Yoga For Hikers, Runners & Climbers

The season for High Sierra hiking is dawning here in the American West. Though I hike year round — usually to get to a rock climbing destination — and run weekly, there is nothing that quite makes my legs burn like humping a load up a big peak, especially if it’s at high elevation. Those of you who’ve been there know the backs of the legs get sore and tired while the fronts of the legs tighten from all that high-stepping.

If you stop for a breather, or simply need some yoga poses to stretch out your legs, try these. (Photos were taken in Tuolumne Meadows in late summer, Joshua Tree in Winter. And, yes, I’m intentionally in the same outfit!) Hold each pose for a minimum of 30 seconds or up to a couple minutes.

PS: These are also great to do in an airport!

Virabhadrasana 1 :: Warrior 1 (Variation)

This pose stretches and opens the legs and low back. If you only have time for one, this is it. Virabhadrasana 1 will stretch the calf and the hip flexor of the back leg. At the same time, the deep lunge will help reset the femur (thigh) bone on the front leg by opening the hip and squaring the pelvis.

  • Find a rock, ledge or tree stump that’s somewhere between knee and hip high.
  • Face it and prop your left foot up on it.
  • Keep both feet pointing straight ahead, parallel to each other.
  • Lunge so your left knee is in a deep bend and your hips shift in front of your right foot.
  • Stretch your right leg really straight and press your heel down.
  • Lift your chest up and lengthen out through the crown of your head.
  • Either place your hands on your hips or reach overhead towards the sky.
  • Make sure to do both sides.



Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana :: Extended Hand to Foot Pose (Variation)

While normally done balancing and holding the extended foot in the hands, this variation is more gentle. The stretch is less intense than when holding the foot because the whole leg is lower, and it’s also easier to balance. This makes it a better yoga pose to do for recovery, which you’ll need if you’re hiking a lot of miles or running steep terrain.

  • From the previous pose, Warrior 1 (variation), straighten your front leg.
  • Position yourself so your hips are stacked close to directly above your bottom foot.
  • Keep both feet pointing straight ahead, parallel to each other, not turned out.
  • Focus on straightening your legs while lengthening your spine.
  • If you need more stretch, keep your back flat and lean over your front leg.
  • Do the other leg, too.



Trikonasana :: Triangle Pose (variation)

This is a fantastic pose to stretch the groins, inner thighs, sides of the waist and low back. It’s my second favorite and I’d pair it with Warrior 1 (variation) if you only have time for two.

  • From the above posture, turn your standing leg and foot perpendicular to the rock, ledge or tree stump you’re using.
  • Stack your hips directly above your standing leg.
  • Keep the propped foot pointing straight up towards the sky, but move your foot slightly forward of the line of your hips.
  • Initially just stretch both legs straight while lengthening your spine.
  • Then, deepen the pose by taking a side bend over the propped up leg.
  • Top arm can reach for the sky or remain on your hip.
  • Slide your bottom arm along your leg for support.
  • Do both sides.



Standing Thigh Stretch

No fancy Sanskrit name for this one. The name’s pretty self-explanatory; it’s to stretch out the fronts of your thighs and hip flexors. They engage when we lift a knee towards the front, like every time we take a step. If the step is uphill, like stairs or on a steep trail, this area gets even tighter. If you can’t reach your foot, use a strap, some webbing or a belt to lasso your foot.

  • Using your left hand on something for balance, catch your right foot or ankle with your right hand.
  • Point your knee straight down, don’t let it swing out wide to the right.
  • Move your heel as close to your outer butt as possible, and keep your ankle straight.
  • Draw your tailbone down while lifting your low belly in and up.
  • Lengthen out through the crown of your head.
  • Stretch both legs.