Climbing and Yoga: a winning combo for climbers of all levels

This is nothing new; the tie between yoga and climbing has become increasingly widespread for a number of years. Yoga is practised to improve flexibility but also as an exercise to become aware of one’s own body and to seek control of the mind with deep breathing practices.

Yoga can be practised at home or at the gym, or even better in privileged natural settings such as the crag.

But to find out how to integrate yoga into your training, we interviewed Miryam Magnoni, a climber, yoga teacher and much more…

What are the benefits of combining yoga with climbing?

Yoga and climbing have a lot in common.
Yoga unites body, mind and spirit through a deep connection with nature.
Climbing, in turn, combines your physical abilities with the control of your mind in order to achieve your goals. But not only that, we must also recognize that people often climb for the sheer pleasure of doing so, feeling in harmony with the nature that surrounds us.

Yoga is perfect for us climbers because:

  • IT INVITES ATTENTION TO BREATHING: breath management in climbing is essential to manage a climbing route, to solve a boulder problem or to increase our endurance and prevent our muscles from contracting more than they should, causing us to cave in ourselves and perhaps fall sooner than expected.
  • IT IMPROVES FLEXIBILITY AND MOBILITY: being mobile and flexible gives us a great variety of movements, for example loading a high foot, using a heel hook more intensely, bringing the body closer to the wall thanks to a good opening of our hips.
  • IT PREVENTS INJURIES: by providing us with greater awareness of our bodies we learn to perceive the signals it sends us.
    We learn to manage certain post-climbing pains better, if we overlook them, the can bring about discomfort and trouble over time.
    Furthermore, a flexible, mobile and toned body is more resistant to injury.
  • IT CALMS THE MIND AND IMPROVES INNER DIALOGUE: through breath management and physical practice, our mind is naturally calmer.
    Yoga teaches us to listen to ourselves and let our thoughts be just that, without them turning into limiting beliefs that inhibit our performance.

There are different types of yoga. Which one do you recommend as an introductory activity to climbing?

There are so many different styles of yoga and my invitation is always to practice and experiment to find what works best for you.
Personally my Yoga 4 Climbers classes are a mix of different styles from Vinyasa Yoga, which is considered a Dynamic Yoga, to Hatha Flow, where the positions are held for multiple breaths.
There is no lack of contamination, including Qi Gong and Animal Flow, the latter of which I use in particular to work on joint mobility and stability.
The preparatory yoga for climbing that I personally recommend and propose includes three different (but deeply connected) works on strength, balance and flexibility.
There are also breathing techniques (Pranayama) and short meditations.

What is the difference between doing yoga and stretching?

Stretching is a muscular extension that aims at preventing injuries and has been proven to be effective… However, Yoga cannot be reduced to a single workout of this type.

In addition to the physical work that goes beyond muscular stretching to building strength, stability and joint mobility, yoga involves connecting body and mind and working on body awareness.

Yoga is a journey of deep self-knowledge through body, mind and spirit.

How many times a week do you recommend practising?

I personally believe that there is no perfect recipe that can be applied to all of us.
Nothing that becomes an obligation, a duty or a habit is truly functional in life.

I prefer people to approach yoga as a choice. Rolling out the mat should be something you enjoy doing.
My classes, for example, take place twice a week, but there are those who like to practice every day and those who like to practice only once a week.
Like everything else, of course, the more you practice, the more you learn, the more you improve, the better you feel and the more you feel the benefits both in your daily life and as a climber.

This will be interesting for many people: can yoga help manage the fear one feels when climbing?

Yes! Many of the fears that come with climbing are linked in particular to the incessant activity of our ego: while climbing, it is distracted by the thought that the hold we are about to grab will give way, that our feet will slip and a whole series of limiting beliefs. The ego then puts them all together and it repeats them tirelessly like a mantra, that will eventually hinder our climbing at all levels.

Yoga, through the practice of Pranayama (breathing techniques) calms your mind by connecting breath to movement.

When we are totally focused on what we are doing and are connected to the here and now, we can achieve what is called the state of Flow.
The body is magically in deep connection with breathing, the mind remains calm and alert and without even realizing it, time expands and we find ourselves at the top of our line.

Obviously, only patience, perseverance and training of the mind through breathing, meditation and the asanas of yoga itself can lead to certain results.

How important is breathing in climbing? Can yoga help to avoid apnoea?

As I mentioned earlier, breathing is the key.
Learning to breathe increases our lung capacity, allows us to climb managing stress, fatigue, maximizing rests and getting in deep connection with what we are doing.
The mind is calm, alert, focused. Internal dialogue calms down and it becomes positive and motivating. The muscles are properly oxygenated and endurance increases.

In climbing, breathing must be as fluid as possible in connection with movements.

However, it is not uncommon to go into apnoea. That is why some Pranayama techniques teach us to make breathing fluid and others teach us to practise apnoea both with empty and full lungs.
These latest techniques, including VILOMA PRANAYAMA, can be used as awareness training for fractional breathing and the apneic episode.

Should Yoga be practiced before or after climbing? Or should it entail a specific session activity?

I would definitely say Yoga while climbing and Yoga at all times of life! 🙂

When approached in a holistic way, Yoga allows a profound change in everything we do in our daily lives.
In addition to the physical, respiratory and mental practices we have talked about, Yoga includes some teachings that we can carry into climbing and into life.
In Yoga we learn Aparigraha, non-attachment, Ahimsa, love for ourselves, for the others and our surroundings.

Yoga makes us discover TAPAS, discipline, SATYA and ASTEYA, sincerity and honesty and much more.
Having said that, my advice is to dedicate specific sessions if you can, in order to work deeply and grasp all the aspects of Yoga.

If you then have the opportunity, and again the willingness and pleasure, to include a short yoga sequence before and after climbings, the benefits are assured….

Gyms are closed at the moment: can beginners also start practising at home? What videos do you recommend?

In my Online Yoga platform, there is a specific course of basic Yoga for those who are just starting to practice.
I started many years ago with the very first Youtube videos of some channels that have now become some of the most famous and followed in the world, so there is nothing wrong with starting Yoga at home.
I remember using the mirror often to check that the alignments were correct; at other times I would record videos of my practice to watch at a later stage.
Although my work is both face-to-face and online, I choose to encourage face-to-face practice whenever possible.
Within a yoga space, a beautiful energy is created that can sometimes be truly captivating and make the difference between an in-person and an online practice. Choosing the right instructor can make a world of difference.
In addition, if the teacher leads the sequence in presence, this will help us become aware of how we move within space and to find the right alignments for our body.

On my Youtube channel you can find some sequences with different focuses of varying lengths, from quick to full-length practices and some videos for those who are just starting with Yoga.

We wish to thank Miryam for sharing her experience and for the useful, relevant advice she has given us in this interview. And if you too have been fascinated by her words, I would say that we just have to try.
Let’s try to set aside some time for ourselves in this very particular period and positively enter this new world of breathing, meditation, movement and awareness of our bodies.

And if you need clothing to wear during your yoga sessions, dear climbers, take a look at our colourful leggings – comfortable and ultra-soft for super freedom of movement – or get inspired by our yoga art.

Monvic & Yoga