Yoga for Cyclists: Post-Ride Cool Down
I hope that you have been getting out and dancing on your bike on the roads or trails. It’s amazing how much more of your surroundings you absorb when you’re out on two wheels and using your own “motor.” At Women’s Quest, we will be dancing on our mountain bikes this summer in Colorado and this fall in Vermont! And then we’ll be heading to beautiful Tuscany, Italy to pedal quiet, scenic country roads.
One of our fantastic yoga instructors, Julia Ingersoll, has put together a sequence of yoga postures designed to help get you stretch and relax your body after a ride. (If you’re looking for a pre-ride warm-up, we have that too!) Incorporate these poses into your post-ride routine and you’ll be pedaling joyfully all summer long… and beyond.
Put down your kickstand and enjoy this cool down set of yoga poses to restore, refresh and renew your body after any ride. This sequence is specifically designed to lengthen muscles that work hard on the bike, to help relieve stiffness and soreness throughout your body, and to help you recover more quickly so you integrate the wonderful cardio and strength benefits of your bike rides and feel ready to ride again soon!
Prasarita Padottanasa C (Wide-Leg Forward Bend with Shoulder Stretch). Stand with your feet wide, about one leg-length apart. Firm your legs and draw your tailbone down. Interlace your fingers behind your back as you inhale deeply and lift your heart toward the sky. Keep your legs strong. As you exhale, bend forward and stretch your clasped hands overhead. Draw your shoulder blades onto your back, even as you lengthen your head toward the floor.
Downward Dog. Excellent stretch for all major muscle groups in the body at once, this pose re-lengthens the spine. Come to all fours, on hands and knees. Place your hands shoulder-width apart, with your wrist creases in line with each other, parallel to the front of your mat. Spread your fingers wide and root the finger pads down. Firm your arms, lengthen the sides of your body. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back. Press the ground away with your hands, stretch your sit-bones high and the tops of your legs back. Reach your heels towards the ground.
Toe Stretch. From Downward Dog, come to your knees and sit back on your heels to stretch your feet deeply. This is a strong stretch, so expect lots of sensation. You are lengthening the fascia that covers the sole of the foot and extends all the way up your legs. Endure this stretch for several rounds of breath, knowing that you are improving the circulation and suppleness of your legs in this simple way.
Calf Compression. This one sounds weird and it feels intense, but is so effective for flushing fluid and toxins from the legs for rejuvenation and recovery. Roll a blanket, thick towel, or travel yoga mat into a firm, compact tube. While kneeling, place the roll in the bend behind your knees, as close to our knees as possible.
Then sit back and compress your calves. You can move the roll a few inches at a time, all the way to the ankles. Afterward, take Downward Dog again, and notice if your heels stretch further to the floor.
Windshield-Wiper Psoas Stretch. This one is not only good for you, it also feels great! It’s a supine twist to lengthen and tone the deep hip flexors and psoas muscles, which get shortened while cycling. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet wider than hip-width apart. Keeping your feet wide, let both knees drop to the right side like windshield wipers. Place your ankle on top of your left knee to add a little leverage. Stretch your arms overhead and grasp your left wrist with your right hand. S-t-r-e-t-c-h your side body open, as you actively draw your left knee down away from your hip. Repeat on the left side.
Supported Backbend. Relax and open your heart, while countering the tendency of the upper spine to round from bending over the handlebars. Roll a blanket or thick towel into a compact tube. Lie down with the roll approximately under your shoulder blades at bra-strap level. With this lift under your upper back, allow your head to rest on the floor. Stretch out and relax for a few minutes, or as long as you have.
Supta Virasana (Thigh Stretch). Sitting on your knees, open your ankles just wide enough that you can sit down between your heels. Your knees should point straight ahead. If your butt doesn’t reach the floor, place a folded blanket, block or other prop for support. Scoop your tailbone forward in a pelvic tilt. Keep your knees drawing toward the midline and s-t-r-e-t-c-h your quads. Keeping this engagement, lower your back as far as is comfortable for you…
Start by scooping your tailbone under and leaning back to your elbows. If this feels easy…
Stretch all the way back, raise your arms overhead and actively extend through your knees to lengthen.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall). This is the queen of restorative postures, and a fantastic aid to recovery after a bike ride. This pose allows fluids to drain from the legs, reduces swelling and inflammation, and is great for preventing varicose veins. In addition, it is a great pose for reducing the cumulative effects of stress. Use it anytime you need to restore yourself.
Place a folded blanket (or 2) right against a wall. Sitting with one hip pressed against the wall, carefully turn yourself to lie back, with your hips on the blankets and your legs up the wall. Place yourself as close to the wall as you can, depending on the openness of your hamstrings. If you have a yoga strap or belt, you can strap your thighs together so your legs don’t splay open as you drift off and relax. Cover your eyes with an eye bag, or whatever is handy, to further promote total relaxation. Stay and indulge for 5-15 minutes.
JULIA INGERSOLL is a former top-ranked, professional mountain bike racer, a certified yoga teacher and an artist, and has been leading retreats for Women’s Quest since 2004. Julia began practicing yoga in 1991 with Richard Freeman, and her continuing studies include extensive training in Vinyasa Flow and Anusara styles of Hatha yoga. She maintains an active teaching schedule at the Esalen Institute and the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California where she lives. Julia also teaches yoga, cycling, and art on Women’s Quest retreats internationally.