4 Yoga Poses Every Cyclist Should Do

The best conditioning routine for cyclists may require you to swap your wheels for a yoga mat. That's right: If you're not already doing yoga, now is the perfect time to start. Just a few poses a day can help you stretch sore muscles, build flexibility and potentially ward off a future injury.

Taking some time off the bike to squeeze in some yoga for cyclists could be just what your body needs. (Image: Beyhes Evren/iStock/GettyImages)

Yoga Styles for Cyclists

There are many different styles of yoga, from Hatha and power to Kundalini. If you're just getting started with yoga, the number of variations and difficulty levels can be intimidating, but a few key poses can set you on your path to calm.

"Yoga uses various forms of stretching, including passive, dynamic and resistance stretching," says Jennifer Yarro, instructor and owner of Frog Lotus Yoga in North Adams, Massachusetts. "I find resistance stretching in poses to be the most effective, productive and safest — especially if only incorporating a few stretches as a compliment to riding."

The best yoga poses for cyclists will mostly be restorative, says Yarro. This is a slow-paced, meditative style that focuses on simple poses for stretching, rejuvenation, healing and mindfulness. Restorative classes are suitable for beginners, and most of the poses are safe to try out at home — without an instructor present. The following poses will help you recover after a long ride, and they'll build strength and flexibility to help you conquer the next one.

1. Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padagushatasana)

Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe pose can help cyclists loosen tight hamstrings. (Image: AzmanL/E+/GettyImages)

This provides a deep stretch through your entire leg and groin area. When done correctly, Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe pose stretches your hamstring through your calves, thighs and hips. "I am a huge fan of resistance stretching for athletes, and Supta Padagushatasana is a great example," says Yarro.

For a more pronounced stretch, have a friend gently press your heel forward toward your head, lengthening the hamstring. You can also grab your big toe with two fingers, and gently pull your foot towards your head to lengthen your hamstring.

  1. Lie on your back and press your palms and heels into the floor.
  2. As you exhale, press your right thigh into the floor for stability. Bring your left thigh up to your torso with your knee slightly bent. Slowly straighten your knee and point your heel toward the ceiling until your leg is fully extended, foot flexed.
  3. Hold for three to five breaths.

Warning

Go slowly, and keep breathing as you stretch these muscles. Don't push it. If you feel any pain in your hamstring, calves or hips — relax your leg and discontinue the stretch.

2. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

Locust pose can release tension in a cyclist's chest and shoulders. (Image: sandsun/iStock/GettyImages)

This pose provides cyclists with a great stretch for the thighs, chest and shoulders. As one of the "baby" back bend stretches, it's a great beginner pose for developing flexibility, especially if you plan on expanding your yoga repertoire down the road.

Locust pose is also great for preemptively strengthening the muscles around your spine, which can help prevent a stress injury on the bike. "Complimentary practices like yoga can enhance your overall endurance, range of motion and increase resiliency to prevent injury," says Yarro. "The most common feedback I get is the desire to keep up ability, and to be able to practice and perform well."

  1. Start on your stomach with your arms by your side.
  2. Press your hips into the floor, and begin engaging the muscles in your lower back and legs as you exhale.
  3. Inhale, gently lift your legs, arms, shoulders and chest off the floor. Hold your shoulders square and imagine someone pulling your arms back as you stretch your chest. Point your toes, keeping your feet near each other (they don't have to touch).
  4. Hold for three to five breaths.

Tip

Back bends can be one of the more challenging yoga techniques. Proceed slowly and gently, and discontinue the stretch if you feel any pain in your back or spine.

3. Passive Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Try fashioning a "block" out of a rolled up towel or blanket for a gentler stretch. (Image: In Pictures/iStock/GettyImages)

Yarro recommends this pose for cyclists as a way to release the tension that gets built up in your core and hip flexors while you're hunched over your handlebars. Like Locust, this is a back bend, but with the additional support of a yoga block or a stack of towels or blankets to make it easier for beginners.

For this pose, you'll need to fashion a makeshift yoga block (if you don't have a real one). Your "block" can be made from a stack of books, a foam roller or a rolled up towel or blanket. For this exercise, a rolled blanket will be most comfortable.

  1. Start in a sitting position with your legs together, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the block or rolled blanket just underneath your sacrum, at the top of your tailbone.
  2. Slowly and carefully lower yourself backwards until your shoulders are resting on the floor. Your back should be arched over the rolled blanket, and you should feel a deep stretch in your back and front.
  3. Hold for three to five breaths.

Tip

Once you're comfortable with bridge pose, you might consider removing the support block. Carefully arch your lower back while keeping your shoulders square on the floor. With enough practice, you may be able to lift your glutes off the floor and hold a true bridge pose, but Yarro recommends sticking to the supported version for beginners.

4. Seated Forward Bend (Pascimottanasana)

Try this deep, restorative stretch after a long time in the saddle. (Image: JasonDoiy/E+/GettyImages)

This is the perfect pose for relaxing tense hamstrings. It's a gentle, restorative pose that involves a deep static stretch. "Both static and dynamic stretching improve circulation. Better circulation means better cycling performance and better recovery," says yoga teacher Josh Jayindo. "Even just 10 minutes a day will maintain if not increase both flexibility and mobility."

You may not be able to bring your head to your legs on the first go. If your hamstrings feel tight, bend your knees as much as necessary to round out your spine. Over several weeks or months, you should be able to start lowering your knees to the floor, but don't rush it or you risk over-stretching your hamstrings. If you've suffered a lower back injury, avoid this pose altogether.

  1. Sit upright with your legs together. Reach outward and up, stretching your fingertips toward the ceiling and lengthening your spine.
  2. Slowly fold forward as you exhale, bending just above your hips. Bring your forehead as close to your legs as you can.
  3. Relax your shoulders and let your arms fall to the floor on either side of your feet. You'll feel the stretch directly in your hamstrings. Take three to five breaths.
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