Sometimes it may seem that yoga and cycling are two opposing forces, but like every yin to its yang, melding and participating in these two can create a happy balance.
Here are some ways to make the most out of both of these activities, finding not only health in the body, but a peace of mind that comes from mixing aerobic movement with strength, stretching, and breath control.
1. Think About Length on the Bike
From sit bones upward, imagine each vertebrae drawing apart, creating length; either vertically when you are in a more upright position, or horizontally when in a more lengthened position closer to the drops. The spine holds you up, but can get compressed with long hours in the saddle.
On the mat, keep spine long and loose with these poses:
Down Dog (adho mukha svanasana) can create length in the spine. And don’t just hold it static, feel free to pedal the feet, or move the hips gently from one side to the next.
Twisting at a stop in the saddle or on the mat in supine reclined twist can add flexibility and space in the spine for better movement and comfort. Just remember to draw in the belly and let the twist come from your center.
2. Open the Hips
It’s no secret that the repetitive motion of cycling can tighten the hip flexors. In addition, tight hip flexors can also equal or lead to tight or sore lower back. Knees draw in toward the top tube of a bike during pedal stroke, but you can give them a break by standing on the pedals periodically and drawing hips slightly over to one side.
Balance cycling’s internal hip rotation by adding some external rotation or hip opening stretches on the mat.
Try Easy pose (sukhasana) or Baddha Konasana to gently open the hips, knees drawing outward. Keep in mind that the internal rotation of cycling can help us with poses like Garudasana that require strong inward rotation and can help balance opposing muscle groups.
3. Drop Those Shoulders
Our shoulders climb closer toward the ears as we put the death grip on the handlebars. Loosen up a bit on the bar and draw shoulder blades together. Add a behind-the-back clasp, Eagle arms, or reverse namaskar into your mat practice to loosen shoulders.
The truth here is that most of us have tight shoulders, whether we are cyclists or not, so the practice on the bike will help us remember to keep shoulders away from ears on the mat.
For overall happiness, use yoga to cycle better and cycling to build strength and endurance that can benefit your practice. What postures make you a happy cycling yogi?