Shake Up Your Asana…

What I really mean is your butt. Asana is the Sanskrit term for yoga poses. And our butt is the largest muscle group in our bodies.

Anyways, I’ve been hearing a lot lately about weak glutes (our butt muscles) and their contribution to low back, hip, and knee pain. My niece is a talented gymnast and she apparently hurt her back because of weak glutes but her core is super strong. She’s a beast on the floor so who would have ever thought she’d have this situation. I have a periformus muscle that loves to flair it’s anger at me all to often; even when I’m a few miles into my hike. Lots of people suffer from sciatica and IT band syndrome. It’s frustrating for all of us.

When you hear about weak glutes, our natural response is that you’ll just do more butt exercises to strengthen that whole area. So you’ll Google phrases like “the best butt exercises” and discover a list backed by medical research and of course some program that you have to purchase to discover the secret magical formula. Nothing wrong with purchasing a program, but sometimes that just isn’t in your budget or you don’t get a whole lot out of it because it really isn’t explained well. I’ve certainly have discovered the latter!

Butt Exercises (with or without resistance)

Squats (split, single leg, plies, jump, wall squats, chair pose) – but only at the bottom of the squat…so go deep.

Deadlifts (Forward Fold Pose)

Lunges (forward, back, lateral, curtesy)

Hip Adduction (Standing and Seated)

Hip Abduction (Standing and Seated)

Hip Thrusts AKA Bridge Lifts

Single Leg Standing Balance (Yoga)

Backbends (Yoga)

Donkey Kicks

Clam Raises

Fire Hydrants

Monster Walks

Side Steps

Hip Circles

In my opinion, it helps to start with a list of exercises thus the list. As you get familiar with the list, keep in mind that your glute muscles help to perform a variety of movements such as hip extension, hyperextension, abduction, external rotation, and posterior pelvic tilt. Glutes also help stabilize our lower back, hips, SI joint, and knees. Because of all of these different joint actions and functions, this is why you want to perhaps explore several of the above exercises. Think of all the different ways you can move as you choose your routine and don’t always do the same old thing.

The majority of us do have under active glutes (weak glutes) or “sleeping glutes.” We can blame our sedentary modern lifestyle that encourages way to much sitting (at your desk with your job, sitting in your car driving everywhere, on the couch as you binge watch TV…) which causes our muscles to be overstretched and underused. While you now have your exercise list, it isn’t as simple as including a few in your daily routine. Chances are you aren’t experiencing what is known as “glute activation” while you pursue those countless squats because of our modern lifestyle (see above) or you aren’t doing them exactly right. So yes, you are using your glutes, but not to their full potential. Instead, our bodies compensate so you discover your legs are changing instead of your butt. And it’s frustrating if your goal is to work your butt. For instance, one interesting tip I’ve learned is that hamstrings work more than glutes when you do hip extension based moves, but if the knee is bent, then glutes work more. Food for thought…

What exactly is glute activation? It is a collection of more isolated movements that are targeted at the glutes. The reps are higher and there may be low to no resistance so you can focus on that glute contraction. (It can be a play on tempo, depth, leg positions, knees bent or not…). Here’s the yogic influence: being mindful or present as you pursue the exercise and discover your own mind-body connection. By doing this, you discover sensation of feeling the right muscle, your glutes working. To do this, I find it helps if you know where the muscles are and their function.

Three Main Muscles and Smaller Muscles Known as the Deep Six:

Gluteus Maximus – largest muscle in the body. Role: thigh extension

Gluteus Medius – Role: Thigh abduction and rotation. Externally rotates leg when it’s extended behind you. Internally rotate your hip leg is flexed in front of you.

Gluteus Minimus – Role: abduct, flex, and internally rotate the hip

Deep Six lie under the “glutes.”

Obturator internus

Quadratus Femoris 

Gemellus inferior 

Obturator externus 

Gemellus superior

Piriformis

The benefit of stronger glutes are less pain, running, hiking, cycling faster and farther, being able to lift heavier, and of course loving how your back side feels and looks.

In addition to the above list, here are some moves I’m using in my yoga and barre classes:

~ Warrior 3 Squats – Settle into Warrior 3 then with Standing leg purse tiny controlled squats.

