Cyclists become some of the strongest athletes around because most muscle groups are used to power a bicycle. In addition to leg muscles, cyclists use muscles in the arms, neck, back and hips. These muscle groups need to be stretched, kept active and flexible so that they stay healthy, and yoga is a great way to do just that!
When some people hear the word “yoga,” they envision people sitting on mats, folded into pretzels and chanting. While this may describe some yoga studios, it does not describe all. Yoga is very beneficial for cyclists and does not have to fall into that preconceived image.
For quite some time, the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States (IYNAUS) has stressed the benefits of yoga and how it can help improve the body. For example, there are many cardio exercises that are high impact, which can cause strain on the muscles and joints. Yoga does not do so. If cyclists want to add other exercise into their routines, yoga is a great choice for working out the muscles without extra physical dangers.
Iyengar yoga is a form of yoga that makes use of various props. Props can include harnesses, incline boards, straps, blocks and other items that assist a yogi in achieving a pose’s maximum potential. Some yogis actually call this form of yoga “furniture yoga.” Many poses can be maximized when using foam or wooden blocks, which can help to achieve the proper alignment until one has reached the required flexibility level. For example, if one’s hands can’t reach the floor, a block can be placed on the floor to decrease the distance.
Iyengar yoga focuses on precise alignment and a deliberate pose sequence. Many celebrities, such as actress Andie McDowell, attribute their toned and muscular bodies to the practice of Iyengar yoga. This type of yoga works every part of the body, allowing for further muscle definition without bulking of the muscles. Cyclists will thrive with this type of yoga because they don’t need bulky muscles on the bike. Bulky muscles can actually impede the effectiveness of one’s cycling skills.
Of the most beneficial poses for cyclists is Half Dog Pose (Ardha Svanasana). To do this posture, stand facing the wall with palms flat against the wall in front of the chest. Keep hands on the wall while backing up so that the back is flat and parallel to the floor. Another pose that is helpful is Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), where use of the wall and blocks allows one to get into an array of positions to help strengthen arms, legs and back.
Many of the postures performed in lyengar yoga are challenging and that’s why props are recommended. These tools will allow one to achieve the position with proper alignment until one is flexible/strong enough to perform them on one’s own. Forcing a position and improper alignment can harm and strain your muscles, which defeats the advantages of a proper yoga practice.
If cycling is one’s passion, and muscle strengthening is a desire, beginning a yoga practice is a smart thing to do. All of the muscle groups in the body can be worked with just a handful of poses. These postures can then be performed as often as one wants. The body will be stronger without the unwanted effects of overtraining, muscle bulkiness or high intensity cardio exercises.