Sunday, November 2, 2014

Yoga for cyclists at Soleil Lune Yoga Center - Oconomowoc, WI

I'll be teaching a class on Nov. 3rd called Yoga for "Stiff folks who ride spokes" (aka - cyclists).
The course description (from the Soleil Lune Yoga Centers website) is as follows:

"Cycling requires not only physical strength, but also intense focus and concentration to succeed. The attention to breath and mind-body connection in yoga can be employed by the cyclist while riding to maintain mental clarity and calmness. The physical postures will create flexibility thus creating more ease, and efficiency. In cycling, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hips never rest. As a result, riders often have overdeveloped quadriceps and tight hamstrings, which can pull the hips out of alignment. Also, a cyclist's spine is constantly flexed forward. If proper form isn't maintained, it can result in muscle pain and strain in the back and shoulders. Yoga helps ease the tightness, creating core strength, and aligning the spine. It’s no secret that pranayama (breathing exercises) in yoga helps with breath control; and this class will address the mechanical deficiencies that could inhibit breathing during cycling.

What to expect: A Slow Flow experience that will help expand the rib cage allowing more room for the lungs, extend and lengthen the side body, and elongate the spine. Pelvic and shoulder stability will also be addressed along with overall flexibility and core strength.

The 1st class will start at 7:15PM and the Soleil Lune Yoga Center and I'll kick it off with some breathing basics, psoaz wakeup and some other pre-yoga poses.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Post Cycling routine: Stretch, Eat & Bathe

My post cycling routine goes like this:
  • Stretch - In some of my previous posts I've shown examples of some of the post ride Yoga routines that I use. Be sure to get out of your damp cycling clothes first, if possible. The Yoga poses, for the most part, are oppositional poses meant to lengthen and strengthen muscles that get over used and/or over stretched during cycling. I also like to use the Roll Recovery (R8) on tight leg muscles, it's a great tool to use, if you don't have your own personal masseuse. 
  • Eat - After strenuous exercise you should eat a slightly higher percentage of protein in the meal. It's important to get a good meal, ideally within about 30 minutes after exerting yourself during any extended or intensive rides. This will provide the nutrition needed to start the repair and rebuilding of the muscles that were involved.
  • Bathe - Once the first two are taken care of, you can take care of the cleanup, for yourself, your cloths and your bike.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Two in one stretch

One of the Alignment Yoga pre-yoga foundation exercises is the psaos wake-up, using either an elastic band or a yoga strap to keep the surface hip flexor (Sartorius) quieted while performing the exercise (see the pictures or link to the psoas wake-up video).  But there's another use for the band or strap while doing the Supta Padangusthasana I stretch from my previous post.

Ideally you might have a partner to hold a yoga strap at the hip crease, but if not, having the elastic band in place can provide at least some degree of benefit, while performing the stretch at the same time.
Elastic strap and yoga strap with tennis ball
I like to do this stretch after a bike ride (or a series of Sun Salutations) to make sure the muscles are warmed up. Here's the setup:
  • Place the elastic band over the left heal and (while lying back) raise your right knee to a 90 degree angle and stretch the band over the right knee and all the way down to the right hip crease (just as if you were going to do the psoas wake-up).
  • Next extend the right leg upward with yoga strap (ideally the modified strap, also from the previous post) placed at the transverse arch.
  • Now gently pull back and slightly down on the strap over the foot, till you feel a good stretch in the hamstring (but not to the point of pain). Remember to breath and hold the stretch for ~30-45 seconds.
  • Release and repeat on the other leg, switching the band and strap to the opposite leg.
Supta Padangusthasana I with elastic band and strap
So you might ask - What's the benefit of the doing both at the same time? By adding the tension from a strap or elastic band, the hip is drawn down and away from the abdomen, adding space for greater hip mobility and flexion.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tools of the trade

During one of the first few yoga teacher training weekends, we discussed variations of the supine stretch (Supta Padangusthasana I), for the beginner student. This is a foundation pose for developing the pelvic flexion necessary in many other yoga poses.

Since the beginner student, may not have the flexibility to reach the big toe, we demonstrated variations using; a yoga strap, a strap with a yoga block and an assisted/adjustment method. There are contraindications for some methods, which I'll discuss next.
  • The "yoga strap only" method can allow the beginner student to start performing this pose. The strap isn't placed in the main arch of the foot, instead it's placed near the ball of the foot. The contraindication here is that the strap can tend to flex the metatarsal arch in the opposite direction.
  • The "strap with yoga block" can provide a more evenly distributed "platform" on the foot, but it can be a little unwieldy, with the strap holding the block against the foot.
  • The assisted method is a good way for the student to experience a slightly deeper flex, but of course this requires an experienced instructor or partner to provide the adjustment/assist.
I came up with a fourth option, it involves modifying the yoga strap slightly with the addition of a tennis ball.
Modified Yoga Strap with tennis ball
To make this modification, take an ordinary tennis ball and carefully cut two holes (about the size of a dime) on opposite sides of the ball. Then thread the yoga strap (I used a slightly thinner strap) through the holes so that the ball is at the mid-point on the strap. Once the strap is threaded through the ball, the ball is placed at the metatarsal arch and allows the foot to keep its natural arch, while performing the supine stretch.