~ Falling Tree – Warrior 3 into Standing Splits Flow

~ Backbends with a block between knees (Standing, Camel, Locust…)

~ Bridge Flow then keep hips lifted and add bent leg lifts or straight legs

~ Bridge Butterflies – use a band around thighs, feet together and hips lifted flutter knees in and out

~ Bridge Sway

~ Chair Flow and isometric hold (I try to get them to think of sitting in a kindergarten chair)

~ Squatting Tendu

In my classes, I’ve added small hand weights, squishy balls, bands, and gliding disks for added resistance. On my own, I also use these tools plus heavier weights and machines.

However; while it’s important to strengthen, its also important to stretch, and do some fascia work too. (Explore holding poses like Pigeon, yin yoga classes, and foam rolling).

If you’re a group fitness, yoga, barre, or Pilates instructor think about adding some “glute activation” and love to all the butt muscles into your classes to wake up those sleeping glutes. Variety is key! If you aren’t an instructor, the same advice applies to your fitness regime. Maybe talk to your favorite personal trainer and see if they look at your form and tweak it as you pursue some moves. Additionally, you might consider purchasing a Fitbit or Garmin device that encourages you to get up off your seat.

I find this to be a fascinating subject that I certainly don’t know enough about. Who else is researching ways to wake up our glutes for yourself and your clients? The more we know and apply, the better off we all are.

Namaste,

Kristen

Posted in Back Pain, Exercise, Learning, listening to your body, mind-body connection, Uncategorized, Waking up Sleeping Glutes, Weak glutes, Yoga for Specific Areas of the Body, yoga lesson plan ideas | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thru Hiking; Take One…

Pretty much all of my hiking has been what is known as “day hikes;” although some have been really long days in the range of 9-12 hours. In my day hikes, I’ve trekked a variety of elevations with 14, 433 feet being the highest (Mt. Elbert).

Recently, my friend Erika and I signed up for a four day thru hike to a volcano which includes three nights in a tent in addition to some training on days two and three. Training includes self arrest techniques and the use of crampons and ropes all on a glacier. To say we’re excited is an understatement.

Overall, for the most part, my mountaineering experience is more hiking class 1-3 mountains and trails. If I want to open up to more experiences, then I need to learn and master additional skills. Plus, things happen and the more you know and are comfortable with, the better off you are.

Thru Hiking; Take One…

I don’t want to be the low hanging fruit of the group this July (our trip). So that means, getting my gear early, learning how to use it and to be comfortable because I don’t want my first experience with it to be on my trip. I’m already going to be fire-hosed with new information and I’d rather focus on these new techniques verses how to wear my backpack.

Gear wise so far, I have a 65L Osprey Arial Pro backpack that I got fitted for, a Nemo Rave 15 degree sleeping bag that came with a compression stuff sack, and Lowa mountaineering boots that support full crampons. And add, all the other stuff that I already own.

Baby Steps…

Here in Colorado Springs, we have a wonderful backpacker Camp known as Barr Camp that is approximately a 6 1/2 mile one way trek from the Barr Trail trailhead. The hike itself is considered a class one and it’s well marked. We decided to make reservations to stay one night so we could start to experience a thru hike and use our gear. Our reservation included staying in the bunk house, spaghetti dinner, and pancake breakfast. The bunk house is not heated and it’s kind of like a hostel.

First of all, I’ve done multiple day camping, but my campsite has always been near my car. With thru hiking, my car will be no where near so I need to carry everything that I might need. Two big items are my backpack and my sleeping bag. Surprisingly our big sleeping bag compressed into this tiny little thing with the help of a compression sack and it fit really great in our Ospreys. Both of us filled three large mouth Nalgene bottles of water and had those in our bags. We technically didn’t need that much water, but RMI Expeditions (our outfitter for July) told us to be able to carry 50 pounds. Other things in our bag included a small toiletry bag (make up zipper bag was used to store items), toilet paper, gallon ziplock bag for our trash (leave no trace), flashlight and headlamp, clothing systems, baby wipes, snacks, and of course the rest of the 10 essentials.

Normally, I don’t wear mountaineering boots, but it’s a requirement for my July trip. I bought Lowas and broke mine in on this trip. They are a lot heavier than I’m used to.

Lessons Learned…

Bring a smaller shoe (flip flops perhaps) to wear at camp especially if you’re wearing heavy mountaineering boots. It felt like heaven to take those boots off! We didn’t bring additional shoes, but I was so envious of the other backpackers who did.

