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Yoga for cycling: A few key exercises

A week ago was Paris-Roubaix in France, and while most VeloNews readers will never get a chance to race there, you might jump into events like the Boulder-Roubaix in Colorado, the pro/am Tour of the Battenkill in New York, or the Hillsboro-Roubaix in Illinois, also all held the same weekend. Many cyclists, after an event like these, complain about their low, mid or upper back. Similarly, many cyclists have trouble getting low enough on their TT bikes or producing power in the low position. This is usually due to inflexibility of the hamstrings, core musculature and hips.

Yoga is practiced in India for medical benefits. Certain poses will compress or open specific tissues, systems, and organs in order to achieve a desired outcome. Yoga can be used to treat conditions ranging from depression, diabetes, and sleep problems to osteoporosis, scoliosis, nerve function and response. And of course, it helps in stretching, strengthening, and lengthening muscles. It is also a fabulous method of preparing for sports.

There are as many types of yoga as there are forms of martial arts. There is yoga for strength, yoga for meditation, fast-paced yoga, slow-yoga, hot yoga… the list goes on. Finding a class that is right for you may take some experimentation, but don’t quit looking right away if you didn’t like the first class you tried. Find the class and instructor that suits your needs and progress from there.

Cyclists have universal tendencies toward spinal flexion, kyphosis, spondylosis, low-back pain, weak upper body, limited flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexion and common injuries including IT Band tendonitis, Patellar tendonitis and torsions or misalignments of the knee and foot that start in the gluteals. These issues can make it difficult to transmit maximum power on the bike for extended periods.

However, cyclists also have common goals such as increasing VO2 max and maximizing the efficiency of the circulatory system to deliver as much oxygen to working muscles as possible.

Many yoga poses combine physiological benefits with muscular and/or skeletal benefits. Practicing the most necessary poses at least three times per week can make it easier/less uncomfortable to spend hours on the bike.

There are literally thousands of different yoga poses, all with different benefits. Some examples of poses that would be beneficial to the cyclist include (but are not limited to) those pictured above.

Not shown: Standing Deep Breathing

Some potential benefits of these poses are as follows:
•Generally good for the lungs and respiratory system
•Help lungs reach their maximum expansion capacity
•Are very good for asthma, shortness of breath, and nervousness
•Increase circulation to the body

Some of the above moves are advanced and you should consult a yoga instructor with questions about form. Any yoga instructor with a minimum 500-hour certification will be able to assist you in finding the necessary poses to maximize benefit to the cyclist.

Ainslie MacEachran is a premier level coach with www.coloradopremiertraining.com. For more information about yoga for cyclists you can reach him through the Web site. (Special thanks to Desiree Van Hall and Randi Fuller)

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