The Benefits of Yoga for Cyclists

We know adding yoga to our training program will benefit our cycling but we don’t always find time to fit it in. Recently Wahoo has partnered with renowned yoga instructor Abi Carver of Yoga15.com to offer 15-minute yoga practices specifically designed for cyclists. These yoga sessions are part of the SUF Training app and incorporate flexibility, balance, strength, mobility, and recovery.

Abi is a two-time 200-Hour Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teach and National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She is trained in Hatha, Power Yoga, and Zenthai Flow.

I had the opportunity to ask Abi a few questions.

Sunflowers and Pedals: What would you say to an older cyclist reluctant to try yoga because they aren’t very flexible?

Abi: It is no fun spending time doing something that you’re not great at and that doesn’t feel good! I am always so impressed with tight athletes who stick with it through the initial uncomfortable phase to reach the more pleasurable weeks and months that follow shortly after. I would offer the advice to be gentle, consistent, and patient. It may take a little time to get off the starting blocks but the benefits are going to be so worthwhile that you will be handsomely repaid for your perseverance! I also have no doubt that you will surprise yourself with what you are capable of. 

Sunflowers and Pedals: What poses do you find most beneficial for cyclists? For example, cyclists have very tight hip flexors, what type of hip openers do you recommend?

Abi: Lizard and Low Lunge release tension in the hip flexors but we also have internal and external hip openers that stretch the groin, glutes, TFL, piriformis, and IT band. Some of my favorites are Dead Pigeon and Reclining Butterfly. Core strengthening poses including PlankSide Plank, and Upward Facing Plank stabilize the core and can help to prevent and alleviate lower back pain. Backbends are great for relieving pain in between the shoulder blades—Bridge is wonderful for this. Also, Puppy and SphinxReclining Hand-To-Big-Toe pose with a strap is fantastic for stretching the calves and hamstrings. And Reclining Spinal Twist is hard to beat for SI issues and releasing tension at the lower back. 

SUF uploads directly to Strava

Sunflowers and Pedals: Would you suggest different yoga poses for a road cyclist vs a mountain biker? 

Abi: There isn’t so much difference here. Road cyclists often round forward more so chest openers/backbends become even more important here but these poses are great for both sports. Mountain bikers might experience a little more lower back pain so could double down on the core-strengthening poses but road cyclists will benefit from these also. Maybe more pressure goes through the hands and wrists for mountain bikers so stretches and strengthening exercises for the forearms and wrists are key. And shoulder and collarbone injuries may be more common in mountain bikers so maintaining good mobility and stability in the upper body is crucial for these guys.

Sunflowers and Pedals: How does breath in yoga translate to cycling?

Abi: There are many ways that yogic breathing can help with your cycling. The yogis have essentially been focus grouping these techniques for 5000 years and there is very little that they haven’t discovered and passed on! Yoga improves your breathing capacity and efficiency, we learn to breathe through the nose which is vital for athletes, we have techniques that calm us down in high-pressure/competitive situations. Also, it’s great for just bringing awareness to your breath. Paying attention to the sensations of breathing is one of the most profound and accessible meditation techniques. 

Sunflowers and Pedals: Do you recommend completing a yoga practice before or after a ride?

Abi: Practicing yoga after a ride is pretty much required if you don’t want to stiffen up and start developing aches and pains. But if you don’t always have time for a full 15-minute warm-up beforehand, that is ok. 

I would always recommend some sort of preparation for intense or endurance activity to boost your performance and reduce your risk of injury but a couple of go-to poses to activate the posterior chain and loosen up key joints might be sufficient. 

Sunflowers and Pedals: Most of the yoga practices I’ve attended are comprised of 90% female. What would you have a woman tell her man to get him to practice yoga?

Abi: The Yoga 15 audience is actually two-thirds male but I realize that this is anomalous. I think that it’s primarily because the yoga I teach is designed specifically for athletes. We don’t practice necessarily to get better at yoga, but more to get better at our sports and generally at life! 

What I’d love for men to know is that the benefits they will reap from a consistent yoga practice are often even more profound than those achieved by the women in their lives. Men are generally tighter, so have even more to gain from the flexibility improvements. They can also be more competitive, and therefore have much to gain from the profound recovery and relaxation aspects of the practice. 

The other thing I would say is that, if you have tried yoga before and not enjoyed it one bit, you may want to give it another chance. Like many things, finding a style and teacher that you resonate with is more difficult than you might think. The style that I offer is non-spiritual, optimized for efficiency and progression, and as clear and precise as I can make it—and this seems to appeal to the male mind.

I would also like guys to know that yoga can be very challenging and that you can decide how much you want to lean towards the recovery side and how much you want to push yourself to achieve advanced balance and mobility movements. 

For additional Q&As read Wahoo’s interview with Abi regarding the program and adding yoga to your routine.

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