Work It Out: 7 yoga poses for kayakers and rafters |

Work It Out: 7 yoga poses for kayakers and rafters

Kayak 101

When you go out on the water, make sure that everyone in your party has proper equipment and training. Be prepared: know the weather report before you set out, be aware of possible obstacles in the water and stay alert for changing conditions.

When you’re ready to boost your skill set, reach out to a local kayaking guide or shop to reach the next level.

Kayak Lake Dillon — 970-281-2234 or

Stand Up Paddle Colorado — 970-453-7873 or

Ten Mile Creek Kayaks — 970-668-9294 or

Whether you’re captivated by the beauty of open-water kayaking on Lake Dillon or exhilarated by heart-stopping Class IV and V rapids of Ten Mile Creek, kayaking experts Matti Wade of Ten Mile Creek Kayaks, Kyle McKenzie of Kayak Lake Dillon and Javi Placer of Stand Up Paddle Colorado all agree that strength and flexibility in upper body and core are essential for efficient and powerful paddling.

Try the following seven yoga poses to create strong strokes and increase your range of motion, allowing you to spend more time on the water and — most importantly — remain safe under the most demanding river conditions.

Want more? Click here for photos and video from a mid-June float down Class IV rapids on Tenmile Creek, or click here for more yoga poses made to fit your sport.

Shoulder opener

Range of motion in the chest and shoulders is restricted for most people, which can lead to an unbalanced paddling stroke. To remedy, stretch the chest, biceps and shoulders while creating a gentle twist in the mid-back with this simple posture.

Lie on your stomach with arms at sides.

Extend your left arm so that it’s 90 degress from your torso, with the palm facing the floor.

Roll onto your left shoulder and left hip.

Rest the side of your head on the floor, facing to the right. Try to keep all five fingers of your left hand touching the floor.

Let your right foot rest on the floor behind the left leg.

Hold for 10 breaths.

Roll out of the posture slowly.

Repeat on opposite side.

Chest opener with strap

This pose provides a deep stretch into the chest and front of the shoulders. Breathe deeply into this posture and allow the body to relax over several breaths.

Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair.

Hold a strap (or jump rope or belt) overhead, with hands placed wider than shoulders.

Slowly lower the strap behind your head, reaching hands back toward the wall behind you and keeping eyes forward. Try to keep your ribs knitting together — they are going to want to jut forward.

When you find a deep stretch in the chest, stop. Adjust if you feel sharp pain in your shoulders, elbows or chest.

Hold for 10 breaths.

Relax and repeat 2-3 times.

Seated twist

Everyone who paddles knows that core strength is essential, but, if you want to paddle longer and respond better under changing conditions, flexibility of the spine is as important as strength.

As a sea kayaker, one of McKenzie’s key pain points is his low back, which is why he has been doing this seated twist for 20 years.

Sit on the floor with legs extended and parallel to each other.

Cross right foot over left knee.

Place the right hand on the floor several inches behind your tailbone. If your hand doesn’t reach the floor, place your hand on a book or other raised surface.

Reach the left arm up so that it is parallel to your left ear. Try to stack the chest directly over the hips.

Turn your torso to the right and cross the left elbow over the right knee.

Gently twist the torso to the right. Do not force the twist.

Hold for 10 breaths.

Slowly release back to facing forward.

Repeat on opposite side.

Forearm plank

Paddling requires simultaneous engagement of multiple muscle groups.

“If you’re isolating muscle groups and your form is off, you are putting too much burden on your body, especially if you’re covering distance,” Placer says. “You’ve got to engage as many muscle groups of the upper body as possible and utilize the core.”

Forearm plank is a great core exercise because it does double-duty: tones the core and strengthens the muscles of the back.

Come to hands and knees.

Place forearms on the mat. Ensure your elbows are directly under and slightly in front of the shoulders. Keep your hands as wide as the elbows.

Walk your feet back until hips are the same height as the shoulders. Once there, broaden through your chest and spread shoulder blades.

Spin biceps forward and triceps back. This will help pull the shoulder blades firmly onto the rib cage.

Press into your index finger and thumb on each hand.

Pull naval to spine and press your front thighs toward the ceiling to engage your core.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Release and repeat 2-3 times.

Dolphin pose

Dolphin is a forearm plank with lifted hips. Elevating the hips demands less of the core but more of the shoulders and back. This posture works the muscles of the upper and mid back — muscles that are essential for a well-balanced and complete paddle stroke.

From forearm plank:

Walk feet closer to your elbows.

Look between your feet to wall behind you.

For additional challenge, lift one leg.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Release and repeat, alternating legs if you choose.

Bow pose

Kayaking enthusiasts who paddle on whitewater need to develop equal strength in the chest and the back, Wade says.

“A lack of balance between back and chest is a big issue and can create serious injuries, such as a shoulder dislocation, when paddling,” Wade said.

A deep back bend, the Bow pose, will strengthen the muscles of the spine while opening the chest and shoulders. To keep from over-bending in the low back, think about reaching your chest forward first, then up.

Lie on your stomach, with legs extended and arms at your sides.

Bring your knees to touch and bend both knees.

Reach back with both hands and capture your ankles from the outside.

Flex your feet.

Reach your heart forward and slide your shoulder blades down your back.

Kick into your hands and lift legs and chest off the mat. Remember: forward first, then up. Try to keep knees about hip-width apart.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Release and repeat 2-3 times.

Modified Locust pose

This posture combines strength, flexibility and a twist into one blockbuster posture. Be mindful that your neck is relaxed and comfortable in this posture.

From Bow pose:

Release the feet.

Place the right elbow under the right shoulder.

Turn the right thumb up to the ceiling. Your palm now faces the wall.

Bring the knees to touch and bend the right knee.

Reach back with the left hand to take hold of the right ankle.

Kick into the left hand, keeping eyes forward.

To take the posture a little further, lift the right arm and the left leg off the floor.

Hold for 5 breaths.

Release and repeat on the opposite side.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon’s only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience. You can find out more about Peak Yoga at

This story originally published in August 2016.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User