Whether you are a time-starved cyclist trying to optimize performance, a dedicated yoga practitioner, or somewhere in between, the following tips are GREAT reminders how to improve EVERY yoga/mobility move.
1. LIFT + LENGTHEN THE SPINE.
This is one of the things I repeat MOST often in my classes and coaching cyclists on the bike and on the yoga mat. On the yoga mat, when you invite space in the spine, draw the crown of the head to the ceiling and get as much length as you can, you will feel simultaneously strong, confident, light, buoyant and engaged. It is also promoting great health in the spine and other systems of the body. On the bike it translates to a more open chest to optimize oxygen uptake and efficiency in the central nervous system through proper postural alignment.
2. LENGTHENING THE TAILBONE + ENGAGING THE RIBCAGE.
When standing, most of us stick our butt out and ribcage forward, increasing the arch/curve in the low back. This can exaccerbate deep back ache and be caused by core weakness in the back and belly muscles. On the bike, it means a weak core that draws energy away from the pedal power of the legs and contributes to that naggy back pain that hinders performance and enjoyment. This is not something you are trying to do on purpose, so stop it…! Instead, while standing, draw the front ribs back toward the back ribs, pull the belly button in toward the spine, and lengthen the tailbone toward the heels. We don’t want to completely obliterate the lumbar/low back curve, but reduce it and effectively lengthen and strengthen the core – front, side and back. Rewiring the body in this way standing will then translate to proper postural form and function while in the saddle.
3. FIND YOUR ROOTS – HANDS, SITBONES, FEET.
In yoga standing poses on the mat, press your feet into floor for grounding and stability. The feet are the forgotten body part – crammed in “leather coffins” all day – cycling shoes being some of the worst of all. So, give them freedom, space and health by spreading them wide and planting them firmly when you are doing your yoga or just standing in other capacities. Similarly, in seated positions in yoga, feel your sitting bones equally root into the floor, or when sitting on chairs try to find that rooting in the pelvis. In yoga poses using the hands, spread the fingers w-i-d-e and root into the mat making for a stronger, even safer, practice. This helps open, release and even strengthen the hands that grip our bike handlebars so tightly.
4. HOLD THE YOGA POSE BUT NEVER THE BREATH.
Inhale deeply > exhale completely > repeat. This is the core element of a yoga practice to focus the mind and calm / release the body. Learning to lengthen the breath and syncing the movements to the breath is the critical component to the yoga practice. It translates to stronger cycling performance by giving the body MORE of what it needs when it needs it most – keeping it as non-responsive as possible even in tough efforts on the bike.
5. ENERGIZE + RELAX SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Yoga postures require awakening and engagement of the area involved, so try to find a sense of ease and letting go even as you are engaging the focus muscle. Take the stretch to the point of resistance, then take a deep breath and back it off a bit. (This is particularly important for cyclists and athletes to let the muscle recover, renew and relax.) On the bike, we ideally find a “Zen-like” state in our efforts, even when pushing hard in a time trial, tough interval set or chasing down a break or rambunctious riding partner. Training ourselves to stay relaxed, focused and yet pushing and engaging is the key to taking your performance to the next level.
Read more about Leslee Schenk Trzcinksi and Tune Yoga at www.tuneyoga.com.