November 1, 2011

Yoga of Rock-Climbing.

There are tremendous benefits of yoga practice which go way beyond our mats. From extreme sports to dealing with your family, the practice builds a foundation of mental and physical balance, coordination, and strength. In addition, yoga also provides a different perspective and re-shapes how we undertake the new endeavors, from riding a bike, dancing and climbing the mountains. On the mat, holding a warrior, focusing on breathing or sitting in meditation, you learn how to focus on the internal rather than being affected by your senses.

A couple of years ago, I’ve tried rock climbing with a lovely crew of Yoga Slackers for the first time. It was an amazing crystal clear and sunny day in Colorado. We kicked it off our day with 2 hour partner yoga to hike to the top of the mountains where everything was prepared for our “high gravity exposure”.

On the first climb, I was in the midst of the mountain reminding myself that not only I flew for 3 hours but also paid a top price to be here. I was in the midst of the mountain and I wanted it all to be over. But with not too much choice, I had to use my last life proven resort – my yoga practice.

In climbing, the goal is to move upwards, using the toes and fingers, along the lines of the rock. It requires a very strong degree of mental focus and physical strength and agility. You have to be present in each movement. You must make decisions, balance the body, assess the situation and take a step. Failure to maintain this balance means you can be in the danger of falling off the rock. At least, I found a good way to quite my chatter…

Even though you are with great teachers and your safety is their top priority, but still your mind is flooded with fear.  Anyhow, after my first climb, I wanted to go back home to my couch. I rested and contemplated for a few minutes. I am here and I should give it another try. On the second climb, I used my mat warrior sequence to balance myself, pranayama came handy when my mind was shouting at me that the rope will break at the top of the mountain and who do you think you are?! My climb became a meditative practice.

I stayed focused. I was present. I was able to enjoy it and came back down in one piece with a refresh sense of gravity and being on earth.

The following year I went climbing in the east coast for a few times. I was back in CO for the Yoga Journal conference to experience the Yoga and Rock climbing with Yoga Slackers again this year. As Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.” It says it all. I was still scared and nervous of the giant rocks, but I loved it and can’t wait to climb again.

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