Benefits of Yoga for Cyclists

How is your posture?

Did you know that if you sit or stand straight, you get more oxygen, work your core and relieve back pain? 

Here are the 6 pillars of our Beach Yoga Routine:

Breathing, Balance, Flexibility, Spine, Strength, and Awareness. 
How do these 6 pillars relate to cycling and how can you improve your performance by including them in your exercise routine?

Yoga helps produce a strong, flexible body that is less prone to injury. Poses that build body strength, benefit cyclists,
as many tend to have overdeveloped quads and backs
but weaker abdominals, inner thighs, and often tight hamstrings and hip flexors.

Yoga can be used as an excellent dynamic warm-up before a ride or a cool-down after a ride but is also a highly recommended additional workout for cyclists. The beauty of yoga and specifically our Beach Yoga is that anyone with any level can enjoy the benefits.

Here are specific ways in which the practice of yoga can benefit cyclists.

1. Strength: Improved Core Strength

The core includes over 30 muscles connecting the pelvis from the hips to the spine.

•strength enables cyclists to maintain proper spinal alignment and posture – even when fatigue starts to set in on a long ride.

•decreases the pressure on the shoulders and wrists that come with riding postures.

•decreases the risk of lower back injuries.

Yoga is a great way to improve postural alignment and functional core strength.

2. Improving Neutral Spine (health)

While riding and doing Yoga

The back was not designed to be held in flexion (forward bend ) for long periods, yet this is exactly what cycling requires. The position causes the supporting ligaments to become overstretched and weakened. It also causes excess pressure on the intervertebral discs. This can lead to upper back, lower back, shoulder and neck pain.

Yoga poses that help realign the neutral spine position, like Mountain pose, benefit riders by providing a sense of spinal alignment both on and off the bike. Poses that focus on the wide range of movements in the spine allow the back to become flexible. They improve the pelvic tilt position to engage the core during correct cycling positions. A common challenge for cyclists is not falling victim to excessive upper body kyphosis due to excessive hours on the bike or sitting at computers and using cell phones. Over time, this posture causes cyclists to strain their necks to look at the road. This results in pain in the lower back, upper back, shoulders, and neck.

3. Flexibility can it be improved?

The simple answer is: Yes:
Each body is different, but a body can lose its pliability because of posture, repeated similar exercises, or lack of movement. Regular stretch practice can improve flexibility. Increased flexibility in the hips, IT band, glutes, lower back, groin, external rotator, quads, and hamstrings. It also improves riding posture.

Flexibility and range of motion equal quality of life and less potential for injury.

4. Reduced Risk Of Injury

When yoga is used as a means of “prehab” training, common injuries in the back and legs are less likely to occur. Because yoga approaches movement from a place of balance, the common imbalances experienced in riding can be addressed and improved. In cycling, the leg never reaches full extension, thus giving the hamstrings little opportunity to lengthen fully. Over time, this reduces the elasticity of the hamstrings and puts them at greater risk of strains and tears. Poses such as the Standing Forward Fold help increase the hamstrings’ flexibility for riders.

As discussed above, improving core strength decreases the pressure placed on wrists while riding and decreases neck and shoulder pain.

5. More Efficient Breathing

Some bad news. Lungs don’t get bigger – no matter how hard you train. Lung capacity is dependent on height and gender. Taller people tend to have larger lungs and men’s lungs are bigger. Lung capacity decreases with age. Someone in their 80s has around half the lung capacity of cyclists in their 20s.

However, for most people, whatever age they are, chances are they only use a fraction of their lung capacity.

This is good news because it means you’ll perform better using more of your lung capacity.

Breathe from your stomach

Nasal breathing is substantially more efficient. Learning to breathe through your nose, even during most exercise levels, is not difficult. This leads to increased athletic performance.

Focus on breathing from your stomach, not your lungs.

How is your breath?
Put your hand on your stomach and feel if it bulges out as you breathe in and if it pulls back on the exhale.

The simple yoga breath is slow, controlled, and asks the breather to focus.  It is the opposite of the rapid breath many athletes take during higher-intensity bouts of exercise.  Slowing their breath down and focusing on it will allow participants to release tension and control their actions.

Breathing better makes cyclists more efficient in their performance and allows quicker and more controlled recovery after hills and other high-intensity riding elements.

Why is correct breathing so important?

Individuals unfamiliar with focusing on their breath may find this portion of a yoga practice challenging and forgo its importance. 

However, professional athletes are known to have major connections to movement and breath. This is especially important during challenging hill climbs, sprints, or accelerations.

If cyclists are aware of their breathing through their yoga practice,
they may find their rides more efficient and comfortable.

Our Beach Yoga teaches Simple Yoga Breathing and includes it in each class

5. Balance and how to get better?

All athletes require balance skills, but cyclists are unique because they need to use those skills when their feet are off the ground.

Balance is drawn from having a well-developed and stable core consisting of the entire trunk (upper back and shoulder muscles to the lower abs, hips and glute muscles).

It also requires focus.

Beach Yoga offers many variations to practice balance in movement, one-footed, two-footed, or with closed eyes. Each student balances at their own level, which increases after a few weeks of regular Beach Yoga sessions. 

The Elephant in the Room
– Bone Density and Cycling-

Cycling is considered to be a highly beneficial sport for significantly enhancing cardiovascular fitness in individuals. Yet, studies show little or no corresponding improvements in bone mass as cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise. Btw, swimming is similar.

It has been observed that adult road cyclists have a low bone mineral density in key regions, for example, the lumbar spine.
Conversely, other types of cycling, such as mountain biking, or in combination with other sports, could reduce this unhealthy and unsafe side effect of an otherwise wonderful sport.

Now, the first exercise that comes to mind for weight bearing is weight training. The reality is, because of the possible unbalanced muscle development and some flexibility issues, many cyclists have, weights may not be the best choice.

Yoga, in comparison, has the benefit of weight-bearing exercises and combines them with the improvement of flexibility and Spinal Health.

Can Anyone do Beach Yoga?

•Yes, anyone can do Beach Yoga. If you can ride a bicycle, you can do Yoga. There is no age limit and no fitness Requirement.  We have students in their 80’s and even 90’s.

•I am bad in balance how will that work? Your balance will improve in a very short time.

•Do men do yoga? Of course men do yoga, they benefit greatly from Yoga, often more than women.  Btw, Yoga was a male dominated activity until about 100 years ago.

I am not flexible can I come?  Yes, you don’t have to be flexible at all. We will help you to become more flexible.

•Should I listen to my wife and go to Yoga? She wants the best for you and you know it. How does it work? Bring a large towel or blanket, water and come to class, that’s it.

•Are artificial joints a problem? Typically no. You only do what you are comfortable doing and what your physician gives you the ok to do.

The biggest hurdle is going to Beach Yoga for the first time.  Just take it easy. Nothing to prove here, Yoga is not a competitive sport. Yoga and the beach will be good for you, your quality of life and your cycling performance.  Beach Yoga will change your life in a very positive way

Beach Yoga

Manasota Beach
Monday through Saturday 8:30 AM

North Jetty Beach (1/2 mile South of Nokomis Beach)
Daily 9AM