Yoga Brings Zen to Climbing

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In Climbing Feb 2012 you’ll find 6 essential yoga moves for climbers; mountain pose, the eagle, warrior 1, downward dog, seated twist and bridge. Why are these moves essential, why is yoga essential to climbers??

Yoga both balances out climbing – by preventing shoulders pulling forward, and the shortening of developed arm/back/hip muscles – and enhances it, by developing the mobility to do a large range of movements like twists, high-stepping and balancing on small holds. While climbing develops muscles it can also shorten them and cause strains around shoulder and neck. With a yoga session for each climbing session, you’ll give mobility to your strength, and harmony to your body!

So there’s no doubt yoga has a lot of physical benefits for climbers, but what about the mental game?

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For me, what draws me to climbing is the focus it forces me to have. When I climb I’m nowhere but there. In the moment. In my movements. It is zen in chi. I need to be present to manage the obstacles, and by that I become present. Off course, fear of falling or not managing are thoughts about possible consequences in the future that can undermine moment-to-moment awareness, so I need to keep my focus on the task at hand. Mindful exercise helps me do that.

Yoga is the ultimate mindful exercise – it is both a mindful activity itself and enhances mindfulness in other activities. In yoga asana practice you’re not forced to be present, it’s not the same risk sitting on your mat as hanging on to a vertical wall. That’s why the mind easily wanders to other places, but when you do manage to be present in yoga you’ve developed an extremely powerful ability. Bring that skill into extreme sports, like climbing, and you will be able to let go of fear and and stay fully in the moment.

The world’s greatest climber Chris Sharma both demonstrates and talks about how climbing is best done in “zen mode” – concerning both mastery of the routes and how good the experience will be;

“I don’t think I’ve been able to be focus the way that I’ve been when I’m climbing. It totally channels my energy in such a way that I completely lose myself. And that is such a good feeling.”

This presence is mindfulness. It is zen. And when it comes to activities, it is zen in chi.

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