Hunching shoulders. Aching lower back. Wrist pressure. Fatigued knees and quad muscles. Sore butt. This “almost’ might sound like what your downward facing dog pose feels like after holding it for about an hour – but it’s actually how most cyclists feel after riding a bike for several miles – at least I do.
In addition to physical fatigue, there’s also mind fatigue – especially if traveling on a familiar road or trail. While it can be a great adventure to get out on the road and clear the mind of worries, if the mind drifts too much you may end up being hit by a car, stumbling over a big bump or even a pedestrian, and end up as a not so great adventure.
Mind The Moment
As yogis, we’re always preaching and practicing about staying in the moment. So what better time to do so when trying to stay safe.
After recently doing a several hour ride, I was feeling a little fatigued in a few areas, mind and body, and thought, “How about bringing in a little movement and mindfulness of yoga while the wheels are turning?”
I found that pranayama was a great exercise in staying present and some asanas, modified for a bicycle, were just what I needed.
Here are a few ways you can practice yoga on your bicycle…while moving.
1. Pace Your Breath With Your Pedals
Concentrate on matching your breath with the cycle of your pedals. Inhale for 2 or 3 rounds of the pedals, and try to maintain the same for the exhale.
2. Vary Your Breath Patterns On The Uphill And Downhill
Try Bhastrika pranayama on the uphill, and extended exhales on the downhill. Be creative.
3. Seated Cat/Cow
Just like on the mat, this is a great pose to stretch hunched shoulders and an aching back. To Do the Pose: Straighten your back while holding the handle bars, and inhale roll the shoulders away from the ears, then exhale and arch the back while pulling the naval inwards – uddiyana bandha will not only help with back stability, it can increase your energy.
4. Spinal Twist
Just like the standing or seated version, this is wonderful for fatiged backs. Doing this pose on a bike is good practice for keeping the hips straight forward during the twist.
To Do the Pose: Start by sitting up straight with hands on both handles. Inhale, raise one arm straight up, lengthening the spine; and exhale while slowly reaching the arm back, then inhale and reach forward back to the handle bar. If you can hold the arm back for one or two breaths, while keeping your balance, imagine you are holding “virabhadrasana arms” to find strength and steadiness in the action. Repeat on the other side.
5. Virabhadrasana 3
Yes, this sounds crazy, and yes it’s a modified version. This is a fantastic leg and back stretch. To Do the Pose: Gripping both handles, lean the chest forward towards the hands, bending the elbows back and hugging them in to the body like “chaturanga arms,” then straighten one leg down to the earth, letting the bike coast, then slowly lifting the opposite leg, straight and with the foot flexed. Be sure to keep both hips level and the toes pointed towards the earth – just like you do on the mat. See how long you can coast in this pose. Then change sides.
As always, safety first – keep your gaze forward and your mind on the traffic and roadways around you. Be sure to maintain your mindfulness always, whether you’re on the bicycle or on a mat.