Yoga has quite noticeably shot up in popularity over recent times, with more people then ever now knowing their ‘Downward Facing Dog’ from their ‘Chaturanga Dandasana’. And you’ll no doubt have heard about – if not tried - Bikram Yoga. Yeah ‘the hot one’, where stories of people on the verge of collapse, crying out for fresh air, only to be met with ‘once you’re in, you’re in’, seem to be commonplace. But commonplace so to seems to be that of enjoyment, high praise, and repeat visits.
In short, ‘the hot one’ is good.
There are now many forms of yoga, ranging from the original version – which is primarily just focussed on the sole act of breathing and mental/spiritual relaxation – right through to the more physically demanding types.
However, the above is a perception that is changing, thanks largely to yoga’s adoption in the world of professional sport. Specifically the notable and influential athletes who have spoken up about the benefits they have experienced as a result of employing yoga in their training.
Ryan Giggs is a prime example; he cited yoga as the main reason as to why he was able to continue playing in the Premier League for as long as he did. At the age of 40 he was still able to dominate games, and go uninjured for long periods of time.
We’re now going to run through the benefits of using yoga in our favourite sport (cycling), in an attempt to persuade you to add it to your fitness routine too.
Focus is the key reason as to why Bradley Wiggins uses Yoga. He uses it as a way to keep control of his chimp. If that made absolutely no sense to you whatsoever, then after you’re done with this post, scroll back up to this section and click here, where you can read all about the Chimp Paradox and the importance of training your mind as well as your body.
As well as helping to focus your mind to control your stress levels, yoga also helps to control your breathing. And by knowing how to control your breathing, you can perform much better when faced with the more gruelling parts of a ride.
Cycling Strength and Injury Prevention
We all strive to spend more time in the saddle, but spending too much time in the same position (especially sitting), can place huge stresses on your body. Often what makes this worse is the fact that many cyclists tend to neglect certain weaker areas (back, core, upper body) in their training, because they don’t see how these areas improve their cycling performance.
Unfortunately it is these untrained ‘weaker areas’ that are largely responsible for all injuries. As if the weaker areas don’t experience injury themselves, they’ll instead likely contribute to the injury of other areas – due to other areas being forced to take on the work and strain that the weaker areas should be undertaking, but are unable to handle.
Crumbs, that was harder to explain than first thought, but hopefully clear enough ;-)
Yoga is great because it strengthens your weak areas, helping to greatly improve balance and stability, and therefore allowing you to make better use of power. You’ll also be less prone to injury as the weaker areas are strong enough to cope with the stresses placed upon them, and therefore they’ll also not need to dump extra stresses onto other areas.
Somewhat similar to the above, when you’re sat fixed in the same position for long periods of time stress builds up. Yoga allows you to stretch and open up these areas to release the stress that you’ve been storing.
The stretching and lengthening of the muscles that have become short and tight will help you move more freely, fluidly and efficiently – not only improving your cycling technique/movements and so performance, but also ensuring you stay more mobile and supple with age – just like Giggs!
Yoga for Cycling Recommendations
Yoga is something that clearly we think all cyclists should add to their cycling training, but:
- Try to avoid jumping straight in at the deep-end with it. Nor should you try a bit of self-teaching from scratch (watching online videos etc). Yoga does really need to be learnt, and just like with everything else in life, you’ll get better over time with the right practice.
- Try a few different classes to begin with, you’ll soon realise when you’ve found the right instructor.
- If you can, embark on your yoga journey with a mate – reciprocal hand holding helps…
Hopefully you’re now sold on the benefits of yoga for cycling, and so are now also thinking to yourself how you can integrate it within your current training routine. Yeah? Great.
Well, we offer a very simple approach to this, with two key principles to follow:
1. During peak season: Use yoga as a recovery tool (once a week)
2. During off-season: Use yoga as a strength-building tool (twice a week)
For us, yoga is very similar to cycling, in that it’s an amazing mix of both physical and mental well-being. It's why you'll be given the chance to experience yoga on all of our retreats...
Jim & Deb