Living in Colorado, I see at least a few cyclists every day- rain or snow (or hail- you crazy kids!) and I am always impressed. I do believe I am the only human in Denver that can’t ride a bike, a statement that normally incites a few giggles and a collective ‘gasp.’ You can put me on a bike and I can ride somewhat normally until I have to lift a hand off of the handlebars. Then it’s pavement for the most uncoordinated yogi west of the Mississippi. However, just because I tend to dive off bikes (or run into trees- another common occurrence) doesn’t mean I can help all you wonderful bike riders loosen up those post-ride sore muscles!
Yoga is wonderful for cyclists; tight shoulder girdle, tight hips, tired legs all can come from a long bike ride and some simple asana can help ease some of the discomfort!
Note: I teach from the five foundational yoga poses- descriptions and instructions can be found here: Five Foundational Yoga Poses
Pyramid Pose is a great all-body stretch. It is most intense in your hamstrings (that can feel tight after sitting on a bike) but also works the shoulders, and spine!
Start in Tadasana. Take a large step back; both hip creases remain facing forward. Depending on what feels best in your hips both sets of toes can remain facing the front of your mat or you can pivot your left toes 45 degrees out to the left and your right toes 45 degrees out to the right. Send energy down your legs and through your heels engaging the legs. Clasp your hands behind your back and take a deep inhale to grow length in your torso. Exhale and hinge forward over your front leg, chest staying long and strong and dipping towards your kneecap. Check to make sure both hip creases remain forward and that your chest is centered directly over your front leg. On your next exhale, let your arms start to drift off of your back, remaining clasped, for a great shoulder opener. Remain here for a few breaths and then let an inhale bring you back up to standing. Release your hands, step back into Tadasana, and repeat on the opposite side.
One of the best things about Figure Four Pose is that it can be either strengthening or restorative depending if you decide to practice the asana standing or while on the floor. For this instance I will go over Figure Four upright, that allows for a wonderful hip and glute stretch that targets the piriformis (the muscle that runs from your sacrum to outer thigh) as well as builds strength while balancing.
Start in Tadasana. Slowly, keeping both feet grounded into the earth sit back over your heels into Chair Pose (instructions). Draw your hands to heart’s center and press your palms together. Slowly lift up your right leg, keeping the left grounded, and bring your right angle to your left knee. The foot stays engaged either flointing (Barbie feet) or flexed flat. The outside of your ankle should be resting on the space of your left thigh just above the knee. Chest stays tall, breastbone pressing out against thumbs, and engage your core to sink a bit deeper. Slowly unwind, come back to Tadasana and repeat with the right leg staying grounded.
Dolphin Pose is another great stretch for tight hamstrings and tight shoulders. You might have noticed that these poses I’m explaining here build on one another. Dolphin is a bit more advanced than Pyramid and Figure 4, but the former begin to open up your body to prepare for a pose like Dolphin!
Start on all fours, with your forearms flush with the ground. Elbows should be stacked under shoulders, middle finger pointing directly forward toward the top of your mat. Knees are stacked right underneath hips about hips-width distance apart. You can easily check hip distance by placing two fists between your knees! Tuck your toes under so they are engaged down on the mat and lift your hips up towards the sky. Forearms stay engaged on the floor as you try to open your collarbones towards the mat- firming shoulder blades against your back. Knees can bend slightly, and as you straighten your legs try to send your heels towards the floor. Keeping core engaged throughout the pose stay here for a few breaths then release to the floor.
Cobra is a great pose that helps to open up the chest (that can be tight from gripping those handlebars!) and stretch the front of your hips and hip creases.
Begin by lying with your belly on the floor. Legs are stretched long behind you, hip creases grounded into your mat, tops of the feet flush with the earth. Hands come under shoulders, fingers spread wide, gripping into the mat. Elbows draw in, and stay as close to the body as possible. Exhale and ground your entire body into the floor, and inhale, straighten your arms and lift the chest off the mat. Collarbones open towards the front of your mat, shoulder blades engage back and down your back, and keeping your lower ribs tucked in expand your torso. Remain here for a few breaths and release back down to the floor.
Tight hips are the bane of any athlete’s existence. Reclining Pigeon is a great restorative hip opener to allow those hips to gently open, and relax into your body.
Starting in Downward Facing Dog, inhale your right foot up to the sky, hip creases facing towards the earth. Draw your knee into your nose and reach right knee up to right wrist. Begin to rotate your right ankle towards your left wrist, as your shin lowers to the ground. The angle of your leg underneath you will depend on the openness of your hips- stay where is comfortable for you! Start to sink into your hips, left leg is sent back and grows long behind you, top of the foot grounding into the ground. Hip creases stay facing forward. Lower until your hips don’t want to come any further down, take a deep inhale to grow length in your torso then fold forward, hands walking in front of your body. You can bring forearms to ground or reach your arms forward to come flat onto the earth. Head can come to arms or a block. Breathe deeply into your hips for a few breaths, then draw left leg in, right knee back and send your hips skyward into Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the left side.
Do you have a favorite pose for after a long bike ride? Let me know in the comments below!
All photos were shot and edited by Alex of PaperBoyMedia! Check him out if you’re in Denver!