Monday, April 26, 2010

Yoga, Climbing, Smiling, and Asanas.

Return To The Womb, Leavenworth, Washington.

“If you smile to yourself, you really mean it”. I think I read that on a fortune cookie when I was about 12 years old. For some reason, it has stuck with me throughout all these years….

Last night, I stood in Tadasana (otherwise known as Mountain Pose) during my yoga class. I was smiling so much I burst out laughing at myself (yes, I got looks from other students). I can’t explain why the act of standing, breathing, and stretching was so exhilarating to me. It was the same feeling I have when I’m climbing – that peculiar feeling of thinking without thinking and being in the moment. To borrow from the movie Garden State: I was “in it”.

This whole situation made me think of how much I smile when I climb. I have been practicing yoga since high school, but in the last year, yoga and climbing have become more intertwined and interconnected. I’ve applied much of my yoga philosophy towards climbing. Hence, climbing has been a lot less serious for me. Don’t get me wrong, climbing has become my life; by less serious I mean I put less pressure on myself. I let my climbing goals manifest themselves naturally and don’t let them get the best of me if I don’t reach them right away. I’ve noticed I smile a great deal more when I’m climbing, too - and not just smiling when I’m topping out - I have a huge geeky grin on my face just before I pull through the crux.

Climbing and yoga are symbiotic activities. One helps the other. They are incredibly similar. More and more, I see climbing gyms are offering yoga classes. Some of the best climbers I know move with incredible yogi grace. Even pros are transferring ideas of yoga onto climbing. Steph Davis relates in her book, High Infatuation, “All winter, I thought about Free Rider, especially the moves on the Huber Pitch…The move seemed completely improbable. But I realized that the body positions for setting up to leap were similar to certain yoga poses, so I did warrior poses day after day.”

One of the best postures for climbing is Tree Pose (Vrikshasana). Physically, it encourages balance and strengthens leg and (most importantly) tiny foot muscles. It also helps correct for having one dominate leg. Mentally, it improves concentration and confidence. There are many variations to this pose. Try to hold this pose on each side for a few breathes each day. (Trust me, you have time.) And try to smile. You might even laugh.

Next time you are climbing, think about how tense you keep your face. Try to relax your face muscles. Relax your throat. Don’t furrow your eyebrows. Breathe. Breathe loudly. What is your posture like? Are you slouching your shoulders? You would be amazed at how these small tweaks can greatly improve your climbing mentality and consequently your physical ability.

And remember: when you smile to yourself, you really mean it.

--Dyan Padagas, Program Coordinator

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