There are many ways cyclists can benefit from yoga, from core strength and flexibility to mindfulness. YRide instructor Jessica Bowman walks us through the benefits of various poses, and recommends which classes are especially beneficial for cyclists.
Cyclists need strength in their legs to support the knees and hips as well as to power up heavy climbs and race across flat stretches. Some poses that are helpful in developing leg strength are:
Warrior I: a great multi-benefit pose as there is strengthening in the thighs and back, as well as stretching through the psoas muscles, which take a beating during hours in the saddle.
Warrior III: Warrior 1 is a great prep posture for Warrior 3, which is another asana that has many benefits for cyclists. One of the primary advantages is that it is a single leg posture. Isolated leg training can help cyclists avoid muscle imbalances which can lead to inefficient pedal stroke and injuries.
Who doesn’t benefit from core strengthening? Cyclists need it just as much as the rest of us and becoming stronger here can help riders in multiple ways. Back pain is one of the biggest complaints of cyclists and a weak core will only make things worse. It is the muscles of the core that keep us balanced on the bike, provide a stable platform from which the legs, hips and knees work, and minimize discomfort from long hours in the saddle.
Plank pose, side plank, and low plank: The plank pose and its variations all help tone the muscles of the abdomen as well as strengthen the shoulders which assist with stability in the saddle. The more stable we are in the saddle, the less chance of imbalance (and perhaps injuries) up and down the kinetic chain.
Many people find themselves on a yoga mat to become more flexible and cyclists certainly can benefit from increased flexibility. Areas such as the chest, back, hamstrings and quads all tend to be where cyclists experience a lot of muscular rigidity. Tight hamstrings, in particular, can affect the low back so creating openness and length in this muscle group helps not only with recovery but also with injury prevention in key areas of the body that are crucial to success on the bike.
Lastly, the focus on breath and presence in yoga is extremely beneficial to cyclists. Climbing up steep hills is intense - there’s no light way to put it! But staying present and in control of the breath can help performance and mindset. By breathing deeply using the diaphragm instead of shallow breaths in the chest, more oxygen flows to the muscles, circulation increases and helps keep the heart rate in check. Moreover, the mindful aspect of deep breathing on the mat transfers to the bike by keeping the rider present and alert, and helps keep the mind in check. Let’s face it, the mind can go to some very dark places on a crazy hill, but in keeping the breath steady, we remain in control and avoid creating more stress for ourselves than is necessary.
Cyclists can benefit from any of various class styles offered, but there are a few that are particularly beneficial:
Flow: In Flow classes, we move continually and the breath is central to said movement. This style of class will allow the cyclist to improve muscular endurance, strength, flexibility and breath control. Cyclists are constantly moving on the bike, with the breath adapting to changes in pace and terrain - a Flow class can help riders prepare for that.
Yin: To balance out all the yang from the road and Flow classes, Yin can be a very beneficial practice for riders. Cycling can, in one respect, be considered yin in nature as the rider maintains an aerodynamic position for an extended period of time just as we are in our Yin practice. However, the sustained asana in Yin yoga encourages myofascial release and flexibility in the muscles and connective tissue which can help with recovery and in turn, translates into increased performance. Many cycling injuries are from overuse, so treating your tissues to recovery and release will allow you to keep riding, pain and injury-free for longer.
Also, sitting in postures for 3-5 minutes allows us to tap into the meditative elements of the practice and allows us to remain present. It’s an opportunity for us to observe the mind. This can help us on the bike when we are faced with tough terrain, weather or discomfort - instead of feeling strain or anxiety from such stressors, we can use the breath to power through. Cycling, as much as any pursuit, is about physical AND mental stamina.
Meditation: In addition to cultivating a regular yoga practice, a consistent meditation practice can help create increased focus, concentration and a calm attitude. Being mindful and present on the bike will help you tap into areas of the body that might be overcompensating due to poor form or alignment and will help keep you alert to hazards on the road or trail - all of which can contribute to a safe and happy riding experience.
YRide: Of course our indoor cycling classes help you bring it all together, whether you just enjoy the energy of a spin class setting, or you’re training for longer outdoor rides and races - this class has got it all!Find a class!