Yoga for Cycling: Is it Beneficial?

Have you ever thought of doing some yoga for cycling? Of course you’ve heard about yoga, it’s that slow, boring thing people do instead of active exercise. Before you write it off completely though there are some things about yoga that are worth considering if you are a cyclist.

For example, adding some yoga stretches to your weekly routine;

  • Reduces injury risk and enables faster recovery time
  • Gives you better joint flexibility
  • Makes riding more comfortable and efficient
  • Encourages longer muscles
  • Improves back posture
  • Can correct pelvic imbalance
  • Reduces the risk of lower back pain

Regular yoga stretches can also give road and track cyclists better time trial results by ‘oiling’ joints and getting better aerodynamics through a good range of hip and lower back motion.

The real benefit to yoga for cycling is that overall participation in some simple yoga exercises two to three times a week will keep you cycling longer. That means that when you retire and have more time on your hands to do what you love and be on the bike, your body will agree with you and let you out on the road as long as you want. Since I don’t plan on retiring from my bike before I’m literally falling off it, this one is the winner for me.

When you think about your cycling movements, it’s actually not difficult to see the problem areas.

Cycling doesn’t move every part of your body and you are fixed into a single position for most of the journey. This repetitive motion means that while you can build up some great cycling muscles and tone, you are actually decreasing flexibility. The majority of cycling movements do not ask our body to extend or fully flex at any point, which can create tightness in our hips and back and lead to a condition known as adaptive shortening which is where the fibres of the muscles are so used to being active when they are short, they remain that way and heal that way as well.

It’s important to take into account that unlike other physical activities, cycling is one of the few that are not natural. We do not take a natural position or use our muscles in the same way as our genetically evolved muscles work for running, walking and climbing.

Because of this, regular cycling for long periods of time is more likely to impact our posture or throw off our natural muscular balance.

It’s especially important to have flexible muscles if you participate in sports other than cycling. Triathletes in particular will suffer in performance, discomfort and injury if they have developed short muscles from cycling and not stretching out afterwards. You need those short muscles long again to get the most out of your run and swim.

As for the time trial improvement part, blitzing an ITT is all about having the ability to get in to a great aerodynamic position and putting out effective power. For that to happen you need flexible cooperation from your hips and lower back. In the perfect position you can get more power from the gluteal muscles and improve your individual result.

You might already need yoga right now. While it’s best as a gentle, preventative approach, yoga can go well if used hand in hand with physio or massage. If you feel like you overreach with your arms in your normal ride position it’s probably due to stiffness in your lower back. Tell-tale signs are putting a lot of weight into your hands when you ride and feeling tightness in your neck and upper back when you are in a good position on the bike.

It’s important to be properly warmed up before you start your yoga practice so it’s not a great way to start your day or prepare for a ride. Instead, use yoga as a stand-alone session warm up prior to it or go through the stretches when you get off the bike.

What you want to target and get relief for are stiff:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Lower back
  • Shoulders
  • Chest muscles

You might be lucky enough to find a dedicated cyclist yoga session in your suburb, which will give you a room full of fellow riders like yourself, as well as the benefit of getting spot checks on your stretches from a trained professional.

It’s not necessary to attend a class though, you can easily practice yoga in the comfort and privacy of your own home, there is no need to make your time on the mat a formal experience, although you might appreciate the calm relaxing environment of a yoga studio with no distractions while you stretch.

You won’t be required to hook your leg behind your head or do a handstand, the best exercises for cyclists are easy and simple to perform and work on moving the joints that might not get a lot of attention when you are in the saddle. It’s all about reversing your bike positions and stretching out those muscles that are trained to be shorter.

Check out the following online and take yourself through gently.

  • Calf stretch into a wall
  • Downward facing dog
  • Quad stretch
  • Seated glut stretch and hip opener
  • Camel pose
  • Expanded leg pose
  • Supported bound angle pose
  • Revolved belly pose

Perform each stretch two to four times and hold your pose for at least 20 seconds to start with and gradually increase your hold time to up to a minute.

Enjoy your stretch and keep at it, it all makes for better riding!