Yoga for cyclists

Yoga for cyclists - More and more people have turned to cycling as a sport or mode of transportation in the past few years. And it’s all for the better – our body certainly benefits from the cardio workout and the earth could use a little less pollution caused by motor vehicles.

Cyclists tend to have strong, quads and gluteus muscles, but weak and tight hip flexors because they are in crouched position constantly. And because they hold the position in a longtime, many cyclists also experience back pain and postural issues.

Yoga works to restore the body’s balance and symmetry. It opens the hips up and strengthens the surrounding muscles to prevent injury. Some yoga poses open the front body including the hip flexors to counter this. Serious cyclists also need strong core muscles to support the postures and some yoga poses work to strengthen the core muscles.

Whether you’re training for a race or just an avid weekend cyclist, you need to be aware of injuries. Practicing yoga regularly increases body awareness, which in turns become a tool to prevent injuries.

Adhomuka svanasana (Downward-facing dog)

Adhomuka svanasana (Downward-facing dog) But while cycling is a great workout, it creates imbalance in the body, like other repetitive sports such as running and swimming. The continuous cycles of repetitive motions tax one set of muscles while underutilizing the rest. Over time this creates muscular imbalances and asymmetry in both upper and lower part of body, and this lead to misalignment and injury.

Body awareness also helps you to isolate the muscles you need so that you can relax the ones you don’t.

Breath is an essential part of any endurance sports. Shallow breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which makes you anxious and depletes your energy even more. You can learn to apply the steady, even pace of deep breathing that you do in the yoga practice, while on the bike.

Practice the Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious breathing) while training as well as when you do the yoga practice. This breathing technique triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and establishes a neurological calm in your brain.

Below are a few yoga poses you can do after you cycle or as a stand-alone workout. Make sure your body is warm when you do this sequence. If you make this a stand-alone practice, do a few rounds of sun salutation (Suryanamaskara) before you do these poses.

Before you begin, have at hand a strap or towel, and a couple of blankets or cushion for props. Hold each pose for at least 10 deep Ujayyi breathing.

1. Adhomuka Svanasana (Downward-facing dog) :

This pose stretches your hamstring and the muscles across the spine. Come to all four with the shoulders over the wrists and the hips over the knees. Take a deep breath and as you exhale lift the knees off the ground, shifting the body weight back over the legs. Keep the sit bones lifted and stretch the heels down even if they don’t touch the floor. Many people have to slightly bend their knees to keep their spine from rounding.

2. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge):

This pose opens the hip flexors, strengthens and balances the quadriceps muscles on the front leg, and stretches the outer hips for healthier knees.

From downward dog, step your right leg forward into a lunge with the shin perpendicular to the ground and the right knee directly over your right heel. Drop the left knee to the ground, well behind the left hip.

Keep your pelvis low and squared towards the front. Inhale and stretch your arms up and lift from your torso. Hold for a few breaths then change side.

3. Bhujangasana (Cobra):

Bhujangasana (cobra)

Bhujangasana (cobra)

This pose opens the chest area, and stretches the thoracic spine, countering those spinal flexions from cycling.

Lying on stomach with hands under shoulders, inhale and lift the chest pulling the sternum forward while pressing down the pubic bone and legs.

4. Ekapada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon):

This pose creates a deep stretch for the iliotibial band that runs along the outer thigh, and the hip rotators.

From all four, slide your right knee forward behind your right wrist and place your right shin at an angle under your torso. The outside of your right shin will rest on the floor. Slowly slide the left leg back as you lower the outside of your right buttock to the floor. Keep your hips squared to the front (you may place a folded blanket under the right buttock for support if needed) with your right heel just in front of your left hip. Flex the right ankle to protect the right knee. Fold your torso forward over the right thigh. And hold here for at least two minutes or longer, keeping your breath deeply and free flowing. Then repeat on the other side.

5. gomukasana (Cowface):

This is a nice shoulder stretch that you can do after a long day sitting at your desk as well.

Sit cross leg or with your legs folded Japanese style to maintain a tall spine. Extend the right arm overhead bending at the elbow with the palm facing your back.

Bring the other arm to the back, bending at the elbow and slide the hand between the shoulder blades, palm facing out.

Now hook the fingers of both hands at your back, or use a strap of a towel to link them together. Make sure that your right elbow is pointing up, but beware of any sensation of overstretch on your shoulder. Repeat after a few breaths.

6. Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall):

This is a perfect restorative inversion to end your practice and is also a passive chest opening.

Place a thickly folded blanket about 10 centimeters from a wall or other upright support. Sit sideways on the left end of the blanket with your right side against the wall. Exhale and bring your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Your pelvis should be elevated by the blanket.

Open your shoulder blades away from the spine and release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Rest here for a few minutes, noticing where the body is holding tension and release it.

Now notice if you feel any difference in your body as well as mind, especially the next time you’re on the bike. Namaste. ( )

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