Yoga Helps Cyclists

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to work with a lot of great real life athletes that use yoga as counter conditioning. Many of my yoga students are cyclists who practice yoga to alleviate muscle tightness from logging long hours in the saddle. Every time I’m out on two wheels, whether in Moab Mountain Biking or in Tuscany cycling our yoga I am reminded of how well yoga works to develop flexibility, core strength and balance.

For my cyclist students the key areas that get overworked while riding are hamstrings, quadriceps, hips and constant forward flexion of the spine. The muscle groups in these areas are being used in the same way for long periods and repeated thousands of times. That hurts!

So what happens is:
*quads get tighter as they get stronger
*hamstrings contract, tighten on back of legs
*shoulders get rounded over straining upper middle back thoracic spine
*low back (lumber area) gets pushed out if core strength is not maintained

How yoga helps:
Yoga poses help open what is contracted, it creates flexibility where there is only strength for more balanced action. And the practice of yoga helps relieve the muscle pain caused by tightness in lower and upper body. It brings our spine back into optimal alignment.

The other benefit my cyclist students are surprised to find from yoga is something beyond the physical. Anyone on two wheels knows that cycling requires intense concentration and focus to succeed on the road. The work we do on the mat to bring attention to our breathing patterns and cultivate a mind body awareness is transportable and can be used with great success while riding to maintain a calm mind and laser like clarity.

Before you finish reading you are probably curious to know what yoga poses should you do before or after a ride. From my experience here are my top 3.

First lie on your back (supine Mountain pose) this tractions your spine naturally, then let’s put back in the two natural curves (in neck – cervical spine and low back – lumbar spine)

1. Bridge Pose (Sethu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Purpose: Stretches the quads, hips and opens the shoulders back. Energetically opens up the front of the body, improves posture alignment.

Why: It balances the time spent on the bike closing the chest and rounding forward.

How: Start on your back with your knees bent. Position your feet above your ankles in 90 degree angle. Make sure that your feet are pointing straight ahead all four corners anchored. Inhale and press your feet and shoulders back into the floor and lift your pelvis up as high as you can comfortably. Hug your shoulder blades underneath you. Breathe into front of body. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Slowly lower down. Repeat. For more restorative put block under sacrum and hold for longer.

2. Pyramid (Parsvottanasana)

Purpose: Improves hamstring flexibility, great for SI joint, lengthens spine.

Why: The stretch is felt at the back of the legs most intensely but the hugging to the midline of the legs also gets to inner hamstring muscles. Counter balances the abduction of cycling with adduction.

How: Stand in Mountain pose with your feet hips distance apart. Find balanced weight in feet. Step your left foot back about three to four feet and angle the back foot out about 10’clock. Keep both hips facing front and square your hips. Inhale circle yours up, as they open to a “t” come half way down long spine, hold for a moment, lift the toes of your front foot to contract the quad and release the hamstring and then fold long over extended leg, touch the ground. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on second side. (2nd time same thing add a twist, lift opposite arm up of front foot)

3. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakopotasana Prep)

Purpose: A great hip opener and stretch for the glutes. If you want more, then add variation with the back leg bent upwards for an additional quad stretch.

Why: The IT band is a group of muscles that runs along side the thigh starting from the pelvis and going over the hip and to the knee. In cycling, the hip flexors work very hard and this can result in strain of this area. IT band issues injuries are not unusual for cyclists. Do pigeon to prevent injury.

How: Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Slide your right knee forward, placing it between your hands. Lengthen your left leg straight back, and lower your hips toward the floor, keeping both hips facing forward. Draw your inner thighs toward each other with slight scooping of the tail bone. Hold for 1 minute, switch sides and then try again on your back, ankle crossed above opposite knee drawing both knees to chest.

Yoga for Skiers and Snowboarders

I was just in Aspen, CO the beginning of November and the beautiful mountains are already snowcapped. There is so much buzz and excitement as the ski season approaches with more fresh snow on its way out West, the chill in the air at home in Illinois and the latest ski and snowboard movies on tour to awe us and pump all of the skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts up for the season. I’m so excited for it all! But mostly for the Pagosa Springs, Colorado hot springs, snowboarding/skiing and yoga retreat guided by Alchemy Tours, February 3 –6, 2011. In the meantime I’ll continue to train. Here are some of my favorite yoga asanas for snowboarding and skiing.

