By Jenny Willden
Whether you’re river rafting for a day, a weekend, or a week, your muscles can easily get tight and tense. Instead of feeling stiff for days on end, incorporate yoga into your rafting trip to ease tension and reduce stress. Not sure where to incorporate yoga or what poses to try? Read on for our guide to yoga poses you can do on a raft.
Where and When to Do Yoga on the River
River rafting trips can mean busy days that leave you feeling exhausted, but making time to add stretching and relaxation to your adventurous days can revitalize you instead. Here are a few places to work yoga poses into your river routine—including on the raft.
- Floating in flatwater. Try easy stretches and bends that won’t send you overboard and relax tired wrists and arms.
- During a beach lunch break. Use your break while the guides prepare lunch to fit in a fast yoga session.
- Bedtime. Whether you have a Paco pad or a standard sleeping pad, a few stretches before bed can put you in a Zen zone.
- Early morning. Watch the sunrise over the river from your campsite and do a few poses to ready your body for a day of rowing.
- Evening free time. Before dinner or bed, find a scenic view and do a few stretches. It can help you wind down and relax sore arms after a day on the water.
Yoga Poses You Can Do on a Raft or River Trip
1) Wrist Stretch: Do this stretch on or off the raft to help with wrist tightness from rowing. Just bend and flex your wrist the opposite of how you’d hold a paddle to fight the stiffness. A great one if your hand starts cramping up.
2) Downward Dog: It’s as easy as bend and stretch to relieve tension with this classic yoga pose. Bending forward can loosen back tension from sitting in the raft all day, and you can even bend over the raft itself for variety.
3) Warrior 1: One of the most common poses in yoga, the warrior pose opens your upper back and shoulders while stretching tight hip flexors and calves. Be sure your back foot is stable on the raft and lift up powerfully to fully extend into this stretch.
4) Warrior 2: Another favorite yoga pose. Bend your front knee into a lunging position to create a stretch in your hips, and stretch your arms out straight from your shoulders. Be sure to anchor your back foot firmly in the raft or on the shore.
5) Reverse Warrior: When in Warrior II, continue to Reverse Warrior by placing your back hand above your knee on the straightened leg and reach your front arm up to the back of the room. This pose targets the side body muscles that can get tweaked on the river.
6) Boat Pose (haha): The best rafting pose of all, boat pose requires engaging your core while balancing on the raft’s seat benches. From a seated position, grasp behind your quads, lift your chest, and let your toes slowly come off the floor. Lengthen your legs to create a V and hold your hands out or up high when you’re feeling confident about your boat balance.
7) Tree Pose: The most photogenic pose you can do on a raft, you’ll want to wait until the raft’s tied up to practice this balancing act. Stand tall and tuck one leg into the other with the sole of your foot aligning the inside of your opposing thigh. Stretch your arms straight up toward the sky, or place your palms together in a prayer position. Be sure to place your foot above or below your knee, not directly on it, to protect it from injury.
8) Eagle Arms: While seated on the raft, hook your right elbow under your left, wrapping your hands to make your palms meet. Keep your shoulders low and raise your elbows up to deepen the stretch so you can get back to rowing.
9) Bridge Pose: When your chest, neck, spine, or hip flexors get tight from sitting and rowing, pop your backside up into a bridge pose to ease the tension. Try it on dry land with a mat, or use the seating benches on the raft as your support system.
10) Child’s Pose: A perfect pose to do on your Paco pad (or on the raft once everyone else gets off). From your knees, simply fold over your bent legs and reach your arms to the end of your mat, letting your shoulders relax and open. After a long day of rafting, this pose will stretch your tight shoulders, low back, and feet.
Jenny Willden is a Salt Lake City native and the longtime managing editor of Utah’s Outdoor Sports Guide magazine. When she’s not exploring the world, you’ll find her snowboarding or summiting peaks in the Wasatch Mountains. Jenny’s adventure travel writing also appears in TripSavvy, Matador, Women’s Running, Park City, Sensi, and Trivago magazines. Read her stories at jennywillden.com or follow her on Instagram @jenny.willden.