How to Use Yoga to Improve Your Cycling (and the Other Way Around)
Cycling is a repetitive motion sport, which means that we must take care of our bodies the same way we take care of our bikes. Nobody’s body is perfectly balanced, meaning there is always a difference between our right and left side, but our bike expects us to be just that – perfect. This is where yoga can be a powerful tool in “reshaping” our bodies and widening our range of motion.
How do and cycling connect?
Balance is the first thing that connects yoga and cycling. Numerous moves in yoga require us to balance really well in order to be capable of doing them properly and stay in the same position for a long time. On the other hand, cycling is a sport where you will often have to maintain your balance while speeding down a bumpy road. This skill implies you being able to make tiny dynamic adjustments in order to improve your posture.
Another thing is to be able to just be in the moment. A cyclist shouldn’t think too much about their posture while cycling. There shouldn’t be any thoughts about the right position of the arms, keeping the back flat or maintaining the correct posture of the body. The point is that a cyclist is relaxed the whole time, and this is where yoga classes can be a great source of practice on how to manage to turn off the interrupting thoughts.
Flexibility is another thing that cyclists must have. A flexible body will be less prone to injuries, while the level of physical stress the body can endure will be increased. This is not something that can be quickly achievable, but regular yoga classes will gradually loosen up your hips and hamstrings.
Some people are misled into thinking that yoga is easy. Holding the poses is an excellent way for you to strengthen your core, arms, and upper legs. Every cyclist needs strong and stable muscles and joints.
Cyclists are bound to feel some pain in the knees and other joints after long and frequent rides. Yoga incites the production of synovial fluid in our bodies, which enables our joints to move more easily and freely.
Now, let us concentrate on the yoga poses that could bring most benefits to your cycling skills.
1. Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This could easily be the most recognizable yoga pose of all. It is considered to be an active resting pose in yoga practice.
Here is what benefits it has for a dedicated cyclist:
- alleviating tight areas, such as shoulders, calves, arches of the feet and the hands
- strengthening the arms and legs, provided you spend at least a couple of breaths holding the pose
- reducing stress and energizing the body.
Come down to your hands and knees, align your wrists under the shoulders, and knees under the hips. Lift the hips up to form an inverted “V” shape while holding the body only with your hands and toes.
2. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
This is also one of the basic poses that require time in order to do it completely (lying flat on your legs), but it doesn’t mean you need to feel demotivated if you are not even close to the final position – it’s all about being persistent! Here is what this pose does for you:
- enables you to stretch out your hamstrings
- helps you to ease your lower back, as well as the spine
Sit and put your legs in front of you. Keep them straight. Take a deep breath and put your arms up at the same time over your head. Stretch as far as you can, then start exhaling while bending forward at the hips. Try to reach your feet or toes.
3. Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
This a strong pose, so maybe you will need time until you master it. However, its benefits are numerous:
- stretching the hips, which can be tightened from the repetitive motion of cycling
- expanding the lungs and chest
- opening up the shoulders
- improving balance and concentration
- strengthening your glutes and quad muscles.
Come down to your hands and knees, then step the right foot on the left side of your right hand. The toes of the left knee should be tucked under. It is advisable to have a pad under the left knee. Try to activate your legs like you are trying to drag the right leg backward, and the left one forwards – this is how you will prevent your body from dropping into the hips, so you don’t get over-stretched by mistake. Your hands can be on your front thigh or raised above your head – it depends how strong and balanced you feel. Hold the pose for five breaths, constantly activating abdominal muscles and legs, and then repeat it on the left leg.
Yoga, bikes and a bad back
There is nothing worse for a cyclist than starting to feel back pain. Whether it is a herniated disc or another back injury, it will change your habits regarding cycling. First, there are certain bikes that actually help relieve the pain. “Cruisers”, or comfort bikes, are made for easy, flat terrain as they have an upright position that soothes the pain. Some mountain bikes also have an upright position, while its seat shocks bring additional energy absorption that eases the pain. Maybe you think these bikes are expensive, but there are numerous cheap bikes that sit you upright and decrease the pressure.
Next, you should consider holding Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) as often as you can to relieve the pain. Lie down, facing the floor and put your hands under your ribs, elbows bent at your sides. Use your low back to lift the upper part of your body while inhaling. Try to use the low back muscles more than your hands in order to hold the position as long as possible.
All in all
Practicing yoga means having a full body workout. Therefore, adding yoga to your schedule and practicing it regularly will not only improve your cycling performance and prevent a lot of injuries, but it will also influence your overall mental and physical health. Find time for it as soon as tomorrow.