Best Yoga Stretches for Cyclists
If you’re starting a new training plan (or just doing more riding in the glorious spring weather!), you might be feeling some aches and pains. Or maybe you’ve got tight hips or hamstrings that never seem to loosen up on a ride. Starting a regular stretching routine can do wonders for your body. All cyclists can benefit from doing these yoga stretches to improve flexibility, feel less resistance and avoid soft-tissue injuries. The biggest step is stretching regularly, so it becomes a healthy habit you do after every ride.
When to Stretch
Muscles don’t like to work before they’re warm, and the same goes for stretching. Cold muscle stretching is likely to do more damage than good, and your muscles are more liable to tear when they’re not warmed up.
To make sure your muscles are warm before you stretch, spin around for 5-10 minutes, or do some gentle self-massage. Any stretching prior to exercise should be very gentle — you want to s-l-o-w-l-y elongate the muscle, not yank it fast.
Remember, stretching is a workout for your muscles, not a warm up! The best time for a full stretch is after a ride or workout, not before.
What stretches are best for cyclists?
With help from local yoga instructor Brynn Cunningham, we put together this simple yoga-inspired sequence. Do these poses after your ride to get the maximum benefits from post-ride stretching. Hold each pose for 60-120 seconds, or five to 15 long, slow, deep breaths. Your body will thank you!
* If you’re overwhelmed by these suggestions, remember that anything is better than nothing. You can start out by doing just a few poses for 10 minutes or so, then gradually work your way to more. You’ll still feel the benefits!
** These are only recommendations. If you feel discomfort or pain in any position, back off on the stretch or stop.
1. STANDING FORWARD FOLD
101: Stand tall with feet hip-width distance apart. Fold forward from the hips. Feel free to bend your knees if your hamstrings are tight. Reach down and hold your ankles if you can, but don’t strain to reach your feet if you’re too tight. If you can’t reach the ground, hold opposite elbow with opposite hand.
Variations: Interlace your hands, palms together, behind your back and straighten your arms over your head for an additional shoulder and chest stretch.
Benefits: Hamstrings/ shoulders/ chest/ spine
2. STANDING WIDE LEG FORWARD FOLD
101: From a standing position, step the legs wide apart out to the sides, toes pointing forward. Spine is long. Fold forward from the hips and hold shins, ankles or big toes, or place hands between feet. Knees can be slightly bent if hamstrings/back are tight.
Variations: Hands interlaced behind the back.
3. DOWNWARD DOG
101: From your hands and knees, tuck the toes, straighten the legs and lift hips high to the sky. Hands are shoulder-width distance apart. Spine is long. Body is in an inverted V-shape. Knees are as straight as they can be, and your heels reach down toward the ground. Pedal out your feet to release any tightness in your calves.
Variations: One leg up in the air at a time, opening up the hips.
4. HALF SPLITS
101: Start in a lunge with your right foot forward and your back knee on the ground. Shift your hips back to stack over your left knee, and straighten your front leg to a place where you feel a stretch, but not strain. Flex your right toes toward your face so that the sole of your foot is off the mat. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, either on the floor or on blocks. Make sure you keep length in your spine, both front and back.
Variations: Full splits, if you have really flexible hamstrings. Don’t try this if you’re tight at all!
5. LOW LUNGE
101: From hands and knees, step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning the right knee over the heel. Then, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left knee back until you feel a comfortable stretch in the left front thigh and groin. Turn the top of your left foot to the floor. Place hands on hips or lift arms straight up. Spine is long. Switch sides.
Variations: Reach around with the same hand as leg that’s extended behind you, bend the back knee and hold the foot, bringing it closer to your hip. Twisted version: Place same hand as extended leg behind you on inside of front foot. Bend back knee and twist to hold back foot with opposite hand.
Benefits: Hip flexors/quads
6. STANDING SIDE BEND POSE
101: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and engage your lower belly. Lift both of your arms up overhead with your palms facing each other. Clasp your right wrist with your left hand, and gently pull your arm to the left, keeping your head centered between your arms. Repeat on the second side.
Variations: Cross your right leg over the left to challenge your balance and stretch your I.T. band.
7. CAT / COW
101: From hands and knees, stack shoulders above wrists and hips directly above knees. Hands are shoulder-width distance apart and knees are as wide as hips. Arch and round the spine up and down with the breath.
Variations: Move the spine in a circle around to the right then left.
Benefits: Back and spine
8. HALF BOW / THIGH STRETCH POSE
101: Lie on your belly. Prop yourself up with your right forearm. Bend the left knee and reach back for your left foot or shin with your left hand. Kick the foot into the hand to lift the leg or gently pull the heel toward the glutes for a deeper stretch.
Variations: Reach back for both feet at the same time for full floor bow pose.
9. SEATED TWIST
101: Sit up with a long spine, both legs straight in front of you on the floor. Step the left foot across the right knee. Set the left hand behind you, next to your butt. Wrap the right arm around the left leg for a twist. Look over the left shoulder. Switch sides.
Variations: Place elbow outside of leg that’s upright for a deeper twist and/or bend the bottom shin so the foot sits next to the opposite hip.
10. SEATED HEAD TO KNEE POSE OR HALF BUTTERFLY
101: Sit with both legs straight in front of you on the floor. Bend the left leg so the left sole of the foot touches the right inner thigh and knee sticks out to the side. Fold forward over the right extended leg. Switch sides.
Variations: Don’t forget to do the second side!
Benefits: Hips/hamstrings/ back
11. BRIDGE POSE
101: Lying on your back, bend the knees and set the feet in front of the butt, feet hip width distance apart. Knees and ankles stacked, arms by your side. Lift butt and back off the mat.
Variations: The hands can be interlaced underneath of you, upper arms pressing into the floor. If you’re tired, you can place a block under your hips and just rest on the block.
Benefits: Back/chest /shoulders/quads
Try these poses out a few times a week, and see how you feel after! If you go slow and don’t strain while you’re stretching, we guarantee you’ll start to feel better.
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