5 yoga moves for cyclists

By Gwen Lawrence | Oct 4, 2016
Special to espnW


Each month, yoga coach Gwen Lawrence shows us the best poses for athletes. As always, consult a doctor before you begin any new exercise program.

Although cycling is a great workout, the awkward posture that’s held for long rides can wreak havoc on your spine, organ health and breathing. Here are five poses that can help you stay healthy, symmetrical and strong — and keep you riding for years to come.

Cat-cow move

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
Perhaps the king of warm-up poses for a cycling workout, this move will open the spine, the ribs, the lungs and the neck and truly warm you up from the inside out. The posture you hold on the bike might overstretch your back and weaken your abdominals; this move will even you out.

* Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair.

* Brace your hands on your knees or shins so you can use your arms for leverage and push deeper into the stretches.

* As you inhale, lift your spine and lengthen into a gentle backbend.

* As you exhale, move backward and drop your chin toward your chest.

* Exaggerate each move for depth of stretch and maximum breath output and input.

* Do this each day before (and even after) a ride for 2-4 minutes.

Wrist openers

Wrist openers (yoga for cyclists)
Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
Cyclists often think about form — but that usually involves alignment of the back and chest, and the wrists can go unnoticed and ignored. Stretching your wrists can avoid carpal tunnel pain during your rides.

Keys to the pose

* Start on your hands and knees in a table pose.

* Stretch one wrist at a time, pointing your fingers back toward your body, so you can tune in and focus more precisely.

* Eventually try to get your wrist directly under your shoulder, creating a 90-degree angle.

* Hold each stretch for one minute, and do it two times on each side.

* Do not sink in to your shoulders; keep your back long and your neck stretched out of the shoulders.

Happy cow arms

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
Although this pose is very challenging, you will see quick improvements when you do it consistently. I love this pose because you will get several angles of stretch in the shoulder, and it will also tone your back and neck muscles.

Keys to the pose

* In a sitting position with knees tucked under, extend one arm up toward the ceiling with your palm facing forward. Bend it and bring it down to your spine. Bend your other arm up, palm facing behind you, until your fingers meet.

* If you can’t connect your hands, use a yoga strap rope or old necktie, and clasp it between your hands.

* Sit up very tall, keep your back straight and your chin parallel to the floor while holding.

* The elbow of the arm that is up should be pointing straight up to the sky in time, with the upper arm snuggled beside your head.

* Breathe and hold the pose for two to three minutes. Come out of it nice and slowly. Switch sides.

Supported half happy baby

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
There is contraction in the deep hip flexors when you ride, which can cause issues in your low back and hamstrings. Holding this pose for minutes on each side helps release pressure on the low back, allowing for better rotation and overall range of motion in the spine.

* Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat, push hips up and place one yoga block under the back of your hips. Relax all your weight on the block.

* Slide your left leg straight out and bring your right leg into a half happy baby pose.

* If you are too tight to hold the outer edge of the right foot, use a yoga strap.

* Be sure to keep the right foot squared off perfectly to the ceiling and knee tight in toward your armpit to keep the knee joint safe.

* Your knee should be as close to a 90-degree angle as possible.

* Hold this pose for 1-3 minutes on each side.

Warrior I push-offs

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence

Courtesy of Gwen Lawrence
Without a doubt, the health, strength and flexibility of your ankles and feet will dictate how long you can ride. This pose will do all that for you. It can also help you tune in to each side of your body and become better aware of any imbalances before they become injuries.

Keys to the pose

* Start in a lunge position.

* Place your arms on your front thigh, or for more of a challenge, reach them upward.

* With your weight all the way back in the heel of your back leg, push off the back foot and move forward, moving your knee further over your front leg, as close to a 90-degree angle as possible.

* Keep your back leg straight and strong.

* Slide back and forth (not up and down) for 1-3 minutes on each side to build serious leg strength and power, while stretching the feet, toes calves and Achilles tendons.