Nothing is worse than an injury to set back enjoyment on your bike. One of the most common sources of injury on the bike is from chronic (repetitive use) on the joints or muscles. This occurs from repeated stresses on a vulnerable joint and that cyclists hold a static shape with their body for long durations in the saddle. This also creates problematic postural habits and stiffness that exacerbates the potential for injury.
Yoga to the rescue! Cross training through yoga can be essential for many riders. Best of all, when you have a consistent yoga practice in addition to riding, your body will be more able to withstand the repetitive motion and confinement on the saddle.
Yoga can counteract the risk for injury in a number of ways:
- It improves durability of joints and muscles: Whenever there is weakness or stiffness in certain areas, we become more prone to injury. Similar to strength training, many yoga postures strengthen muscles, joints, and connective tissue. Poses such as chair, warrior I & 2, and boat pose all work major muscle groups. Unlike weight training, yoga will not fatigue your muscles as greatly and detract from the rides as a result.
- Improves flexibility and range of motion: More time in the saddle equals reduced flexibility and range of motion. As you get stiffer you are closer and closer to your end range of motion. Joints are the most severely compromised at the limits of flexibility or end range of motion. Yoga lengthens muscles so you are not at your end range during rides and are able to get into more aggressive riding positions without straining muscles and joints.
- Optimizes joint alignment: Yogis know a thing or two about getting joints lined up. Having knowledge of yoga and good form also helps while you are on the bike since there are subtle movements you learn to make with your shoulders, neck & head position and pelvis & lower back while in the saddle that can provide relief and keep you riding longer. Many poses/postures are possible through precise alignment and strategies to get the body to perform optimally. This translates to incredible muscle awareness and body awareness. Improved body awareness may help you sense subtle discomforts earlier or increasingly nagging issues that may warrant an adjustment or break from the saddle.
Our body is only as strong as the weakest link and yoga can help identify those areas of deficiency through new movement paradigms and self-discovery. When you have a meditative, positive attitude through a regular yoga practice, this may sound strange, but your mindset will help make much more possible on the bike – including stamina, freedom in your body, suppleness, safety, speed, and comfort. Our Yoga for Cyclists section helps cyclists access these very important benefits of yoga and please click on the Durability/Injury Prevention filter for classes on this very topic.
If yoga has helped your ride, please leave a comment below and tell us specifically how – we’d love to hear it!
About Taro Smith, Ph.D
Taro is a physiologist, yoga teacher, and former bike racer. He designs specialty content for YogaGlo to benefit a broad range of yoga practitioners. He is the co-founder of Boulder Cycle Sport, a nationally renowned cycling retailer and 90 Monkeys, a professional yoga school. Connect with Taro on the bike via Strava TSmith and on LinkedIn Taro Smith – See more here.