[starlist]

  • For shoulders and wrists Side Plank (Vasisthasana) stretches and strengthens the wrists and strengthens the arms, all which will help for falling out on the slopes and pushing yourself up. And shoulders are super important for posture in skiing and snowboarding too.
  • For core and spine Boat (Navasana) engages and strengthens the core muscles. Strong core muscles enhance good turns on the slopes and alleviates pressure from the knees, protecting the joint from injury. Awareness of your center also helps to initiate movement and distribute weight more evenly making it less strenuous on the whole body.
  • For strengthening the legs, hips, knee joints and lower back Chair pose (Utkatasana) helps to prevent ACL injury by encouraging bending of the knees. It also helps with absorbing impact especially if you fall, go off cliffs, jumps or like bumps.
  • For balance Eagle (Garudasana) improves your concentration and sense of balance. It also strengthens the ankles and calves. On the slopes this will be helpful for side balance progression, refined balance recovery skills and muscle memory. It also helps with relaxing those feet in those stiff boots, sidestepping and traversing.
  • For flexible legs Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) energizes the body and stretches the hamstrings, calves and arches. Because skiing and snowboarding require so much lower body strength its essential to keep the legs flexible.
  • For hips Low lunge (Anjaneyasana) opens your hips. Having powerful and flexible hips encourages balance and good turning habits and decompresses the lower back, which improves coordination and takes pressure off the knees.

[/starlist]
Peace Kendra

Yoga Poses Great for Cycling

I love being on two wheels and can’t wait to spend even more time there. And one of the things I’ve learned are some key yoga poses that relieve the tenderness of back discomfort after cycling. Here are some of my favorites. And during our multisport trips know that all of the yoga we do supports the preparation of muscle groups used in Mountain Biking or Cycling or HIking or Kayaking. Whatever we plan to do we align the yoga to make it easier. Enjoy! Peace in all ways, Silvia

The Benefits of Key Poses For Cyclists:

  1. Standing Hip Circles – Loosens low back and hips, Strengthens back
  2. Squatting – Opens the pelvis, Stretches hips and lower back, Tones abs, Stretches feet
  3. Kneeling Low Lunge –Stretches hip flexors, Relieves low back pain, Stretches thigh muscles
  4. Cat/Puppy – Increases suppleness of spine, Stretches muscles of the back & neck, Improves posture
  5. Child’s Pose – Relaxes the back & neck, Stretches the spine, Provides a gentle massage to abdominal organs
  6. Cobra – Strengthens the back, Tones the buttocks, Stretches the chest and abdomen, Increases circulation
  7. Knee to Chest – Stretches Lower Back
  8. Spinal Twist – Strengthens abdominal muscles, stretches hips
  9. Bridge (And Pelvic Tilts) – Looses muscles of the low back, Strengthens abs

Yoga in nature By Guest Blogger LeAnn Kennedy Lockhart

Hey this is Silvia, I received this beautiful bit of prose from my student, friend, teacher trainee LeAnn and wanted to share it with you. It is really one of the most wonderful aspects of Alchemy Tours – we get to try our yoga off the mat too! Here is her expression. And don’t forget join us anytime, anywhere in the world! Peace in all ways, Silvia

Today I took My yoga practice outside. With my dog in hand ,both of us set out on an adventure. Luckily I live not to far from a beautifully wooded era,with a sweet Creek that runs through it. So that is were we found ourselves me and my dog Roxie. I decided to take my practice to the next level,NO MAT.So in my bare feet I found myself twisting and turning,flowing like a bird on an old tree that had fallen down. And as I stood in mountain pose I found a strength, an inner high as if my body had grown tall tree limbs,and as the wind kissed my skin,I felt as if I were that tree that had once stood tall The light inside me grew stronger .So now I was balancing on this old tree using its limbs as props . The clean fresh air filled up my soul. And so that 30 mins turned into a full on retreat an adventure.

So I guess what I am trying to say is be adventurous . Take your practice to the next level of excitment. Stand on that tree laying down the hill, life doesn’t have to be flat. Infact we all know life is full of ups down. Life is what you make of it . Let your feet get a little cold because you decided to you wanted feel the trees heart beat in your feet,grounding you,and let you also feel the adventure of gripping your feet on the edge. Taking that chance,taking that risk. So be grounded first so you are safe,and then you can spread your wings and fly in the cool breeze.

