By: Angela Orozco
Most of us are very familiar with the multiple benefits of cycling and yoga. It is not a secret that both activities significantly improve our overall health. However, there is a misconception that yoga only complements cycling as a way to release tension and increase flexibility, thus rendering it a recovery add-on. Even though that is one of the benefits of practicing yoga, it is definitely not the only way that we can connect both practices.
As a cyclist aficionado and a consistent yoga teacher and practitioner, I have been able to experience profound similarities and benefits between them. I have come to learn that in fact, they actually complement each other. So yes, yoga is great for cyclists, but cycling is also great for yogis.
There are as many different types of yoga as are types of cyclists and bicycles. If we discuss some of the physical aspects of yoga, we can say that a gentle yin yoga class will help you improve your flexibility, mobility and breathing. At the same time, an alignment-based power yoga class will help you build strength, endurance, balance, coordination, and concentration.
While practicing yoga, you are able to notice and become more aware of your whole physical body. You are able to identify the places where you hold tension and stiffness but also the parts of your body that are strong and flexible. You are challenged to breathe deeper, to inhale and exhale through your nose, and to avoid holding your breath.
Cycling is usually perceived as a “strong” physical activity and is part of our exercise routine. Speed, cadence, time, and elevation are the often perceived key components of the ride. During cycling, we focus on using our strongest muscles to create power and endurance. Breathing—while key in cycling— is not usually as centered as it is in yoga.
The fact is, both modalities require a full body engagement if we want to be efficient, improve our performance, and be injury-free.
Considering all of this, there is another critical aspect that is rarely mentioned: our mindset when practicing yoga as compared to when we are riding our bike. Mental strength and calmness may improve if we are attentive, alert, and aware of the present moment. Do you focus on the music, on the conversation, or the actual riding of your bike or doing yoga? We are constantly thinking, busy in our heads, and most of the time avoiding silence.
Cultivating conscious awareness is a practice that requires staying present, acknowledging, and noticing every moment as it is. This is where the most valuable benefit of yoga and cycling comes in: both modalities give us the opportunity to submerge ourselves in the here and now, synchronizing our mind, breathe, and body. They give us the opportunity to step out of the anxiety and stress that comes from the multiple demands of our busy lives. Whether on the mat or on the saddle, we have two choices: to practice mindfulness and to enjoy the experience fully or to allow our racing mind and constant busyness to take over.
Regardless of the purpose for which you ride (racing, commuting, or simply as a form of a healthy habit), you can always apply yoga principles to maximize on the benefits of cycling. And if you are more into yoga than into cycling, consider changing the approach and experience this modality with a yogi state of mind.
Bringing the best of both modalities together will improve your performance on every level. This includes not only your speed, endurance, mobility, and improved flexibility, but also, your focus, awareness, mental sharpness and enhanced cognitive skills.
Wellness entrepreneur, Health Coach and Yoga Teacher @angelalifespark