Spending hours in the saddle during a long ride can leave your body feeling stiff, sore, and tight.
The main things on your mind In the final miles of a long ride are likely to be the blissful feeling of stepping into a relaxing shower to wash away the sweat and grime of the road and enjoying a good meal or snack.
However, spending some time on the yoga mat can help aid recovery from your cycling workout.
Yoga can be a great complement to cycling because it can help increase flexibility and mobility in muscles and joints that tend to become chronically tight by sitting on the bike and performing the repetitive pedal stroke, using the same muscles, mile after mile.
In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- The Benefits of Yoga for Cyclists
- The 7 Best Yoga Poses for Cyclists
Ready to incorporate yoga for cyclists into your biking workout routine?
Let’s get started!
The Benefits of Yoga for Cyclists
There are several key benefits of yoga for cyclists:
Yoga Increases Your Range of Motion
Yoga is a great way to increase your range of motion, which refers to how much mobility or movement you have in a joint.
When your muscles and connective tissues are tight, they prevent your joints from moving at their end ranges of motion, which causes feelings of stiffness and can limit how well you can move.
Most cyclists have tight glutes and hip flexors due to the riding position on the bike. This tightness reduces the range of motion around your hip and can make your pedal stroke feel restricted and less fluid.
Yoga poses can activate sensory receptors (such as muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These receptors then relay a signal to the spinal cord, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the tissues.
When the parasympathetic nervous system signals the muscle fibers and tendons to relax, the tissues lengthen, pulling less forcefully on joints and allowing more “give” – or motion – around the joint.
Check out our 6 Best Stretches For Cyclists here!
Yoga Can Alleviate Muscle Soreness from Cycling
Studies have found that incorporating a stretching routine into the cool-down portion of a workout can ease muscle soreness and minimize the extent of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Holding yoga poses can be thought of as static stretching, whereas progressing through a sequence of different poses strung together is a form of dynamic stretching.
Yoga for cyclists increases circulation, which delivers nutrients and oxygen to your muscles to repair and rebuild after a workout, and flushes away metabolic byproducts that tend to cause fatigue and soreness.
Yoga Can Reduce the Risk of Injuries in Cyclists
Cycling is a very repetitive activity, and even if you aren’t regularly doing hours on your bike, any time in the saddle places the same stresses on your muscles, joints, and connective tissues.
Yoga for cyclists can improve the range of motion in tight joints and muscles and can strengthen muscles that cycling does not target. This can correct muscle imbalances and restore mobility.
Yoga Can Improve Your Cycling Posture
Cycling does little to strengthen the core and many cyclists end up with chronic back pain. Yoga has been shown to reduce back pain and improve core strength and posture.
Check out our full guide to dealing with cycling-related back pain here!
Yoga Can Improve Cycling Performance
By making you a more well-rounded athlete, reducing the risk of injury, and speeding up the recovery from your bike workouts, yoga can help cyclists train harder and more consistently, which can improve performance over time.
The 7 Best Yoga Poses for Cyclists
The best yoga poses for cyclists stretch the muscles that get tight while you’re in the saddle, help open and restore the range of motion around your joints so that you can have a pain-free, powerful pedal stroke, and strengthen muscles not used when cycling.
Here are some helpful yoga poses for cyclists:
#1: Downward-Facing Dog
This pose stretches your hamstrings, calves, and shoulders, and lengthens the spine.
Cyclists with tight hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs) will be unable to maintain a forward tilt of the pelvis in the saddle. As a result, the efficiency and power of the pedal stroke are reduced. This is largely due to the fact that tight hamstrings limit the ability of your glutes to engage.
- Kneel on all fours so that your hands and elbows are slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Your back should be flat like a tabletop and your toes should be curled under your feet so that they’re planted on the floor.
- Spread your fingers and press your palms firmly into the floor or mat.
- As you exhale, lift your knees off the floor and raise your hips towards the ceiling.
- Without fully locking your knees, straighten your legs and press your heels down into the floor, and straighten your arms without fully locking your elbows. Your body should be hinged at the hips in a “V” shape so that your chest is facing your thighs.
- Inhale as you draw your belly button in towards your spine. Keep your neck and spine neutral, and your gaze looking under your body towards your feet.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
#2: Modified Dragon Pose
This yoga pose stretches your hips and quads. The quads are the powerhouse of the pedal stroke, so stretching them with this yoga pose after a ride can help promote recovery.
- Step your right foot forward and bend both knees so that you drop into a deep lunge.
- Stretch your left foot back as far as possible while keeping your torso upright to feel a good stretch in your left quad and hip flexor.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.
#3: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with Crossed Legs
This variation of a very restorative yoga pose stretches your iliotibial (IT) band, hamstrings, lower back, glutes, and calves.
Modifying the pose by crossing your legs allows a good stretch through the IT band, the fibrous tissue that runs along the outside of your leg from the knee to the hip. Tightness in the IT band can cause hip and knee pain.
- Stand upright and cross your right leg over your left so that your right heel and ankle are planted to the outside of your left hip.
- Hinge at the hips and fold your body to reach down and touch your toes. Keep your left leg straight.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
This pose stretches your quads and hip flexors, which can both get tight in the saddle.
Stretching the hip flexors is important because the cycling motion involves repeated hip flexion, but the hip never fully extends.
This can lead to tightness in the hip flexors, which can compromise your cycling performance and cause lower back pain.
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Lift one leg off the ground, bending your knee and bringing your heel to your butt.
- Pull your heel into your butt until you feel a good stretch in your quads.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
#5: Plank Pose (Phalakasana)
The cycling posture doesn’t really activate the core particularly well so this is a good yoga pose for cyclists. Planks strengthen the entire core, including the abs, lower back muscles, and glutes.
- Get down on all fours. Bend your elbows 90 degrees to support your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly underneath your shoulders.
- Step both legs back, so that only your forearms and toes are touching the floor. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Contract your glutes and engage your abs by drawing your belly button up to your spine. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels. Breathe slowly and evenly.
- Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.
#6: Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Camel Pose is a back-bending yoga pose that stretches the quads, hip flexors, and chest.
Riding a bike in an aerodynamic position can cause tightness in the pecs, so chest-opening yoga poses help cyclists stretch these muscles.
Press your hips forward into the pose to deepen the stretch through your quads.
- Kneel on your mat with your legs hip-width apart and toes tucked under your feet.
- Inhale, lengthening your spine and lifting your chest up.
- As you exhale, move into a gentle backbend, bringing your chest up towards the ceiling and reaching your head and neck back to gaze upward. Reach back with your hands to grab your ankles or heels for support.
- Make sure your quads, core, and shoulders are engaged.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths and then gently relax as you come back to an upright position.
#7: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridges are a classic exercise for developing glute and hamstring strength. Many cyclists have difficulty activating their glutes and really using them to power the pedal stroke. Therefore, this yoga pose is great for cyclists who are too reliant on their hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor as if you were going to perform abdominal crunches. Cross your arms over your chest, or lay them flat on the ground.
- Press through your heels to lift your hips up until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulder blades.
- Hold for a full breath, contracting your glutes and hamstrings. Pressing upward will provide a deeper stretch for your quads.
- Hold for 5 breaths, then lower yourself back down and repeat.