How Can Yoga Make You a Better Cyclist?
Do you want to get faster?
Do you want to speed up your recovery time?
Have you ever felt tight in your hips and back after riding?
Then now is the time to add yoga into your training.
Cyclists spend long periods of time in a set position, which tightens the hamstrings, the hips and also shortens the hip flexors. The forward bending position also over time creates a rounded spine. This contributes to a tight body with a lack of joint mobility and spine extension.
Many well-known and respected pro cyclists incorporate yoga into their training programmes as a way to help improve their cycling performance. Tour De France winner and Olympic Time Trial Champion Bradley Wiggins uses yoga to help him improve his focus whereas pro mountain biker and Olympian Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski uses yoga to help improve his strength. Additionally, ex-pro road racer Katheryn Curi used yoga for non-physicals aspects of performance; predominately mental focus and breathing. She says, “it’s hard to maintain calm under pressure, but I would come back to breath work or relaxing my shoulders...fundamentals of the yoga practice that are really applicable on the bike.”
Yoga is helping so many cyclists at all levels gain an edge over the competition with its many different styles, variations and techniques making it a great addition to your cycle training.
Top 7 Key Benefits of Yoga for Cyclists:
1. Greater Muscular Strength:
Due to the nature of cycling and the recruitment of certain muscular groups, you are often left with undeveloped muscles; primarily the back, core and upper body muscles. Yoga can help to strengthen these muscles and also the prime movers needed for cycling. Overall, yoga will help to create a muscular balance between all these muscles and consequently build a stronger support system for you on the bike.
2. Injury Prevention:
A common source of injuries in cyclists is from repetitive use of the joints and muscles. This happens from repeated stress on vulnerable joints and also because cyclists hold static body positions for long periods of time. However, yoga is able to counteract the risk of injury by improving the durability of the joints and muscles. This in turn strengthens the muscles and all the connective tissues reducing the weakness and stiffness in areas of the body which are most prone to injury.
3. Improve Balance & Stability:
These are key principles of cycling and vital for helping you to stay centred on the bike. Yoga has been proven to develop your balance by not only strengthening your muscles but also through increasing your awareness of sensory receptors (making you more aware of the space around you and how your different body parts work together). Hence, completing yoga exercises that get you used to coordinating many movements at the same time will all lead to an increase in balance.
4. Alieviate Muscle Tightness and improve Flexibility:
Due to the nature of the cycling position where you are leaning forward in a crouched position for long periods of time cyclists tend to suffer from tight hip flexors. However, if muscles become tight they pull on bones and pull things out of alignment, which in turn increases the risk of pain, discomfort and injury. Furthermore, poor flexibility and tight muscles will not only give you bad posture and increase your risk of injury, it will also affect your cycling performance. By having a poor range of motion around the hips due to tightness, your power output will also decrease as you won’t be able to produce as much force from your gluteal muscles. Nevertheless, the regular use of yoga, specifically focusing on areas which get tight in cyclists (quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back, shoulders and chest muscles) will lead to greater levels of flexibility, consequently decreasing this muscle tightness. Improving your flexibility will in time prevent you getting sore when holding your cycling position over a long time and will also enable you to adopt a more aggressive riding position.
5. Improved Focus and Concentration:
Yoga can also be extremely beneficial for non-physical aspects too. Yoga has been proven to improve concentration, further focus individuals’ mental resources, enable people to process information quicker and more accurately and also to learn and retain more information. Without realising it, each cycling event you do can have a huge mental impact, from questioning whether you have enough strength to win the sprint finish, staying focused and remaining calm if the weather becomes severe during the race all the way to concentrating on your race strategies throughout. Yoga can help to improve performance in regard to focus and concentration, which will help you remain positive and focused on the correct stimuli.
Learning how to breathe is very important and useful for cyclists to master. Yoga teaches you to focus on breathing nice and steady and taking deep breaths, which in turn will force your muscles to work aerobically which is vital for any cyclist. Furthermore, yoga can also teach you breathing techniques to improve your oxygen uptake to your muscles and also how to cleanse your respiratory system.
7. Lower Stress Levels:
Finally, yoga has also been proven to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body. The body responds to stress by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol, into the body. Yoga has been shown to reduce these levels and also yoga can enhance your mood and overall sense of well-being.
The yoga styles useful for cyclists are those that includes continuous movements and also those that focus on flexibility, leg and core strength, balance and also your breathing. Additionally, it has been proven cyclists not only require good physical wellbeing but mental as well. Yoga is great for incorporating all aspects of fitness and a great compliment to your regular physical training.
Several of our riders have already seen dramatic improvements in their power output and flexibility while some have even had to adjust their riding position both on the Wattbike at the lab and on their road bike. Re-occurring niggles have disappeared and the ability to be able to cycle in a more comfortable position has made them want to ride further and faster!!
"When I come out of Sam's Njinga yoga class, I know I have given myself an enormous gift of strength, flexibility and calmness that not only has helped my cycling, but my sleep and all that I do. Whether downward dog, warrior pose, a pose you never dreamed your body could do or the glorious Shavasana at the end, Sam's unique background as an athlete, cyclist, yogi and teacher come through to make it an extraordinary experience that has become a must in my schedule each week. And its fun!" Monie Lindsay
If you are interested in giving our Yoga a try, then check out our Yoga for Cyclist classes on Friday evenings and Sunday late afternoons.
Email us for a code and get 50% off your first session.