Redmond is the biking capital of Washington state. And May is bicycle month. Almost everyone I know jumps onto a bike every summer. Some (like me) do it for recreational fun on weekends while others are more hardcore and even end up doing the famed 200+ mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland every year. I live up on a hill and every spring and summer I notice many cyclists go up and down the hill training to elevate their endurance, strength and will power. While the benefits of cycling are plentiful, it is cardio for the body and cycling being a repetitive movement – a prolonged cycling session needs to be supplemented with good amounts of muscle release, stretch, and restoration. In short, yoga is great for cyclists. And here is my list of Top 10 yoga poses for cyclists!
While most cyclists indulge in some stretching – the amount of time spent restoring the muscles back to their full length is something that needs to be understood. The longer the distance of cycling, more time should be spent stretching out the muscles.
AREAS OF THE BODY IMPACTED DURING CYCLING –
Everybody reacts differently to the same activity. But overall, the after effects of cycling can be noticed primarily in these areas of the body
- Quadriceps – There is constant contraction that happens on the upper thighs while beating down on the peddle. So essentially the end of the quadriceps muscles are coming closer together. If we do not lengthen the quadriceps post cycling – these tend to pull on the hip flexors and also affect the health of the knee joint. The human body is like a map, one point connects to many and each one affects the other
- Glutes and hamstrings – All these lower body muscles are large and meant to carry load and be challenged. The glutes and hamstrings become severely affected as cycling is an almost an equal front and back body workout. Releasing the tension and restoring muscle length is vital as these muscles directly affect lower back and overall posture. Most cyclists will pop in and out of stretches but this is not enough to bring back muscle length and circulation
- Upper back & shoulders – I may get some slack for saying this, but cycling (in my humble opinion) is not the best thing for posture. Most cyclists are bent over, enhancing the upper back curve. This is further encouraged by our modern day – sit at a desk lifestyle. In the upper body, we need to do the opposite action, i.e., open the chest and stretch out the pectorals. And restore shoulder mobility and circulation
TOP 10 YOGA POSES FOR CYCLISTS
Cycling builds excessive heat in the body. So most of these yoga poses mentioned below will not only help the affected areas mentioned above. But will also help to regulate body temperature, increase circulation, improve breathing and restore lost muscle length. Be advised that an overall yoga practice is the best way for any cyclist. But if you are in a pinch for time, these would definitely help. Remember, that these poses are meant for recovery.
Supta Padangushtasana/Spine Hand to Big toe pose
Single handedly one of my favorite poses. If you have legs you should do this pose whether you cycle or not. There are 2 parts to this pose.
- Part 1 (see pic below) is to stretch out the hamstring. Use a strap or a similar prop. Place the strap over the ball mounds of the foot. Both hands hold the strap. The goal here is to keep the knee straight. The greater the sensation on the back of the leg, the more this muscle needs to be released. Hold for a good minute or more if possible. If it’s unbearable, do lesser holds with more repetition (or do the bent knee threading the needle pose)
- Part 2 (see pic below) will build hip stability. Since the legs connect into the hip joint, it is important to work with hip stabilizing poses. This provides an external rotation that is much needed after being on a cycle for an extended time. By encouraging external rotation in the hips, the demand from the lower spine is lessened. The hip flexors find a much-needed release. Make sure to keep the pelvis level. Knees straight in this part of the pose.
- Continuing to release the outer glutes and hip flexors. This yoga pose will release the quadriceps and enhance circulation in the pelvis.
- The upper body in pigeon pose will counter the forward drop that cyclists experience. The chest expansion will improve breathing, posture, and circulation
- If you are a seasoned yoga practitioner, opt for the next stage of the pose – with the strap looped around the back foot. This will intensify the quad stretch, but watch the lower back.
Adhomukha Swanasana/Downward Facing Dog
- There is a reason why this pose is so popular. It’s relatively easy to do and stretches the entire back body.
- A downward facing dog has an added benefit as it helps regain lost energy. Something that is common after a long bout of cycling. This is due to downdog being a mild inversion
- Push the weight back onto the legs and build up to hold this pose for an extended duration.
Urdhva Mukha Swanasana/Upward facing dog pose
- This pose gets right into the space between the shoulder blades. And enhances chest opening. So a great counter to the excessive upper back rounding.
- The front heads of the shoulders are drawn back and helps to counter the excessive forward rolling action of cycling
- The palms flexed is a counter stretch from gripping the handle bar during cycling. Improves sensitivity and circulation in the tiny muscles in the hands.
Anjaneyasana/High Lunge pose.
- I am recommending two different poses here
- One has the knee down and the other incorporates some balances. This is good pose to prep for the next pose
- Pad the knee in Anjaneyasana if it seems a bit much. The key is to drop the hips down and forward
Supta Virasana/Supine Hero’s Pose
- This pose will probably be the most challenging in our list of top 10 yoga poses for cyclists. Though restful this will surely release any stiffness left in the quadriceps
- Start with the single leg version on a block if you cannot get into the full height of the pose.
- Know that the longer you hold it, the easier it becomes
- Respect the limitations of your body in a yoga pose
- Avoid sitting down on the heel of the bent knee
Prasarita Padottanasana/Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold
- This will stretch the entire back and inside of the legs
- The feet spread in a pose like this, thereby stretching the muscle & nerve fibers and restoring circulation, sensitivity.
- In yoga practice, the feet are the foundation for everything
- The spine in lengthened. And the final version of this pose is a semi-inversion countering fatigue.
Baddhakonasana/Bound Angle Pose
- Encourages external rotation in the hips
- Improves circulation and releases the lower back
- Stretches out the inner thighs.
- Sit on a folded blanket or cushion if knees are very high up
Upavishta Konasana/ Seated Angle Pose
- A continuation of bound angle. This poses encourages the straightening of the legs. Restores muscle length
- Improves circulation in the hips and lower back
- And releases stiffness from inner thighs and groins.
- Stay for as long as you can and maybe lower down if possible onto the forearms and roll inner thighs back.
Vipreeta Karani/Legs Up The Wall Pose
- Cycling fatigues the leg muscles. So it’s necessary to do a yoga pose that will restore energy and vitality. While any inversion will do the trick. I have picked this one as it is the BEST pose to recover energy.
- I was skeptical when I first started Yoga and underestimated this pose a lot. But I have tried it several times myself after a long day of teaching or heavy cardio. This pose does not disappoint.
- Find a wall, get your legs up the wall and make sure the buttocks touches the wall
- Stay for a good 15 minutes or more to feel the effects of this pose
- This will also bring all the stagnant blood pooling in the legs back into the heart. The heart rests in such a pose
So there you have it! Our top 10 yoga poses for cyclists. Make sure to give them a try and let us know if you do. A big shout out to our friends at Gregg’s Bellevue Cycle for letting us shoot at their store. Happy biking everyone!
Wonderful suggestions. These look fantastically helpful. Love the legs up the wall variation with the strap. Thanks for sharing!
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