I had a Life Straw that I tried out in a nearby creek and the water was delicious. I also had water purification tablets so as long as water is available, I can cut weight and make space in my bag by not having to bring as much water. Another backpacker had this filtration device that looked pretty easy to use. I really like this idea. We carried extra Nalgene bottles because it’s still winter weather and they are less likely to freeze as well as wanting the weight. On my July trip, I’m pretty sure I’ll be carrying a tent so I’ll need the extra space.

Little things in your bag all add up weight wise. In talking with a more experienced thru hiker, I learned there are little ways to cut weight. For instance, do you really need all those little bags that gear comes in. (Little bags can add an ounce or two). Chances are, you don’t. So I’ll be examining my items for our next adventure trial run out.

Clothing. You don’t need as much as you think you need. I wore the same pants and base-layer shirt both days and was fine. I brought one pair of socks because I had two pairs of sock liners which allowed me to extend the wear of my socks. I bought two pairs of underwear and two sports bras and felt comfortable with that decision.

Bert Bees facial wipes cleaned my face, neck, and chest just great. Baby wipes are better for your more intimate areas and are less likely to cause irritation there. I also found this great small “PackTowl” at REI that can hang on the back of your backpack. I didn’t use it this time, but can see using it in the future when it’s warmer and water isn’t frozen over as a way to clean myself up. (Yes, I know to be 200+ feet from water). Maybe, I won’t be so paranoid of hygiene as I go further along this path, but it is a big concern for me so I’m interested to learn more hygienic tricks along the way.

Barr Camp has one of those natural biological toilets so I didn’t have to use the restroom outside although I’ve peed plenty of times outside on my many hikes. I’ve never had to poop thus needing to do the cathole or blue bag deal. I do own a blue bag as they are readily available in many hiking places for free.

All in all…

I think we had a great experience, it wasn’t to intimidating, and it was fun. Barr Camp or somewhere similar is a great tip toe into thru hiking. We will be looking to add a third day eventually that is less supported, cooking our foods, adding our sleeping pads, better packing of our backpacks, and of course carrying a tent.

Our July trip will require us to bring a helmet, crampons, and ice axe. So definitely, I’ll need to figure out how pack those.

As you hike, you’ll want to stretch or do some yoga along the way. You will be sore! Now that it’s been two days later, I really feel it in my legs. We used trees to hold as we rotated our torso so we could stretch our chests because while we were hiking wearing our bags, I felt it in my shoulders and chest. When I got to camp, I did a prolonged Sphinx pose to open up my chest. Other great areas to stretch include calves, hamstrings, and hips. Ankle rolls feel great once your boots are off.

Great yoga poses for hiking: Dancer’s Pose, any Pigeon Variation, Forward Fold (seated or standing), Gentle Cobra or Sphinx Pose, and gentle twists. Also, keep doing ankle rolls.

Its about the journey…

Namaste,

Kristen

Posted in Backpacking, Beginning Backpacking, Exercise, Fun, hiking, Hiking and Yoga, Learning, Pratyahara, strategies, Thru Hiking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Out There

Two of my loves are yoga and hiking. I regularly practice yoga as well as teach it. Vinyasa, slow flow, yin, and restorative are my go to practices. But I’m not your stereotypical yogi.

As much as I love yoga, I adore hiking; the really get out there kind where you just don’t see a ton of people. If you’re familiar with yoga’s fifth limb, pratyahara, this is my escape, my withdrawal from the overstimulation of every day life. I love to go all day long when I hike. Its nothing to do 10 plus miles. I admire the scenery, the blue bird skis, the wild flowers and trees, and alpine lakes and streams with complete mindfulness. Total immersion. And let me tell you, there is such an exhilaration at the summit of a Colorado 14er. When I pursue an endurance hike, I’m blessed to witness a sunrise or sunset and curious so far harmless animals. When you’re surrounded by nature, it’s easy to “let go.” After I hike, feel very grounded and renewed with energy. It’s amazing what it does for you!

I understand that not everyone is going to do what I do. So I share the best way I know how to. That is, I attempt to capture the moments on film, but of course my pictures never do it justice. I share it on Facebook and Instagram. My family and some of my friends love my pictures since I go where they can’t. Sometimes, my pictures inspire someone to give one of my hikes a try or they ask if I’ll take them on a hike. Of course I will, just let me pick one suited to their needs/abilities.

Also, if you go with a friend, you end up having the best conversations.

For the most part, my hikes have been limited to a day, albeit a long day. I have done the camping in conjunction with my hikes, but my campsite has always been assessable with my car so I could get clean, eat, and change clothes. Spend the night in my tent and start the next day from my base camp.

This summer, I’m doing my first backpack hike. It’s going to be 4 days in the Northern Cascades (never been there). I’ll get my pratyahara on for sure. I’m pretty sure, I’ll learn some things about myself and I’m so excited!

Namaste,

Kristen

Posted in Being grounded, Fun, Hiking and Yoga, mind-body connection, Off the Mat, Pratyahara, Uncategorized, yoga limbs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Complementary Classes to Add to Your Yoga Studio Offerings

My studio, Eighteenth Element Yoga offers a nice selection of trauma sensitive yoga classes. You’ll find a regular schedule of vinyasa, Yoga H.I.I.T., Warriors Flow, Mindful Resiliency Yoga, Zen Flow, Restorative, and Yin. Yoga is offered everyday. Additionally, we offer seasonal and special classes along with workshops.

However, one thing we’ve discovered is that there are other interests that bring clients to the studio. We discovered this via Tai Chi. One of our instructors really wanted to offer Tai Chi so we allowed him to teach it. We’ve learned that about half of the Tai Chi clients only go to Tai Chi and the other half take various classes, mostly slower moving yoga formats like yin, restorative, and sow for. So for us, Tai Chi is filling a niche and is here to stay on the schedule.

Shortly after Tai Chi, we introduced mat Pilates. This class is popular with clients who take regularly flow based yoga classes at our studio. They enjoy the focus on the core and it’s just something different. The nice thing is that it was a small investment in very light weights (2-3 lbs) and those squishy balls (think Bender Ball).

Next, we added what we call the Barre Element. Barre Element is a fusion of Ballet, Pilates, yoga, resistance training, Lotte Berk Method, and low impact cardio. No, it’s not a “true” barre class, but it has aspects of it. With this format, we were able to use the balls and weights that we already had. We added some 5 and 8 lbs weights, some weighted bars (Body Bar), gliding disks, and resistance bands. This class draws in outsiders and some of our yoga clients. We only have one class on the schedule so far.

Then we got a little crazy and added a Friday night belly dancing class. Let me tell you that’s a huge success. I really think it’s the instructor with this class. Our people just love her.

Finally, we just started offering private yoga therapy sessions. My business co-owner is trained in yoga therapy so this is her deal. With this offering, clients seem to be mostly outsiders more so than our class clients. I find this very interesting.

All in all, as studio owners, we are a business and to thrive, we need clients and people in our classes. So for us, lots of variety with our yoga offerings complimented with sprinkles of other formats such as Tai Chi, mat Pilates, and Barre is a growing strategy. We are fairly new and slowly building our client community.

What are some formats that pair well with your studio? Let’s start a dialog.

Namaste,

Kristen

Posted in Barre, Community, Multi Mindbody Formats, Pilates, Tai Chi, Uncategorized, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Candlelight Restorative Flow

It’s just around the corner…the dreaded time change switcheroo. This time it’s where we fall back an hour and revert to standard time. And I hate it! I really wish we wouldn’t mess with the time whether it’s to Daylight Savings time or Standard time. Just pick one and leave it alone!

According to research, the switching of an hour ahead or falling back isn’t good for our health. I particularly dread the fall back an hour since I work a 12 hour shift that day so I drive to work in the dark and commute home in the dark and there are no windows to look out during the day so I don’t get to see the sun and we’ll that’s depressing.

So I got to thinking that this is a perfect time to do a Candlelight Restorative Flow. The room only being lit by candles represents the shorter days. (I found battery operated candles, a set of 12 on Amazon that I’ll use).

Here’s the gentle format I’m going to use:

I’ve scheduled it for the Saturday prior to time change at 4:45pm. It will be a 75 minute class, starting in a seated pose (hero’s pose) that allows the class to ease into space, essence of the class, and introduce the 4-7-8 pranayama. We’ll do four cycles of 4-7-8 and then move to a gentle equal ratio breath. I’ll cue hands on heart and belly and borrow the “Elevator Breath” found in Julian Pranski’s book Deep Listening. Its a great grounding exercise that I love. Once we’ve arrived, we’ll continue with the equal ratio breath as we pursue gentle limbering arm movements.

As students incorporate the equal ratio breath in sequence with flowing arms, I’ll share this quote I found from Winston Churchill.

An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.— Winston Churchill  

Gentle Flow (10-20 minutes)

Hero’s pose to Child’s Pose

All 4’s to Cat/Cow Flow

Child’s Pose to Modified Plank Flow

Then lay on belly starting on a gentle Cobra…inhale into cobra, exhale turn head to the right, inhale into cobra, exhale turn head to the left.

