Yoga is becoming a fundamental performance tool for cyclists who are eager to improve flexibility, core strength, breathing efficiency and mental focus.
Cyclists spend much of their time hunched forward and this puts strain on their lower backs, shoulders and necks. It is also common for cyclists to have tight hamstrings and hips, and although stretching and warming up can help, a simple yoga routine would be far more beneficial as it warms, strengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups before you even target anything specific. Furthermore, yoga sequences place an important emphasis on deep, nasal, diaphragmatic breathing, which helps to improve endurance.
According to John Douillard, author of Body, Mind and Sport, diaphragmatic breathing is the most efficient means of respiration. This is because the blood supply to the lower lobes of the lungs is gravity dependent, so that while we are upright there is far more blood available for oxygen exchange in the lower parts of the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing draws air into these lower regions, which makes it such an essential component of optimal exercise breathing. A friendly word of warning: when you first begin to train using nasal breathing you will feel like you are working with an insufficient source of oxygen, but it takes the body some time, usually 3-6 months of consistent practice, to recondition to breathe correctly, particularly during high-intensity exercise.
Yoga Sport Science blends the ancient practice of yoga with modern sport science methods, adding value to the quality of training to help improve athletic performance. The Yoga Sport Science approach of “less is more”, using techniques that are Sport-Specific will produce many benefits for cyclists some of which include:
A stronger core
Building strength without bulk
Improved comfort levels on the bike
The little-and-often approach also means you can easily do a 5-10 minute sun salutation in the morning, as well as using it as a great warm up before rides and a great active recovery after rides. Yoga can also be worked into any training programme by doing a stronger more powerful practice on the days you are not on the bike and a slower, more restorative practice on heavier training days.
As yoga both strengthens and lengthens muscles, therefore helping to correct muscle imbalances caused by many hours on a bike, cyclists who regularly practice yoga will have powerful yet pliable bodies that are less susceptible to injury.
We will hopefully be starting a weekly Yoga for Cyclists class at The Athlete Lab, which will initially look at basic movement patterns and build awareness of these before laying the foundation for higher movement skills. I am also available for 1-2-1 Yoga Sports Coaching sessions.
Sports Massage Therapist, Yoga Sports Coach and Feldenkrais Practitioner with UltraPhysio