Why Yin Yoga is ‘da bomb’ for Cyclists and Athletes!
I have written a blog in the past on the benefits on cycling and yoga, This time I thought I would write specifically about why I love Yin Yoga and why it's 'da bomb' for cyclists and athletes in general.
If you follow my instagram feed or facebook page, you would know that I regularly post 'a yoga for cyclists pose' and invariably, these poses are Yin Yoga poses and that Yin Yoga is a big part of all Soulfit Adventures' retreats. There is a reason for this.
So What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga targets the connective tissues, such as the ligaments, bones, and even the joints of the body that are not exercised very much in the more dyanmic style of yoga, and are used repeatedly in yang forms of exercise. Suitable for almost all levels of students, Yin Yoga is made up of seated or lying down postures. It's a slower practice which works on the tendons, ligaments and fascia, allowing for a deep release of tension, improved circulation and greater flexibility. Unlike in the dynamic types of yoga - like power yoga, vinyasa or Ashtanga - that develop stamina and strength in the muscles and joints.
If you were to complement your cycling (or other forms of yang exercise) with the deep stretches practiced in Yin Yoga, ailments like joint wear or tight hamstrings could become a thing of the past.
Paul Grilley says "Athletes don't retire because of muscle problems, they retire because of joint problems. Bad ankles, bad backs, bad knees - these are the injuries that force athletes to retire and, old people to shuffle around. Yin Yoga postures gently stretch and rehabilitate the connective tissues that form our joints."
Connective tissue is found in every bone, muscle, and organ, and acts almost like a second skin, it's most concentrated at the joints. If you don't use your full range of joint flexibility, the connective tissue will slowly shorten to the minimum length needed to accommodate your activities. If you try to flex your knees or arch your back after years of inactivity, you'll discover that your joints have been "cling-wrapped" by shortened connective tissue.
Incredible Benefits For Cyclists
Yin Yoga is of particular benefit to cyclists because of its lengthening and releasing effect on the fascia. Once thought to be of little consequence, these sheets of connective tissue, when subjected to repetitive movements (like cycling!), can shorten and tighten in ingrained patterns around muscles. This can cause chronic tightness and muscle tension, increased chances of injury, poor posture and worn out joints. The amazing thing about fascia - because of its interconnectivity throughout the body - is that by simply stretching a few areas highly dense with fascia, the fascia is able to release with more ease.
The poses in Yin yoga are typically held for a longer hold (3-5 minutes or longer for some poses), and the pacing is much slower. The idea is to come into the pose, finding a place that you can stay for the duration, allowing your body to slowly open into the pose, as opposed to going to your end of range. This can sometimes be challenging, especially for 'type A personalities', but will result in greatly flexibility in the long run.
From an energetic perspective, the poses help to open the Chinese meridian channels of the body and get the stagnant Chi or Qi as it's called in traditional Chinese medicine, or prana as it's called in yoga moving, improving organ function, immunity and emotional well-being.
Balancing Yin And Yang In Your Exercise
The ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang relates to the notion that within two opposing forces, there is interdependence, connectivity and balance. How does this relate to your cycling or other exercise? Certain styles of exercise can be classified as either Yin or Yang, according to their qualities. Yang style workouts (like cycling or running) are more active, sweat-inducing, heat-building, dynamic and repetitive. The Yang principle relates to masculinity, heat, movement and force. Yin is the feminine force, relating to stillness, rest, balance, cooling and release. Exercises that are based on mindful movement and relaxation are therefore said to be Yin by nature. If Yang-style workouts are overused without balancing with any Yin, the body may become overworked, injured or fatigued and, vica-versa.
Mindfulness In Cycling
A Yin Yoga practice can help us to really tune in to the messages of our body, due to its calming and introspective nature. The practice reminds us that regular doses of stillness and relaxation are just as important to our well-being as getting our sweat on through cycling or other forms of yang exercise. Yin yoga helps us become well-acquainted with our bodies' limitations and capabilities, as we continually observe the sensations that arise. Aside from the physical benefits, this is another reason why Yin Yoga is such a big part of my retreats.
Developing a habit of mindful awareness and by fusing it into our cycling means we are better able to listen to our bodies' messages and potentially prevent injury and overexertion. Not to mention the fact that we'll also enjoy our cycling so much more as we open ourselves more fully to the present moment!
A word of warning, Yin Yoga may induce serious cases of bliss..;-).
For more information about Yin Yoga for cyclists or a personalized program (skype sessions available), contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. or leave a comment below. If you live in the Newcastle, NSW area, come along to one of my weekly yin yoga classes. For class times click here.