Yoga, an alternative medicine practice, merges stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation. According to the Mayo Clinic, the mind-body practice helps to keep stress under control, lower blood pressure, improve heart function, manage chronic conditions and increase fitness.
Many people, including cyclists, can benefit from the improved balance, flexibility, strength and range of motion that yoga offers. That’s because while mountain biking is an excellent form of cardio. We’re often left with tightness, aches and sometimes even pain. Admit it. We’re all friends, here.
Beth Shaw, president and founder of YogaFit®, the largest yoga school in North America, notes that repetitive cycling forces the body in long periods of forward flexion, similar to sitting at a desk for long hours or driving a car. However, due to the work involved, there becomes the additional problem of a tightening in the muscle groups of the lower body, quads, hamstrings and gluteus.
A consistent sport-related yoga program could help alleviate many of these symptoms, including lower back pain, trapezious stress and tight hamstrings and quadriceps.
“Yoga poses provide us with an opening in all of these areas, and helps rejuvenate the body after a strenuous workout,” she said.
The poses Shaw refers to are a series of movements intended to improve strength and flexibility. Here, she shares her five must-do poses for mountain bikers below, which range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may have you stretching your physical limits.
1. Lateral Flexion: opens up the sides, or lats, of the body
Do it: In a standing position, bend to the side, away from the midline of the body, and hold for 10 deep breaths. When you finish one side, straighten back to the center and go to the other side. You can perform this stretch in the seated position as well.
2. Quad Stretch: opens and stretches your quadriceps muscles
Do it: Stand and touch a wall for balance. Grasp the top of the ankle or forefoot behind. Pull the ankle or forefoot to the rear end. Straighten the hip by moving the knee backward. Hold the stretch for 10 deep breaths and repeat with opposite side.
3. Upside Down Pigeon Pose: stretches your hip abductors and glutes
Do it: Lying face up on the floor, lift the legs to knee height off the floor, then bring the right ankle to the left quadriceps. Try to aim for a spot on the leg midway between the knee and groin. Pull left knee in towards the body, and push the right knee away gently until a deep stretch in the hip and glute area is felt. Hold for 10 deep breaths and switch sides.
4. Forward Fold: stretches your hamstring muscles
Do it: While standing, hinge at the hips and fold forward—sometimes it helps to grab onto elbows. With fluid breathing, sink further on each exhale, letting the crown of the head move towards the floor.
5. Cobra Pose: expands and opens up chest and shoulder muscles
Do it: While lying prone on the floor, stretch the legs back and tops of the feet on the floor. It is a good idea to spread hands on the floor under the shoulders, hugging the elbows back into the body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs firmly into the floor, while straightening the arms to lift the chest off the floor. Hold for 15 deep breaths.
Beth Shaw’s third book, YogaLean™, which will be released by Random House this fall, acts as a guide to eating healthy, losing weight and keeping it off.