Do 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
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!
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?