Yoga Stretching Gives Cyclists Flexible Muscles and a Supple Spine
Whilst cycling is an invigorating activity which maintains health through low-impact aerobic exercise, tight leg muscles and back strain are all too frequent problems for bike riders who spend too long in the saddle.
Yoga practice is the perfect partner for keen roadies and mountain bikers, keeping muscles flexible, the back supple and also improving balance. Here’s an overview of the different types of yoga asanas and their benefits for cyclists.
Main Types of Yoga Positions
Every yoga stretch massages different organs in the body and flexes different muscle groups. The various yoga poses are grouped into six types.
Yoga stretches performed from a standing position strengthen leg-muscles and joints and increase the suppleness of the spine with rotational movements as seen in Uttitha Trikonasana (extended triangle pose). Blood supply is increased to the legs as they are flexed and little-used muscles in cycling such as the hamstrings are pulled taut. The classic poses Adhomukha Svanasana (downward dog) and Uttanasana (intense forward stretch) are excellent standing yoga exercises for cyclists.
Wonderful poses for strengthening the spine, inter-vertebral joints and ligaments, forward bends are kind on the heart as blood does not have to be pumped against gravity. In addition, the abdominal organs are compressed, relaxing the senses as the front of the brain is cooled. One of the best forward bends for cyclists is Paschimottanasana (intense back stretch) which gives the whole length of the spine a strong workout.
Equally good for cyclists with back problems are the various yoga back bends which work on stretching the spine and stimulating the nervous system, increasing its ability to cope with stress. In addition to flexing the spine, back bends energize the body when performed correctly. Ustrasana (camel pose) is an excellent example.
Twisting poses are often overlooked but are vital for a healthy spine. They improve suppleness of the diaphragm, flush the pelvic region with blood as the abdominal organs are squeezed and can alleviate spinal problems. Twists can be performed from both standing and sitting positions and offer great flexibility for the back and hip joints.
Sitting Asanas in Yoga
These yoga poses make the hips, knees, ankles and groin muscles flexible and are often the hardest poses to master for a cyclist with stiff hip joints. Virasana (hero pose) is one of the most invigorating sitting postures, working the thigh and ankle muscles whilst also relieving backache.
Inversions are known as cooling asanas as blood is drained from the pelvic region and flushed towards the brain, heart and lungs, organs essential for cycling strength. Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) are known as the king and queen of yoga poses respectively. Beginners should only attempt the headstand in the presence of an experienced yoga teacher, the shoulder stand being far safer to accomplish alone.
Yoga Stretches Maintain Flexibility for Cyclists
Cyclists who practice the key yoga positions can avoid tight hamstrings and alleviate any back problems. Perform the suggested asanas on a good quality yoga mat for maximum benefit.