Cycling and Yoga – The Art of Zen

“Ouch! My hamstrings! I’m feeling yesterday’s ride today”. How many times have you or one of your friends or teammates fallen victim to over-used, under-stretched muscles? These days many cyclists practice yoga to alleviate muscle tightness from logging long hours in the saddle.

Some key areas that we can suffer from overwork or strain during a ride are the hamstrings, quadriceps, hips and the lower back (caused by a constant forward flexion of the spine). The muscle groups in these areas become sore and tired because they are being used in the same way for hours at a time. The same or similar motion is repeated, without properly unwinding or re-energizing.

Physiologically, here is what happens:

  • Quads get tighter as they get stronger
  • Hamstrings contract, tighten on back of legs (plus, they are never fully extended)
  • Shoulders get rounded over straining upper middle back thoracic spine
  • Low back (lumber area) gets pushed out if core strength is not maintained

How yoga helps:

Yoga poses help open what is contracted. Yoga creates flexibility where there is only strength, which balances the action. Many find relief from muscle pain caused by tightness in lower and upper body while practicing yoga. Others have brought spines back into optimal alignment.

Many cyclists are also often surprised to find something beyond the physical from yoga. Anyone on two wheels knows that cycling often requires intense concentration and focus to succeed (especially when Mountain Biking, or cycling in traffic). The work we do on the mat focuses on breathing, cultivating a mind-body awareness and increasing resonance with the energy of the earth, which is transported to the bike to maintain a calm mind and zen-like clarity.

Many of you have probably already flirted with the idea of practicing yoga, or at the very least basic stretches, but find it is too difficult/time consuming/inconvenient to learn the traditional poses.

Below are a couple of links to some informative Youtube videos which you can practice in the comfort of your own home.

And here is a basic guide to some of the poses mentioned.

Happy cycling 🙂