It's getting late in the summer here in Colorado, and our nights are getting chilly. But that means that our hiking season is just getting even juicier. While long, gloriously warm summer days make for lovely strolls by the river, our aspen trees are just about to turn golden – and the mountains are about to become even more beautiful. It’s prime time for hiking, backpacking, and long walks in the woods!
I returned from a backpacking trip just this morning. Even though it was below fifty degrees and rained the entire trip, I left the trail happy and relaxed…and sore.
Hiking is hard work, and after taking off our boots, most of us don’t stretch nearly as much as we should. I know I don’t! My post-backpacking to-do list goes something like this:
- Throw pack on the ground
- Peel off hiking boots, sigh in relief
- Immediately drive to pizza place
- Devour entire personal pizza and half a bottle of wine
- Scrub entire body in shower, twice
- Watch five episodes of Gilmore Girls
But after a hike, when our muscles have been working hard and we’re ready to relax, is a perfect time for a few poses to lengthen our muscles, release some tension in the spine, and work out the lactic acid that will make us seriously sore the next day. With happy hamstrings (and shoulders, and hips, and knees) in mind, here are five juicy, delicious yoga poses to try after your next hike.
Supta Baddha Konasana
This sweet pose will help to re-align your spine after being hunched under the weight of a heavy pack. It’s also one of the gentlest hip openers out there. To ease a little tension in the neck, too, bring your hands behind your head so that you’re in a double diamond shape.
Deep runner’s lunge
From Downward Facing Dog, step the right foot far forward into a lunge. Lower your back knee to the ground and streeeeetch into your right hip flexors and quadriceps. (Don’t worry about letting your knee fall over your ankle in this pose – you’re protecting the tendons by placing your back knee on the ground. Stretch away!)
Wide-legged standing fold, hands clasped
If you carry water, snacks, and first aid supplies on the trail, your shoulders do some heavy lifting. With your feet wide apart, clasp your hands behind your back and bend deeply at the waist. Allow your hands to fall forward towards the ground. Not only will this delicious pose stretch your hammies, glutes, and calves, but you’ll pull your shoulders in the opposite direction of the classic “backpack hunch” – great for maintaining good posture post-hike.
Wheel or Locust
Either of these poses will continue to reverse the slump we tend to create in our back and shoulders as we hike. Locust (with an option of grabbing your ankles to create a deeper arch in the back) will do an especially nice job of helping to open your mid-back, while Wheel can help you send some love to the muscles around your shoulders and uppermost back.
Figure four up the wall
It’s critical to be kind to your hip openers after a long hike. After all, if you’ve asked them to do only one thing for twenty miles – move your legs forward and back – they’re going to get used to it!
To reopen your hips, don’t force yourself into an intense posture like Half-Pigeon. Instead, try this soft version: scoot your right hip up against a wall (or a car tire, if you're really out in the wilderness!), then roll onto your back so that your legs are straight up against the wall. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, and thread your hands through the gap between your legs. Slowly drag your left foot down the wall to feel a surprisingly intense (but perfectly aligned) stretch in your hips.
Happy hiking, happy stretching, and happiness all around.
Anna Squires studies political science, journalism, and creative writing at Colorado College. There is nothing she enjoys more in a yoga class than laughing so hard she falls out of a pose, especially since then she doesn’t have to hold it anymore. She hails from Atlanta, GA.