YogaFit for the Summer Athlete
Many activities like running, bicycling and indoor stationary cycling are among the best forms of cardio vascular conditioning, but often they leave the participant with tightness, aches, and sometimes even pain. A consistent sport-related yoga program could alleviate many of these symptoms; including lower back pain, trapezious stress or tight hamstrings and quadriceps.
Repetitive cycling forces the body in long periods of forward flexion, similar to sitting at a desk for long hours or driving a car long distances without a break. However, due to the work involved there becomes the additional problem of tightening in the muscle groups of the lower body, quads, hamstrings and gluteus.
Yoga Poses provide us with an opening in these areas. The following are a list of poses that will balance the body and reduce the risk of injury for cyclists and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
CHEST EXPANSION: During your ride take time to periodically open the chest and pull the shoulders back and down, squeezing the shoulder blades together and contracting the back muscles. Take 10 deep breaths in, opening the chest and shoulder, which remain contracted during the ride. While riding try to keep the shoulders relaxed and open.
When the ride is completed get off the bike, interlace hands together behind back an open the chest forward by pulling the arms as far away from the body as possible. If you are at normal resting heart rate you can forward fold into a full chest expansion by hinging at the hips and folding the upper body over the lower body. Keep hands interlaced for 10 deep breaths.
COBRA POSE: A chest and shoulder opener - lying the body face down on the floor, place hands underneath shoulders and gently press to arms towards straight but not all the way, keeping a slight bend in the elbows. Protect the lower back by keeping the hips on the floor and squeezing the gluteus (those muscles you were sitting on) tight.
QUAD STRETCH: Lying facedown on the floor – bend one leg and grab onto the ankle - gently pulling the leg back and up – try touching your foot to your gluts. Switch sides. This can also be done standing. Be cautious if you have knee problems.
FORWARD FOLD: When at resting heart rate, standing, hinge at the hips folding forward - grab onto elbows, or more intense- grab ankles - with fluid breathing sink a little further on each exhale, letting the crown of the head move towards the floor and relaxing the head and neck as much as possible. Take 10 deep breaths. This poses is not recommended for anyone with a heart condition or if heart rate is higher than resting.
Lateral Flexion: Due to the position on the cycle it is common to have tight latisimus dorsi ( Lats ) as they are contracted for most of the ride. With this stretch we can open the sides of our bodies. Standing brings both arms overhead; bring the right arm down resting the hand on the hip. Inhale, lifting out of the lower back. Exhale sink the left arm overhead until you feel a deep stretch up the left side of the body. Keep the glutes tight and the lower body moving forward as the upper body continues to lift and sink. Take 5 deep breaths and then switch sides.
Practice these poses at the end of your ride and you will feel rejuvenated, relaxed and refreshed. You will notice immediate differences in you flexibility. These poses can also be used for corporate workers, long distance drivers and mothers who are spending lots of time with small children.
For more information on Yoga and Sports Conditioning check out Beth Shaw’s YOGAFIT published by Human Kinetics publishing available in bookstores or online at the YogaFit store.