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Stretching for Cyclists

March 28, 2011

Today kicks off Yen Yoga & Fitness’s Tour de Yen, a 42-day, 315-mile indoor cycling challenge! Cycling is a great cardiovascular workout and excellent for building strength and burning calories. To help keep your bicycling body flexible, pair your rides with yoga poses that target your hips, hamstrings, lower back and chest.

Here are a few poses to get you started; follow the links for Yoga Journal’s thorough how-to’s with photos for each pose.

Seated forward bend (Pascimottanasana): Stretches the hamstrings to release the lower back.

How to: The goal is not to touch your toes with straight legs. Sit on the floor, placing a blanket under the sit bones to support the lower back. Bend your knees as much as you need to have your chest lay flat on your thighs, releasing your face down as well. Place your hands comfortably on the outsides of your feet, and being to straighten the legs by walking your feet out, inch by inch. When you begin to feel your chest leave your thighs, breathe into the pose and pull your shoulders down away from your ears. This way, you are lengthening into the pose and not pulling on the hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds, repeating a few times if desired.

Camel pose (Ustrasana): Opens the chest and shoulders, counteracting the forward motion of cycling. Strengthens the back while stretching the quads and ankles.

How to: Kneel on the floor with knees hip-width apart, and tuck in your toes, so your feet are flexed and your ankles are off the floor. Place your hands on your lower back. Use your thumbs to support your lower back as you lift your chest and move it forward, allowing your back to bend, starting in the upper spine. Keep your thighs and hips straight and perpendicular to the floor, as if pressing against a wall in front of you. Allow your neck to release back. If you need a more intense stretch, reach towards your ankles, keeping your chest open and shoulder blades back. Bend back more deeply into the upper spine, and hold this for 30-60 seconds.

Happy baby pose (Ananda Balasana): A restorative pose that gently, passively stretches your hamstrings and releases your hip flexors and low back. Counteracts cycling’s forward motion, increasing the hips’ range of motion.

How to: Lie on your back and bend your knees into your belly. Grip the outsides of your feet with each hand, gently opening your knees slightly wider than your torso and bringing them toward your armpits. Line your ankles up with your knees so your shins are perpendicular to the floor, flex your heels, and gently push your feet upward while pulling down with your hands to create resistance. Keep your spine long, your head and tailbone grounded, while you breathe slowly. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

Garland pose (Malasana): Stretches the hips, groin, and ankles.

How to: Squat with your feet as close together as possible, keeping your heels on the floor (tuck a blanket under your heels if they can’t stay on the floor). Separate your thighs slightly wider than your torso. Exhale and lean your torso forward between your thighs. Press your elbows against your inner knees, bringing your palms together, and resist the knees into the elbows to help lengthen your torso. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): Stretches the chest, neck and spine, elongating and opening the back. Reduces backaches and rejuvenates tired legs.

How to: Lie on the floor with a thick blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Keep your knees bent, arms straight along your sides, and feet flat on the floor, heels as close to your sit bones as possible. Exhale and lift your tailbone to raise your buttocks toward the ceiling, keeping your knees over your ankles, until your thighs are about parallel with the floor. Lengthen through the tailbone and lift your chin slightly, firming your shoulder blades and lifting your sternum. Remain in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, and release by gently rolling your spine slowly toward the floor.

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