Beginner’s guide to yoga for sport and travel
Namaste, ladies! Whether or not you want to go deep into the mental benefits of yoga, its physical ones are not to be denied. Yoga means unity, and helps the practiser to become aware of their body, of its ability and of any aches and pains, and to work towards strength and mental relaxation. A yoga session just once a week will make you feel calmer, happier and far more flexible. And if you’re mad keen on a particular sport, try adding yoga to your training routine – I guarantee you’ll see an improvement to your performance. If you’re a surfer or a climber, yoga will really help your core, and I find its focus on breathing really beneficial for running and cycling.
There are a ton of amazing and free yoga tutorials on the internet, but if you’ve never tried this ancient form of exercise before it’s definitely best to get yourself to a class to learn the poses from a pro and get help perfecting them. You’ll see the names of different kinds of yoga (hatha, flow, ashtanga, etc) bandied around – I suggest starting with a beginner’s hatha class. All you need is a yoga mat – a mega cheap, one-time investment for a habit that’ll keep you flexible and strong for life.
If you know your way around a yoga mat and want to fit it in when you’re travelling, try a quick yoga video – my favourite is the free, friendly and often hilarious Yoga With Adriene series. And I think yoga for sport and travel is best practiced outdoors. Try rolling out your mat in a sunny garden to get some vitamin D, or to really dial up your workout and work your core, try paddleboard yoga (yep, yoga on a paddleboard on the water). Or make your next adventure focused on yoga – my eight best yoga retreats in the world will sort out your chakra in incredible wild places and send you home a little more flexible and a lot more zen.
Yoga for sportswomen
Yoga for cyclists: Bike fanatic? Yoga will stretch out tight leg muscles, help you get supple and improve your breathing for those punishing mountain climbs. Bicycling has a great yoga for cyclists workout that you can do anywhere post-ride, catered to the muscles we use when cycling.
Top move: a low lunge twist stretches tight leg and back muscles at once.
Yoga for climbers: Getting bendy is massively beneficial for climbers, and you’re guaranteed to see improved balance and flexibility on the wall after a few weeks of yoga practise. Yoga helps your muscles relax, stretches out your shoulders and neck and improves your core strength. It also helps you to mentally find a calm, zen place that’ll help you get through tricky problems. Climbing have six great yoga poses specifically designed for climbers.
Top move: a seated twist is great for stretching your back out after a climbing session.
Yoga for surfers: Yoga and surfing go together perfectly – after all, both are about good stamina and breathing. You’ll often find yoga and surf retreats where you can practise both around the world. Try Magic Seaweed’s five yoga poses every surfer should know. I also like practising my pop-up at the end of a yoga session.
Top move: lizard is a great hip opener that I find helps with my flexibility when trying to pop-up.
Yoga for hikers: Even just a few minutes of yoga is one of the best ways to recover from a long day of trekking, loosening stiff muscles and freeing up a tight back that might be feeling a day of carrying a heavy rucksack and stiff hips and legs. It’ll help you recover faster on multi-day hikes, too. Bearfoot Yoga’s yoga poses for hiking and backpacking are all about release.
Top move: pigeon post releases tightness in the hips after long days on the trail.
Yoga for skiers: Skiers need stamina and strength, and yoga is an amazing way to build both. It’ll work your core and your flexibility and it’s great for creating good balance, especially if you’re a beginner skier. And if you only get into the mountains once a year, regular yoga will keep you fit and flexible, ready for next season. Try Active Azur’s eight yoga postures for skiers before you apres ski.
Top move: A deep squat stretches and strengthens the leg muscles you need for long days on snow.
The best yoga kit to take on your travels
Travelling light? Don’t forget to pack versatile yoga gear. I love BAM‘s soft organic bamboo staples, as they’re perfect both for practising yoga and for wearing when travelling, and bamboo and is also naturally antibacterial. Their high-waisted yoga pants (£44) are insanely comfortable and brilliant as part of a capsule wardrobe for travelling, and their gorgeous bamboo crop tops (£22.80) are ideal for working out (both pictured). I also like Ruby Moon‘s ethically-produced, quick-drying gym-to-swim workout gear, which works just as well for yoga sessions as it does for surfing and swimming – another great way to travel light. I always pack my folding Gaiam yoga mat (£24.90) – it fits in my carry-on bag and means I can fit in a yoga session (or just a good stretch) anywhere I go in the world.
Warm up anywhere with a sun salutation
If you learn one yoga routine by heart, make it the basic yogi sun salutation (Surya Namaskar), a great warm-up for all sports and a good way to stretch out after a run.
1. Stand at the edge of your mat with your feet together. As you breathe in, lift your arms up from your sides. As you breathe out, bring them to your chest and press your palms together as if in prayer.
2. Breathe in and lift your still-touching hands up and over your head, stretching your back.
3. Breathe out and fold your upper body forward over your legs, bringing your hands down to the floor next to your feet. You can bend your knees a bit if you can’t reach.
4. Breathe in and send your right leg back behind you as far as possible, toes on the ground. Rest your right knee on the floor. Look up.
5. Send your left leg back too – you’ll end up in a plank position.
6. Breathe out and lower your body to the floor, keeping a bend in your back so that your knees and chest and chin touch the floor first.
7. As you breathe in, slide forward and raise your upper body up with your palms, keeping your shoulders down, and look up.
8. Breathe out and send your body up into an inverted V shape (yoga’s famous Downward Dog). Keep your legs straight – you can pedal your feet a bit to loosen your legs – and make sure your tailbone is reaching up and your hips are reaching back.
9. Breathe in and bring the right foot forward between your hands, as in 4.
10. Breathe out and bring the left foot forward and stretch down, as in 3.
11. Breathe in and roll your body up, bit by bit, and bring arms up and over the head to stretch back with hands pointing to the ceiling, as in 2.
12. Breathe out and bring your body back to standing with arms by your sides, and relax. Repeat as many times as your chakra desires.