Supine stretch using the modified yoga strap

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Yoga Ride - Part 3

What do these two pictures have in common?
Well, besides them both being taken in my living room, the posture on the bike is basically a forward fold and it's similar to the Down-Dog in yoga. If you've just spent time in the saddle, be it 30 minutes or 4 hours, doing the Down-Dog pose afterwards might feel good, as you do get the benefit of the inversion, but is it all that you need? That's what this part of the Yoga Ride Project blog will cover.

The post-ride portion of the Yoga Ride focuses on two types of poses:
  • Poses that are in opposition to the forward fold position during the ride
  • Poses that are down-regulating
The opposition poses
These poses help to lengthen and strengthen the muscles in the front of the body as well as the hamstrings. These muscles can tend to shorten with repeated cycling if you don't engage in some exercises (in this case yoga).
  • Mountain Pose
  • Prone Mountain - with baby cobra or extended cobra
  • Vinyasa Flow Sun Salutation A (mixes the Up and Down Dog)
  • Cat-Cow (with a spine bag - if available)
The down regulating poses
Down regulation will help with recovery and rest. Cycling and caffeine are very up regulating, so we'll end with these poses (with some variations) to down regulate the body.
  • Legs up the wall
  • Warrior I
  • Psoas wake-up (it's good at the beginning and the end of a ride)
  • Seated twists
  • Savasana
A full Yoga Ride practice may be coming to a Bike Shop or Yoga Studio near you soon, so stay tuned.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Yoga Ride - Part 2

In part 1 (my previous post) I discussed the Pre-ride poses, which are made up of pre-yoga postures from Alignment Yoga's Beginning Syllabus. In this posting, I'll discuss the focus of the bike riding portion of the Yoga Ride practice.

There are three pieces to the bike riding portion of the practice:
  • Breathing observation and correction
    • A common problem is something called Paradoxical Breathing (also referred to as chest or shallow breathing). In some cases there may be a physical issue or limitation (for instance scoliosis) or injury to the chest or back that's at the root of the breathing problem. During the ride we'll observe our breathing patterns and practice diaphragmatic breathing. See the links at the bottom of this post to a site that has a great discussion on these topics. 
  • Shoulder alignment
    • Relaxed shoulders are also strong shoulders, because often a tight muscle is a weak muscle. We'll want to observe whether our current fit on the bike is correct - are the shoulders hunched forward or is the top of the humerus seated, where it should be, in the shoulder socket. This can also play into the breathing by providing space in the thoracic region of the chest and up through the collar bones.
  • Maximizing rest stops
    • There are several stretches that can be used at rest stops (especially on extended rides) to help: avoid numbness, increase circulation and give some opposition to the forward fold position that we're in while cycling.
      • Seated or table pigeon (according to personal flexibility)
      • Prone mountain
      • Baby Cobra
      • Basic hamstring stretch (or projected lunge)
In the next posting I'll discuss how we finish the Yoga Ride practice.

This month I present the Yoga Ride Project to the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) class (and the other students will present their projects as well). In January I'll graduate with my 200Hr YTT certificate.


Paradoxical Breathing and Diaphragmatic Breathing 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Yoga Ride recipe

In the first posting, I wrote that the Yoga Ride is made up of three parts, this post will describe the first part, the Pre-Ride.

The Pre-Ride exercises are made up of Pre-Yoga poses taken from Alignment Yoga's Beginning Syllabus.
  • Tadasana (Mountain pose) - as the grounding and check-in posture
  • Dead Bug series - to exercise not just the right and left side of the body, but also the right and left side of the brain
  • Psoas Wake-up - to develop this under utilized muscle
  • Uddiyana Bandha Wake-up - for core strength
  • Sumo - flexion of the ankles, knees and hips as well as the pelvic floor.
I learned about the Pre-Yoga postures during my 200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training (through Alignment Yoga) and adopted these for use in my Diverse Audience project. All of these exercises work well for  Pre-Yoga and/or the Pre-Ride, building on the fundamentals required for both.

If the next post I'll discuss how the bike ride portion of Yoga Ride will focus on breathing, shoulder alignment and the ride break.