Yoga for Cyclists
If you’ve not considered Yoga before, you may think it’s a bit fluffy and all about silly poses. Well, you’d be wrong, very wrong. Doing yoga for cyclists is probably as effective as a balanced diet, and whereas foods give us energy, yoga provides the ability to cycle for longer without muscle fatigue.
While you may not think cycling and yoga have much in common, they go hand in hand if you’re looking for your best performance. Too often cyclists look for exercises that focus on strengthening muscles and building stamina, and while these will help, yoga compliments these exercises, so why not try something different like yoga?
Yoga helps to offer an equilibrium to your training, cycling and stamina focused exercise leaves your muscles sore and tight, so combining this with yoga stretches maximises your performance.
Yoga is often thought of as a sequence of postures, where it is actually about connecting movement and breathing. So, if you’re looking to improve your recovery, heart rate and cycling posture, here’s a look at the best yoga positions to optimise your cycling performance.
Pre-Cycling Yoga Positions
While natural stretching before cycling is perfectly fine, if you have plenty of time before your ride, there are some yoga poses ideal for practising beforehand.
Lunge to Pyramid Pose
Begin this pose with your left leg forward and your knee and foot bent to a 90-degree angle, your right leg will be stretched out behind you for balance. Inhale before you start the motion, on exhale, you’ll straighten your left leg and have your torso parallel to the front leg this will create a pyramid stance. You can shorten the stance by moving your right forward (if you’re limber enough). Repeat this and switch between legs, note, this pose does take some practice.
Cycling Impact: Helps to warm up and stretch some of the essential muscles for cycling, with carves, quads, glutes and hamstrings all feeling the benefits.
Plank to Deep Squat Pose
Begin in an extended press-up stance with both hands positioned under the shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line from heel to head. Inhale before the motion begins then during exhale, step forward with your right foot, bringing it to your right hand, followed by the same motion with the left foot. After this, drop your hips so you then form and deep squat and hold for 3 breaths and return to the press-up position.
Cycling Impact: The squat position helps to work the hips, glutes, hamstrings and quads before cycling. While the plank focuses briefly on the core as well lightly warming up the arms and shoulders.
Low Lunge Twist to Quad Stretch Pose
With your right leg bending at a 90-degree angle, start this position in a low lunge with your left leg extended behind you. During the inhale, make sure your left hand is securely placed on the mat for balance and on exhale, twist your torso to the right and use your right hand and arm to reach back. If you’re flexible enough, bend your left leg upwards so your foot meets your right hand, this helps to stretch out the quad muscles. You can then return to the start position and inhale.
Cycling Impact: Like the lunge to pyramid, the benefits of lungs stretch out the carves, quads, glutes and hamstrings however with the twist of this position, the chest and lower torso are also loosened up before a ride.
Post Cycling Yoga Positions
Post cycling yoga has a lot of benefits to the body, it encourages a faster recovery by oxygenating the blood as your heart rate slowly returns to its normal BPM. The great thing about yoga is you can quickly train your muscular, cardiovascular and skeletal systems work in harmony and recover faster with a few minutes of breathing exercises a day.
On your yoga mat, or just on the floor, start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be shoulder length apart and knee directly under your hips. Begin the movement by going into the cow pose, this is done by inhaling as you arch your back and at the same time push your stomach out toward the mat. While doing this stretch your neck out by looking up to the ceiling. Then during your exhale, you move into the cat pose. The cat pose is created by rounding your back and lowering your head from looking from the ceiling to the floor. Repeat this with every breath slowly to help spinal recovery from being hunch over on the bike.
Cycling Impact: After spending the workout in a hunched position this breathing exercise works to stretch the spine to reduce any discomfort after cycling.
You’ll start this position by lying on you back on the mat, with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Your arms should be extended along your body to offer balance firmly on the mat. Begin the motion by exhaling as you lift your hips up and toward the ceiling, your weight should be evenly balanced between your feet and shoulders, which all remain on the mat. Hold the extended pose for one breath, then exhale slowly as you roll back down to the mat starting with the top of your spine.
Cycling Impact: This slow and easy warm down helps to reduce the tightness in the back as well as loosen hips and lightly warm down the quads and carves. With the right breathing technique, oxygenised blood should move all around the body using this warm down.
The butterfly position starts with you in a seated position on the mat, with bent knees and the soles of your feet touching each other. Lift your chest and keep you back straight before you begin any movement. While static, inhale, and then during the exhale you’ll bring your forehead and chest down to your feet. Note, this depends on your flexibility, move down as far as naturally possible, over time, you’ll find your flexibility improves.
Cycling Impact: Helping to both stretch your back out while also stretching the groin after long periods in a tight position.
Riding a bike naturally comes with sitting in a position with your spin bent for a long period of time, and the camel pose is the ideal counter. With your shins lay flat on the mat, you’ll begin this position with the rest of your body extended straight up. During inhale you’ll be static and then move into the pose where you bring your shoulders down towards your feet while keeping your lower back straight. Your hand will be used for balance by holding your feet, and once they meet you can exhale. Hold this pose for 20/30 seconds to counteract the hunched position on riding.
Cycling Impact: One of the easier back stretches, with a focus on the lower back the camel pose also benefits the quads and hips.
Final Thoughts on Yoga for Cyclists
There’s no incorrect time to do these poses, doing them before, after a cycle-ride (or even both) helps to circulate blood around the body, improves breathing and benefits the recovery / warm-up of every workout. It’s worth reminding you that although these positions help stretch out a lot of muscles, they don’t help all the ones used during cycling, so be sure you check out advices on stretches before and after circuits.
The best advice on offer will come from professionals in yoga studios, who can help you perfect the positions as well as add some additional positions into your routine. From the common positions, you’ll also find that the squat, upward dog and pigeon are used by cyclists. If you’re looking for further muscle support during the early days of your routine, men’s and women’s fitness clothing such as compression garments can also work to help support muscles during the extensive routines.