Strengthen and stretch your cycling muscles with these key moves. – By Molly Hurford
Yoga Is for Everyone – Even Dudes
If you think yoga is just for women, think again: Everyone can benefit from a regular yoga practice, guys and girls alike, says yoga instructor Colin Brightfield.
Brightfield, who teaches at Jai Rhythm Yoga in Ventura, California, came to yoga from the opposite end of the fitness spectrum: rugby. After years of playing the full-contact sport, he says, he walked into a yoga class to reverse the damages. He expected to hate it, but walked out a total convert. He soon became the mild-mannered instructor with a calm, broad smile that persists even through 6:30 AM hot yoga classes.
Seated Single-Leg Forward Bend
Brightfield says it’s best to start simple. The seated single-leg forward bend is one of the easiest, least ‘yoga-like’ postures of the bunch – perfect for those who are slightly nervous about starting their practice.
But it’s not just dedicated yogis he wants to teach. Brightfield wants to get people from all sports disciplines into yoga. “I love guessing what sport people do from where they have flexibility issues,” he says. “You can always pick out the surfers, the dancers, and the cyclists.” He shared a few easy moves with us that you can perform to become stronger and more flexible, even if you’re a yoga newbie.
Plant your feet in a wide stance, and straighten your arms out at your sides. Lean over to one side, while keeping your arms in line, and try to touch the ground with one finger while reaching for the sky. This move opens the hamstrings, hips, and shoulders, and also straightens your spine. “In cycling, you’re always facing forward, so facing to the side on this one helps balance you out,” says Brightfield.
Pro tip: Brightfield is a rugby guy, but he also knows the soreness that cyclists endure after lots of time on the bike: He spent plenty of time in Washington, DC, using a bike to commute around the city when he lived there. He’d take yoga classes in the morning, then ride around all day and finish at home realising he needed another round of yoga to unwind from all the pedalling and the posture he used while sitting on the bike. Even if you don’t hit up a yoga class weekly, he says just taking a few minutes to stretch out post-ride can go a long way toward addressing imbalances.
This easy backbend is a great way to strengthen your abs and open up your shoulders (you know, the ones that are usually hunched together over your handlebars). Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent, then use your glutes and quads to lift up into a bridge pose. Hang out here to reverse some of the tightness that comes from time spent in the saddle, while building up your quad, glute, and core strength at the same time.
Pro tip: “I messed up my body pretty good, even though I didn’t have any major injuries,” Brightfield says of his time playing rugby. “When I took my first yoga class to try to fix some of that, I thought it was going to be easy, but I was blown away by how hard I could make it. It was stretching, it was strength, and mentally and emotionally, it made me feel so balanced.” He was addicted after that first class. Moral of the story? Even if you don’t think it’s going to help, it might change your life.
This move involves strength, flexibility, and focus to provide a serious challenge, Brightfield says. Perform the classic dancer pose by first standing with your feet together, then grasping your right foot with your right hand; bringing it back behind you as you maintain balance; and slowly leaning forward. Repeat on the left side. You might find that one side of your body is tighter than the other, or that you have less balance on the left than the right. This pose will help you work to find a better balance between the two, while stretching your quads.
Pro tip: Think yoga doesn’t have anything to do with cycling? Not true. “Cycling is rhythmic, and yoga teaches you to keep an even, rhythmic breath,” Brightfield says. “The repetitive motion of cycling can also just be a lot on your body, especially your hips and shoulders, so it’s nice to do the reverse with yoga, to undo some of that.”
Chill Out with the Easiest Pose Ever
“You want a stretch, but you don’t want to work, right?” Brightfield says. You’re in luck – for your final move, chill out. You can perform this stretch for as long or as short as you want, Brightfield says, to get a mild stretch in your hamstrings while flushing your legs for recovery after a hard ride. Do this pose post-ride, before hydrating and eating a recovery snack, by lying on your back with your legs propped up against a wall at a 90-degree angle for anywhere from two to 20 minutes to help boost your recovery while stretching.
Pro tip: If you’re thinking about going to a yoga class but feel like you might not fit in, don’t be nervous. “If you’re a guy, it might be helpful to look for a male yoga instructor if that will make you feel more comfortable, but I think a big thing is just letting go of your ego,” Brightfield says. “Get past the idea that there’s a right or wrong way to do a pose – just go and have fun. Don’t take it too seriously. Embrace being a beginner.”