Cycling is good aerobic exercise. Hunching over handlebars while perched on a narrow seat, pedaling constantly and holding up the head to watch the road takes a toll on muscles from the neck to the feet, the spine and back.
There are certain yoga poses that are intended to counter the shortening and tightness in muscles and tendons that come with cycling and can cause discomfort, poor posture and shortness of breath.
Stress gets stored up and those certain areas need to be opened up. The hips, lower back, shoulders and neck — the core strength brings it all together.
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
- Lie on your front. Rest your chin on the ground, then move it forward as much as you can, so that your throat lies almost flat. Put your arms by your sides, then push your hands under your body, and make them into fists or clasp them together. Bring your elbows as close together as possible.
- Inhale as you lift one leg. Hold this position for at least 10 seconds, then exhale while lowering your leg and repeat the pose with your other leg. Practice it 3 times on each side. Chin position: The further forward you push your chin, the more your spine can stretch and the more you will gain from this asana.
- Lie with your chin out, as in the Half Locust, then take 3 deep breaths. On the third, lift both legs off the ground. They may not come up far at first, but with practice you may be able to lift them much higher. Hold for as long as you can, then lower your feet. Repeat twice and then relax.
- Up and Up: With practice, you will be able to raise your legs higher. Eventually, you may even be able to lift your body vertically.
Yoga Plank Pose
- Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana. Then inhale and draw your torso forward until the arms are perpendicular to the floor and the shoulders directly over the wrists, torso parallel to the floor.
- Press your outer arms inward and firm the bases of your index fingers into the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back, then spread them away from the spine. Also spread your collarbones away from the sternum.
- Press your front thighs up toward the ceiling, but resist your tailbone toward the floor as you lengthen it toward the heels. Lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and look straight down at the floor, keeping the throat and eyes soft.
Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)
- Press the top of your feet to the floor and avoid your feet cycling inward.
- Set your feet and shins parallel to each other. If your knees slide out you will jam your sacrum.
- Slide the buttock muscles down away from your low back. This can be done manually as you go back into the pose
- When entering, it is initially important to go upward. Imagine that you are like a high-jumper going over a bar. Don’t hit the bar with your trunk by going straight back
- Press your thighs forward, away from your feet
- Externally rotate your arms and draw your collarbones away from one another
- Lift your sternum and side chest as much as possible, creating the characteristic dome shape of the chest
- If you perform with the strap, the stretch in the central quad is more profound, as forces in the legs cannot pull the legs apart
Salamba Bhujangasana (Sphinx Pose)
- Lie on your belly, legs stretched out behind you.
- Place your hands flat on the floor with your elbows slightly forward of your shoulders. Cross your forearms. You should be able to touch opposite elbows; this ensures that your elbows are shoulder width distance apart. Then stretch your hands forward. The bend in your elbows should be approximately ninety degrees. Spread your fingertips wide apart from one another and root down through your hands.
- Draw your legs towards one another. Root down through the tops of your feet, ensuring that your ankles don’t roll out to the sides. Push down through your tailbone.
- Keeping your legs firm, energetically pull the floor towards you to lift up with your chest and draw your shoulders slightly back. Keep the back of your neck long; do not crank your head back.
Engage through your belly to support your lower back.
- Stay here for as long as feels comfortable – usually 30 seconds to 1 minute –and then take Child Pose.
- For a gentler, yin approach to this pose, relax any tension or strength in the arms, torso and legs, instead adopting a soft, melting quality to the upper body. Hold for 5-7 minutes, then place one palm on top of the other and rest your forehead down.
Practice 20 minutes of the targeted poses after a ride and more general movements any time of day to counter the sedentary nature of other jobs and activities.