Written by Kirsty, Sales Assistant at Edinburgh Bruntsfield and yoga teacher. Kirsty runs our Yoga for Cyclists class at Edinburgh Bruntsfield. No bike necessary!
In cycling, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips never rest. As a result, riders often have overdeveloped quadriceps and tight hamstrings, which can pull the hips out of alignment.
Also, a cyclist’s spine is constantly flexed forward. If proper form isn’t maintained, it can result in muscle pain and strain in the back and shoulders. Yoga helps ease tightness, creating core strength, and aligning the spine.
Cycling requires not only physical strength, but also intense focus and concentration to succeed on the road. The attention to breath and mind-body connection in yoga can be employed by the cyclist while riding to maintain mental clarity and calmness.
Here are a few of my favourite poses, which help with cycling.
This pose is a great counter-pose for your upper body positioning while on your bike. It will open up the front of your body and strengthen your spine.
Start on your back with your knees bent. Position your feet about six inches away from your hips. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight ahead. Inhale and press your feet into the floor and lift your pelvis up as high as you can comfortably. Slide your shoulders underneath you, clasping the hands. Breathe evenly. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Slowly lower down, one vertebra at a time.
Benefits of Bridge Pose:
• Stretches the chest, neck, spine, and hips
• Strengthens the back, buttocks, and hamstrings
• Improves circulation of blood
• Helps alleviate stress and mild depression
• Calms the brain and central nervous system
• Stimulates the lungs, thyroid glands, and abdominal organs
• Improves digestion
• Helps relieve symptoms of menopause
• Reduces backache and headache
• Reduces fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia
• Rejuvenates tired legs
• Relieves symptoms of asthma and high blood pressure
• Therapeutic for hypertension, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
- Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
- Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis. Against this resistance, lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.
- Then with an exhalation, push your top thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them. Firm the outer thighs and roll the upper thighs inward slightly. Narrow the front of the pelvis by tucking the tailbone under.
- Firm the outer arms and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. From these two points, lift along your inner arms from the wrists to the tops of the shoulders. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then widen them and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.
Downward Dog - (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga 'asana' all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child's pose.
Try to stay here for 5 deep breaths each time, or whatever is comfortable for you. It gets easier over time, I promise.
Benefits of downward dog:
• Stronger hands & wrists
• Strengthens lower back
• Stretches hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon
• Decrease in back pain by strengthening the entire back and shoulder girdle
• Great to do pre, during or post cycle
- Begin either on hands and knees or in Down Dog
- Step one foot between the hands
- Walk the front foot forward until the knee is right above the heel
- Slide the back knee backward as far as you can
- Keep the hands on either side or inside of the front foot
Try to remain here for 2-5 minutes. Breathe deeply into the stretch and try to relax the upper body.
Benefits of Dragon pose:
• Deep hip and groin opener that gets right into the joint
• Stretches the back leg's hip flexors and quadriceps
• Many variations to help work deeply into hip socket
• Can help with sciatica