Yoga and Rock Climbing (A Personal Story)
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My heart is pounding as I’m fighting for the next move. I’m getting close to that difficult sequence I was unable to pull off the last time. Will I make it? Am I strong enough? These thoughts have no business being here, so I chase them away. I try to control my breath and focus on my position. It has to be perfect, otherwise it won’t work. I must clear my head. One move at a time, one more move…
Then it happens – my face lights up, my eyes open wide. I can’t hear anything, not even the screams of those encouraging me to go for it. Everything disappears, time moves slower, I’m in the now. This is it, the moment I finally defeat myself in “battle.”
What exactly do rock climbing and yoga have in common? In climbing, I make one wrong move and I lose my balance. I take one short breath and I can fall. It’s the same with yoga! Not to mention they are both much more than a practice or a hobby, they are a way of life, a philosophy, a journey of self-discovery. They are graceful movements of the body and soul. A form of dance you might say.
I will not attempt to describe what rock climbing is, there’s enough information about it out there. I will, however, try to explain what it is to me, and how it all started out as nothing more than a mere child’s play. Years later, yoga entered my life in a very similar manner.
In the beginning, there was a dream
Rock climbing in Baile Herculane, Romania © Mircea Gherase
When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a dancer. I think it was the grace that seduced me, the gently flowing moves, the synchronicity. I was desperate to master it all. I never became a dancer. It was probably never my path, to begin with.
My parents were climbers. My dad still is, occasionally tagging along even though he’s in his 60s now. Back to when I was a kid discovering the world, my parents once took me with them at the crag. I was bewitched and made my dad promise he’d take me climbing one day. He did, eventually. And it was awful, not what I had expected at all. It was hard, painful and seemed a bit dangerous. I was scared, I admit. But I did not give up. Although it took me years to finally take the bull by its horns, it was all worth it in the end. Rock climbing became my “dance.”
Then came the fight …
Rock climbing in Romania © Octavia Drughi
Rock climbing can be a leisure activity – spending the day at the crag, climbing a few routes, catching up with old friends, having a good laugh, all these will leave you feeling better about yourself and extremely energized despite the physical effort you put in. It’s a lifestyle, an adventure, and it’s perfectly fine to keep things at this level.
Preparing for a climb © Octavia Drughi
However, climbing is addictive. We even have our own dictionary for god’s sake! When you’re constantly pushing your limits, frustration, stress and tension creep in. If not eliminated, they will build up and consume you from within.
After a successful climb © Octavia Drughi
If you’re just as obsessed about rock climbing as I am, then you know it’s all about the project. But just in case, please allow me to explain this very quickly. A project is a route at your limits, beyond them even. We choose a route we like and start working on each move, improving our position and figuring out our weaknesses. We train hard and climb harder. We visit our project, go for attempts, fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up repeating the moves in our head. Then the day finally comes and we send our project. It’s a wonderful moment, beyond happiness, something that cannot be put into words. Unfortunately, it does not last long. We want more, and soon begin searching for our next project. Yes, we climbers are pretty fanatic and hard to please!
And the grace …
Rock climbing in Romania © Octavia Drughi
Yoga has so many benefits it would take pages to spill them out. When it comes to climbing, flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance can always use improving. For me, the best benefits of yoga are enhanced breathing control, focus, and grace.
It took me a while to decide to try it out. It had always seemed too static, easy or plain boring. “What is the point of just standing there like that?” I often found myself asking. As I mentioned before, yoga came in a moment when climbing was already well rooted in my life. You can imagine my surprise when I felt my muscles burn and my forehead sweating, feeling soreness in tiny muscles I never knew about!
Yes, yoga and rock climbing go hand in hand, as there are endless ways in which yoga can be applied into climbing and vice versa. Each day is a new lesson. And no, I don’t go to yoga classes and I still have a long way to go before I can pull off some of the poses I took for granted. But I do love a good challenge!
Yoga for rock climbing
On a climbing day, I do a quick yoga sequence in the morning, with a few Sun Salutations in a row to warm up. I end with a quiet moment for myself to relieve some of that tension. Stress and frustration are a recipe for failure.
During winters, when it’s usually too cold to climb outside, I train at my tiny (but muscle-ravaging) indoor climbing gym I’ve set up for myself in the garage. I try to stick to a program and focus on gaining more strength and control. After intense sessions, my whole body hurts. That’s when yoga comes to the rescue.
Yoga poses for legs always come in handy, as I sometimes feel I’m overlooking my lower limbs. Classic yoga poses for climbers are a great alternative when I don’t feel like hitting the gym and pushing myself too hard. I try to include the following poses in each sequence:
Most importantly, yoga taught me how to breathe. When climbing, I sometimes overhear people saying “Breathe, Octavia, breathe. You’re not breathing!” And it’s true, I do forget to breathe. When I’m in a crux – the most difficult sequence of the climb, I involuntarily keep my breath. That’s bad! Yoga helped me become aware of my breathing, and I began training it. I pay more attention to it and force myself to take deep breaths and exhale powerfully before a difficult move. It’s not just the lungs that benefit from this, but my mind as well, as I’m sending the right signals telling it to prepare for the fight ahead. I’m also telling myself I’m ready to give 110 percent!
In the now
Rock climbing in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria © Octavia Drughi
It’s all about the joy of living, letting go of everything, being present and truly alive. Feeling the earth beneath my hands and feet while doing yoga, the rugged rock on my fingertips while climbing, fills me with so much positive energy.
My body does not know the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately, my mind does, and it can make my body feel weak. I need to train my brain to stop sending negative signals. I’m still working on that. After all, I’m only human… No day is like the other, and we can’t have good days every day. I’ve learned to accept that and laugh even when I’m failing with the faith that one day I’ll succeed.
Training is the key to success in everything we do – work, sport, love, friendships, etc. We don’t need to train our biceps, but our brain. That’s our strongest muscle! Our mind can be our ally as well as our enemy. When I finally understood this, I began dancing. And it was truly graceful.
Do you wish to push your limits and see what lies beyond? Go to BookYogaReterats.com and choose your next adventure yoga retreat! It’s time to take control over your body and mind!