Work It Out: 3 yoga poses for recovering cyclists |

Work It Out: 3 yoga poses for recovering cyclists

Crescent Moon pose.
Phil Lindeman / |

Biking isn’t gentle on anyone’s body.

Miles in the saddle looking down at the road can lead to constriction in the jaw and neck, tension in the low back, tightness in the chest and shortened hip flexors. These conditions are not only chronically uncomfortable and painful, but they can also increase the risk of injury when muscles tighten and pull bones out of alignment.

As you begin to practice these poses, be patient with yourself. Even relaxing poses such as reclined bound-angle pose may challenge stiffness in the inner thighs. Camel pose and Crescent Moon invite the front body to open in ways that it rarely opens. You may find difficulty breathing. Just keep practicing, and let the body relax in time. Try not to force yourself into a pose, and drink lots of water.

It takes just 10 minutes on a mat a few times a week to restore balance to your body with three yoga poses meant to keep cyclists at the top of their game.

Reclined bound-angle pose (3-5 minutes)

Focus areas and props: Chest and shoulders, thighs and knees

Props: Two blankets folded lengthwise to support your back, neck and head

The hunched-over posture of cycling contradicts the natural curves of the spine. It compresses your heart, lungs, diaphragm and abdominal muscles, affecting digestion and often leading to lower back injuries.

Aside from the physical strain, poor posture also affects emotions. Slouching makes you feel tired and achy and promotes low energy. The way you hold your body affects the way you feel and vice versa: Opening the front body makes you feel vibrant, full of life and full of energy.

Reclined bound-angle pose counteracts the effects of cycling posture by gently and effectively opening the chest and shoulders. In addition, this pose complements cycling by creating a greater range of motion in the hips while relaxing the inner thighs and groin.

Crescent Moon (3 minutes)

Focus areas: Hip flexors and thighs

Props: Pillow or folded blanket (optional)

There isn’t a cyclist around who doesn’t struggle with tight hip flexors, but this pose is not just for cyclists. Non-cyclists suffer from tight hip flexors, too. We spend most of our time sitting at a desk, in a car or on a sofa.

Daily life offers very few opportunities to open the hip flexors and the front of the thighs, resulting in tight hips for many of us. Crescent Moon moves deeply into those areas. The stretch is most effective if the torso is over the hips, rather than leaning forward.

Camel pose (2 minutes)

Focus areas: Chest and shoulders, abdomen, spine and neck

Props: One bath towel folded in half the long way and rolled like a jelly-roll (optional)

Camel pose counteracts the hunched-over cycling posture, opening your entire front body: thighs, hips, abdomen, chest and shoulders. It also provides welcome relief to the low, middle and upper back as well as your neck by bending the spine backwards to balance out the forward bend from biking.

Camel pose can be an intense opening, so move slowly and only enter the pose after opening the chest, shoulders, hip flexors and thighs with bound-angle pose and Crescent Moon.

Keep your lower back long throughout the pose. Think about reaching your chest away from your waist as you bend backwards. Without lifting the chest, your spine will over-bend where it has the most flexibility — low back and neck — creating stress and discomfort in both areas.

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