by Jaclyn Long
Integrate these 5 Yoga Poses For Cyclists with video-guided instruction into your routine to optimize performance, prevent injuries, and enhance recovery.
Only a short time ago, if you asked a riding mate to list 5 Yoga Poses For Cyclists, they’d return a puzzled look and struggle to name one, if any. Back then, the benefits of yoga for cyclists were a foreign concept, and many athletes had a hard time wrapping their heads around it.
Cyclists are not always the type to slow down to smell the flowers. More often, preferring the Type A fun of sprinting for every town line sign and being the first to the cafe stop. Many cyclists are determined to prove the old cycling adage that the first bike race happened not long after building the second bike.
With the popularity of wearable technology and its impact on the daily lives of endurance athletes, an interesting trend has emerged. Objective measurements of the state of balance between recovery, adaptation to training stimulus, and external stress are more available than ever.
Utilizing heart rate variability (HRV) and other data algorithms to monitor a cyclist’s sleep, performance, and overall wellness and giving it a number gives athletes something to grab hold of. Your Recovery Score, or other similar metrics, tell the athlete where they are in the accumulated fatigue spectrum and how to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—the perfect balance between training stress and recovery.
Yoga For Cyclists
Science has discovered cyclists can achieve harmony by slowing down and focusing their attention inward. Incorporating meditation, deep breathing, and other stress-relieving practice into the cyclist’s training plan can help to turn off the sympathetic system’s fight or flight reaction and coast into the stress-relieving calm of our parasympathetic nervous system.
Many cyclists and endurance athletes have embraced yoga as a therapeutic way to recharge the body’s battery.
A review of empirical studies published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that practicing yoga can help improve psychological health and performance in athletes. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests that practicing yoga can help enhance HRV in healthy individuals.
A 2023 paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine assessed the feasibility and impact of a remote moderate-intensity yoga intervention on stress and executive functioning in working adults. The study produced an interesting series of finding.
What is Yin Yoga?
According to Certified Yoga Instructor, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Mindful Child & Family Therapy founder Jaclyn Long, not all yoga styles and practices are created equal. When it comes to recovery and performance benefits for cyclists and endurance athletes, she suggests Yin Yoga.
“Yin yoga poses are designed to offer appropriate stress to the body, to help stimulate the release of synovial fluid in the joints, helping the joints to remain healthy and pliable. The intention is to relax into the pose for a few minutes so that the muscles can relax and appropriately stimulate the joints as the relaxing muscles tug on them.”
Yin Yoga is a slower-paced, meditative style that focuses on deep stretching and lengthening of the connective tissues, such as fascia, ligaments, and tendons. By holding poses for an extended period (typically 2-5 minutes, but sometimes longer), practitioners can increase flexibility, release tension, and achieve a deeper state of relaxation.
Jaclyn says: “The length of time in the poses also allows the cyclist to turn their attention inward, so they can “be with” the sensations unfolding in the body. This kind of deep, compassionate presence with the body is not always available when the cyclist is on a ride, needing to pay attention to outside factors, such as road conditions and traffic.”
Yin Yoga is also known for promoting balance and harmony within the body. This practice can complement more active forms of exercise or act as a standalone approach for fostering mindfulness and relaxation.
“The inward attention offered to the body during a yin yoga pose not only helps the body heal and repair itself, as it taps into the parasympathetic mode of “rest and digest,” it also can lead to an increased sense of emotional, mental, and overall well-being,” shares Jaclyn.
The Benefits of Yin Yoga For Cyclists
Incorporating Yin Yoga into a cyclist’s or endurance athlete’s training program can help to counterbalance the stress of intense workouts, promote longevity in the sport, and improve overall performance.
Here are some of the key benefits of incorporating Yin Yoga into their regimen:
Improved flexibility: Yin Yoga targets the deep connective tissues (such as fascia, ligaments, and tendons), promoting flexibility and range of motion. It can help athletes keep their muscles loose and supple, which is especially beneficial for cyclists who tend to have tight hip flexors and hamstrings.
