I love cycling! Whether it is getting around London as my mode of transport, doing a day ride out of the city or a long tour across Europe, my bike will get me there. What an amazing sense of freedom you can have from two wheels and a little leg power. It is an incredible sport, at whichever level you choose to engage with it at.
Although, the possible down sides include; tight hips, sore lower back, painful neck, weak core, dodgy knees and aching shoulders. Cycling is mostly in one fixed position, the back is rounded over the handlebars, the shoulders hunched forwards and the head is often thrown backwards.
To add to this, in contemporary life we spend a lot of time doing things forwards and backwards (in the sagittal plane) putting pressure on the body, cycling is one of these repetitive movement patterns. So I would encourage cyclists to try some yoga to counteract the specific weaknesses cycling creates in the body.
A targeted Yoga class can offer a mix of stretching & strengthening; helping the body recover quicker and cope with the demands placed on the body by the two wheeled metal machine. Areas like the lower back can be released through poses such as; ‘Child's pose’ or ‘Legs up the wall’, whereas the upper back and shoulders can be stretched with ‘Thread the Needle’ or ‘Puppy pose’. The hips can be targeted with ‘Pigeon’ variations and ‘Sun Salutations’, which could be incorporated into a regular warm up to sustain your muscles on long rides.
Yoga also strengthens the core, helping to support the body in healthy movement patterns. Postures like ‘Plank’ and ‘Boat pose’ will engage the abdominal muscles, which in turn support the lower back. Practicing ‘Bridge pose’ or ‘Warrior three’ strengthens the glutes and gives you more power to pedal through stabilising the hips. Whereas ‘Chair pose’ will strengthen the quadriceps and muscles surrounding the knees, encouraging stability and safe alignment whilst peddling.
Yoga is brilliant for the body and mind, a really beneficial counter balance to cycling, helping to prevent injury and improve performance. Everyone has different stress points from being on the bike and a cyclist-focused class can unravel some of this tension. With options and modifications for all, you will really feel the difference on and off the bike. Stretching out after cycling can alleviate a lot of the common aches and pains cyclists feel and I would encourage anyone who cycles regularly, whether for commuting or pleasure to incorporate stretching into their routine and give Yoga a go.
Helena Crabtree - Yoga teacher at Fix East Village