Cycling is a great form of exercise and whilst it offers excellent cardiovascular benefits as well as muscular endurance and strength, many cyclists struggle with excess tension in the shoulders, back, and hips. The repetitive nature of cycling biomechanics and the cycling posture itself create physical imbalances that as cyclists, we must try to counteract. Yin Yoga is the perfect tool to counteract those aches and pains, and it's why I am so passionate about yin yoga for cyclists and why it plays a big part on all of my cycling and yoga retreats.
In the Yang styles of yoga, we're targeting muscle and muscle wants to be warm and have repetitive motion. In Yin Yoga, we're actually trying to get the muscles to disengage so we can target deeper, denser connective tissues. Yin Yoga particularly targets a layer of tissue called Fascia. A dense and fibrous tissue once thought to be simply the sheath that muscle tissue occupies, fascia is now understood to be part of the body's connective tissue system. It's a key player in musculoskeletal issues, including range of motion and pain. Once fascia is loosend up, it and the tissues around it - muscle, tendon, ligament and even fat - can move more freely, flush out toxins and rehydrate.
Following is a short sequence which I have put together specifically for cyclists. This is the first of three short sequences that I have designed focusing of the different parts of the body that are affected by cycling and the position we hold on a bike to help bring more balance to your body and improve performance both on and off the bike. All have been designed so that you can easily practice them in the comfort of your own home with minimal props. One sequence a month will be posted up until Christmas.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the sequence via email, Skype or What's App. Private consultations and individual sequences tailored to your specific needs are also available.
Yin Yoga Sequence for Cyclists - Sequence One
Wide Legged Child's Pose with a twist - shoulder, gentle hip and quad stretch.
Come on to your hands and knees. On an inhale breath raise your right arm to the sky, then on an exhale breath extend your left arm out to the right, place it on the mat with your palm facing up and your left cheek on the mat. The outside edge of your left shoulder will come towards or onto your mat. At the same time take your big toes to touch and gently take your hips back towards your feet. For an additional stretch, take your right arm behind you and grab onto your t-shirt or inner right thigh. Alternatively, reach your right arm towards the sky. Close your eyes, relax your breath and hold for 5 minutes.
To come out of the pose, SLOWLY come onto your hands and knees and GENTLY make your way onto your back, straighten both legs, place your hands on the mat beside your hips. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute then SLOWLY make your way into the position on opposite side and repeat.
Narrow Leg Childs Pose – gentle hip opener.
Come onto your hands and knees, bring your feet and your knees together. Gently place your forehead on the mat and your hands down by your feet with your palms facing up. If you find it challenging to place your forehead on the ground, make a pillow with your forearms by stacking one on top of the other and rest your forehead on your forearms. A pillow or rolled up beach towel will also work. Close your eyes, relax your breath and hold for 5 minutes.
To come out of the pose, SLOWLY come onto your hands and knees and GENTLY make your way onto your back, straighten both legs, place your hands on the mat beside your hips. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Sphinx Pose – gentle thoracic spine stretch.
Make your way onto your stomach then lift yourself up onto your elbows. Place your elbows directly in line with your shoulders and point your fingers forwards. Take your feet out slightly wider than your hips, gently press into the tops of the feet and the pubic bone. This turns the core on and supports the lower back, whilst at the same time gently press into your forearms to avoid collapsing through the upper back. From here lift your chin up and look straight ahead. Alternatively, let your chin come down towards your chest for a gentle neck stretch. Close your eyes and relax. Hold for 5 minutes. If you start to loose your form, reset your feet, pubic bone and forearms.
To come out of the pose, SLOWLY lower yourself down onto the mat then place your preferred cheek to the mat and hands down beside your hips with your palms facing up. Alternatively you can make a pillow with your forearms by stacking one on top of the other and rest your forehead on your forearms.
Melting Heart Pose – deep thoracic spine, chest and shoulder opener.
Come onto your hands and knees and stack your knees directly underneath your hips – hips and knees aligned. Keep you knees and hips aligned and extend your arms as far forward as possible whilst lowering your chest towards the mat, placing with your forehead or chin on the mat, if possible. If your chest doesn’t reach the mat, place a pillow or rolled up blanket under the chest to support you. Relax your breath, close your eyes and hold for 5 minutes.
To come out of the pose, SLOWLY, move forward onto your stomach keeping your eyes downcast or closed, remove any props and GENTLY roll onto your back with both legs straight, place your hands on the mat beside your hips. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Wide Leg Forward Fold – stretches the adductors, hamstrings and lower back.
From a seated position take your legs as far apart as possible into a ‘V’ shape, without forcing them, then place your hands on the mat in front of you, walking them are as far forward as can without forcing, gently allow your back to round, letting your chin come down to your chest. If you find yourself leaning backwards, sit on a pillow or rolled up blanket to elevate your hips, this will allow you to fold forward. Close your eyes and relax your breath. Allow yourself to soften into the pose. Hold for 5 -7 minutes.
To come out of the pose, SLOWLY roll up through the spine one vertebrae at a time, keeping your head down and your eyes downcast or closed. Place your hands under your knees and GENTLY lift one leg at a time bringing them together. SLOWLY make your way onto your back.
Take your feet to the edges of your mat and your arms out away from your hips, palms facing up. Let your feet flop to the side and your fingers curl up. Relax your breath, relax your whole body and find deep rest. Hold for 5 minutes minimum, up to 10 minutes if time allows.