Cycling is probably my second greatest love after yoga. Nothing compares to the sense of freedom I get jumping on my bike and dashing around London to teach or meet friends. I particularly enjoy leisurely rides in the countryside and have even cycled around parts of South East Asia and South America on some rusty, rickety bikes and fairly hairy roads, including the aptly named, “The World’s most Dangerous Road”!
The best thing is that I get to avoid sweaty public transport, especially in this heat! However, I fully appreciate the effect sitting on my bike for prolonged periods of time has on my body. The repetitive nature of cycling and the posture you adopt whilst riding can create physical imbalances in the body, leading to tightened muscles and joint pain which you may experience on or off your bike. This is where yoga steps in. Working on both the body and mind, yoga can lead to greater aerobic strength, increased flexibility and focus. Pro-mountain bikers, Olympians and elite cyclists have stated that they use yoga as part of their training programs.
Cyclists often suffer from excess tension in the shoulders, spine, hips, glutes, quadriceps and calf muscles. This workshop is specifically designed to target these parts of the body.
Posture on your bike
Leaning forward over the handlebars can shorten the abdominal muscles and weaken muscles along the back of the spine. We will work through accessible backbends using props to open the chest, strengthen the spine and lengthen the abdominals. Shoulders can also become tight from rounding forward and supporting the upper body. Tailored poses to strengthen and open muscles that stabilise the shoulder blades will result in a more solid cycling posture and decrease lower back pain. We will also target pain or discomfort in the neck that can arise from gazing forward at the road ahead.
Stretching and strengthening the legs and alleviating hip tension
Whether you use your bike to commute, competitively or for ambling cycles, being seated for long periods of time can cause stiffness in the muscles supporting the hips. Pedaling meanwhile works the entire leg. Many cyclists rely heavily on the quads and hips, under using the glutes and hamstrings and tight inner thighs can lead to pain or discomfort in the knee joint.
We will practise lunges and twists exploring rotation of the hips and an opposing range of motion to the flexion and extension that is required in order to pedal a bike. Juicy hip openers will work deep into the layers of muscle for a much-needed release. Poses to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and inner thighs meanwhile can lead to more powerful pedalling.
Breath for expansion
Throughout the workshop we will work through specialised pranayama exercises (breathing techniques). The aim in the first instance is to relax the mind which should lead to a release in the body. For me, yoga and cycling are both forms of moving meditation and one compliments the other well. The breath is really powerful in creating a calm and meditative state - very helpful when you’re dodging traffic on London roads! A focus on deep and steady breathing with continuous creative flows will encourage a full range of movement and help to build muscle endurance. Dynamic flows and yin/ restorative poses will be combined using the breath to get deeper into the muscles and connective tissues. The result should be a more relaxing and focused ride.
This workshop is for everyone, whether you’re new to cycling, just beginning your yoga journey or a seasoned pro. You’ll step off the mat feeling stretched, balanced and more stable on your bike.
Roohipour, Parisa “Bends with benefits yoga for cyclists” Sportive.com, 14 Oct 2013, web 13, Jan. 2014