why cyclists should do yogaDo you know your downward dog from you cat-cow? Or your crow from your camel? I am of course talking yoga poses, not just shouting random animals at you. And yes, all of these poses are supposed to work wonders on improving your flexibility to benefit your cycling! What am I talking about? Okay, I hear you. ‘How on earth can something so slow and sedentary such as yoga improve my cycling?’ Read on, my friends…

As regular readers will know, I’ve had a lot of back surgery in my 38 years and I have some metal rods and plates stabilising my lower spine. What you may not be aware of is the trouble I’ve been having with my lumbar spine this last year. Scans show some more disc issues with some muscle deterioration, so I’ve been looking at ways of helping to improve this without resorting to future surgery, as quite frankly, I really don’t want to go there again. Spinal blocks and facet joint injections are allowing me to remain active and after my introduction to SUP yoga, and chatting to my wonderful sup yoga teacher, I realised I really should be putting a lot more focus on yoga. And whether you have a bad back or not, as a cyclist so should you.

Here’s 3 very good reasons why cyclists should do yoga

1. Flexibility

Cyclists need flexible hips. Hands up if you have them? No? Me neither.

If our hips aren’t flexible our lower back works much harder and takes a lot of additional strain. Being low on the drops means you’re bent forward in a tucked position. The sit bones need to be able to move forward and they can’t do this without putting excessive strain on the lower back if the hip flexors are not sufficiently flexible. Without this range of motion, the hamstrings will also tighten which rounds the lower back and hey presto, puts additional strain on the disks in the lower back!

So remember people, we need flexible hips to protect our back! All it takes is a few short rounds of stretching each week and you’ll quickly notice that you’re newly lengthened muscles are able to generate more power! Yes, I know, stretching hurts, but more power?! Now you’re keen, right!

2. Core stability

I know most of us would love a six pack but there is more to core stability than just having that visibly defined stomach. I’ve had the importance of core stability drummed into me since I was fifteen when I had my first back surgery, and whilst I do work hard on my core, I still don’t have that elusive six pack. *must try harder*

Apparently, your core also includes your lower back muscles, your hip flexors and sections of your glutes. A stronger overall core not only protects your back and helps to strengthen the muscles linking to your legs and shoulders but it will also give you more strength and control over your bike.

So, take that strength and control and add it to the power you’ve gained from improved flexibility…and well, you’re looking pretty nifty on two wheels right now!

3. Circulation

Cycling can limit circulation because of the posture we take when riding. With the arms reaching forward, we will often round the shoulders and upper back. With the legs drawing upwards as we cycle, we’re in a fairly hinged position which can limit our intake of oxygen. The lungs need to be able to increase in volume to allow oxygen to enter and this means being able to open the rib cage. If we work on opening our chest area, we can improve the movement around the ribs and potentially increase our oxygen intake – apparently by about 25 per cent!

So, now we can breathe better and the body is getting a better blood supply. Add that to the strength and control we have on the bike and add in that new found power. Well, hello new King or Queen of the Mountain!

You may think yoga is slow and sedate. It can be, but there are so many different types of yoga and there will be one that suits you. Not only will yoga help you feel good mentally, but physically you’re going to see a vast improvement in your cycling ability too.

So, hands up, who’s joining me in rolling out the yoga mat?

 

 

20 comments on “3 very good reasons why cyclists should do yoga”

  1. This is a great idea and one I would certainly benefit from, however for many time pressed cyclists an hour of yoga a couple of times a week seems a push too far, no matter how beneficial it is.
    What would be great however is if someone made youtube videos targeting the distilled yoga poses that work exceptionally well for cyclists – e.g. the Vinyasa focussing especially on downward dog and anything that stretches the constantly overlooked piriformis muscles.
    As you say a lot of lower back problems that cyclists are typically afflicted by could be avoided with something like this.
    Regards
    Tony

    • I have degenerative disc disease, Petra. We’re not sure why, although I was really into athletics when I was younger and used to sprint competitively. Finding exercise that I enjoy and gives me a buzz has been hard after all the athletics I did, but cycling has done that! I can’t run anymore but cycling is brilliant and I really enjoy the stretching and calming benefits of yoga. I’m far from an expert but I have done lots of reading into the benefits as I’m keen to pursue any exercise and lifestyle that helps maintain a healthy, strong core and back. Doing some yoga on a stand up paddleboard has been amazing too! Lots of fun and a great work out! If you’ve not done it before, you can read all about how much I enjoyed it and why here.

      • Sorry to hear about your degenerative disc disease Donna. I am so lucky I don’t have this problem and I only get back ache on occasions these days when I spend too much time sitting down. It’s good to hear that you at least found sport which you enjoy doing and love but doesn’t harm your back. I should really do yoga more often as it’s so good for you! SUP yoga sounds interesting but a little bit scary!
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        • Yoga is great, Petra, isn’t it! And there are so many different types of yoga so something for everyone. SUP is brilliant – you’ll be surprised at how stable a SUP board is and how much yoga you can do without feeling close to falling in! If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.

  2. I love love love this article! I started off getting into exercise by doing yoga, and it wasn’t until then that i begun cycling after buying an electric bike. Now i love them both equally and I feel just wrong if i go a week doing one but not the other.

    • I love yoga on a SUP too! I’ve linked in this post to a post which shows me trying it out for the first time with the This Girl Can campaign. It’s so good for the body and the mind – just like cycling! Love sup and love yoga – put them together and I’m very happy! Just need to invest in a paddleboard now!

  3. Yoga is great,isn’t it! What’s more, there are such a large number of various sorts of yoga so something for everybody. SUP is splendid – you’ll be astonished at how stable a SUP board is and how much yoga you can manage without feeling near falling in! In the event that you attempt it, I’d love to hear what you think.

    • It certainly is! I love yoga! And SUP yoga is brilliant too! I’m just back from an adventure holiday in Tenerife where I did lots of SUP in the surf…sadly there were too many waves for yoga. Yoga on a sup board is blissful! I’d recommend anyone to try it! You can read about my very first experience of SUP yoga earlier this year here, and yes, I was amazed at how stable the boards feel!

  4. Thank you for sharing your site with us; it was a good site. Physical exercise is good for health and cycling is a good exercise for our physical health and body. It was a good and informative article on this site.

  5. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.
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    • I can well believe it! I’ve been learning lots more about Pranayama (breath control for those that aren’t familiar with it). Yoga is all about working with the breath and uniting the mind and body with the breath. Pranayama has great benefits in cleansing the body and increasing lung capacity. And my cardiovascular ability on the bike has definitely improved recently which I’m sure this has contributed to.

  6. The reason I do yoga is, it helps circulate the synovial fluid in joints – this fluid lies in a capsule that surrounds synovial joints. This system helps a lot to cushion the ends of the bones, allow them to glide over each other and reduce the friction.

    • Yoga does indeed help to circulate the synovial fluid that surrounds the joints. Yoga practice does a great job in helping to keep the cartilage at the end of the bones well nourished. There are so many amazing reasons to practice yoga; this is definitely one of them!

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