2 SIMPLE BREATHING TIPS THAT WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU CLIMB
PRANAYAMA FOR CLIMBERS
Pranayama is the art and science of the breath. Yogis use pranayama to calm the mind, expand inner awareness and stimulate a variety of healthful effects. Many of these practices translate beautifully into climbing. I would recommend trying these two in a seated or reclining position for a few minutes first before testing them out on a climb.
WHOLE BODY BREATH
During savasana (that sweet part at the end of a yoga class where we lay down and let everything go), I often guide students to draw breath in a steady stream from the soles of the feet to the top of the head on an inhalation, and from the head back to the feet on the exhalation. This is a relaxing way to spread awareness throughout the body. When dealing with an awkward stance or a balancey move on a climb, we can easily disconnect from our feet or our core and end up flailing for the next hold. Next time you find yourself unsure of your next move, try this breath.
As you inhale through your nose, dig in with your toes and feel the breath lengthen your entire body, as much as possible stacking all joints over the contact points of your feet (this will be most effective on more vertical or slabby climbs). As you exhale through your nose, gather your belly towards your spine, and press even more powerfully with your feet. On a challenging climb, you will probably only want to hang out for two or three breaths before you commit to the move. Find connection between core, feet, and rock at the bottom of an exhalation and go for it!
Climbing naturally engages our sympathetic nervous system, which increases our heart and respiration rates and sends circulation to large muscle groups of our extremities. This is all good when we need to stoke ourselves up for a climb, but when the sympathetic nervous system gets overly active, we might over grip, forget to breathe and generally freak ourselves out. Longer exhalations tap us into the intelligence of the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of us that knows how to shift towards calm.
Begin with a few balanced breaths: inhale through the nose for a slow count of four, and exhale through the nose for a slow four. When you feel comfortable with that breath, take a few rounds of 4 second inhalations, 6 second exhalations. If that still feels comfortable, try 4 second inhalations, 8 second exhalations. The count itself is not as important as finding a pace and length of breath that feels natural to you, so let go of any need to force a deeper breath or hold your breath out. Next time you are getting scared or pumped out on a climb, find the most comfortable resting stance possible, land your gaze on a single point on the rock, and try these extended exhalations, shaking out as you breathe. Regain your composure and calmly crush.
Tiffany Shocklee, a certified yoga teacher, has been instructing for more than 12 years and has been a member of the Earth Treks team since the Golden opening in 2013. In addition, Tiffany is a licensed massage therapist, biodynamic craniosacral therapist and avid rock climber.