Tonight marks the last yoga class of our six-week winter series. The class has been geared towards active people who are generally new to yoga with special attention on the places cyclists need more strength and flexibility.
This week on the blog we’ll be posting some yoga for cyclists Q&A based on recent inquiries from students. If you have any of your own questions or want to sign up for the last class, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You talk a lot about the hip flexors, but all this is new to me. Can you explain how stretching this area helps my cycling?”
I have a love/hate relationship with the hip flexors. After years of competitive cycling my hip flexors were so tight they were starting to pull my pelvis out of alignment. This was causing low back pain and sciatica.
Tight hip flexors are common among cyclists. The forward-leaning, seated riding position keeps the hip flexors in a continuously shortened state. On top of that, many cyclists spend their time off the bike sitting in chairs and working at computers, which increases time spent in the shortened phase. Our bodies adapt to how we use them the most, for better or for worse.
This is why it is important to undo all the forward-leaning and sitting we do on a daily basis. As hip flexors stiffen and shorten, the pelvis tilts forward and the lower back arches. This strain on the back can affect the spine, causing lower back pain, disc herniation, and sciatica. As the pelvis tilts, it can also cause you to overreach with the arms, creating a hunched riding position. All this can lead to reduced power output on the bike because you can’t effectively utilize your gluteal muscles.
When stretching the hip flexors, your target muscle is the psoas. You want to slowly and gently lengthen it back out. This means holding the stretch for at least 45 seconds and repeating once or twice on each side. Spend enough time in the pose for it to work.
Here are my three favorite hip flexors poses:
Knee to chest with hips under block (Beginning hip flexor stretch):
Lie on your back on the floor and place a block under your hips at the lowest height. Keep your right leg extended and draw the left knee into the chest. You should feel a stretch in your right hip flexor.
There are many variations to this pose, and most people can benefit from these two:
Start in a low lunge with your back knee on the floor. Place a pillow or blanket under the knee if it is sensitive to pressure. Begin to lower your hips to the floor by moving the front knee over the front big toe but no further. Then place both hands on the front knee and begin to move your torso upright by straightening your arms. If you want to go deeper, place your hands on your hips and gently press them forward. Draw your shoulder blades together and open the chest.
Standing Wide Angle variation (You can do this anywhere!):
Take your legs wide enough that if you extend your arms out to the side your feet will be under your hands. Place your palms flat on your hips with your fingers facing up and elbows in line with the sides of your body. Slowly push your hips forward and stop when you feel the stretch in the front of your hips.
Yoga with Kristen meets tonight, Wednesday, February 19 at 7:30pm in Soho. Stay tuned for more yoga in the spring.