Yoga for Hikers & Backpackers

March 20, 2019

A day of hiking can leave you with tight quadriceps, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors. Below are some of my favorite yoga postures to help unwind and stretch muscles used when hiking & backpacking.  These are postures I use when I’m out on trips; I might do some during the day while I’m hiking, but definately when I get to camp that evening.

These yoga poses help counter the slumping or rounding of the spine from heavy backpacks while also stretching out major muscle groups throughout the legs and hips when traveling on the trail.



Forward Fold

  • Stand with feet slightly less than hip width apart.
  • Exhale & fold forward; slightly bend the knees as needed. Relax the entire spine, including the neck. Hold opposite elbows, grab behind the calves or place hands under feet.
  • Hold for 5-20 deep breaths. Slowly come up.

Dancer Prep

  • Bend knee and place hold inside of foot.
  • Hold here for 5-10 breaths, using one or both hands to press heel towards outer buttocks, stretching the quadriceps



  • From previous position, press foot into hand as you lean forward, reaching opposite hand in front of you.
  • Hold 5-10 breaths. Slowly come up. Repeat other side.



Downward Dog

  • Press hands into ground, slightly wider than shoulder width apart
  • Externally rotate the shoulders as you walk the feet back 4-5 ft, making an upside down “V” with your body
  • Bend knees as needed & send the hips high
  • Keep abdominals and legs engaged
  • Send heels down towards earth; it can feel nice to do this one at a time “walking the dog”
  • Hold 5-10 breaths



One Legged Downward Dog

  • From downward dog, lift one leg up towards sky & keep engaged, while trying to extend the opposite heal towards ground
  • Stay here, or “stack the hips,” rotating your engaged standing leg towards the opposite side while keeping equal weight on both shoulders/arms
  • Hold 5 to 10 breaths, release leg and switch sides. Rest in child’s pose as needed



Crescent Lunge

  • Place one foot on the ground & bend the knee so it’s over the ankle
  • Extend opposite leg back & release knee to ground
  • Lift arms up towards sky for a deeper stretch or draw down towards earth



Half Splits

  • From crescent lunge make sure your back knee is on the ground.
  • Place hands on ground
  • Straiten front legs, sending hips backward, drawing them slightly behind the knee
  • Try to keep hips level & aligned with each other
  • Keep extended foot engaged/flexed for a deeper hamstring stretch
  • Hold 5-10 breaths, release leg & switch sides.



Wide Legged Forward Fold

  • Stand with legs about 4 feet apart
  • Make sure your feet face forward, or rotate inwards slightly
  • Engage outside of feet & arches as you fold forward placing hands on ground or reaching for feet; try to keep even weight on the balls & heels of your feet
  • Keep legs engaged & spine relaxed, including the neck
  • Hold for 5-20 breaths
  • Bring hands to hips, slowly rise & release



Standing Pigeon

  • Bend knee, externally rotate hip, and place ankle on top of your other quadricep, just above knee
  • Keep foot engaged/flexed & keep knee from drawing up towards center
  • Bend standing leg and sit hips back to deepen stretch
  • You can place a hand on the bent knee to traction femur away from hip joint, keep hands at heart or try to fold forward & place them on ground



Seated Pigeon

  • Beginning in crescent lunge, externally rotate the hip
  • Place shin on the ground (the tighter your hips are, the closer you may want your heel to your groin)
  • If hips feel uncomfortable, or are a few inches away from the ground support the bent leg with a rolled up sleeping pad or other makeshift prop
  • Fold forward and rest with elbows on ground to go deeper into the stretch
  • Hold 5-20 breaths and repeat other side



Reclining Pigeon

  • Lay on the ground or sleeping pad
  • Bend both knees
  • Set ankle on opposite quadricep, just above the knee
  • Interlace fingers around hamstring or shin of other leg
  • Exhale & hug leg towards chest, lifting foot off ground
  • Hold 5-20 breaths and repeat other side



Toe Stretch

  • Remove any shoes
  • From a table top or hands and knees position, place toes on ground and flex the feet
  • Walk hands back, possibly aligning shoulders over hips
  • Keep heels from falling outwards, try to keep them under butt
  • Hold 5-20 breaths



Camel Pose

  • Sitting on bent knees, hold your hips like handle bars; thumbs behind you, keep glutes slightly engaged
  • Draw elbows towards each other while lifting the chest & drawing shoulder blades down the spine; drop the head back if comfortable
  • First work on creating space and length in the spine while breathing, then reach hands towards heels to deepen the posture if comfortable
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths



Seated Wide Legged Fold

  • Sitting down, extend both legs out to side as far as feels comfortable
  • Keep feet engaged, toes pointed towards sky
  • Inhale to sit tall, exhale to reach forward while supporting your upper body with your hands, keeping spine straight
  • Hold for 10-20 breaths
  • Rotate torso and face one leg, keeping shoulders level
  • Exhale and fold forward
  • Hold for 10-20 breaths