When I hike, I feel stress in my legs and glutes (butt). When I wear a backpack, my chest, shoulders and back muscles get stressed too. Stretching helps alleviate pain, prevents injury and keeps these muscles functioning well for another day on the trail, therefore I practice post-hike yoga after each trek.
These 5 stretches can be completed with or without shoes, in a grassy area off the trail, at camp or even in your tent. Hold each posture for at least 5 slow breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
Down dog stretches the hamstrings,calves, shoulders, chest and back. Place your hands in line with your shoulders and keep your feet in line with your hips. Lift your hips high toward the sky while pressing your hands evenly into the ground. Feel your spine and back muscles lengthen while stretching the back of the legs. Allow the neck to relax. While keeping your knees soft, try dropping your heels to the ground to intensify the calf stretch.
Stretch the entire back side of the body by hinging at the hips and folding forward to allow the crown of the head to reach toward the earth. Let the neck release, allow the back to lengthen, and keep the knees soft so that hamstrings can stretch gently.
This low lunge stretches deep into the hip flexor muscles of the pelvis. From forward fold, bend your knees and place your hands on the ground directly under the shoulders. Step one leg back and gently drop that knee to the earth. Place your left hand inside your left foot, your right hand in line with your right shoulder. The left knee and lower leg squeeze against the left arm and shoulder. Stay in this position until your pelvis begins to relax. To intensify the stretch, drop to your forearms and lift the back leg off of the ground as demonstrated in the photo. Try to keep the back long and not rounded. Keep the neck in line with the spine so that it is in a neutral position. To switch sides, press back into Downward Facing Dog and then step forward with the opposite leg.
Stretch the chest and front of the thighs and hips while realigning your pelvis. Lay on your back with bent knees, feet tucked in close to your bottom. Slowly and methodically, lift the hips off the ground, feeling the low back and then the middle back muscles engage. Hold the posture by balancing on the upper back and rear shoulders and not on the neck. Keep your feet in line with your hips as you lift your pelvis toward the sky. Relax the butt and hamstring muscles while contracting the muscles on the front of the thigh. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you stretch the chest muscles.
To stretch the outer hips, stack one leg on top of the other while in a seated position. To begin, sit with your legs crossed in easy pose. Place your hands on the floor beside your hips and gently lift your bottom off the ground. By doing so you reset your pelvis to a neutral position. Return the bottom on the ground and gently stack one leg on top of the other.
Flex your feet by pulling the toes toward your shins. Aim to have the left foot stacked over the right knee, and the right foot under the left knee. To intensify the stretch,slowly walk your hands forward and lower your chest toward the ground. Return to a seated position and then switch sides for an even stretch on both sides of the hip and butt muscles.