How Yoga Can Benefit Cyclists

Yoga is a great practice for cyclists who want to stretch their muscles and balance the tightness that can occur from using certain muscles intensely and repetitively.

Why add yoga to your training regimen?

When the body moves through the same plane on a regular basis it can become unbalanced. Some muscles are overworked while others are underused. Yoga can help to strengthen and elongate muscles that are overworked and chronically tight from repetitive use. It is also a great form of cross training.

My sister Julia, is a track cyclist (that’s her in the photo above!) and she trains intensely. We often end up chatting about yoga and trying to find poses that might help her ease some of the muscular tension that inevitably builds from such intense training. Her most common complaints are tightness in the back and shoulder region as well as the hips.

Hip Flexors

The iliotibial (IT) band is a group of muscle fibers that runs along the outside of the thigh starting from the pelvis, going over the hip and to the knee. In cycling, the hip flexors work very hard and this overuse can cause micro traumas, tiny tears in the fibers that results in strain. IT band issues and injuries are very common with cyclists. In order to prevent injury it is important to stretch these muscles.

For the hips, Thread the Needle is great and is also a good pose to use in preparation for the more intense, hip-opening  Pigeon Pose.

Upper Back and Shoulders

Cyclists are hunched over the handlebars of their bikes for long periods of time. This posture can contribute to tension. Yoga poses that focus on stretching the shoulders and opening the back (any backbending pose) may be quite beneficial.

Cat-Cow flow will really help to open up and stretch the chest muscles. Another recommendation — try a gentle supported backbend reclining over a bolster or folded blanket. This allows you to stay in the posture for a longer period of time (you are fully supported) and feels amazing in the shoulders and back.

In the following video, Sadie Nardini teaches a short yoga flow designed specifically for cyclists. It starts out with a seated Cat-Cow flow, followed by Upward Facing Table, then Pigeon Pose and ending with One-Legged Forward Bend for the hamstings.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC4JzHJr_6Y[/youtube]

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