Enhanced joint mobility: The long-held poses of Yin Yoga help to strengthen the joints and maintain their range of motion. For endurance athletes, this can contribute to more efficient movement patterns and reduced risk of injury.
Reduced muscle imbalances: Cyclists often develop muscular imbalances due to the repetitive nature of their sport. Yin Yoga can help balance these asymmetries by stretching and releasing tension in overworked muscles and activating underused muscles.
Stress relief and mental focus: The meditative aspects of Yin Yoga promote relaxation, mental clarity, and focus, which can help endurance athletes manage stress and maintain a positive mindset during training and competitions.
Improved recovery: The deep relaxation provided by Yin Yoga aids the recovery process by encouraging blood flow to the muscles and helping to release tension. It can speed up recovery times and reduce muscle soreness.
Better balance and proprioception: Yin Yoga enhances an athlete’s ability to engage their stabilizer muscles, improving overall balance and proprioception and improving performance and injury prevention.
5 Essential Yoga Poses For Cyclists—Before You Get Started
Jaclyn begins each day and every yoga session with sun salutations. “I do three sun salutations to increase blood and lymph circulation throughout my system,” notes Jaclyn. “This series stretches the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors, opens the chest, and enhances mobility along the spine.”
A sun salutation, also known as Surya Namaskar in Sanskrit, is a sequence of yoga postures performed in a flowing movement to honor the sun, warm up the body, and improve flexibility, strength, and overall well-being. Use sun salutations to begin a yoga practice, to set a positive intention for the day, or as a warm-up or transitional sequence between poses.
There are several variations of sun salutations, but Jaclyn prefers this one to begin her day and each yoga session:
Now we are ready to salute the day, pedal, and pose!
5 Essential Yoga Poses For Cyclists
Restorative Heart Opener
The Restorative Heart Opener is a restorative Yoga pose that helps to open up the chest and shoulders while gently stretching the spine and promoting relaxation. Cyclists develop rounded shoulders and a hunched spine after long hours bent forward on the bike or sitting at home or work. The heart opener pose releases the pectoral muscles and relaxes the upper spine, allowing deeper breaths and a more upright posture.
Supine Half Hero
The Supine Half Hero Yin Yoga pose, also known as Supta Ardha Virasana, is a gentle pose that stretches the quads, hip flexors, and knees while opening the front of the body. It’s a modification of the full Hero pose (Virasana), particularly beneficial for people with knee or ankle limitations. The pose targets cycling muscles that are frequently overworked and tight.
Seated Forward Bend
Seated Forward Bend (with Half Lotus Variation)
The Seated Forward Bend Half Lotus Yin Yoga pose, or Ardha Padmasana Paschimottanasana or Half Lotus Forward Fold, combines a seated forward bend and half lotus posture. This pose targets the hamstrings, lower back, and hips while promoting relaxation and calming the mind. Incorporating the half lotus element also provides a more intense stretch to the hips and glutes critical to addressing cycling muscle imbalance.
The one-legged pigeon pose, also known as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, is a deep hip-opening Yin Yoga posture that primarily targets the hip flexors and hip rotators. The pose effectively stretches and strengthens the legs, groin, and back muscles while offering a gentle release for the hips, which can help enhance flexibility and mobility and improve cycling performance.
Supine Spinal Twist
The supine spinal twist is a restorative yoga pose that entails lying on the back and gently twisting the spine while the legs are bent and twisted to one side. The pose is particularly beneficial to cyclists because it helps improve spinal mobility by gently stretching the muscles around the spine and releasing tension in the lower back.
Check out Yoga Instructor Jaclyn Long’s Video-Guided Flow—5 Yoga Poses For Cyclists
Conclusion—5 Yoga Poses For Cyclists
Slow down, smell the flowers, and incorporate these 5 essential yoga poses for cyclists into your routine. It can significantly enhance a cyclist’s performance, flexibility, recovery, and well-being. By practicing these Yin yoga poses, cyclists will counteract the strain and tension they often experience in their lower back, hips, and legs and the external stress of daily life. Moreover, yoga promotes mindfulness and relaxation, encouraging balance on and off the bike.
Pedal and Pose! Namaste
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!