best yoga poses for hikers and backpackers

Practicing yoga helps me so much in feeling good and strong when I go hike and backpack.  Even more, it helps me recover faster so that I can get out on the trail more often.  Personally, when I hike, I like to be on the trail at sunrise and I tend to push my hikes so long that the only thing I’m doing afterwards is opening up a cold one.   I find that focusing on my yoga and stretching on my non-hiking days works best for me, but you absolutely can add this routine before or after you hike.  

Yoga is not about being flexible in body.  It’s more about being flexible in mind.  Don’t limit yourself by being too atttached to what your poses look like.  Use the time on your mat to connect with how your body feels and letting go of the ruminating thoughts that might be weighing your down.

Before I get into the best yoga poses for hiker, here a few quick reminders when practicing yoga:

The breath matters more than the form

The biggest benefit you can get from yoga is learning to breathe deeper.  When holding these poses, it’s important to only go so deep that you can still regulate your breath work.  If you find yourself struggling to breathe deeply or holding your breath, you are going too far.  

Steady the breath

Seal the lips and breathe slowly through your nose taking about 5 seconds on the inhale and matching it with 5 seconds on the exhale.  On the exhale, think about releasing tension and relaxing the muscles.  With practice, you will feel like the breath is helping you melt into each posture.

Posture up

When we hike (myself included), we tend to let our posture slump.  The shoulders roll forward, the neck drops down to keep and eye on the trail, and our lower backs tend to arch.  When doing these postures, think about these postural tips:

  • Align the ears with the shoulders
  • Draw the shoulder blades down your back and towards each other
  • Keep the spine long especially through the neck
  • Lift the chin slightly
  • Draw the belly in toward the spine

Open and Twist

The repetitive hip flexion and the weight of a heavy backpack tends to cause your chest, hip flexors, and quads to tighten up.  Also, the side to side movement of the hips and spine while you are hiking make the paraspinals (the muscles on the side of your spine in your lower back) have to work hard.  My favorite yoga postures involve a lot of hip and chest openers with lots and lots of twisting to counteract this natural swagger while I’m on the trail.

These are advanced postures so please go into them slowly and be mindful of your breath when holding them.

Make It Flow

I’ve linked these poses together to create a full practice for you.  The poses are sequenced to help you twist and untwist the spine and to alternate stretching different muscle groups.  You should feel amazing by the end!

Yoga pose 1: Angled Child’s Pose

  • Starting on your knees, bring your toes to touch
  • Take your knees out wide
  • Drape your belly on your thighs and extend your arms out in front of you
  • Hold here first to connect with your breath
  • Walk your hands off your mat to the left side
  • With some pressure in your left hand, try to press your right hip onto your right heel more
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles before switching sides
  • Then, step forward with your right foot and go through pose 2-8

 

Yoga pose 2: Runner’s Lunge With Chest Opener

  • Step your right foot between your hands
  • Mure your right ankle is directly underneath your right knee
  • Interlace your hands behind your back (or use a strap)
  • Keep your hips tucked under and abs pulled in while lunging forward
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

Yoga pose 3: Quadriped With Quad Opener

  • Place your left hand under your left shoulder
  • Extend your right leg back behind you
  • Reach back with your right hand and capture your right foot
  • Open your chest towards the ceiling while kicking your foot into your hand
  • Maintain lightness in your left hand by engaging your left obliques
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

 

Yoga pose 4: Runner’s Lunge With Twist

  • Step your right foot up even with your left hand
  • Lift your back knee and straighten your back leg
  • Keep hips square to the front of your mat
  • Rotate your shoulders trying to stack your right on top of your left shoulder
  • Extend your right arm and spin your chest to the ceiling 
  • Keep your core engaged while holding for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

Yoga pose 5: Half Split With Pronator Stretch

  • Drop the back knee down on the mat again
  • Straighten the right leg and push your right hip back in line with your left hip
  • Flex your right toes towards your face as you hinge over your right leg
  • Place both hands on the outside of your right leg
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

Yoga pose 6: Runner’s Lunge With Quad Opener

  • Rebend into your right knee
  • Bend the left knee and reach back with your left hand
  • Capture the inside of your left foot with the left thumb pointed toward the left big toe
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then

