Whether you are a mountain biker, road cyclist, gravel rider, or the casual commuter, incorporating yoga into your routine will benefit your body and your mind. Here's 5 ways that yoga can help cyclists of all styles!
1. Stretch those pesky hip flexors
Since riding puts you mainly in a seated position, your hip flexors are shortened. Couple that with a seated desk or computer job and your cranky hip flexors can cause poor posture, an inefficient core and back pain. Yoga incorporates poses that stretch and strengthen the hip flexors, helping to alleviate pain that can be caused by tight hip flexors.
2. Gain core strength
Your core (meaning both your traditionally thought of abdominals plus your back muscles) is the bridge between your upper and lower body and stabilizes your low back (i.e., your lumbar). Yoga helps you turn on deep core muscles in a variety of poses and positions in which you have to be able to engage those muscles in a mind-body connection and not just in poses that make you use your core (like crunches) by moving your spine. Creating this connection aids your stability on the bike, leading to more comfortable bike rides and helps keep the risk of injuring your back lower.
3. Stretch and strengthens the legs (quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves and feet!)
Our legs are our prime movers in cycling and everything gets a workout. Yoga focuses a lot on stabilizing those muscles that help support the joints in our legs (i.e., hips, knees, ankles) in standing and balancing poses. We also hit those muscles in our traditional stretches where we sit & hold a stretch (passive stretching) as well dynamically when we move our bodies through vinyasa style flow.
4. Strengthens shoulders and opens the chest
As mentioned in #1, cycling puts you in a rounded position that mimics a seated position, closing off your chest and putting stress on your shoulders. Having strong shoulders helps stabilize this position. Yoga helps strengthen the shoulders in positions (done correctly) like chaturanga (high to low plank pose) and incorporates back bends and other more subtle chest openers/stretches.
5. Mentally focuses your mind and helps you find your "flow"
Yoga class styles that use a linked breath and body movement create a flow that is similar to the flow one feels riding (particularly when mountain biking). It takes discipline & concentration and is easily translated to other things off your mat. Creating a link between the breath and the body can help decrease stress and keep you in a calm state of mind when you are facing tough obstacles - whether that's on a bike or in your everyday life.