Nearly every summer my partner and I venture off into the woods for a backpacking trip. It’s a great way to experience the quiet and beauty of the outdoors. We appreciate the feeling of aliveness that we experience from full days of movement. The break from city lights and flurry quiets our nervous systems. And at the end of each day, we are usually sore. Watch a TEDx talk that will inspire you to hike (An 8 and 9-year-old hike the whole Appalachian Trail!!!)
But, carrying packs of gear over mountains is hard work! It can leave our shoulders, head, and neck feeling achy.
So what to do?
Trail yoga! Self-massage!
Yoga and Massage for Hiking: Trail Yoga
One of the great benefits of the traditional method of learning Ashtanga yoga (the Mysore method) is that you will memorize a sequence of poses that is right for you. You’ll also learn how to modify your sequence or shorten it to fit what’s going on in your life. When I’m on the trail, my yoga practice comes with me. All I really need is a mostly flat, dry spot. I don’t try to do the whole yoga sequence I would do if I were practicing at home. If I just walked 15 miles with a backpack, I’m tired! But, I know I’ll also feel less sore and sleep better in the tent if I work a small yoga practice into the end of the day.
If you’re struggling to find a mostly flat spot to do some yoga practice on your hike or backpacking trip, try using a spot on the trail itself. If you’re on particularly rugged terrain, this might actually be the flattest spot around. You may need to be prepared to move off the trail for a moment if other hikers come along, but if it’s the end of the day, chances are the traffic on the trail is slowing down.
If you’re thinking some yoga could help relieve some of the day’s hiking aches and pains, but you’re wondering how to come up with the energy at the end of a full day of walking, then consider starting small. Try breathing through three to five postures that feel most relevant to you. Then see how you feel. Stop there if it feels like that’s manageable or add a couple more if you find that you have the energy.
If you’re wondering what yoga postures/sequence would be most supportive on your hike, come take some classes with us, and let us help you develop your own individualized yoga practice.
Yoga and Massage for Hiking: Self-Massage
Another aspect of my self-care on the hiking trail is self-massage. This doesn’t need to be complicated or particularly technical. At the end of a long day of hiking, it’s sometimes hard to get the muscles I’ve been using to relax. A few minutes of gently kneading my calves or shoulders can do a lot to help my muscles relax and recover from the day’s activity.
When I return from a backpacking trip, I make an appointment with the structural integration therapist that I see. I find this style of bodywork to be key for supporting my movement activities. If anything has been pulled or torqued in a way that is not ideal for my body, the therapist can use the massage work to support the process of realignment in my body.
What about you? Are you hiking or backpacking this summer? What kind of self-care do you use on the trail?
Drop a comment below and tell us about what works for you!