Staying on belly, extend arms to Gecko arms (arms out like a push up but with hasta bandha) then a slivering Cobra.

All 4’s to Modified Side Plank with Flowing Thread the Needle Arms (both sides)

Yin Yoga Poses (20-25 minutes)

We’ll pursue some yin poses here, just a couple. (I’m still deciding which ones to do). Regardless, these will be true yin poses as described by https://www.yinyoga.com/.

Since, we hold yin poses for some time (3-5 minutes), it is a great opportunity to explore dharma talk. While in these poses, I’ll revisit my theme of grounding and taking care of yourself as we adapt to Standard Time and enter into the hectic times of holiday preparation.

Restorative Yoga Pose (20-25 minutes)

Restorative yoga poses use a lot of props and are held even longer than yin poses so I’ll pick one or two. Dharma talk continues.

Then eventually moving to Constructive Rest Pose and Savasana.

Closing

I really like Anjali Mudra and this variation to close this class. It has three parts:

And I borrow from the Upanishads

Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.” ~ Upanishads

Third Eye – Gesture at the third eye

Lips – Gesture at the lips

Heart – Gesture at the heart (I also close here with hopefully they’ve received exactly what they’ve needed in their minds, bodies, and spirits followed by my Namaste expression and bow).

Music

I personally like music. I’ll be using ambient songs. Still exploring and putting together my playlist. Do you have any song suggestions?

So there you have it, my special class in honor to the fall back to standard time and the hectic times ahead. But it’s still evolving and if you have some constructive ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Namaste,

Kristen

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GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM

Space Oddity was a hit for the late singer David Bowie with its popular lyrics “ground control to Major Tom.Take an opportunity to revisit the song and really listen and if you’ve never heard the song, definitely check it out.

An important concept in yoga is that of grounding. If you have a few yoga classes under your belt then it’s highly likely you’ve heard this talk of grounding. What exactly is it and why is it important?

What is grounding?

First off it’s a verb because we are hopefully doing it and it’s an adjective because we are feeling it. Thinking about it from a physical standpoint, it is about our connection to the earth or the ground. The concept draws on our mindfulness or really breaking down our awareness to how our body (the part of it that’s touching the ground which includes our yoga mat) feels on the ground. So in short, it is our awareness of our physical connection to the earth.

To encourage mindfulness, yoga teachers need to draw on details and be very descriptive as they explore being grounded. If for instance, the students are standing then the instructors would focus on the feet and more than likely explore pada bandha. Here is an example. Let’s bring our awareness to our feet. Drawing toes up, notice the prominence of the bones on the underside of our feet. Keeping toes lifted, bring awareness to our big toe mound that’s right under the big toe. See if you can gently press it down into the earth. Next, let’s explore the little toe mound under our baby toe and press it into the earth. Taking our heals and dividing them in half, let’s explore our inner heals and press them into the earth. Pressing our outer heals into the earth. Noticing these four corners of our feet as they press into the earth equally. Keeping this connection. Spreading our toes nice apart and gently lowering them onto the earth. Paying attention to each toe as it lands softly. Noticing any sensations that arise as we explore this connection. From there, we mindfully start to travel up the body pit stopping at key areas such as ankles, shins and calves, knees, hips, and torso. By doing this, instructors are painting a visualization that our body is a stable base and for a moment students will more than likely feel grounded.

Why do we ground?

Well, there are many reasons.

First, it’s a feeling of heaviness that is also energizing. When we notice how firm and stable our foundation is, we feel supported. As we push into the earth, there is the sensation that the earth pushes back. This is known as the ground force reaction or for short, rebound effect. The harder the surface is that we are pushing into, the stronger it can be sensed and since we are standing it reminds us to stand tall. By exploring this sensation, we are giving our monkey minds a specific task to do which feels energizing but also calming feeding into that zen feeling. (If you’re a yoga teacher revisit Yoga sutra 1.2, Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah which translates as “Yoga is the restriction of the mind’s fluctuations”).

Secondly, it’s important psychologically. It’s about feeling connected and connected to something so much larger than ourselves. It’s community and satisfying the need to belong. We are not by ourselves. We are rooted to earth which is our home that provides basic needs such as shelter, air, water, and food. And when we think like that, our problems might not feel so overwhelming. Think about any time someone has a problem they need to overcome. We as family, friends, and professionals often encourage folks to seek out support groups. Regardless of whether we are standing on our mat or battling a problem, support proceeds action!

