In honor of Bike to Work Day a few weeks ago (on which day I actually rode my bike to the train station* without even realizing that I ought to!), and in honor of Stacey, who requested info on this subject probably six months ago at this point, I’m pleased to present you with a post on yoga for cyclists!
Much like runners, cyclists are typically very fit, but because of the repetitive motions of pedaling a bike and the need to maintain a certain body position while riding, they can develop problems in specific body areas. These problems can include:
- Hamstrings and hips: These areas can become overly tight, and the resulting reduced range of motion can lead to injury.
- Overdeveloped quads: All that uphill pedaling can build great strength, but unless the hips are kept flexible, those strong muscles can pull hips out of alignment!
- Low back pain: Unless proper form is rigorously maintained, the hours spent flexed forward while cycling can result in muscle pain, or strain in the back and shoulders.
- Feet: The ankles, toes, and feet can become stiff when they’re held in position on the pedals, so cyclists, like all athletes, would do well to stretch the foot to avoid injury.
Luckily, a yoga practice can provide solutions to these problems! For cyclists, yoga can be beneficial in the following ways:
- Flexibility: Yogis are obviously known for being flexible. For cyclists, yoga can promote flexibility in the key problem areas of the hips and hamstrings, the legs overall, and the feet, which will help to avert injury.
- Spine alignment: With a regular yoga practice, you become more aware of your posture and the alignment of the spine. For cyclists, this heightened awareness can improve your form, relieving pain.
- Core strength: Key to having a healthy spine is the core strength to support it. Many yoga postures emphasize the core, strengthening the muscles to give you the support you need.
- Balance: Practicing yoga improves your sense of balance, which is key when riding on rough terrain.
- Mental clarity: Practicing yoga regularly often leads to feeling calm, alert, and clear-minded, which can help a cyclist power through a tough ride or stay focused during a race.
- Mind-body connection: As noted above, yogis become more aware of their posture and movements as a result of their yoga practice. With this level of awareness, you’ll be better able to recognize when any part of your body is out of alignment and can take steps to fix it before an injury.
With these points in mind, here’s a sample asana sequence designed for cyclists.
- begin lying flat on the belly
- locust pose (opens heart and shoulders, strengthens low back)
- child’s pose
- rabbit pose (I’m including the link for the visual only – for this sequence, you get into rabbit from child’s pose by clasping the hands behind the back and then lifting the arms)
- dolphin pose (mirrors the upper body alignment needed on the bike)
- cat/cow (healthy spine warmup!)
- downward dog (bicycle the legs here to stretch out the calves)
- standing forward bend
- mountain pose
- 5 half sun salutes
- one full sun salutation with low lunges
- one full sun salutation with high lunges
- one full sun salutation with heart-opening high lunges (clasping hands behind the back to open the chest)
- one full sun salutation with twisting high lunges (opening the chest and shoulders)
- standing sequence:
- balance pose: dancer (works balance, lengthens quadriceps)
- toe balance squat (a variation on malasana, stretching toe and foot while working balance)
- kneeling with toes curled under (gentle stretch for the foot)
- hero pose
- cobbler pose
- seated forward fold
- reclining pigeon (hip stretch)
- bridge pose (strengthens the spine – a good counterpose for on-bike positioning)
- reclining twist
- legs up the wall (great restorative pose, allowing fluid to drain from the hardworking legs, preventing varicose veins)
For me, this full sequence would probably take about an hour and a half. If you flowed more quickly through the postures, you might be able to do it in an hour, but I recommend moving more slowly and spending time in each pose to really enjoy the stretch. If you have time constraints and can’t do the full routine, you can eliminate a couple of poses from the warmup (locust, child’s, rabbit, dolphin) or the cooldown (do cobbler or seated forward fold, reclining pigeon or reclining twist), or you can cut down to two or three half salutes, or only two sun salutes with lunges instead of four. I wanted to give you a full sequence so you’d have plenty of options and an order for the poses, but this is just a framework that you can modify to meet your needs. Enjoy!
*Note: While I love to ride my bike, I am definitively not a cyclist. I am a bike rider, in the same way that a 12-year-old girl is a bike rider. My bike is shiny and red, with classic-looking fenders, a really big basket, and a bell. However, while I might not experience all the trials and tribulations that actual cyclists experience, I can still offer yoga to help them!
Drop, Tuck, and Hammer
Yoga for Cyclists: Pre-Ride Warm Up
Yoga for Cyclists: Post-Ride Cool Down
Yoga for Cyclists: 3 Poses You Should Practice