Work It Out: ‘Manage the misery’ with 8 yoga poses for road cyclists | SummitDaily.com

Work It Out: ‘Manage the misery’ with 8 yoga poses for road cyclists

Road cycling places intense demands on quadriceps, hamstrings and hips, and for many cyclists it can introduce strain on the low back, shoulders and neck.

Yoga can relax lower-body muscles, improve range of motion through the hips and release spinal tension. Summit Biking member Charlie Shofnos uses yoga to help "manage the misery" when training for a long race, such as the Copper Triangle.

Aside from flat-out fatigue, much of the discomfort from road cycling is due to how cyclists hold their upper bodies when they ride. The more elite the level of cycling — like the pros at the Colorado Classic in Breckenridge earlier this month — the flatter your back is, and a flat back helps you to become more aerodynamic. It's also more biomechanically efficient, but it runs counter to the natural shape of your spine and this can introduce tension in the low back. When riding with a flat back you also need to raise your eyes to see forward, which can put a strain on your neck.

Try the following eight yoga postures to help open the backside of your body, especially the spine and neck. (Note: Some spinal injuries are intolerant of these postures, so I recommend consulting with your physician if you have back injuries.)

Cobra pose

For a good road-cycling position, practice cobra pose. This posture will flatten the back while also relaxing the diaphragm, improving your ability to breathe deeply when riding.

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  • Lie on your stomach, with feet hip-width apart.
  • Place your hands under your shoulders and reach your elbows toward the wall behind you.
  • Press the tops of your feet into the floor.
  • With little to no weight in your hands, lift your chest up and forward.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths.

Cat/cow poses

Technically simple, this combination posture is a must for anyone who has low-back pain of any type, which is just about everyone! If your knees are sensitive, place a folded towel or blanket under them before starting these postures.

  • Begin on your hands and knees, with your spine in a neutral position.
  • Inhale and lower your belly to the ground while gently gazing up (cow).
  • Exhale and round your back to the sky, looking toward your navel (cat).
  • Repeat 5 times.

Sphinx pose

This posture is great for releasing low-back tension and opening neck muscles.

  • Lie on your stomach, with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Prop yourself onto your forearms. (If this posture feels too intense, place folded blankets, towels or a pillow under your hips.)
  • Walk your hands forward until your elbows are in front of your shoulders.
  • Relax your glutes, low back and shoulders and drop your right ear toward your right shoulder
  • Slide your left shoulder down and back to create a deep stretch in the left side of your neck.
  • Hold for 60 seconds or more.
  • Slowly move your chin to the center of your chest and roll your left ear toward your left shoulder.
  • Slide your right shoulder down and back to create a deep stretch in the right side of your neck.
  • Hold for 60 seconds or more.
  • Slowly move your chin back to the center of your chest.
  • To release the posture, lower your chest to the floor and place your head on top of your hands.

Standing forward fold

By crossing your feet in this posture, you can introduce a deep stretch through your IT band, as well as through the back of your legs and spine. If you have low-back issues, bend your knees as much as you like.

  • Stand with your big toes touching.
  • Cross your right foot behind your left foot.
  • Fold forward, letting your arms and head relax toward the floor.
  • Shift your weight to just in front of your heels and straighten your knees as much as your low back and hamstrings comfortably allow.
  • Hold for 10 breaths.
  • Cross your left foot behind your right foot.
  • Hold for another 10 breaths.

Horse pose with eagle arms

Horse pose will strengthen your lower body while opening your inner thighs and releasing tension in your low back. Adding eagle arms strengthens shoulders and relaxes your upper back.

  • Take a wide stance, turning your toes out and your heels in.
  • Bend your knees until they stack (line up) over your heels.
  • Cross your right arm under your left. Clasp hands if you're able.
  • Engage your core and stack your spine over your hips.
  • Hold for 10 breaths.
  • Unwind your arms, switch left arm under right and repeat.

Pigeon pose

Another go-to posture for active people, pigeon opens hips, groin and inner thighs.

  • Start on hands and knees and bring your right knee behind your right wrist.
  • Place your right ankle behind your left wrist. This posture is more welcoming when your foot is closer to your groin.
  • Let your right shin come to the floor.
  • "Floint" your right foot (point the foot and flex the toes, as if you're in high heels).
  • Extend your left leg behind you, with your left knee pointing down and your toes pointing back.
  • If your right hip does not reach the floor, place a folded blanket under your right hip or both hips, whichever feels better.
  • Gently fold your body over your front leg.
  • Hold for 10-20 breaths and slowly release.
  • Stretch out your right leg.
  • Repeat on opposite side.
  • Optional quad stretch
  • From Pigeon pose:
  • Place one hand on the mat in front of you.
  • Bend your back knee, reach back with the arm on the same side and capture your back foot.
  • Pull your heel close to your seat
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths. Release.

Modified Crescent Moon pose

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 after sitting at desks, on sofas and in car seats. By interlacing your hands behind your back, you counteract the impact cycling and sitting has on your upper body by creating space across the front of your chest and shoulders.

  • Start with your hands and knees on the floor, with hips directly over the knees.
  • Bring your right foot between your hands.
  • Let your hips sink down and forward until you feel a stretch through the back of your thigh and hip. Your knee can bend out in front of your ankle, but it shouldn't go right or left.
  • Interlace your hands behind your back.
  • Lift your chest and reach your interlaced hands toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side.

Legs Up the Wall pose

It's difficult to find a reason not to like this restorative posture. It promotes the flow of blood away from your legs, which of course means that fresh, oxygen-filled blood comes in right after it to nourish your muscles. Let your head, feet, shoulders and entire body relax into this posture.

  • Take a fetal position on your right hip, with your knees close to your chest and your hips a few inches from the wall.
  • Roll onto your back to face the ceiling and extend your legs up the wall. If your hips are not completely resting on the floor, back away from the wall a few inches.
  • Hold for 2-3 minutes.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience. Learn more about Peak Yoga at PeakYogaStudio.com.

Summit Biking Group is a nonprofit road biking club of predominately active seniors dedicated to road biking in Summit County. They can be found at SummitBiking.org.

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