"Over the years, I have experienced injuries while training but since I began yoga, I have noticed that I am more flexible and less injury-prone," McCorkle said. "The core strength, focus and balance from practicing yoga have brought my cycling to a higher level. Also, the visualization aspect has really allowed me to focus on the task at hand and block out any negative thoughts while I'm climbing during a difficult ride."
In cycling, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips never rest. As a result, riders often have overdeveloped quadriceps and tight hamstrings, which can pull the hips out of alignment. Also, a cyclist's spine is constantly flexed forward. If proper form isn't maintained, it can result in muscle pain and strain in the back and shoulders. Yoga helps ease the tightness, creating core strength, and aligning the spine.
Cycling requires not only physical strength, but also intense focus and concentration to succeed on the road. The attention to breath and mind-body connection in yoga can be employed by the cyclist while riding to maintain mental clarity and calmness.
Try these three poses before or after your next ride.
This pose is excellent for promoting balance and opening up tight hamstrings and the illiotibial bands.
Stand in Mountain pose with your feet together. Step your left foot back about three feet and angle the back foot out slightly. Keep both hips facing front and square your hips. Draw your hands behind your back, bend your arms and clasp your elbows. Inhale as you look up. Open your chest and exhale. Hinging from the hips, keep your spine long as you fold forward over your straight right leg. To modify, slightly bend the front leg, working toward straightening it eventually. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on second side.
This pose is excellent for opening up the chest, shoulders and the hamstrings. It also mirrors the proper upper body alignment for cyclists.
Start on your hands and knees, with your knees directly beneath the hips and hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Exhale and tuck your toes under, pressing your tailbone toward the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent to start. Press your heels toward the ground. It is okay if they don't reach it. Lower down onto your forearms, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Broaden your shoulder blades away from each other. Breathe deeply and hold for one to two minutes.
This pose is a great counter-pose for your upper body positioning while on your bike. It will open up the front of your body and strengthen your spine.
Start on your back with your knees bent. Position your feet about six inches away from your hips. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight ahead. Inhale and press your feet into the floor and lift your pelvis up as high as you can comfortably. Slide your shoulders underneath you, clasping the hands. Breathe evenly. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Slowly lower down, one vertebra at a time.
Claire Petretti-Marti has been practicing, studying, and teaching yoga since 1999. Like many fitness enthusiasts, she was initially drawn to yoga for its physical benefits of strength, balance, and flexibility. Once Claire realized that serenity, peace of mind, and a general sense of happiness were predominant results of the practice, she was hooked.
A RYT-500 Yoga Alliance instructor, Claire teaches a dynamic vinyasa flow with the intention of creating a moving meditation. She encourages students to find the lightness and the joy in their own practice, both on and off the mat. She is a certified Pilates instructor, a Reiki Level 2 Practitioner and also holds a NASM-certification for personal training. She has significant experience with spinal injuries and frequently works with students recuperating from injuries. She leads international yoga retreats every year. Mind-body fitness is her passion.
Check out Claire's YogaDownload classes as well as our Yoga for Athletes classes with several options for cyclists!
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