Teaching 4-5 cycling classes a week, my body is always ACHING for some serious stretching.
I mean, hey, let's face it, as we build tons of strength, physically and mentally on that bike, we also put a lot of stress on our bodies. Our hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors tighten like crazy. Our lower backs also get a little beating because we'll often hunch over on the bikes (especially on outdoor rides).
Yoga truly is an incredible complement to cycling. I mean the two go together like mango in a sushi roll. Aka: PERFECTLY. What? Not normal? Psh, try it. You'll thank me.
So, with our cyclist needs in mind, feast your eyes on a few yoga poses that will help to counteract a bunch of the stress we put on our bodies through cycling and, hell, any other lower body intensive workout, for that matter (like... say... RUNNING).
Spend at least five long, deep breaths in each pose. Every exhale, imagine your muscles loosening and lengthening. Allow yourself to settle and sink into each posture. Hell, put on some Adele, turn the lights down, light some candles and really get juicy with this shit. ENJOY it.
Start in downward facing dog. Hands should be about shoulder-width apart, and feet about hip-width. In terms of distance BETWEEN hands and feet, a general guide is a leg's distance. Then really push your hips up and back, and push your shoulders away from your ears. Firmly plant your entire hand to have a nice firm grip of the mat. Every exhale pull your belly button to your spine and reach your heals to the ground (but it doesn't actually matter if the heals touch the ground or not). For us cyclists, we'll love the stretch we feel in the hamstrings and calves... and it'll feel damn good to lengthen the spine like so.
Ahhhh next is three-legged dog with a nice open hip. This. Feels. Amazing. Hello hips, love ya. Ok, so, reach that leg up, try to keep your shoulders square to the mat, and then really just open up from the hip reaching your foot to your opposite butt cheek. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
Pyramid. Yes please. Whenever my teachers throw this in, I do a mental happy dance. Ok, sometimes I also give an audible sigh of HELL YES. Anyways, feet should be on either side of a rail road track, i.e., they're not in the same line! The distance between the feet is about 2 feet apart, but meh, do what feels good. Now, say your right leg is in front... ok cool, pull that right hip BACK in space and push your left hip FORWARD in space. Ooooooh. Hello hamstring.
Classic forward fold. Ya don't need to touch your nose to your knees here, people, I'm just hyper-mobile and that's what I need to do to feel a stretch. You do what you gotta do to feel a nice stretch in the MIDDLE of your hamstrings. You can bend your knees, you can keep your hands on your shins, whatever yo. Just fold over and let your head hang heavy.
From forward fold.... this guy is all sorts of bliss for those IT bands. Just plant your left hand in between your feet, bend into you left leg (a lot!) and then twist and reach your right arm up. PHEWWWWWWW AMAZING. Then do the other side, obvi.
Ok, now let's get down. Down to the mat, that is. Let's find a nice low lunge, again think about that motion of squaring off your hips. So, if your right foot is forward, pull the right hip back, left hip forward. I'm giving two options for arms, both will open the chest and just feel good and counteract the hunching we do on the bike.
Now, let's get that pesky quad that we strengthen so much on the bikes. Just reach back from that lunge and grab your foot! Feel free to use a strap to help you do so.
Next up we're getting even deeper into those hips and are going to sink into lizard. From your low lunge, heal-toe your front foot out to the edge of your mat, both hands should be inside the front foot. Extend your chest out to lengthen your spine, and get juicy with it. I'll show a few variations here. Your back knee can be lifted, or down on the mat, whatever feels good to you.
Ok ready for the best ever stretch? It's one of my all time FAVORITES. It get your hips, hammies, AND quads. Helloooooo -- you can also insert a little back bend, and WA-BAM. From lizard, just lift that back foot, again, you can use a strap!
Here it is from another angle.
Next up the loves of my life: half pigeon and what is sometimes referred to as double pigeon or 'fire logs.' Both are bomb at opening those hips.
From lizard just heal-toe your front foot across the mat, so that (let's say your left leg is in front), your left knee is now by your left hand. Your right foot can be by your right hand, or it can be closer to your hips. Then, your right leg stretches out straight behind you. You very well may want to stick a blanket or pillow or something under your hips if your hips aren't anywhere near the ground (and if you cycle all the time or run all the time.... yup, I'm looking at you!) -- that will enable you to sink into the stretch more.
Something to think about... try not to dump your body weight into the front-leg-hip and fall to the side. I did that forever. Instead, keep that same squaring hips motion I've talked about earlier, think about pulling front hip back, and your back hip forward. Trust me, you'll feel it! Now breathe and enjoy =)
Ok, let's get into fire log legs. From pigeon, swing your back leg around and stack shin on top of shin, so that knee and foot line up. If your knee doesn't stack right on top of your foot like mine in the photo, no worries, stick a blanket in there =) -- then walk your hands as far forward as feels good to you! (Which can mean you don't walk them forward at all!)
[side note: shout out to my boyfriend for taking these photos, apparently he said something funny here to make me laugh...]
To finish things out, let's just straighten our legs and fold forward and tap into those hamstrings one, last, gentle, juicy time.
Ok! That's it (for now). I'll be back atchya with some more great yoga for cyclists. Stay tuned. As for now just enjoy these postures, your body will LOVE you.