Biking + Yoga:
“Both are intense, consuming passions, highly physical, involving lots of sweat and heavy breathing, and, sometimes, not a lot of clothing.” – Jay Winston
There’s no doubt that long hours hunched over the handlebars can tighten both the upper and lower body. Chronically tight hamstrings and sore hips, back, neck and shoulders are all too often taken for just part of what comes with being a serious biker. But it does not have to be that way! A focused yoga practice can not only address the tightness issues, but can even make you a stronger cyclist, with more core strength, better balance, and the awareness and tools to be able to block out negative thoughts during tough climbs or long rides.
Here are three poses to incorporate into your practice. Do them when you are already warm, after every ride.
Root’s yoga instructor Ian Tagge has a series of videos for cyclists: Start Here. Or come to one of his classes!
Here’s Root’s schedule of yoga classes for the summer/fall 2014.
This pose is great for working on balance and for opening up super tight hamstrings and the illiotibial bands.
Standing in Mountain pose with your feet together, take your left foot back about three feet and open the back foot slightly. Keep both of your hips facing towards the front, nice and square. Taking your hands behind your back, bend your arms and try to clasp your elbows if you can. Inhale as you look up, exhale and open your chest. Breathing deeply, keep your spine long as you fold forward over your straight (but never locked) right leg (if you can’t straighten fully, keep it slightly bent. No big deal!). Hold for a few slow, deep breaths, softening into the pose, then repeat on second side.
Not only does this pose open up the chest, shoulders and hamstrings, it works on proper upper body alignment for cyclists.
Starting in Table, on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips and hands slightly in front of your shoulders, exhale, tuck your toes under, and lift your tailbone toward the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent, and reach your heels toward the ground – no worries if they don’t reach. Lower down onto your forearms, ending up with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Create space in your upper back by broaden your shoulder blades away from one other, breathing profoundly for quite a few inhales and exhales. After you begin to soften, see if you can reach your heels a little closer to the ground. When you return to the bike, remember that feeling of broadened, very open, unconstricted shoulder blades.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge)
Biking causes some fairly unnatural upper body positioning while on the saddle. This pose will open up the front of your body while also strengthening your spine.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet about six to eight inches away from your hips. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight ahead and that your knees don’t splay out to the sides. Inhale, root your feet into the floor and lift your hips up as high as you comfortably can manage, taking great care to not clench your butt tightly, which will just constrict your low back. Slide your shoulders underneath you, clasping the hands, and breathe a few good deep breaths. Undo your hands, lay them palms down at your sides, and slowly lower down with control and awareness, one vertebra at a time.
The best part about cyclists practicing yoga? The strength built from yoga will help you feel much more relaxed in the saddle, more focused while climbing and descending or biking tough terrain, and will give and added strength and flexibility in all parts of your riding. Not to mention a calmer more resilient approach to your road trips!
Check out this blog post on The Yoga of Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe.