As the weather warms, cyclists are hitting the road and finding themselves in need of some post-ride stretches. After all, sales of outdoor bikes more than doubled, and sales of stationary bikes tripled and in 2020, according to a recent article by Outdoor magazine. Here, yoga teacher and doctor Ingrid Yang shares four of her favorite yoga stretches for cyclists. These poses—including an often-overlooked chest and shoulder opener—aid ride recovery so you can get back on your bike faster.
Eka Pada Galavasana, variation (Flying Pigeon modification)
This is the quintessential buttocks yoga stretch for avid cyclists. This pose allows you to determine the depth of your stretch while also building strength and stability in the ankle of your standing leg.
From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), cross your right leg above your left knee into the shape of a figure 4. Bend your left knee and lower your hips any amount to find a stretch in your right buttocks. If you have a stationary bike, you can hold on to your bike for balance. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Stand up and switch sides.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Downward-Facing Dog is one of those great multi-purpose yoga stretches for cyclists. It stretches the backs of the legs (calves, hamstrings and glutes) and opens your chest, which is often tight from hunching over the handlebars.
From a Plank Pose, shift your hips up into the air, making an inverted V-shape with your body. Drop your chest back towards your shins and bend your knees slightly to take strain off the backs of your knees. Pedal through your feet. This will enhance the stretch in the opposite calf muscle of the bent knee. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend)
Cycling requires intense use of the inner thigh muscles (adductors). Tight adductors can cause knee pain and under-utilization of your outer glutes, which you need to remain stable in the saddle. This pose stretches the hamstrings and adductors while relieving pressure from the knees. You can also isolate the stretch over each leg by side-bending over one leg at a time. Hold for a few breaths.
From seated, widen your legs out from right to left. You can start with your feet placed wider than your outer hips, and widen from there. Hinge at your hips slightly, and walk your fingertips forward any amount as you release your torso down toward the floor. You can place yoga props under your chest, stay on your fingertips or palms, or release your elbows to the ground. To activate different leg, hip, and back muscles, experiment with various activations of your feet, such as flexing your feet, pointing your toes, and flounting your feet (a cross between pointing and a flexing your feet). Hold for 10-20 breaths.
Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose)
We focus a lot on the leg muscles for our post-cycle stretching, but don’t stop there. While we are cycling, we are also hunched over the handlebars and bent forward at the hips. Upward Plank pose stretches tight pectoralis muscles by shifting the chest upward, and also stretches tight hip flexors.
Sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your hands several inches behind your hips and your fingers pointing forward. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, big toes turned inward, heels at least a foot away from your buttocks. Exhale, press your inner feet and hands down against the floor, and lift your hips until you come into a reverse tabletop position, torso and thighs approximately parallel to the floor, shins and arms approximately perpendicular.
Without losing the height of your hips, straighten your legs one at a time. Lift your hips still higher without clenching your buttocks. Press your shoulder blades against your back torso to support the lift of your chest. Without compressing the back of your neck, slowly drop your head back. Be sure to point your toes for an additional stretch at the front of your ankles and press the hips and chest up to the sky to open up the front of your body. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Ingrid Yang, MD, JD, E-RYT-500, C-IAYT has been teaching yoga since 1999 and is a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Her expert grasp of anatomy and human physiology bring a unique, thoughtful and joyful experience to the practice of yoga. Ingrid is also a certified yoga therapist under the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) and a Reiki master of the Usui tradition.