What is Yoga for Rock Climbers?

As a rock climber and yogi of several years, there’s so much I want to say about this subject that I keep delaying writing anything. So, in the spirit of sharing more and embracing imperfection, I’ll offer a few thoughts on this topic now, and share more details another time.

I teach yoga for climbers several times a week at climbing gyms in New York. When I practice yoga, I think about climbing. When I’m climbing, I think about yoga. Well, not always… yoga has helped me to develop mindfulness (i.e., being in the present moment). But you get the picture: I live and breath yoga and climbing.

I regularly get questions from climbers who want more information before taking a yoga class. I also love chatting with other climbers and yogis, before and after yoga classes, and just everywhere I go really!

Here’s a sample Q & A:

(Please note: I can’t speak for other yoga teachers, but this is my approach to yoga for climbers).

Q: I’ve never done yoga before. Can I come to a class?

A: Yes! Unless stated otherwise (e.g., intermediate/advanced only), beginners should feel welcome in yoga classes at climbing gyms. Climbers are friendly folks; put them in yoga studio and it’s a sure-recipe for a chilled, happy, friendly experience.

Q: What is a beginner-friendly class like?

A: It varies, but:

The teacher should include options (modifications) for different levels of challenge, so you can pick something that works for you.

You should feel comfortable to rest at any time.

The class will probably take a relaxed pace and include lots of demonstrations. 

If more intermediate poses are included, simple options should also be offered.

Q: I’ve done yoga before, will I still benefit from a beginner-friendly class?

A: Yes! See the point above about different challenge levels for yoga poses. I typically offer a standard pose version, with options for ease, or leveling up.

Also, do you ever climb routes lower than your challenge-grade to warm up, focus on technique, or for other reasons? Yoga is the same. Building a strong foundation has immense benefits. 

Q: I did yoga before but didn’t like it. Will I like this class?

A: I don’t know! Yoga at climbing gyms will be different to yoga at studios or fitness gyms.

Also, teachers have very different styles. These are great things to ask about if you have preferences. (E.g., use of Sanskrit language, anatomical language, music, pace, including yoga philosophy, assists etc.).

I love teaching at climbing gyms because I have a lot of autonomy to tailor classes to meet the specific needs and preferences of climbers. 

I would however recommend checking that your yoga-for-climbers teacher is a climber (if this is important to you).

Q: How will yoga help my climbing?

A: In every way you can imagine, and more. It could help you improve:

Strength: Yoga has really helped my climbing through improved core strength. However, I should mention that yoga typically doesn’t include pull strength. (I know yogi’s who started climbing for this cross-training reason).

Flexibility: Not just the obvious places, like legs and hips, but for for all kinds of moves and twists you might make on the wall.

Injury prevention: Including vulnerable areas, such as wrists and shoulders.

Proprioception: Knowing where your body is in space. 

Awareness of your abilities: What moves are doable? What moves are risky for you?

Balance: Developing your balance in yoga will give you a huge confidence boost on the wall.

Intentional training: Yoga practice often involves setting and holding an intention for how you will work with your body and mind. For example, staying present with the breath, being aware of tension in your body, or finding your right level of challenge (AKA: finding your edge). Setting intentions is something you can apply to your climbing training too (as well as other areas of your life).

Q: How do you decide what to include in classes?

A: I incorporate feedback from students (and take requests).

I chat to other climbers about what they feel would help.

I climb with other yoga teachers, and we break it down together.

I watch videos of myself and others climbing, and consider the yoga moves that help with those routes.

I include moves and poses that are known to help with injury prevention and climbing. 

Q: What are your yoga classes like?

A: Fun and relaxing. Seriously! 

We laugh; especially when we try fun or challenging poses.

We chat before and after class, particularly about current climbing routes, other training tips, etc.

My playlists are based on themes (e.g., peace, adventure, seasons), so that we can mix in different genres. 

Students get to know each other.

Doing yoga together can lead to finding new climbing buddies.

We keep things slow, strong, and stretchy:

We hold longer poses for a minute or so; you get a chance to relax!

We hold strength poses for a few breaths; so that you get the full benefit of the pose.

We move slowly so that keeping up is easy, and we can focus on technique.

Q: Where can I find out more?

A: Speak to staff at climbing gyms.

Speak to people who have attended classes.

Ask me!

Reach out to other yoga teachers at climbing gyms. 

Check out my Instagram (@AntoniaYoga), or Facebook (@AntoniaCartwrightYoga), or website (AntoniaCartwright.com).

I post lots of content breaking down how specific yoga poses can help climbing (with lots of photos and videos).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.

Next steps…

If you’re interested in yoga and climbing, wherever you are, get in touch! I’d love to hear your comments and ideas.

Comments are also welcome below.

If you already come to my classes, it would be wonderful if you could write a quick review on my Google Business Listing (search Google for Antonia Cartwright LLC). 

Also, keep the requests and feedback coming! It really helps me plan awesome class content!

A MASSIVE thank you to everyone who has inspired me on this journey through climbing, yoga, discussion, and unwavering support!

You know who you are! :-)

Namaste and climb on!


A few comments from students:

“Connecting with Antonia on social media, I became more curious about yoga, especially since she’s also an experienced climber. I decided to take her group class. Being an absolute beginner, I never felt like I couldn’t keep up, I was always able to do the easier variations, and never felt out of place.” GH

“I have learned a lot from Antonia’s suggestion to set an intention or goal for the class. I’ve started using intentions for my climbing sessions which has helped me feel good and get the most out of my time on the wall while I’m recovering from a finger injury. I’ve also started to use it more in other areas of my life, like work, which has been great for stress management.” KM

“Antonia is a patient and skilled yoga instructor. When we go rock climbing, she teaches me rock climbing yoga poses and stretches. She’s creative and helpful, but most of all has a healing energy that she brings to each interaction.” MF

“Antonia’s class helped a lot for improving my moves in climbing. The yoga is reinvigorating, and my mind becomes more calm, quiet, and focused. ” MA

“I had a fantastic private yoga session with Antonia. I’m a cyclist as well as a climber, so find group sessions don’t address certain muscle groups enough, which Antonia understands as she is also a brilliant climber. We worked together to come up with dynamic and fun moves. She provided me with options and variations, so I could feel comfortable while challenged.” HB

“Antonia’s yoga classes are a great addition to my climbing and bouldering practice. The stretches and moves we work on during the class really make a difference when I’m on the wall. Antonia’s weekly crafted playlists create a friendly and chill atmosphere in which to learn and practice!” CP

Note - these comments are just snippets selected for this blog post. See my Google Business listing for more - Antonia Cartwright LLC.