Third, our modern busyness of “doing” and multitasking thus living on autopilot is a ground hog day nightmare that eventually gets the best of us. It makes us feel flighty and unconnected. It contributes toward negative things such as anxiety and depression. And we aren’t really doing anything real effectively. If we are trauma survivors this out of touch feeling/numbness can be heightened.

Why down vs. up?

We are programmed to think up. For instance a popular example is climbing up the corporate latter because and I quote “the only job where you start at the top is when you’re digging a hole.” However, nature doesn’t work that way. Nature moves downward. Think digestion or birth. How about a bird. A bird must push down onto a branch before it can fly. Then there are trees that let go of their leaves. Their leaves eventually fall down to the ground. Additionally, think about how an idea manifests. It starts in our heads as we imagine it. We then give it a story and relationship qualities with our heart. To focus on it, we center ourselves in our solar plexus. This process allows us to create and turn our idea into something.

Teaching groundedness.

My spell check doesn’t think groundedness is a word, but I’m going with it. Grounding should be a key focus as you create a sacred space for your students. It does all the above stuff, but it also makes people feel safe. Safety is a basic need and until it is established, nothing will happen! (Explore Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). If you are teaching, trauma sensitive yoga, never skip including grounding as you create the space! Part of the trauma experience is that they’ve lost that grounded feeling.

Groundedness, especially if you’ve made it your classes’ theme, should be revisited throughout the yoga practice. Ways to do that include strategically placing quotes, drawing onto nature’s references such as a tree or walking barefoot on the beach, using grounded words as you cue such a root or dig, and it could even be the music you play. Throughout the class also means at the end. It can be incorporated into final relaxation, but it should be one of the last things you do before you give your namaste salute so they walk away with this all to important feeling.

Rooted in love and light,

Namaste,

Kristen

P.S. Now that you’ve read this. Listen to David Bowie’s song. I feel as the earth is telling Major Tom to stay connected. And I’d love to hear if you’ve come across some other songs…

Posted in Being grounded, Creating Yoga Themes, Learning, mind-body connection, Trauma sensitive yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga for PTSD, yoga lesson plan ideas, yoga teacher training | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Post Fourteener Restorative Slow Flow Yoga Sequence

Colorado is home to a lot of mountains classified as “fourteeners” (also written as “14ers”). That is these mountains boast elevations of fourteen thousand something feet above sea level. The tallest mountain in Colorado is Mt Elbert at 14,433 feet and the shortest fourteener is Sunshine Peak coming in at 14,001. I have a fantastic view of a fourteener from my home, Pike’s Peak at 14,110. There are also tons of thirteeners as well.

It doesn’t matter whether you hiked a thirteener or a fourteener, they both can be quite difficult to summit. First of all, they aren’t easy! The air is thinner, you’re exposed to high winds, sun, maybe altitude sickness, fluctuating temperatures, thunderstorms, and perhaps all four seasons of weather. And more often than not, the routes to the top collect quite a few miles with steep grades, scree, some scrambling over boulders, and exposure… in addition to snow even during the summer.

As you climb and hike up, your mind plays games (especially if you are beginner) with you, encouraging you to quit and you feel all your muscles at work to include all those involved with breathing. As you near the top, you gain a renewed sense of determination. When you arrive, there is a huge sense of accomplishment. You did it! You are elated! You take in and immerse the view because it’s breathtaking! Maybe look for the geological marker on the summit because that’s kind of fun. Take lots of pictures and maybe video to include one of you holding your summit sign (just make sure you bring your sign back down with you). Meet new friends on top. And you have a snack!

Then it is time to go down. In general, you’d think going down would be easier and of course faster, but on a fourteener, more often than not, you’re dealing with loose rock (talus) and scree. You don’t want to dislodge any rocks because that can quickly turn into a very dangerous situation, both for yourself and for any hikers below. You have to be careful where you step because a miss step will involve a fall. Obviously some falls can have major negative results other than a minor cut or bruise. There is slippery snow and ice even in the summer. Often the loose rock and scree is with you until you reach the tree line around 12,000 feet. On top of this, going down is hard on the knees. Your toes may jam themselves into the front of your shoes which could result into bruised toenails. You’ll feel your knees and toes right away! When you finish, you’ll probably be very excited to see the trailhead parking lot area. After a very long hike, the parking lot is a very welcome site because getting to the summit is optional; returning back to your car is mandatory.

