With each mile a cyclist logs, they also log tension and tightness in their feet, quads, hips and shoulders. I know many cyclists would rather keep riding than carve out time for a few stretches, but incorporating some yoga can counter some of the tension accrued along with the miles. Here are a few poses to work into your post-cycling routine. Take 15-20 minutes after a ride to create openness and balance in the body. Just throw down a mat or blanket before you load your gear up or head home.
From downward facing dog, step the right foot in between the hands and bring the back knee down. Cushion the knee with a towel or blanket if it needs a little love. Keeping the knee behind or stacked over the ankle, take the hands to the thigh and find 5-10 deep slow breaths. This pose stretches the hip flexor and quad. It can also build strength in the knee joint. For more challenge, gently squeeze the inner thighs towards one another, tuck the back toes and lift the back knee. This will increase the attention to the hip flexor and provide additional challenge for the knee. Be sure not to let the knee sneak past the ankle. Repeat on the left side.
From all fours, step the knees and feet to hip distance, tuck the toes (even the pinky toes if you can) and sit back on your heels. For sensitive knees place a blanket behind the knee joint for cushion. If this is too intense on your feet or quads, support your seat on a block or rolled blanket. Stay in this kneeling posture for 5-10 breaths, but work to build up the time to 1-3 minutes. Try to keep the breath full and notice if the tension from the feet and quads bubbles up to the shoulders or jaw. This pose opens up the fascia of the feet, which have been confined to cycling shoes and provides relief to the quads which worked so hard during your ride. Broken toe can be just about as enjoyable as it’s name, but with practice can actually be bearable and even welcome.
From a seated posture, take your legs in front of you about hip distance, knees bent, feet on the floor about 12 inches from your tail. Take your hands behind you to prop up the spine. Flex the left foot and cross the ankle over the right thigh, keep the knee reaching away from your chest. If this is too intense, move the bottom foot away from your tail. For more challenge, move the bottom foot closer to your tail. Stay in this seated posture for 5-10 breaths. Keep the spine long and notice if the shoulders want to creep up to the ears. This pose opens up the hip area and can provide a gentle stretch to the knee. Repeat on the right side.
From your belly, stretch your arms out wide to make your body into the shape of a “t”. Hands should be in line with the shoulder joint. Bend the left elbow and press into the floor. Bend the left knee and reach the toes over the right leg to the floor, rolling onto the right shoulder. The head can be kept lifted or can rest on a rolled towel or the floor. Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the left side. Come to a seated or kneeling posture. With bent elbows, clasp the hands behind your back, with the heals of the hands together. Soften the tops of the shoulders away from your ears and reach your shoulder heads away from the center of your body. Slowly, begin to straighten the arms, keeping a bend in the elbow, to promote openness in the shoulders. Only completely straighten the arms if you can keep the heals of the hands together and the tops of the shoulders heavy. Breath for 5-10 breaths. If you are unable to clasp your hands, grab on to opposite forearms, broaden the collarbone and reach the shoulder heads behind you. Switch the clasp of the hands and repeat.
From standing, spread the toes and press all four corners of the feet into the floor. Shift the weight to your left foot and place the right foot on the calf or thigh, avoid pressing the foot into the knee. The right knee will reach behind you. Bring the hands the heart and press the foot and the standing leg together. Reach tall through the crown of your head and reach your tailbone to the floor. Breath for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. This posture will allow you to check in and refine your balance. It can be done before and after your ride. Balance changes from day to day, so it’s a good idea to create awareness before hurtling down the road at 20-30 miles per hour.
If you are experiencing any discomfort or strain in your joints after riding, be sure to look into your alignment. In yoga and cycling, proper alignment will help create the best results for an open, strong and healthy body. Work with your local cycling shop or bike club to make sure your bike is the right size and is adjusted properly for you. Sometimes little changes, like moving the seat back or adding a few stretches at the end of your ride can make a big impact on your enjoyment and longevity as a cyclist.
Enjoy the Journey,