A while back I introduced yoga to my fitness regime and I’m loving the results. I’m stronger than ever, less stiff and I’ve got more energy when I’m out cycling. I thought you might like to know a bit more about the benefits of combining yoga with cycling, so I asked my yoga instructors Margo and Hamish, to share some of their wisdom. Read on to find out more…
Power Yoga practice is an excellent addition to your cycling fitness regime. Cycling builds aerobic fitness and strengthens your legs, while Power Yoga restores your full mobility and strengthens your core to support your back. By re-aligning and strengthening every part of your body, Power Yoga alleviates the aches and niggles that can arise through long hours in the saddle, and keeps you free from injury so you can keep enjoying your sport of choice.
Long stints of riding your bike gets you aerobically fit and strong, but it also requires you to round your spine forward. This continual contraction can shorten the chest muscles and overstretch the back muscles.
We often hear cyclists say that they want a “stretch” for their sore back muscles, but what those muscles need is Power Yoga backbending. Backbends such as Camel, Bridge and Wheel contract and strengthen your back muscles, and stretch your chest muscles, giving the best form of relief.
Power Yoga forward folding, such as Straddle Leg, is also great for cyclists. Poses like this stretch the backs of the legs and the lower back, and use gravity to help release tension from the neck muscles which get sore when you’re looking forward on your bike while rounded down over your handlebars.
Downward Facing Dog is the quintessential Power Yoga pose, and one that no cyclist should miss out on. This pose stretches, strengthens and realigns the hands, arms, shoulders and back. It helps to avoid and alleviate a condition known as cyclists’ palsy. This affects the area at the base of the thumb into the index finger, triggering a reaction in the ulnar nerve, producing a lack of coordination or numbness in the fingertips and hand. Power Yoga poses such as Downward Facing Dog and Crow stretch out and strengthen this portion of the hand, guarding against the occurrence of this frustrating cyclists’ injury.
Many Power Yoga poses work to stretch out and remove tension from the ilio-tibial band (ITB) – a strip of muscle running from the outer edge of the hip down the outside of the thigh. The leg action in cycling strengthens but also tightens the ITB, but Power Yoga poses such as Pigeon, Double Pigeon, and Supine Twists give relief to muscle groups connected to the hips including the ITB.
Power Yoga as part of the cyclist’s weekly, if not daily regimen, can help maintain healthy, natural alignment of the skeletal and muscular components of your body. If you want to stay on the road and pain free, take the time to develop and maintain a Power Yoga practice. It will increase the quantity and enhance the quality of time that you spend on your bike in your lifetime.
Hamish Kenworthy and Margo Perpick are Directors and Lead Teachers of Apollo Power Yoga. If you’re Christchurch-based, come along to one of their classes.
Image: Hamish Kenworthy, courtesy of Apollo Power Yoga.