Why you should step off the bike and onto the yoga mat

How do you relax after a cycling session? A hot bath? An ice bath? Or do you just collapse into bed?

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, but it is not the sole preserve of extremely flexible people who aspire to stand on their heads. People up and down the country are using it as a regular form of exercise or to supplement an existing training regime.

John Moss, Managing Director at Merlin Cycles, says yoga can be the perfect counterpart to a hard training session:

“There’s a lot more to cycling than clocking hundreds of hours on your bike. In order to achieve the best times it’s about taking really good care of your body, and yoga is the perfect solution. It ticks all the right boxes and can help take your training even further. A lot of cyclists discount yoga as being a gentle and easy form of exercise that could in no way help their cycling. Nothing could be further from the truth!”

To help cyclists get the most out of their rides, Merlin Cycles has spoken to experts and teachers across the country to get their top tips on incorporating a gentle yoga practice into your training regime and how this can benefit your performance.

Keep a calm mind

Stay in the zone and use unique breathing techniques to keep your mind completely focused on the journey ahead thanks to yoga. It’s not just a workout of the body!

Cheryl MacDonald, yoga elder and founder of Yoga Bellies, tells us how this can translate into your cycling sessions:

“Yoga will help you feel calm. When you are in a particularly long ride you can calm your mind with your breath, like you do in your yoga practice, and use this to push through the pain. Remember the mindfulness you had in the resting poses and use your yoga training to connect your mind to your breath and relax into the saddle.”

It increases flexibility

Yoga and flexibility go hand in hand, and the benefits it can bring to your cycling are incredible. If your body is supple and flexible, then you are less likely to be injured. Over time your hamstrings and hips, two areas that see a great deal of action during cycling, will loosen off. And with great flexibility, comes great posture.

So what are some of the best poses to help your mind and body in the saddle?

Downward-Facing Dog

An incredibly iconic yoga pose, downward-facing dog is a mild inversion that gets your blood flowing and alleviates tight spots throughout the body.

Holly McFee, founder of Leeds-based practice Yoga Hero, explains how to get the perfect posture:

“A yoga favourite! Come to hands and knees, wrists aligned under the shoulders and knees aligned under the hips. Tuck your toes under and lift the hips up and back to bring you into an inverted ‘V’ shape.”

Savasana

Savasana is considered by many people to be the most difficult yoga pose of them all. Also known as the corpse pose, it requires you to lie flat on your back, perfectly still.

In order to gain the full benefits of Savasana, you need to be awake but also completely relaxed – almost in a meditative state. Try and stay in the pose for as long as possible, 10 to 20 minutes if you can, but even a few minutes will help!