Is it just me, or have the roads just blossomed with groups of cyclists again recently? The return of milder temperatures (notwithstanding the hail storm I found myself riding in today) and longer days inspires many of us to switch off hibernation mode and get out and ramp up the road miles again.
Alongside the extra few inches that creep onto the waistline over winter, inconspicuous until we try to squeeze back into our Lycra, one may not have noticed the subtle changes to our joints and muscles due to a prolonged reduction in activity. Any increase in exercise after an off-season can cause a few aches and pains as the body gets accustomed to longer, more frequent bike rides again.
Fear not! Here’s a selection of my favourite post-ride – or anytime – yoga stretches to ease common sources of discomfort or pain from riding the bike. You’ll be feeling back on form and Tour de France-ready in no time*.
*this yoga guide is not a guarantee of Tour selection
I’m no yoga teacher so I’ve not given instructions on how to do the stretches, but there’s a whole host of experts online who can. Try a website such as Yoga Journal for guidance on how to get the most from each pose. If you’re new to the discipline and concepts of yoga try an online video first, such as Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga for Cyclists. Yoga is not really about making a shape like the photo you’re trying to copy, but rather an appreciation of the stretching and contraction of the right muscles and pushing and pulling of the right levers to make the space in the body to eventually get you there.
Malasana/Upavesasana | Yogic Squat
A great pose for releasing compression of the lower back and opening the groin after a day heaving away on the handlebars. This stretch is also a great reliever of lower back stiffness from sitting at a desk or standing around for long periods. Can be performed while drinking espresso at a roadside Flemish cafe (especially if it’s standing room only) or while in the Channel Tunnel on your triumphant return from this year’s Tour win. Or pretty much anywhere else.
Struggling with this one? Here’s some similar stretches you may wish to try: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) is a simple and stable lower back release which gets right into your hamstrings and gastrocnemius too, while Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby) is a gloriously silly opportunity to roll around on your back while bringing a bit of sideways opening into hip joints that might otherwise have been in a perpetual cycling cycle of forwards-backwards.
Utthan Pristhasana | Lizard Lunge
A great stretch to reset the muscles of the hip and pelvis while giving an active, intense yet safe stretch into the hip flexors, which get especially tight after a day on the bike. This is a super all-round stretch for a variety of sports including running, so include it if you’re a triathlete.
Ardha Kapotasana | Half Pigeon Pose
The king of all hip openers, but also a totally necessary stretch for tight gluteal muscles. You could probably manage a modified standing version of this by resting your foreleg on your bike’s top tube and bending your supporting leg to lower yourself into the stretch. Most likely while waiting for your teammates to catch you up at the top of that mountain.
If this stretch is a little intense for you: Supta Eka Utkatasana (Reclining Figure 4) gives similar benefits but is gentler on the hips and easier on the lower back.
Parivrtta Ardha Hanumanasana | Revolved Half Splits
Grit your teeth! This stretch will give your foam roller a run for it’s money as it works into the iliotibial band in a sort of excruciating I-know-it’s-doing-me-good-though way. Requiring more than a modicum of balance, you’ll get core stability benefits from it too. Some yoga sites propose resting your hand on the floor to the inside of your straight leg but I think the benefits are greater if you rest it on the outside.
Garudasana | Eagle Pose (arms only)
The full Eagle pose is comprised of simultaneous arm and leg contortions, but I think the benefits for the cyclist are greater in the arms. This stretch releases the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. If you tend to adopt an aggressive position on your bike and/or use drop handlebars, you could tuck your chin to your chest during this pose to get into any niggles in the neck too.
Urdhva Dhanurasana | Wheel Pose
This is a little advanced, but it’s the perfect counter-position to the hunched up little ball we make on the bike. Stretching out the entire front of the body, from shoulder joint through thorax and abdominals, hip extensors, quadriceps and ankles. Beware trying this for the first time if you have back problems, as it can cause pinching in the lower back if you don’t get it right.
There are many simpler stretches that can be used either in preparation for, or instead of this pose: Uttana Shisosana (Puppy Dog Stretch) as a chest and shoulder opener, Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) for stretching out the abdomen and observing safe back bending for the lumbar spine, and Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose) which, incidentally, builds strength in the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. A cracking bedfellow for cyclists, no?
11 April, 2021