Mountain bikers, and all cyclists for that matter, are prone to several universal afflictions, such as low back pain, limited flexibility in the hamstrings, upper body weakness and spinal flexion. Overuse injuries commonly include knee and foot misalignment, IT band tendonitis, patellar tendonitis and more. If not corrected, this translates to less power on your bike.
Yoga can help. The ancient Indian discipline offers many health benefits and is sometimes even included in treatment plans. Not only that, it’s been stated that doing just 15 minutes of yoga poses after each bike ride can make you stronger and faster on your bike.
Benefits to Bikers
Yoga helps to improve your flexibility through a series of yoga poses called asanas. Poses such as downward facing dog and plank will help cyclists strengthen their whole body, but, in particular, their typically weak upper body muscles. As you rely on your core to maintain each pose, it will become stronger. Many yoga instructors will have you be mindful of your breathing during each pose transition. These deep breathing exercises can improve lung capacity, which can help improve your endurance and performance on the bike.
Make it Part of Your Routine
Use yoga as a cross-training tool, a complimentary physical activity that you can do in addition to riding your mountain bike. It’ll build strength, help you to stay focused and relaxed, increase your flexibility and balance, and take your biking to a more advanced level. On your bike, you’ll likely notice an increased concentration when climbing and descending and a greater balance when cornering and riding over technical terrain. On the mat, your mountain biking strength will help you hold poses for a longer period of time. You might also have a bit more confidence to test out some difficult poses.
Yoga & Cycling Performance
About.com interviewed Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., president and medical director of the Alzheimer's Research & Prevention Foundation (www.alzheimersprevention.org), about the benefits of yoga to cyclists. A yoga expert and practitioner who has scientifically researched the benefits of yoga on Alzheimer’s, Dr. Khalsa is one of the world's leading authorities on integrative medicine, and has written comprehensively on a wide range of health and healing issues.
About.com: What types of conditions or ailments can yoga help treat?
Dr. Khalsa: Based on clinical research, yoga can help heal every medical condition.
About.com: How can yoga benefit athletes like cyclists?
Dr. Khalsa: Yoga benefits cyclists because it prevents injury by stretching out joints, tendons and ligaments. It also helps increase energy levels and endurance.
About.com: What are some yoga poses that may be beneficial to cyclists and why?
Dr. Khalsa: Based on Kundalini yoga techniques:
- Basic Spinal Energy, which flexes the spine and breathing at the same time.
- Sat Krya, which increases circulation and energy to the heart and brain.
About.com: Tightness in the hips, quads and hamstrings are common for cyclists, as is low back pain. What types of poses may help relieve this pain?
Dr. Khalsa: The Triangle Pose and Cobra Pose (well known poses) help relieve pain.
About.com: Why might cyclists consider yoga over other methods of treatment to help alleviate pain?
Dr. Khalsa: Pain relief / alleviation: Yoga is a low cost, no side effect method (no addictive narcotic or toxic pain killers) that is very effective and easy to do anywhere. Yogic exercise can help control inflammation of the joints.
About.com: How might yoga help to increase performance?
Dr. Khalsa: Mental attitude is directly linked to physical performance and is an important aspect in winning any competitive sport. Yoga has been clinically shown to help depression and generally improve mood. It focuses concentration and physical energy without the need for performance enhancing drugs. Long term yoga practice and physical exercise will help general physical health, memory and prevents or controls and slows the onset of Alzheimer’s.