As cyclists, we work hard on our bikes. Especially as training hours increase, it’s important to choose yoga postures that give therapeutic benefits without increasing recovery time. A thoughtfully designed yoga and stretching regimen should be responsive to the demands of cycling and promote athletic recovery. Art of Cycling has developed a style of practice that addresses the physical as well as mental needs of athletes. When our bodies are supported in a pose, the nervous system sends signals to the mind that is it time to relax. When we relax, we become calm and steady, and that's when the magic happens on and off the bike.
Here are a few of our favorite poses for body and mind during the riding season.
Supported Child’s Pose (Salamba Balasana)
This gentle yet therapeutic pose stretches the lower back, neck, shoulders, and hips. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and is a good pose to do any time you feel anxious or overwhelmed as it releases physical and mental tension. To support this pose you can use blocks, blankets, a bolster, or even your bed pillows. As long as you're comfortable you're doing it right.
Low lunge/Crescent Moon (Anjaneyasana)
This is an effective stretch for the entire hip flexor region. Hip flexors can become chronically stiff and shortened from all the sitting we do in everyday life (including on the bike) and can lead to poor posture and back pain. Support this pose with blocks under the hands and hold for a minute on each side. Repeat twice. Pay attention to differences between the left and right side of your body.
Reclining Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
This pose has power in its ability to passively stretch the inner thighs, groins, and knees. As you relax, the mind goes quiet. On a systemic level, this posture improves digestion and circulation— both things that benefit athletic performance. Try this variation with blocks or other support under the head as it allows the trunk and head to release. You can also place blocks under the knees.
Supported Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
This pose is a go-to for stretching the back of the legs and relieving lower-back pain. Doing the pose in a reclined position on the floor allows you to safely stretch your hamstrings without putting much stress on the vertebrae. The floor supports your back and allows your spine to remain in a neutral position. The asymmetrical nature of the stretch helps balance the left and right side and is a great way to identify potential repetitive motion imbalances early.
Baby Cobra (Ardha Bhujangasana)
Another gentle yet powerful pose, Baby Cobra builds strength, flexibility, and mobility in the back, core, shoulders, and chest. It also stimulates your breathing and facilitates taking longer and deeper breaths as you open the chest and shoulders. It can correct postural imbalances and can even make you feel taller.
Supported bridge (Setu Bandhasana)
This is another great pose for reversing the effects of the riding position and is an effective backbend. You may want to support your pelvis and sacrum with blocks, choosing whatever height feels best for you. Make sure your feet are hip distance apart and parallel. You should feel a balance of effort and ease in the pose.
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
There are so many great variations of supine spinal twist, which is a simple way to release tension after a hard workout. It increases back flexibility and mobility, and stimulates the core and digestive system. A good variation is with knees and hips stacked, arms in a “T” position, and both shoulders relaxed and releasing into the floor. If you feel any stress or strain, back off and adjust the pose or consider using props.
Supported Relaxation (Savasana)
Supported savasana is simple enough to be done anywhere and is an effective way to relax after yoga or a hard workout. We recommend staying at least 5 minutes in this pose. Support it with a bolster under your head and back (or make one out of blankets, yoga blocks, and/or pillows) and a rolled up blanket under your knees. The supported position allows the chest to open and relaxes the neck, shoulders, hips, and legs. Allow yourself to let go of all tension in order to recharge mind and body.
Join us for a workshop on Yoga for Athletic Recovery on May 21, 2017, from 4-6 PM at Yoga Collective NYC.