Mindful Belaying

When belaying a leader or top-roper we need to stand steadily, look up, and not get distracted – the last of these being especially hard at a busy crag or wall.

Yoga techniques can help us to improve the posture, stand more steadily, and focus the mind.

Next time you’re on a long belay, try going through the following steps to scan your body mindfully from the feet up, moving into the classic Mountain Pose (Tadasana).

Unmindful belaying? Photobombed by my own belayer!

(Keep watching and belaying your partner as you do this – use your sense of body awareness, not your eyes, to check your body alignment!)

  • Check that your feet planted are planted firmly, with the weight evenly distributed. 
  • Gently tone the muscles in your legs, without locking your knees.
  • Tilt your pelvis to tuck your tailbone under, and pull your navel into your spine.
  • Lift your chest and roll your shoulders onto your back.
  • Keep your awareness in the present by noticing the sounds and smells around you, and the feel of air on your skin – rather than listening in to the team on the route next to you.

Take it further to help you look upwards.

Keeping your feet firmly planted, feel as though you are trying to rotate your knees out to the side. They won’t actually move much, but this will wake up your glutes to protect your lower back.

Now lift your chest still higher and roll your shoulders even further onto your back into a gentle upper back bend.  You’ll find that you can look up more easily without straining your neck.

Of course these techniques work best on single pitch crags. There’ll always be some occasions when we don’t have much choice about our belay posture – like on the stunning Wide is Love in the Verdon Gorge.