When you reach your car, you’ll want to take off your gear, pull off your hiking boots/shoes, and put flip flops or something else comfy on. Before you sit in your car for the long ride back to where you came from, it is very smart to do some stretching. I highly recommend that you stretch out your quadriceps and calves but also some type of chest expansion. Do each side. Use your car, a big rock, or a tree to assist you as you stretch since you probably won’t feel like balancing.

Nothing fancy about these tried and true stretches!

* Standing Quad Stretch – Pull one foot up and back towards your butt
* Runner’s Calf Stretch – Put hands on car or tree, step back in a lunge and press that heel into the ground
* Hamstring Stretch – Put one foot on your bumper or rock, bend at your hips, and reach towards your extended leg
* Standing Figure Four Stretch (Standing Pigeon) – Put your hand on your car or a tree, bend knee and place ankle on standing leg’s thigh, and lower hips as if you were going to sit. This is for your hips.
* Chest Stretch – Interlace fingers behind your back and bring yourself into a little backbend.

Then get into your car and drive towards the restaurant or pub where you’ll enjoy a celebration feast and maybe an adult beverage.

A day or two after hiking a fourteener, try this restorative yoga sequence to lessen the sensations and muscle soreness!
MtElbert-Hike
First of all, you hiked a 14er or a 13er! You don’t need a hot yoga, vinyasa or power yoga class. You need more of a slow flow, restorative, and yin approach. The below flow is slow moving and poses should be held for a few breaths.

1. Start standing in MOUNTAIN POSE. Find a deep equal ratio breath that will evolve into Ujjayi breath.
2. Inhale, lift those arms overhead for EXTENDED MOUNTAIN. Exhale TWIST right extending arms out to the front and back of the room. Inhale EXTENDED MOUNTAIN. Exhale TWIST left. Inhale back to EXTENDED MOUNTAIN. Interlace fingers, exhale SIDE BEND right. Inhale up. Exhale SIDE BEND Left. You can repeat a few times.
3. Inhale EXTENDED MOUNTAIN. Place palms together and as you exhale, slide hands to heart for ANJALI MUDRA. Next, place hands on backs of hips as if you were sliding hands in pockets. Soft, gentle BACKBEND, inhale. Exhale to MOUNTAIN. Inhale to EXTENDED MOUNTAIN. Exhale swan dive into FORWARD FOLD. You can use blocks and either way keep knees soft so hands are grounded into the mat or blocks. Stay here for a few moments. Inhale HALF LIFT. Exhale FORWARD FOLD. Do a few of these.
4. Stay in HALF LIFT, bend knees a lot and allow your torso to come to be fully supported on your thighs. Allow your arms to RAG DOLL. If you like it better, you can place your hands in the crooks of your elbows. Gently sway side to side staying supported on your thighs the whole time. Come back to center and place hands on mat or blocks for FORWARD FOLD.
5. Step back into DOWNWARD FACING DOG. Let your heels sink down. This should feel good after hiking. Peddle your feet for WALK THE DOG. Linger in one side as long as you like. Then return to DOWNWARD FACING DOG.
6. Shift forward into PLANK (your variation). Exhale into CHATURANGA to your belly. Use two yoga eggs or one block and push them into your sternum for a SUPPORTED SPINX POSE. Allow the butt to soften with legs hip distance apart. Stay here for a moment.
7. Remove the eggs or block and slide up into ALL FOURS. Slowly pursue a few CAT and COWS. Come back into ALL FOURS and find THREAD THE NEEDLE. Do each side and don’t rush. When finished, sink back into CHILD’S POSE.
8. Come out of CHILD’S POSE and find DOWNWARD FACING DOG. Lift your Right leg to the ceiling for THREE LEGGED DOWNWARD FACING DOG. If you’d like, bend your right knee and STACK YOUR HIPS for a gentle hip opener. Square up your hips and bring the right foot between your hands, drop your left knee onto your mat for a KNEELING LUNGE. From here, lift your left arm overhead, rotate your torso towards the left and then reach over your body. Undo your reach and rotation. Place your hands on the mat, framing your foot. Option to lift left knee and to come up on ball of foot. Twist torso into forward leg. Right hand can stay on right thigh or reach up towards the ceiling for DRAGONFLY TWIST. Come back into your lunge, step back into DOWNWARD FACING DOG again and do the other side.

