Yoga for Hikers: How to Recover Quickly After an Epic Trek

Easy (but awesome) shoulder, leg, foot and ankle yoga stretches for travellers

yoga for hikers

If you’re looking for a few easy yoga poses that will help your muscles recover quickly from hiking, trekking, or just too much walking, this Yoga for Hikers guide is for you!

When our fellow hikers learn that I travel and teach yoga, they always ask what stretches to do after hiking. During our last trek, an epic (body torturing) 3-day hike up Mount Rinjani, even our guide wanted to learn how to stretch away his aches and pains!

To me, yoga and travel make perfect partners, so I decided it was high time to share my five favourite hiking yoga stretches. They’ll help your body recover after an epic trek — and are equally useful after a day out seeing the sights.

These are easy stretches for beginners but they’re also our go-to stretches almost every day. You don’t need any special equipment or any special place to do these yoga poses for hikers.

If you want to travel with a yoga mat, here’s my review of all the best lightweight travel yoga mats on the market.

Try them on the trail, outside your tent, or even in your hotel room. Once you learn the poses, you’ll soon start feeling the benefits of doing yoga while travelling.

Find out more about Adventure Yoga and how to practice with me, online or in person.

What Are the Benefits of Yoga for Hikers and Travelers?

Yoga Helps Prevent Injury

Limber muscles protect your joints as you walk, helping them to stay stable and aligned. Tight muscles can do the opposite, pulling your joints out of alignment and causing aches and pains in your ankles and knees.

By stretching out tight muscles and over-worked areas of your body at the end of your day of hiking, you will sleep better, too. This can help with faster recovery and you will start the next day with less muscle soreness.

And if you fall, you’re far less likely to “pull” a muscle or experience an injury if your muscles are flexible and loose.

You don’t have to do this kind of pose to benefit from yoga after hiking. Follow us on Instagram for more yoga and adventure pics.

Yoga Can Ease or Eliminate Minor Aches and Pains

After a long day of hiking with a backpack on, people often complain of a sore neck or a headache. When hiking, it’s easy to spend hours tensing up your shoulders to take the weight of the backpack, or staring down at the ground with your neck in an uncomfortable position without even noticing. This leads to muscle tension in your shoulders and neck which can cause headache.

These stretches will help you keep your neck and should muscles loose and prevent headaches after a day of hiking.

Yoga Helps Your Muscles Recover Faster

After we started doing yoga, Jane and I noticed that we recovered from strenuous exercise much more quickly. While at one time we might have had sore muscles for days, now our muscles usually recover overnight. This means we are ready to get up and go the next day, even after a particularly arduous hike. This is especially valuable on a multi-day hike!

So if you want to recover faster from a hike and prevent injury, try…

My Favourite Poses for Hiking or Trekking

Yoga for Hikers: Best Stretches for Shoulders

Shoulder Stretch for Hikers

What does it do?
Opens the chest and stretches the shoulders.

Why is it a good stretch for hikers?
When hiking with a backpack or hiking poles, we tend to round our upper back and roll our shoulders forward. This stretch counteracts that by stretching the chest and shoulder muscles.

How to do it.

  1. Interlace your fingers behind your back.
  2. Bend your elbows.
  3. Squeeze your elbows toward each other.
  4. Turn your upper arms out as you straighten your arms.
  5. Lift up through your hands.
  6. Move your shoulders down away from your ears.
  7. Breathe.

Tip: Do not lock your elbows, but leave a slight bend in them instead.

Shoulder & Neck Stretch for Hikers

What does it do?
Opens the shoulders and counters the strain on your neck from looking down at the ground (or at your phone).

Why is it a good stretch for hikers?
When you carry a backpack, the tendency is to hunch your shoulders forward. Even not carrying a pack, you look down at the ground a lot when hiking, looking for the next safe and stable spot to place your foot.

This shoulder stretch counteracts the effect of spending all day hunched forward.

How to do it.

