Besides the obvious commonality of tight hamstrings, cyclists have a litany of other areas that need attention. Low back, hip flexors, shoulders and wrists can be tense and strained after a long ride. Cyclists need leg strength, quadriceps and hamstrings most of all, but also glutes and calf muscles. Core muscles also come into play.
Yoga can target all of these areas in strength and stretching, giving special emphasis to flexibility and strength in the lower back, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Cyclists spend most of their time bent forward over the handlebars, which leads to tight hip flexors. Forward fold, utkatasana, is a good pose to stretch the hamstrings, open up the low back and relax the hip flexors. Keep knees bent a bit to take strain off the hamstrings. Reclined pigeon, or figure four, is a good choice for a hip flexor stretch. Lunge and its deeper stretch, the lizard, can get into the psoas for stretch and strength. Plank is an excellent overall core builder. Eagle arms and cow face arms will help open the shoulders.
Many yoga poses target all these areas important to cyclists, helping to balance muscle strength and stretching to prevent injury. Yoga practice is also a focus on a deep and steady breath, important in any physical activity.
Thank you Bike Therapy for hosting me to teach pre-ride yoga. Come see us in the studio for more tips
Phew. Our buildout is done. Most of our decorating is complete. We have held our first classes and I am so happy to be teaching more. Now the hard work begins. Building community. Building trust. Come in and get to know us. See this lovely space we have created. Breathe with us. Laugh with us. Create with us. Get to know us and lets us get to know you. In the spirit of community we will have open studio each week. You can ask us questions. Work on a pose. Do some zen doodles. Or just lie in a corner with legs up the wall. Come say hi and don't forget to breathe!
Close your eyes. Breathe. Focus only on your inhale and your exhale. After several breaths focus on your body. What do you feel with each breath? What can you open with each inhale? What can you ease with each exhale? Take this breath, this awareness, with you as you move into asana and as you move through your day.
This has been my mantra this week! I am letting uncertainties become labeled as problems when they are only uncertainties. What in life isn't? Yet, when our plate is full or we are questioning our decisions, we go into fetal position and want to hide. So this week I have been teaching and practicing simple abdominal breathing.
This breath exercise is to remind our body of the way we breathed deeply and easily as a child, when our whole lungs filled and moved our diaphragms down so that our stomachs expanded like a balloon when we breathed in and deflated a bit when we breathed out. Sit in a comfortable position, preferably with hips elevated on a blanket or bolster. First, “center” with both hips even, and sit with an erect, but natural spine. Relax your shoulders.Close eyes or have a soft gaze. Breath normally and just notice your breath. Does it feel deep or shallow? Where do you feel it?
This is one of those yogi-in-a-pretzel poses that some might find difficult: those with tight hips, tight psoas, knee issues or shoulder issues. So why do it? Cow Face stretches the hips, thighs, ankles, chest, triceps... just about everything!
For ease in the lower body try sitting on a folded blanket and then crossing legs with ankles tucked to the sides. Be sure knees are stacked. If there is strain on the knees, do this pose reclined, crossing the knees and holding at the ankles. You can always practice the arms separate.
For the arms, use the option of holding a strap between the hands, behind the back, one elbow lifting as the other descends, your hands walking toward each other on the strap. I like to give my lower arm and assist by reaching behind my back, grasping my wrist, helping my hand to reach up my back, then reach up with the opposite arm. Another alternative arm placement that I love is arms in eagle arms, with one wrapped over the other, palms touching. This opens up more the back and shoulder blades instead of the chest. Or simply focus on the lower body, bringing the hands to each ankle.
In any of these positions you can increase the stretch by folding forward in the pose. Don't forget to breathe!
The first warrior pose seems simple at first glance. If done with strength and extension, Warrior I is an excellent pose to find rooting in the lower body, while lifting the ribcage and torso away toward the ceiling. Warrior I can be surprisingly difficult to someone with hip or psoas issues. The “old” cue (that some teachers still use) is to the square your hips to the front of the mat. While the hips are meant to be more forward than not, I find it unnecessary to over torque the hip and put too big a strain on the psoas to get a benefit in the pose. Work where you feel a stretch, pull back if it is too much.
Modifications include keeping your hands at heart center instead of raising them overhead, going deeper or less deeper into your lunge and adding a bit of a back bend. Don't forget to breathe!
The third warrior pose is great for working on balance and core strength. It can be done with arms on a chair or table to start, then next level with arms against a wall or. After these are mastered try arms on blocks in front of you, then move hands to heart center, perhaps next flying arms at your sides, then ultimately extending your arms long in front of you. Lengthen, pushing your heel behind you as you strongly pull in the abdominal muscles.
I love doing Warrior III first with palms on the wall and extending the leg out, practicing the leg extension, leveling the pelvis and engaging the core; then try with your leg against the wall extending the arms out (much more demanding!). Don't forget to breathe!
Virabhadra= the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger's skin. Yikes!
One of my favorite poses, Warrior II is accessible to everyone. Regulate how deeply you go in this pose by how deep your lunge is. Be strong in the lower part of the body and rise up in the torso at the same time. Extend the arms, reaching from finger tips to finger tips. Try a variation with arms on a bow, with one arm drawn back, elbow bent, as if you are going to shoot an arrow. Use this pose to balance weight in both legs, strong in the bent leg through the heel and strong in the back leg on the pinky toe side of the foot. Warrior II can easily be done supported in a chair by coming to the front edge of the seat and turning to one side, bending one knee and extending the other. Don't forget to breathe!
Starting in forward fold or downward facing dog, step to lunge. Press into the front foot, especially rooting into the heel as you rise up. Hands can stay in prayer hands or extend your arms overhead. Keep the back heel lifted, letting the lower body sink as the torso and arms rise. Bend as deep into the lunge as your knee stability and quadricep strength allow. A supported version of this pose is to drop the back knee to the ground. I love this pose for the stretch in my ribs and obliques. Don't forget to breathe