Many of my yoga students are cyclists who practice yoga to alleviate muscle tightness from logging long hours in the saddle. A yoga practice focused on flexibility, core strength and balance can be a perfect cross-training workout for the avid cyclist.
Competitive triathlete Molly McCorkle used to suffer pain in her lower back and hips when she took long rides training for half-Ironman triathlons.
"Over the years, I have experienced injuries while training but since I began yoga, I have noticed that I am more flexible and less injury-prone," McCorkle said. "The core strength, focus and balance from practicing yoga have brought my cycling to a higher level. Also, the visualization aspect has really allowed me to focus on the task at hand and block out any negative thoughts while I'm climbing during a difficult ride."
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 the 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.
Try these three poses before or after your next ride.
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch or Pyramid)
This pose is excellent for promoting balance and opening up tight hamstrings and the illiotibial bands.
Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front and square your hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bend your arms and clasp your elbows. Inhale as you look up. Open your chest and exhale. Hinging from the hips, keep your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straightening it eventually. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side.