Fit People: “How Yoga Helped Me Climb Mt. Kinabalu”

SHAPE EIC, Seema Viswanathan tells us about her experience summiting Mt. Kinabalu.
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I failed my first attempt to climb Gunung Kinabalu, or, as the locals call it – Akinabalu. That was in May 2017. I was crushed about not being successful in reaching the summit, Low’s Peak (4,095.2m). What happened? I arrived at the Sayat Sayat Checkpoint (3,666m) half an hour behind the deadline of 5am, set by park authorities, and was told to turn back. I was too slow, as I stopped often to catch my breath. I wrote about the experience in SHAPE’s June 2017 issue, and, in there, promised to return to “finish the job I started”. This year, on the 2nd of April, I succeeded in summiting the mountain! I reached
Sayat Sayat Checkpoint at 4.15am (more than an hour faster than my earlier time) and was posing for photos on Low’s Peak at 7am. What changed?

Read: 3 Places To Hike At New Zealand’s North Island


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Been away. Doing this. ✌

A post shared by Seema Viswanathan (@seemavee) on


I first included yoga stretches to my routine a year ago, as a way to stretch out stiff muscles, post-workout. It also helped with my recovery from a  ankle ligament tear. But yoga also teaches you to breathe right. This helped with my lung capacity when doing uphills, and increased my ability to handle altitude. My training regime for the Kinabalu climb was like this: I went for my usual thrice-a-week strength classes. In between those, I did yoga by following You Tube videos by Yoga With Adriene (by Adriene Mishler), Yoga With Tim (by Tim Senesi) and YOGATX (by Cole Chance). I also attended the occasional class when I could.

I went for hikes, anywhere between two to four hours long, every forthnight. I did include the popular Cardiac Hill/Killer Steps at Gasing occasionally, but I didn’t do any form of stair-climbing; no Batu Caves, no condo steps, no weekly hikes, like I did before. The science behind it: Yoga teacher Gwen Lawrence told SHAPE that yoga will not only reduce the chances of injury because your joints are more flexible, but it improves focus and trains you to open up your lungs to breathe better for better lung capacity.

Tip: If you’re new to yoga, I’d recommend that you take classes, instead of relying solely on YouTube videos.


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