Yoga has become a popular exercise for many people because it provides so many benefits. The eastern discipline offers an effective full-body workout that increases strength, flexibility and respiration. Many weekend athletes have incorporated the practice into their routines for improving physical condition and mental focus. Many cyclists are recognizing the value of yoga for biking, with its ability to stretch critical muscle groups and improve overall performance.
The Benefits of Yoga For Athletes
Since its entry into western culture in the 1950s, athletes have discovered the many benefits that yoga practice can provide for their physical condition and performance:
· Balance – Balance is incorporated into almost all yoga positions. This balance improvement can be of help when biking, helping you achieve greater stability to avoid hazards and prevent falls.
· Flexibility – Yoga is one of the best exercises available for improving overall flexibility. For biking enthusiasts, it provides the quick reflexes needed for safety and increased ability to maneuver around unexpected hazards on the road.
· Core Conditioning – Yoga is also beneficial for core strengthening, a critical muscle group for high-performance biking. Almost all yoga positions involve a core workout to improve abdominal muscle strength that helps to support the back for long distance workouts.
· Muscle Strengthening – Biking requires strong thighs, calves and glutes, but back, shoulders and arms are also important for making it through those long workouts. Yoga allows you to work on these areas, as well as improve full-body strength.
· Improved Breathing – Yoga practice helps to improve breathing and focus, which can help cyclists tackle difficult surfaces and elevations. In addition, better respiration aids in endurance and improves decision-making.
· Faster Recovery From Injury – Gentle yoga exercises can help to provide faster recovery for injured muscles. The stretching action improves circulation to the injured area. Breathing exercises that accompany the yoga positions increase oxygen to injured muscles to promote faster healing.
· Endurance – Doing yoga makes athletes more mindful of their bodies and its movement, allowing better control over muscle groups for better performance.
Best Yoga Positions For Biking
Yoga for biking can provide immediate improvement in performance and endurance. As with any exercise, you should start slowly and gradually build on your ability to hold positions.
· Pyramid or Intense Side Stretch – This exercise stretches tight hamstrings and iliotibial bands that run along the outer thigh. Stand with feet slightly apart and place left foot about three feet behind you. Grasp arms behind you at elbow level and bend forward. Breathe in, lifting head upward. Slowly bend forward over the straight right leg as you exhale. Hold for 30 seconds and straighten. Then, repeat on the other side.
· Dolphin Pose – This pose opens up hamstrings, chest and shoulders. Begin by getting on hands and knees on the floor, keeping knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Exhale and lift tailbone toward the ceiling, until legs are extended with knees slightly bent. Lower arms to elbows and hold for one to two minutes, while breathing deeply.
· Cat/Cow Spinal Stretch – This position opens up the spinal column, releasing pressure from long rides. Get on hands and knees on the mat. Inhale and tip the head and pelvis upward. Exhale and curve the spine to the ceiling like a stretching cat. Alternate the two movements for a full minute, monitoring your inhalations and exhalations carefully.