Stretch & Relax: The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

6 Min. Read

A day on the river is both exhilarating and exhausting. Rowing, kayaking, and swimming guarantee a good workout. Even if you prefer to kick back and take in the view, once off the boat, your body is likely to surprise you with tight, tired muscles that need a good stretch. A quick riverside yoga session is the perfect solution to a host of issues that may plague you on a rafting trip

Post-paddling Yoga Session

The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

With mother nature as your studio, you can use a mat, towel or the natural landscape to get your asana on. The following yoga poses for paddlers offer solutions for some of the most common post-river adventure aches and pains and will keep you feeling good for the duration of your trip.

Relieve Tight Muscles

Tight, tired and aching muscles are common after a day of rafting. The following poses help you find relief and regain flexibility.

1) Downward Dog

Perhaps one of the most well-known yoga poses, downward dog is one of the easiest and best stretches for tired legs and tight shoulders.

The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

Do the move:

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Engage your core so that your back is neither arching or sagging.
  2. Spread your fingers wide with the middle finger pointing forward. Flex your toes, press your hands into the earth, lift your hips up and back.
  3. With your heels still lifted straighten your legs.
  4. Slowly lower your heels towards the earth (do not bend your legs to get them there).
  5. Release your head and press into the earth to deepen your stretch.
  6. Hold it for three to five deep, slow breaths.
  7. Return to all fours to release.
2) Wide-Legged Forward Fold

This pose is simple, but incredibly beneficial if you are feeling tightness in your legs or holding tension in your back, shoulders or neck area.

The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

Do the move:

  1. Step your feet apart wide with hands on hips. Your toes should be pointed forward and parallel to one another.
  2. Begin to rotate your torso forward over your hips with your chest lifted.
  3. Fold forward keeping your chest lifted until you are as far forward as you can go.
  4. Release your head, neck and shoulders.
  5. Hands can be on the ground or on two blocks.
  6. Hold for five deep breaths.
  7. Place hands on hips and return to a standing position to release.
3) Bound Angle Pose

Open and relieve tired hips and thighs with this gentle pose.

The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

Do the move:

  1. Sit with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Bend your knees and bring your feet towards your pelvis.
  3. Drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. Place a towel under your knees for support if the stretch is too intense.
  4. Lift your chest and with the first and second finger and thumb, grasp the big toe of each foot.
  5. Breath and hold for a minute or until you feel ready to release.
  6. Use your hands to assist your knees as you lift them and release this pose.

Chest Opener

Practice this pose to open the chest and shoulder area after a long day of rowing or paddling.

4) Bridge Pose

Open your chest while releasing your lower back in this reclined pose.

Post-paddling Yoga Poses: Bridge

Do the move:

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend both knees and place your feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  3. Roll your shoulders back and underneath you and press your palms into the earth.
  4. Press your feet into the ground and on an inhalation, lift the hips as high as you can while rolling your spine up and off of the floor.
  5. Press down with your hands to open and lift your chest. You may clasp your hands beneath you to deepen the pose.
  6. Return your hips to the ground to release.

Lower Back Relief

An aching lower back can put a damper on your evening activities. Find relief with this pose.

5) Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

This twist relieves lower back discomfort and gives a gentle stretch to the outer hips.

The Best Yoga Poses for Paddlers

Do the move:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip.
  3. Release the outside of the left leg on the floor and step the right foot over the left leg so it stands on the floor outside of your left hip (your right knee will point upwards).
  4. On an exhalation twist toward your right leg. You can stop here if it is far enough and just hug the right knee.
  5. To deepen the twist, press the right hand against the floor behind your right buttock and place your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh.
  6. You can turn your head in either direction for a unique stretch.
  7. Deepen the stretch with each breath.
  8. Release and repeat on the other side.

Regain Balance

A day on the river may affect your sense of balance. Try these balancing poses to regain stability.

6) Tree Pose

The quintessential balancing pose. You’ll feel right at home doing tree pose in the great outdoors.

Post-paddling Yoga Poses - Tree Pose

Do the move:

  1. Stand in mountain pose with your feet together, arms and hands extended by your side and your weight distributed evenly on both feet.
  2. Slowly begin to shift your weight to the right foot while lifting the heel of your left foot.
  3. Place your left foot on your right shin or upper thigh while maintaining balance. You can use your hand to place your foot if needed. (Note: do not place your foot on or near the knee.)
  4. Extend your left knee to the side so that your hip and thigh is open.
  5. Bring your hands to a prayer position in front of your chest.
  6. Hold for as many breaths as you can.
  7. Return to mountain pose to release and change sides.
7) Eagle Pose

This pose helps you regain balance and focus. It is especially helpful if you experience vertigo.

Eagle Pose

Do the move:

  1. Begin in mountain pose.
  2. Bend both knees and then lift the left foot and while balancing on the right, cross your left thigh over the right. To complete the leg portion of the pose, hook the top part of the left foot behind the lower right calf.
  3. Simultaneous to the leg movement, extend your arms in front of you parallel to the floor. Cross your arms so that the right arm is above the left then bend at the elbows.
  4. Nestle the right elbow into the crook of the left and bring the forearms perpendicular to the floor.
  5. Pass the thumb of the right hand in front of the little finger of the left hand and connect your palms if possible.
  6. Breath and hold for three to five breaths.
  7. Return to mountain pose to release and change sides.

It only takes a couple of post-paddle poses to ensure an enjoyable night under the stars.

Photos and pose recommendations courtesy of Annette Benedetti, a certified yoga instructor and founder of She Explores Life.

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