06 Jun Yoga for Cycling – poses that can help
Yoga for Cycling
Yoga is a fantastic complement to cycling. It can help alleviate sore muscles, strain, and the tension created through cycling. Over the years I have taught many competition cyclists one on one, including international sports people, and Iron Men.
Yoga for cycling benefits include:
- deep breathing exercises that help with mental preparation
- helps relax you after a bike ride
- strengthens your core muscles to maintain a healthy posture
- prevent sore back muscles
- counterposes the muscles and connective tissues used during a race
“for competition cycling, breathwork and visualisation techniques helps to focus athletes, and stay calm under pressure – the yoga begins when you leave the mat!”
Why Do Yoga Before Cycling?
Yoga can be a great warm up and preparation for biking because you don’t want to be stiff when you get on a bike. Many cyclists have day jobs that require them to sit for most of the day. Yoga can be a great way to stretch your hip flexors, which can get tight when sitting at a desk all day. It can help energise mind and body, make you feel more open, calm, relaxed and connected to your breathing, which can help you on tough climbs.
Why Do Yoga After Cycling?
Yoga is especially helpful after a long bike ride. Pigeon and lunges can be a really great counterbalance to the tightness and soreness you may have in your legs and to help alleviate and open your torso and your spine after being forward flexed.
Following are three easy poses that you can do before and after a race with twelve deep breaths.
Step by Step
Lie supine on the floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.
Exhale and, pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
Benefits – Stretches the chest, neck, and spine, Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression, Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid, Rejuvenates tired legs, Improves digestion, Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported, Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia, Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
Cautions – Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher
Beginner’s Tip – Once the shoulders are rolled under, be sure not to pull them forcefully away from your ears, which tends to overstretch the neck. Lift the tops of the shoulders slightly toward the ears and push the inner shoulder blades away from the spine
Modifications and Props – If you have difficulty supporting the lift of the pelvis in this pose after taking it away from the floor, slide a block or bolster under your sacrum and rest the pelvis on this support
Step by Step
Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly, narrow your hip points, and firm but don’t harden your buttocks. Imagine that you’re drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Keep your outer hips as soft as possible. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down. Use your hands to spread the back pelvis and lengthen it down through your tail bone.
Then lightly firm the tail forward, toward the pubis. Make sure though that your front groins don’t “puff” forward. To prevent this, press your front thighs back, countering the forward action of your tail. Inhale and lift your heart by pressing the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
Now lean back against the firmness of the tail bone and shoulder blades. For the time being keep your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis. Beginners probably won’t be able to drop straight back into this pose, touching the hands to the feet simultaneously while keeping the thighs perpendicular to the floor. Press your thighs back to perpendicular.
See that your lower front ribs aren’t protruding sharply toward the ceiling, which hardens the belly and compresses the lower back. Release the front ribs and lift the front of the pelvis up, toward the ribs. You can keep your neck in a relatively neutral position, neither flexed nor extended, or drop your head back. But be careful not to strain your neck and harden your throat.
Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. To exit, bring your hands onto the back of your pelvis, at the back of the pubic girdle. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up, not by jutting the
chin toward the ceiling and leading with your brain. Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths.
Anatomical Focus – Ankles, Thighs, Groins, Belly, Chest, Spine, Shoulders, Neck
Benefits – Stretches the entire front of the body, the ankles, thighs and groins, Abdomen and chest, and throat Stretches the deep hip flexors (psoas)Strengthens back muscles Improves postureStimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck
Cautions – High or low blood pressure, Migraine, Insomnia, Serious low back or neck injury
Beginner’s Tips – Beginners very often aren’t able to touch their hands to their feet without straining their back or neck. The next thing to do is to rest each hand on a block. Position the blocks just outside each heel, and stand them at their highest height (usually about 9 inches). If you’re still having difficulty, get a chair. Kneel for the pose with your back to the chair, with your calves and feet below the seat and the front edge of the seat touching your buttocks. Then lean back and bring your hands to the sides of the seat or high up on the front chair legs.
Modifications and Props – Ustrasana can be a very difficult pose for the neck, especially if your shoulders are tight. You can use a wall as a prop against your front thighs
Step by Step
Lie on your back on the floor with your arms outstretched from your shoulders, like the letter T, palms facing the ceiling. Let there be a straight line running from your chin, to your sternum, to your pubic bone. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
Lift your hips off the floor and swing them to the left. Take your knees toward your chest and drop them toward the floor on the right side of your body. Inhaling, lengthen your spine. Exhale both shoulders toward the floor. Soften your gaze; quiet your hearing; relax your jaw.
Hold the spinal twist for three complete breaths. Lift your legs off the floor and place your feet back down to center your hips on the floor. Repeat everything to the other side. Repeat this up-down movement on the left side 10 times, or until your waist or back muscles begin to tire.
Benefits – Good for sluggish digestion, low energy, stifled breathing, and a variety of spinal muscle aches and pains. Improves breathing, eases back and neck tension, and soothes frazzled nerves
Focus – In your mind’s eye, trace a diagonal line from your right knee to your right hand and then lengthen through the torso along that line. If you feel yourself kinking up in the right waist, place your right thumb in the hip crease and actively draw the right hip away from your shoulder and toward your feet. Then bring the right arm back to its place
Cautions – Back or spine injury. Perform this pose only with the supervision of an experienced teacher or avoid it altogether. Also avoid this pose if you have: Low blood pressure, Migraine, Diarrhea, Headache, Insomnia or if you are pregnant
For more tips on how to live an optimal lifestyle, check out my new book, which is available on Amazon, and all leading bookstores:
‘Mind Body Cleanse’ by Chris James (Penguin Vermilion, £14.99). Available from here: https://www.chrisjamesmindbody.com/product/mind-body-cleanse-by-chris-james/https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mind-Body-Cleanse-Plan-Re-Energise/dp/1785040804
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