Five essential yoga poses for cyclists

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I met Ali Watts at the TaiwanKOM Challenge in September and was immediately impressed with her physique (so ripped!), her flexibility and strength on the bike. I had to know her secret.

“Are you a triathlete?” I asked.  -“Nope.”
“Do you do Crossfit?” – “Nope”.

Her ‘secret’ as it turned out, is yoga. And lots of it. Not a yogi myself, I asked her how cyclists can benefit from yoga and what essential yoga poses are best for cyclists. Her response is below.

-Anne-Marije


People often ask me how I can have a big day out on the bike and back it up day after day. For me, I know yoga plays a massive role. The more I ride the tighter I feel. Without a passive stretch afterwards it would be hard to get back on the bike.

Benefits of yoga for cyclists

Many believe that stretching enhances performance, helps with recovery and prevents injury. Of course there are others such as Herbet who refer to studies claiming that stretching is not necessary. However, Quinn sums it up the best, ” one of the biggest benefits of stretching may be something the research can’t quantify: it just feels good.” Yoga takes stretching to the next level. Engaging the breath, body and mind, one can get an even deeper experience than simply stretching.

For some, all the words in the world may not convince, especially knowing that it takes time which could be spent riding right? But stick with it and my guess is after 2 weeks there will be no question that a little bit of post-cycle yoga will yield significant benefits. I say do your own n=1 test!

Pre- or post-ride yoga?

I think some initial dynamic yoga is a nice way to start a ride, but if I had to choose before or after – nothing beats a passive yoga session after a cycle.

Top 5 post-ride yoga poses

What are the 5 best poses post cycling? After our weekly morning intervals hill sprints, I thought I would ask the guys and girls in my local cycling club to demonstrate their favorite yoga pose. They all seemed to instinctively choose what they thought their body needed, which for me at the time was definitely corpse pose (Shavanasa).

If we have to pick just 5 yoga poses to do after cycling, then here’s my list:

1. Dancers Pose

dancer pose

Not quite as restorative as the following poses but you get a lot for your effort. You can stretch out the hamstrings (as cycling shortens them) on your standing leg, while you stretch your quads and hip flexors on the other and at the same time open up your chest and shoulders.

  • Externally rotate your right shoulder and pick up the right foot from the inside
  • Raise the left arm up
  • Keep your torso relatively upright and kick your right leg up and back into the right hand
  • Take deep breaths in and out through the nose
  • Repeat on the other side

2. Downward Dog

down dog

You can’t go past downward dog to open up the shoulder, lengthen the back and get into the tight hamstrings and calves. Once you in down-dog walk through the feet left and right before coming to a still position.

  • Don’t get too caught up on what it looks like, but aim to create an upside down V shape
  • Take your hands shoulder width apart and spread your fingers
  • Take your feet hip distance apart. Push your hands and feet into the ground.
  • Take your shoulders away from your ears by facing your inner elbows to face each other.
  • Your legs may be straight if your hamstrings are loose but in most cases we need to bend the knees a bit
  • It is better to bend the knees and have a straight spine
  • Take deep breaths in and out through the nose

3. Camel Pose

Camel pose

Camel pose will open up your chest, back and shoulders and release those squashed toes.

  • Get into a high kneeling position resting on the ball of your toes
  • Take your hands to your heels and push your chest forward
  • Your arms will almost be straight but not locked out
  • Rest the neck and take deep breaths in and out through the nose

4. Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose

If you are engaging your muscles correctly while riding, your glutes may be on fire so stretch them out in pigeon pose. If there is any pain in the knee then of course lie on your back and try an alternative option.

  • Bend one leg and rest on that hip with the other leg straight back behind you.
  • Try and keep your hips aligned and if this is tricky then perhaps use a towel under your bent side to keep them aligned.
  • Remember to do both sides.
  • Take deep breaths in and out through the nose

5. Lunge

Low lunge

A great way to get into your tight hip flexors

  • Start from hands and knees and bring the right leg forward
  • Take the right foot to the ground and bend the knee to face the sky
  • Keep the left leg straight behind you and lean toward the right foot
  • Take the arms up overhead for a stronger stretch
  • Take deep breaths in and out through the nose
  • Remember to do both sides

 


Ali has broad experience across academia and the business world, with post-graduate qualifications in Japanese, linguistics and English learning and corporate roles in business development and banking. Several years ago she left this behind to follow her passion and started working in the health and fitness industry. Starting out with Yoga teaching and Personal training, she then moved into creating her own businesses promoting yoga and health events online. Realising that running was taking a toll on the body and after trying spin classes, she found another passion in the freedom of cycling. Based in Hong Kong, she is enjoying riding all over the world and now helps run cycling adventures in Asia. She continues to promote strength, flexibility and mobility to cyclists and cycling to everyone else! Ali is also currently working toward graduate qualifications in nutrition.

*Yoga pictures by Sandy Foster of http://www.yogablissphoto.com/.

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