Many cyclists, after spring road races like Boulder Roubaix or Koppenberg, complain about their low, mid or upper back. Similarly, many cyclists have trouble getting low enough on their TT bikes or producing power in the low position. This is usually due to inflexibility of the hamstrings, core musculature and hips.
Yoga is practiced in India for medical benefits, through certain poses, specific tissues, systems, and organs are compressed, or opened in order to achieve a desired outcome. Yoga can be used to treat conditions ranging from depression, diabetes, and sleep problems, to more physical ailments like osteoporosis, scoliosis, nerve function and response, and of course, stretching, strengthening, and lengthening muscles. It is also a fabulous method of preparing for or cross training for sports.
There are as many types of yoga as there are forms of martial arts. There is yoga for strength, yoga for meditation, fast-paced yoga, slow-yoga, hot yoga...the list goes on. Finding a class that is right for you may take some experimentation, but don't quit looking right away if you didn't like the first class you tried. Find the class and instructor that suits your needs and progress from there.
Cyclists have universal tendencies toward spinal flexion, kyphosis, spondylosis, low back pain, weak upper body, limited flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexion and common injuries including IT Band Tendonitis, Patellar tendonitis and torsions or misalignments of the knee and foot that start in the gluteals.These issues can make it difficult to transmit maximum power on the bike for extended periods.
However, cyclists also have common goals such as increasing VO2 max, increasing HGH, or at the very least, maximizing the efficiency of the circulatory system to deliver as much oxygen to working muscles as possible.
Many yoga poses combine physiological benefits with muscular and/or skeletal benefits as well. Furthermore, practicing the most necessary poses at least three times per week can be an effective cross-training tool for any athlete, and make it easier/less uncomfortable to spend hours on the bike.
There are literally thousands of different yoga poses, all with different benefits. Some examples of poses that would be beneficial to the cyclist include (but are not limited to):
Standing Deep Breathing-
*Generally good for the lungs and respiratory system
*Helps lungs reach their maximum expansion capacity
*Is very good for asthma, shortness of breath, and nervousness
*Increases circulation to the body
Standing Bow Pose- *Increases circulation to the heart and lung
*Improves elasticity of the spine
*Creates union of strength and balance
*Activates digestive system
Cobra Pose *Good for digestion, kyphosis, scoliosis, low back pain, low blood pressure, spondylo-arthritis of lumbar spine
*Increases spine strength especially in the lower spine
Fixed Firm Pose- (advanced) *Increases circulation to the lower limbs
*Strengthens and improves the flexibility of the lower spine, hips, knees, and ankle joints
*Good for lower back pain, helps prevent hernia
*Strengthens Psoas muscles
Spine Twisting Pose - *Improves flexibility of the spine and hip joints, relieves back pain, and helps prevent slipped discs
*Good for kyphosis, scoliosis, cervical spondylosis, and arthritis
*Increases circulation to the spinal nerves, veins, and tissues
*Calms the nervous system
Some of the above moves are advanced and you should consult a yoga instructor with questions about form. Any yoga instructor with a minimum 500-hour certification will be able to assist you in finding the necessary poses to maximize benefit to the cyclist.
Ainslie MacEachran is the head coach of www.geminitrainingsystems.com. For more information about Yoga for cyclists you can reach him through the website. (Special thanks to Desiree Van Hall and Randi Fuller). Ainslie’s new book “Simple Cycling Performance” is now available in e-book format too.