With the Tour de France just beginning in the north of France, and the world’s best cyclists putting their bodies to the test, many other riders will be dreaming about emulating their abilities. What if we told you that yoga could help with your performance in the saddle?
Oft perceived as slow and stationary, tied up in mysticism, gongs and chanting, yoga is often overlooked by sportspeople. Yet, yoga poses, at their base level, are one of the best ways to engage and hone the widest possible range of muscles in the body, developing core strength, control and flexibility.
Here are four vital ways that practicing yoga can improve your cycling performance.
Yoga improves flexibility
When you’re on your bike, you’re pushing yourself to the extreme and giving your body agreat workout. At the same time, there’s little movement in your torso and neck, which can become cramped, solid and strained. And injuries in your hamstrings, quadriceps or even achilleas tendon can put you out of action straight away.
The targeted stretching and mobility exercises present in yoga cannot just eliminate back strain and give you a more comfortable ride, but the resulting flexibility gives you much more resistance to injury in the long-run.
Yoga develops core strength
Cyclists are renowned for their powerful legs, but the core is up there as one of the most important muscle groups to train for the bike. Most importantly, it’s great for balance. When you hit a sharp corner or want a quick start, the strength of your core gives you the control you need to stay on the right track.
What’s more, through slow and extended conditioning of the core muscles, yoga gives an all-round performance boost by strengthening all muscles around the hips, pelvis and spine. By training the lower back and torso, you can achieve much more power behind you.
Yoga aids respiration and endurance
Pushing your body out on the bike is one thing, but you’ll fatigue quickly. While holding tricky positions in yoga, you’re taught breathing control alongside it. Over time, you’ll learn to breathe more efficiently and deeply, even during strenuous exercise. It also minimises lactic acid build-up in the muscles.
The prolonged and consistent nature of yoga means endurance is trained and honed. Before long, you’ll have the ability to cycle longer and harder, and with less muscle fatigue, using the techniques practised on the mat. And best of all, you can achieve a zen-like state of relaxation and concentration to unwind, with proper breathing control.
Yoga aids recovery
You’ll avoid burnout and extra strain by focusing a portion of your energy reserves on yoga training. Through regular practice, you can get your body back to top performance levels quicker than ever, meaning you can complete more frequent long and strenuous rides. Even for those afflicted with decades-old cycling injuries, yoga can fix these and have you feeling like a young cyclist once again.
The mindfulness taught in a yoga class can also be great for your psychological state, giving you the mental strength to put yourself back in the saddle once again, especially if you’ve had a period of downtime.
Improve your cycling performance with yoga
Far from being just stretching and sitting cross-legged, yoga has quite rightly been adopted by top-level cyclists and other athletes and sportspeople as a way to perfect their performance. The England football team is great example. The boys were recently snapped making time for their yoga training while out in Russia for the World Cup.
So why don’t you give it a try and see just how significant the benefits can be? And, at Sweat you can be assured of a no nonsense approach, focusing just on the breathing and yoga poses.
Sign up to Sweat Yoga at Sweat Studios to experience all the great recovery, conditioning and flexibility advantages yoga can bring you. Whatever your level, we’ll help you boost your performance and achieve your cycling goals.
To find out more about how yoga can aid cycling, take a look at the case study we did with avid cyclist Neill, who credits his regular classes with us for helping rehabilitate his injured knee and reaching peak cycling performance.