 

Yoga pose 7: Pyramid

  • Lift your left knee and straighten both legs
  • Stand with your right toes pointed forward and left toes turned out 45 degrees
  • Keep feet hip width distance apart and hip bones square to the front of your mat
  • With a flat back, hinge forward over your right leg using a blockif needed
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

 

Yoga pose 8: Reverse Triangle

  • Stand tall, scooting your back foot back a few more inches
  • Pivot your left foot to 90 degrees so that it’s perpendicular to the front foot and the arch of the left foot is in a line with the heel of the right foot
  • Reach the left hand down your left leg and the right arm to the sky
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles then move to the next pose

Yoga pose 9: Wide Stance Forward Fold With Shoulder Opener or Twist

  • Turn your hips so that you are facing sideways on your mat
  • Point all ten toes towards the long edge of your mat (or slightly inward)
  • Fold forward with a flat back and then hang your head heavy for 5 breaths
  • Optional: interlace your hands behind your back
  • Then, grab the outside of your left foot or calf with your right hand 
  • Try to keep your hips even while you extend your left arm to the ceiling 
  • Roll your chest open trying to stack your left shoulder on top of the right one
  • Hold for 5 breath cycles, then repeat with the left hand and right foot

Repeat pose 2-8 on the other side and add in pose 1 and 9 again if it feels great. 

Bonus 1: Repeat both sides only holding for 3 breaths this time

Bonus 2: Add a Sun Salutation or two after you’ve finished going through poses 1-9 on both sides, ending in downward facing dog.

Yoga pose 10: Downward Facing Dog With Quad Opener

  • Starting in downward facing dog, extend the right leg in the air
  • Open the right hip by stacking the right hip on top of the left
  • With the right knee bent, let the right foot fall towards the left hip
  • Hold here for 5 breaths and add some circles with the right knee if that feels good
  • Then, place the right foot on the ground and go into the next pose

Yoga pose 11: Downward Facing Dog With A Twist

  • While in downward facing dog, reach the right hand to the outside of the left calf
  • Take your gaze under your left armpit
  • Try to keep your hips and shoulders even while holding for 5 breaths
  • Then, repeat pose 10 and 11 on the other side

Yoga pose 12: Pigeon

  • From down dog, swing the right foot forward so that the right knee comes behind the right wrist and the right foot behind the left wrist
  • Try to keep your hips square by placing a blanket or block under your right hip if needed
  • If you have very tight hips, your shin may not get completely parallel to the front of your mat
  • Fold over your right shin and rest your forehead on your forearms
  • Hold for 5 breaths or if your hips are really tight, set a timer for 2 minutes and just relax

Yoga pose 13: Plow

  • Lift both feet over head to a comfortable range of motion.  If you feel discomfort in your back or neck, skip the pose or support your feet with a blanket or your lower back with your hands or a block
  • Hold for 5 or more breaths and when you are done, roll out of the pose slowly

Yoga pose 14: Supine Twist

  • Lie on your back with both legs extended on the floor
  • Bring your right knee to your chest and give it a squeeze while flexing your left toes towards your face
  • Take your strap around you right foot and straighten your right leg towards the ceiling
  • Holding the strap in your left hand, drop your right leg over to the left side of your mat
  • Tuck your left hip under your right hip
  • Extend your right arm out to the right, trying to keep the right shoulder on the ground
  • Hold here for 5 or more breaths then repeat on the other side

Yoga pose 15: Savasana

  • Lie like a dead corpse, extending your legs straight on the floor and  letting your toes roll outward
  • Arms lie by your sides with your palms facing upward
  • Draw your shoulder blades down and toegther, tucking them under you and allowing your chest to expand
  • Imagine the weight of the world falling away from your body as you soak in gratitude for the epic hikes you’ve done and the gorgeous planet we live on

~Namaste

Related Blogs:

Making Time For Yoga: Letting Go Of Expectations

Best Day Hikes in the World To Add To Your Bucket List

If you’d like a guided yoga class, try my yoga for runners and hikers YouTube video below:

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best yoga poses for hikers and backpackers