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Hiking in the mountains in my happy place. Like, it’s in my top 5 all-time favorite activities-can’t go a week without it-my kids can’t be in the family if they don’t like mountains-all time happy place. I love climbing through mountains, over rocks and trees, getting dirty and smelling a healthy forest. But now that I’m in my 40s, I also kind of get sore at the end of a day of hiking. And as always, the answer to the problem is yoga. So I compiled these yoga poses for hikers & backpackers to play with at the end of a day to help decrease the muscle soreness associated with hiking.
Another important aspect of hiking muscle soreness is proper nutrition and hydration. So make sure you’re snacking frequently throughout the day. My current favorite snack is Ayurvedic Granola because it’s easy to make and even the kids love it.
And be sure to bring plenty of water and fluids. And though this may be an unpopular opinion, I swear by Gatorade. Just slip one of these packets into your water bottle a day to help fend off muscle cramping. I know, I know…it’s not organic and it has added coloring and all that…but it helps. And it helps a lot. In 2004, when I thru-hiked half the Appalachian Trail, I was so sore that I could barely walk at the end of a day. I started using Gatorade in my water bottle… and voila…no more calf cramping. So just try a little a day if you’re having cramping pain too.
Yoga Poses for Hikers & Backpackers
Print this handout for a handy reminder of these effective yoga poses to address common hiking soreness. Just put it into your hiking journal, to pull out during a break or at the end of the day around the fire. Not only will these poses help to decrease any uncomfortableness, but will help you feel more connected with the surrounding nature.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Opens and shoulders and decreases upper and lower back pain
Begin in standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Place your hands on your lower back, with elbows pointing backward and fingertips pointing up. Squeeze your glutes slightly and begin to reach your hips forward, then your belly, and lift your heart up. Arch your back and keep your head in line with your spine. Gaze high. If your low back feels stable and strong, release your hands reaching them out and back to open your heart even more and extend through your spine a little bit further. Hold this opening for 7 breaths. Hopefully, you have the warmth of the sun on your face.
Opens the anterior hip, improves balance and foot strength, opens the ribcage.
Begin in standing. Root down through your right foot, and enjoy the connection with the earth. Bend your L knee and clasp the inside of your L ankle with your L hand. Reach your R hand forward for balance. Gently pull your L foot towards your glutes and push your hips forward and notice the stretch in your L thigh. Stay here if you like, or kick your L foot into your L hand and tilt your torso forward reaching your R hand forward as well. L foot reaches high as your heart opens. Keep your head in-line with your spine. Hold for 7 breaths and release to repeat on the other side.
This pose opens and strengthens the inner thighs and shoulders
Step your feet pretty wide and externally rotate your feet, hands reach up and away from the body in a V position. Inhale, and exhale as you bend both knees into a deep plie squat. Thighs should be almost parallel to the earth. Bend your elbows, reaching them away from the midline of your body, hands face forward. Pull your lower belly in and retract the chin slightly as you deepen the squat, settling into this pose. Hold for 7 breaths.
Tree pose helps to ground us while strengthening the feet and lower body.
Arrive in a standing position, and pour your weight into your R foot. Bring the bottom of your L foot to either the inside of your R ankle, calf or inner thigh. Squeeze the foot and leg together to create more core engagement. Begin with your hands in prayer at heart center, and if you feel ready, reach your hands high above your head, keeping shoulders away from your ears. Enjoy the lengthening as you continue to root the foot down and reach the hands high. Hold for 7 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Opens the inner thighs and ankles
Stand with both feet a little more than hip-distance apart, feet externally rotated a bit. Inhale, and as you exhale, bend your knees, reach hips backward and lower your hips as low as you can to the ground. Bring your hands in prayer at heart center, elbows on the inside of your knees. Press hands together and lower them as your elbows push into the inside of your knees, increasing the stretch of your inner thighs. Elongate your spine, reaching the top of your head towards the sky, and retract your chin just a little bit.
Opens the inner thighs, anterior thigh, and calves while opening the front of the chest.
Find a tall tree stump for a fallen log. Take L foot on-top of this tree and reach your R foot back far, staying on the ball of that foot, and gently pressing the back heel down, though it won’t reach the earth. Your hips face toward your front knee. Reach your hands high to the sky, opening your heart forward, the gaze is high with a strong neck. Inhale. Exhale as you drop your hips forward opening your inner thigh. Hold for 7 breaths. With each exhale, release your hips a little more and enjoy this inner thigh stretch.
Parivrtta Ashta Chandrasana
Twisted Crescent Lunge
Opens the inner thighs, anterior thigh, and calves. Opens the front of the chest while improving spinal mobility with rotation
With your leg still up on the tree stump or log, bend your front knee and arrive back in the above crescent lunge. Twist toward your front knee, placing your opposite hand on the outside of that knee, which you can pull to deepen your stretch. Reach your back arm out behind you and gaze toward that hand. Inhale, and as you exhale drop your hips forward, and pull into a deeper twist. Keep your head in line with your spine. Hold for 7 breaths and repeat on the other side.
Ok…I know what you’re thinking. Why would I want to touch those dirty feet after a day of hiking? Well, those feet have done a lot today and you’re going to feel a lot better tomorrow if you give them a rub down. So whether you’re sitting in your tent or around the fire. Place one of your feet up on your thigh (this is a good stretch too), and give those feet some love. Kneed the bottoms of your padas with your thumbs, make circles with your toes, lace your fingers between your toes and bend them forward and back. You can massage the outer edges, tops of your feet and the back of your heel at the Achilles tendon too. If you find any areas of tension, make sure to give them some extra attention. Your calves are probably a little sore too, so take some time to work them out as well. Do this for as long as you like, making sure to massage the whole foot over. Then make sure to wash your hands! 🙂
Hiking is by far one of the most satisfying activities. It allows us the change to truly connect with nature, which is one of the most grounding activities we can do to enhance our wellbeing. Forrest bathing is a fun vogue term that just means connecting with nature in a forest by being mindful and taking in the forest with our senses. And in this day of multi-media bombardment, this is an important activity to stay in touch with our natural world.
After a stint through the forest, our energetic bodies may be rejuvenated, but our physical bodies may be a little sore. Sign up below for our free printable, and tuck it into your bag or journal to pull out at the end of the day, or even during a hiking break to rejuvenate your physical body and feel all-around more whole.