For me, a summer in Ontario isn’t complete without at least four or five days of back-country canoe camping in Killarney Provincial Park. Killarney is about five hours north of Kitchener-Waterloo on the north side of the Georgian Bay. It boasts some of the most beautiful lakes, scenic mountains and dramatic rock faces that I’ve had the pleasure of canoeing and hiking along.
If you’ve never been canoeing, let me teach you a new vocabulary word: Portage (noun or verb). I’m glad Canadians are at least bilingual enough that you can pronounce it the more elegant way en francais up here. Honestly, Americans butcher this word. Pronunciation aside, when you hear portage think carrying a huge pack on your back and a canoe on your shoulders for anywhere between a few dozen meters to a kilometer or more! Given that I’m only 5’3” and the canoe is 17’ and about 50lbs, a little extra prep for my shoulders and upper body before heading on a trip is super helpful.
In the month or two leading up to a canoe trip, I like to add more shoulder strengthening to my life on and off my yoga mat. In my yoga practice, I’ll add more planks, side planks, arm balancing and some repetitions of chaturanga (usually from my knees I’ll be honest!). In the sequence I share below, there are lots of variations of planks and side planks peppered with some nice standing poses, hamstring stretches, and a great restorative pose or two. You can choose the variations that feel best for you, there is even an option on the forearms if your wrists get tired.
In general, and particularly for the shoulders, it’s important to think of what movements and actions a yoga practice is and isn’t giving you. After years of relying on yoga as my primary form of movement on a day-to-day basis, and suffering a number of injuries, I have come to really believe in diversity and variety of movement. Most of the shoulder strengthening in yoga are pushing actions and endurance building. I want to also balance that with pulling actions, so outside the studio I like to climb at Grand River Rocks or outside with the help of some experienced friends, and hang on a chin up bar, monkey bars or low tree limbs whenever I get the chance. I also use resistant bands or small weights to help tone my upper body in a wide variety of ways.
I think yoga asana serves the body most when it is combined with other natural movements like walking (especially on natural terrain), lots of squatting, carrying, climbing and hanging. Obviously, as the owner of a yoga studio, it’s really not in my best interest to tell you that yoga doesn’t do everything, so I must really believe diversity of movement important to be telling you this! Yoga’s awesome, but so is variety and lots and lots of movement throughout your ENTIRE day (click that link for an awesome video about my current favorite book, Move Your DNA by Katie Bowman), so don’t limit your movement time to just your yoga mat. To try out this sequence you can click below to download a PDF below. I’ve tried to create a sequence that is accessible to many levels and show the postures clearly, but if you’re unfamiliar with a pose, and don’t feel comfortable trying it without instruction, feel free to skip it or replace it with another pose you know. If you want to make the sequence more strenuous, try adding some vinyasas in or repeat a portion of the sequence several times. I hope you’ll find this sequence helps you prepare for whatever summer adventures are in store for you!
Leena Miller Cressman is the director of Queen Street Yoga. Right now she’s in love with practicing the Tensegrity Repair Series, handstands and doing gentle twists over her bolster. You’ll also find her cruising around on her rusty but trusty bike, and tending to her community garden plot full of arugula, kale, and basil.