  1. Interlace your fingers.
  2. Touch the back of your head with your hands.
  3. Hug your elbows in some.
  4. Pull your elbows back.
  5. Move your shoulders down.
  6. Push your head back a little.
  7. Use your hands and the muscles of your neck to lift your head slightly.
  8. Repeat steps 3–6 a few times.
  9. Breathe.

Tip: Don’t push back to hard with your head – you don’t want to strain your neck muscles.

Yoga for Hikers: Best Stretches for Legs, Toes, and Feet

Easy Hamstring Stretch for Hikers

What does it do?
Stretches the long muscles in the back of your upper legs that often become sore from walking.

Why is it a good stretch for hikers?
Walking, especially ascending and descending, can make your hamstring muscles tight and sore. Their main job is the bend your knee, so just think about how much they have to work when you walk. If they are tight, this can lead to a rounded lower back, which can lead to lower back pain and injury.

How to do it.

  1. Bend your knees until you can touch the ground with your fingertips on the ground.
  2. Stretch the top of your head forward.
  3. Move hips back and up.
  4. Move the front of your ribs towards your spine a little.
  5. Move your hips up higher.
  6. Straighten your legs more if possible.
  7. Breathe.
  8. To come out, touch your hips, point your elbows up, and stand up.

Tip: You don’t need to straighten your legs to get a good hamstring stretch. If your hamstrings are tight, straightening your legs and bouncing can lead to back injury! NEVER BOUNCE IN A FORWARD FOLD, ESPECIALLY WITH YOUR HANDS OFF THE GROUND.

Here’s a bit of related reading for you. More on the health benefits of yoga, why yoga and travel go so well together, and 25 of the world’s best yoga retreats.

Toe & Foot Stretch for Hikers

What does it do?
Stretches the bottoms of your feet, your calves (back of your lower legs) and your toes.

Why is it a good stretch for hikers?
Walking all day is a lot of work for your feet and calves. Tight muscles in this area can lead to ankle injury, knee pain, or plantar fasciitis.

How to do it.

  1. Start on your hands and knees.
  2. Tuck your toes (as you would in a push up).
  3. Lift your knees off the ground a little.
  4. Stretch your knees back toward your feet as you bring your knees down to the ground again.
  5. Sit on your heels.
  6. Stretch your knees forward.
  7. Sit up tall.
  8. Breathe.

Tip: Don’t lean forward. You’ll get more stretch if you sit up tall. It will probably cause a lot of sensation (which is yoga code for major discomfort) in your feet. Stay with it and thank me later!

Ankle & Foot Stretch for Hikers

What does it do?
Stretches the fronts of your ankles and shins.

Why is it a good stretch for hikers?
Walking all day, your ankles get used a LOT. This foot stretch will help prevent pain and soreness in the muscles around your shins and help maintain mobility in your ankles, so you can hike again tomorrow.

How to do it.

  1. Start on your hands and knees.
  2. Place your feet flat on the ground.
  3. Sit on your feet pointing your toes straight back.
  4. Sit on your heels.
  5. Push the tops of your toes down.
  6. Breathe.

Tip: If sitting with your feet flat is too painful, put a rolled up towel or t-shirt under the front of your ankles.

We do these stretches almost every single day while we’re travelling — when it comes to yoga for travel, I think they’re a great place to start.

So, if you’re interested in incorporating a set of daily stretches for beginners into your travel routine, start with these. After you learn them, you’ll almost surely want to know more!

To practice online with me, join my weekly Facebook Live classes or check out my awesome series of classes on Yogaia. Better still, join me in person for my sweaty, challenging Adventure Yoga Workshops!

  Happy adventures, Stephen & Jane

Yogis, do you have any other stretches you swear by after a little too much walking or hiking? Share them in the comments below and we might just add them to our next yoga travel blog post!

Simple yoga poses that are perfect for recovering from an epic trek or just a long day walking around museums and art galleries. Click to try the stretches. #yoga #hiking #trekking

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