Sit upright with your legs extend­ed and cross your right leg over the left, with your right knee bent and drawn in to your chest as far as is com­fort­able. Take your left arm and cross it over your bent right leg, allow­ing your left elbow to push away from your right knee to deep­en the twist. Use your right hand to anchor on the ground and gaze over your right shoul­der. Release and repeat on the left side.

Child’s Pose—Bal­asana
Your prac­tice is not com­plete with­out this rest­ing pose. It stretch­es your spine, allow­ing your back to round and tar­get­ing mus­cles all the way from your hips to your spine. Let your arms hang loose­ly by your sides or extend them in front of your head and push against the earth. This caus­es your shoul­der blades to draw togeth­er and away from your neck, which eas­es the ten­sion caused by schlep­ping your back around all day. If you have knee prob­lems, place an extra fleece or oth­er padded mate­r­i­al you have handy under between your glutes and your calves to ease the pressure.