9. If you are feel OK, add this next part in. If not, skip it and move onto step 10. From DOWNWARD FACING DOG, lift right leg up for THREE LEGGED DOWNWARD FACING DOG. Draw that knee into the chest and place the foot between the hands. Step in a little with your left foot and place it firmly on the mat with all four corners grounded. Orient your toes forward, allow hips to square, and place hands on hips. Hinge forward at the hips and as you exhale sink as deep into the pose as you feel comfortable for PYRAMID. Stay folded for as long as you like. Inhale lift your torso up, step back with your left foot to find a WARRIOR I stance. Inhale your arms up towards the sky. Then as you exhale, bring them behind your back, and interlace fingers. Inhale lift the chest and pull your knuckles down towards the mat. Exhale, forward fold, keeping hands interlaced. You can keep arms on your back or perhaps lift them slightly off your back but still keeping fingers interlaced. Sink head down towards your mat and keep your shoulders on inside of your forward knee for HUMBLE WARRIOR. Inhale brings you up and undo your hands. Exhale, cartwheel back to your mat and step back into DOWNWARD FACING DOG. Do your other side.

10. Inhale, look towards your hands, exhale walk towards them to find FORWARD FOLD. Inhale HALFWAY LIFT. Exhale back to FORWARD FOLD. Inhale reverse swan dive up into MOUNTAIN POSE.

11. Find a wall and stand facing the wall about arm’s distance away. From here, using the wall find DANCER’S POSE. Pull your heel up towards your hips and if you feel OK, slide supporting hand up the wall as you fold your body forward. Hold. Then with the same leg as you come out of dancer’s pose, place your ankle on your supporting thigh for FIGURE FOUR. Start to walk your hands down the wall as you start to sit turning this into SUPPORTED STANDING PIGEON. Do the other side.
12. Come away from the wall. Straddle your legs out just past shoulder distance. Orient your feet forward and place hands on your hips. Fold down and place hands under shoulders for WIDE FORWARD FOLD. Linger here. Then when ready, walk your hands backward till your fingers are in line with your heals. Flip your hands around so you fingers are pointing behind you. Flatten palms into your mat. Gently put body weight into the balls of your feet. Linger here. To get out, even out your body weight into your foot, flip your hands around, and walk them back under your shoulders. Place your left hand under your face, lift right arm out to the side and gently TWIST. To increase your range of motion, bend your opposite knee. Untwist and return hand to mat. Do the other side. When done, place hands in your hip crease and hinge up. Step together.

Now, let’s slow down even more and a restorative approach.

13. Prep for LEGS UP THE WALL. Put a folded blanket next to the wall. Orient yourself on the blanket and drift your legs up the wall. It doesn’t matter if your hips are flush with the wall or several inches away. Stay here for as long as you’d like. This is perfect for any swelling in the ankles or feet that might have occurred by just being on your feet all day long hiking (not because of an injury).

14. Come out of LEGS UP THE WALL POSE gently. Keep your blanket as a pillow for your head. Grab two blocks or two eggs. Lay on your back for CONSTRUCTIVE REST POSE. Place your feet on the blocks or eggs allow them to be at a slight angle that aligns with your feet. Knock your knees together. Place your fingers to include thumbs on the soft part of your belly for PEACEFUL LAKE POSE. Imagine your knees as the fourteener you recently hiked and your belly is a peaceful alpine lake where all ten fingers are little boats floating on tranquil waters. Allow your breath to soften so your boats don’t have turbulence. Find your natural rhythm of breath. Perhaps you close or soften your eyes. Stay here a while.
15. When you are ready, slowly come into a comfortable seated position. Find GARUDA MUDRA. Imagine the majestic eagle that sores the mountains; kind of like you. Give yourself an embrace and thank your body for the journey it just took. Find ANJALI MUDRA and close your practice.

Hopefully, you feel a lot better after this restorative slow flow sequence. It is not meant to be power yoga or a vinyasa, but rather more of a slow flow, gentle sequence! After all, you just hiked a fourteener. Maybe sooner rather than later, you just might be inclined to hike another, after all hiking a fourteener can be quite contagious. Colorado has 58 to hike, explore, and climb.

Perhaps, I’ll see you on a summit sometime.

NAMASTE,
Kristen

Visit Eighteenth Element Yoga and practice with me.

Posted in Deep Stretching, Hiking and Yoga, Outside Fitness, Stretching, Uncategorized, Yoga after hiking a fourteener, Yoga Flows | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment