Want to optimize your pedal stroke? The benefits of yoga are endless. When integrated into your cycling practice, yoga is the perfect complementary sport. Cyclists, here are 3 reasons to roll out your mat and start practicing yoga.
1. Gain Flexibility
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or experienced cyclist, the moment you get on your bike, you are putting your body in a relatively abnormal position. You need to lean your body forward as you pedal and grip the handlebars with your hands. Over time, your muscles and joints need a bit of love. Yoga is a great way to stretch and soothe your joints while also gaining flexibility. Regardless of the type of cycling you practice (road, mountain or city), yoga can help you to reduce your risk of injuries and muscle pain; it will also help you to improve your overall range of motion. Once you have stretched your muscles and improved your flexibility, you’ll be ready to get back in the saddle and pedal better than ever.
2. Develop Muscular Strength
For cyclists, it is particularly important to work on strengthening the trunk muscles. A key area that is the starting point for many movements, a strong trunk allows for better alignment of the spinal column, which leads to better posture on your bike, even when fatigue sets in. Have you ever noticed that some cyclists lean to one side of their bike frame when going up an ascent? This is mostly likely because their trunk is not strong enough to achieve stability in the saddle. Yoga is an excellent way to improve your postural alignment and strengthen the trunk muscles, which also allows you to adopt an aerodynamic position on your bike. Yoga also helps to improve your balance by working your stabilizing muscles; which is helpful when you are on sections of the course that are narrow and fast.
3. Improve Breath Control
Competitive cyclists pay close attention to their V02 max level, which is the maximum flow of oxygen inhaled by the lungs and used by the muscles in a unit of time. Whether you are trying to beat your best time, explore different neighborhoods in your city or take on steep hills, having the capacity to breathe better will optimize your performance and allow for a faster and more controlled recuperation after effort. In addition, having a regular and fluid breathing pattern allows you to stay calm and have better control of your bike. By practicing yoga, you will develop good breathing techniques that will become automatic when you’re pedaling on your bike.
The breathing techniques learned through yoga will help improve your concentration. You will have a better level of alertness and focus when you are breathing better. This is a definite advantage when you need to respect distances while in a peloton, when you need to avoid certain obstacles on a technical course, or simply when you are sharing a bike path with other cyclists, or riding on city streets with cars.
Breathing exercises developed in your yoga practice can also help remove your focus on muscles strain when you are pushing to your maximum effort. How is this possible? Simply by shifting your attention to your breath as you push yourself physically beyond your comfort zone.
What About Your Rest Day?
Ideally, you should use your rest day to do a routine that includes static stretches or a series of floor poses. You will feel the benefits in your whole body.
Try hatha yoga. This type of gentle yoga allows for deep stretching as you hold poses for multiple minutes.
You may also want to try hot yoga as it is easier to go deeper into your stretches when you are in a room that is heated between 38 and 40 ˚C. Drink lots of water before, during and after the class. Hydration is essential. Feel free to move at a slower pace, or to go into child’s pose for a while if you feel slightly dizzy.
Those who would like to move at a faster pace may want to try ashtanga yoga, power yoga or kundalini. Again, it is important to respect both your physical and mental limits during any type of yoga practice. Remember, the goal is to relax both your body and your mind.