Yoga for Cyclists

IMG_0066-0.JPG Photo credit: Biff Stephens

Stretch out those muscles that get super tight from logging numerous miles on the bike. These poses will help unwind the spine, open the chest and shoulders, and relieve tightness in the hamstrings, glutes and hips. Do these stretches after your ride and you will be sure to find a little more freedom in those overworked and under utilized muscles used in cycling. Be gentle and listen to your body. Try not to go too deep into the stretches and take breaks when needed.

Bridge pose
Stretches: hip flexors, quads, chest and shoulders
Benefits: Calms the body, alleviates stress and rejuvenates tired legs. This pose also opens the front side of the body, increases flexibility in the spine, tones the back side of the body and releases the lower back
How to: Lie on your back. Bend your knees and walk your feet in directly under your knees. Extend your arms long next to you and reach your fingertips towards your heels. Begin to press your heels into the mat and lift your hips. Stay for 10-15 breaths. When your ready, slowly lower your hips back to the ground and it may feel good here to pull your knees into your chest and rock from side to side giving the lower back a gentle massage.


Reclining Pigeon Pose
Stretches: Low back and outer hips
Benefits: can help prevent knee and hip pain by opening hips and stretching the IT band
How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on mat. Take your right ankle and cross it over your left knee. If this is enough for you then stay right here. For a deeper stretch, lift your left off the ground and wrap your fingers around the back of your left leg. Keep your tailbone and your shoulders on the mat. Stay as long you want in this stretch then repeat on the other side.


Reclined supine twist
Stretches: back muscles and glutes
Benefits: Increases flexibility in spine and back muscles
How to: lie on your back and bend your knees taking your legs in a tabletop position stacking them over your hips. Extend your arms long into a T or you can bend your elbows if that feels better. Gently let your knees fall to the right. Your knees might not touch the floor, which is fine, but keep your shoulders resting on the mat. If it fees okay you might take your gaze over your left shoulder. Stay for a few breaths and then switch sides.


Bound Angle Pose
Stretches: inner thighs, hips and groin
Benefits: Strengthens and improves flexibility in inner thighs, hips, knees and groins.
How to: from a seated position place the soles on your feet together and let your knees drop towards the floor. If your knees are above your hips, sit on a blanket or block. You can also place blocks under your knees for support. For a deeper stretch, walk your feet closer to your pelvis. For a less intense stretch, take your feet farther from you. You can stay here or start to fold your torso over your legs keeping your spine long. Keep your sit bones pressing firmly into the mat as you take this stretch. Stay for a few breaths and gently release.



Toe stretch:
Stretches: fascia that covers the sole of the foot and extends all the way up the legs
Benefits: Opens toes and feet and strengthens ankles
How to: sit on your shins with feet together and tuck your toes under. Spread your toes apart giving some space between each one. This is an intense stretch so try to focus more on your breath keeping your inhales and exhales deep and even. You can rest your hands on your thights or take your hands to your heart. Try to stay for 10 breaths and take breaks when you need to.


Top of foot stretch
Benefits: stretches top of foot
Stretches: foot
How to: from the previous stretch release the tops of your feet to the ground. Place your hands in front of your knees. Begin to press your toes and hands into the ground and gently lift you knees. The higher you lift your knees, the more intense the stretch will be. Stay as long as you can and slowly lower your shins back down.


Wide leg forward fold
Benefits: Opens up the backs of the legs, the adductors and outer edges of lower legs as well as releases tension throughout spine
Stretches: inner thighs, gluteus, hamstrings
How to: from a standing position take your legs into a wide V stance and turn your feet parallel to each other. Bring your hands to your hips and lift your chest towards the sky as you inhale. On your exhale, engage your core and start to fold forward. Tailbone reaches up as head moves away from hips and towards the ground. Keep your knees soft and allow your torso to completely relax here letting your head be heavy. Keep your quadriceps engaged to protect your hamstrings and shift your weight forward taking it out of your heels. You can slowly lower your hands to the mat for support. For additional support you can place your hands on a block or you can use a helmet or water bottle if the ground seems too far away. To release, take your hands to your hips, bend your knees slightly and lift your torso.


Legs up the wall
Benefits: allows legs to relax and encourages the chest to open and the back to release
Stretches: backs of legs
How to: Lie on your back and walk your legs up the wall as you bring your hips closer to the wall. You can place a bolster, blanket or pillow under your back for support if needed. Stay here for a few minutes and if you want to get deeper into your groin, start to take your legs away from each other. When you are ready to come out of the pose, walk your feet back down the wall and roll to your right side. Take a couple of breaths here before pressing yourself up.