So if Mother Nature is calling you like she did me today,take that 15 to 30 mins and venture out . Let your fierce warrior heart be smothered by mother natures calling, Light and love LeAnn

AT Clients: Michael Young

At Alchemy Tours we love to invite our clients, friends to share their own thoughts on our trips. Here is a neat 3 point summary from Michael Young about his experience November 4-7, 2010. Enjoy!

Michael Young writes, “What can I say:
I’m not one to take on a trip like this…I thought I’d rather be on a desert island sipping pina coladas, enjoying the sun and water, then food sleep and whatever.
To my surprise and after many second thought excuses -I decided to head to Moab with family memebers Jake and Nathan.

My description is this:1st I was shocked at the high level of bonding I did with my sons,but more so with my fellow Moabiters whom I never knew. Experiencing close encounters with situations that you normally don’t come across,beautiful scenery,and chill factors that can make you think twice before trying it out.

2nd this was a trip of first for me: going on a mountain bike up and down a rock slope,climbing cracks, crevices and ridges, hiking and enjoying wonderful preselected hot spots to visit.

3rdly the Yoga was awesome and secretly I had ideas that it was for wimps….ugghhhh was I wrong! It was the first time I had done Yoga with an instructor.

This is the greatest exercise that can be. Our instructor/teacher was incredible-I wanted to take her home for private instruction to my wife & I. I stretched,sweat, and was soothed from this ancient exercise. What a fantastic learning experience overall.

I would do this again in a heartbeat.
Thanks to Alchemy Tours and fellow Moabites! Love You!”

Whereever you go, There you are

[pullquote]”Whilst on a lonely beach in Tasmania, three days hike away from any form of civilization, alone,Brent Morton had an epiphany: “No matter where I travel, however far away I get from civilization, how high of mountains I climb, one thing always remains the same: Me.” This began a 180 degree shift from exploring the physical world to a deep systematic journey into the inner world, which has continued intensively to the present day.” – Brent Morton[/pullquote]

These are the words of a lovely teacher I have just met. It speaks to so much of what I hope this practice brings to light for you sooner rather than later. However, the difficult part of exploring the inner world and taking this inward journey of self-exploration is making time. And when we are in our day to day world of grocery shopping, laundry, working, oil changes it’s hard to make that time. Yes, it is hard. So for me the catalyst for inner change has often come as a result of traveling somewhere (maybe not as far as Tasmania!) but someplace where I could feel time as BIG. And in that space, the changes in my outer world would almost force me, encourage me to go inside. So here I am writing this from far away as each day I have my ecology of mind refreshed and look at ME. No excuses, nothing more to do but see who I am and why I am.

The longer my days, the more I find myself wanting to help others to do this too. To facilitate inner healing and self knowledge by traveling away from the old paradigms even if for just 4 days or a week. Join me in Tuscany or Moab or Pagosa Springs or Hawaii or Haramara Puerto Vallarta this December.

Love yourself, Know thyself.
Peace out, Silvia
[Become a Fan]

Distraction Moab Musings from Alchemy Tours

As I returned from Moab Sunday evening with Carol and Rich we left behind the undistracted energy of the rocks and desert and mountains and as soon as we got off the plane in Denver were hit with the reality of distraction once again. The lights! The noise! The volume of people! The buzz in the air! It hit me with such force I felt a little sick to my stomach for a moment. And a lot confused. I thought hmmmm so that’s what we live in day in and day out?

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know until we know something different. To be in Moab on a Yoga retreat with Alchemy Tours (www.alchemytours.com) mountain biking, hiking, bouldering is to be in a new world devoid of all distractions apart from our little tribe. The spiritual progress we make in this situation far surpasses what is allowable on most “normal” days when surrounded by noise, people, business, worry, speed, and anxiety. There in Moab on the rocks, there is quiet and we can all finish the conversations we start with ourselves but never seem to finish while at home because something comes up and distracts us.

“I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” –Hilaire Belloc

Going on a yoga retreat is an experience of fulfillment. It is done with purpose and the guidance we offer is focused whether on a mountain bike or hike or practicing yoga. Whereas distraction is that feeling of being lost. And we’ve all felt lost before. Using this practice to help concentrate allows us to organize the energies around us, inside us and turn them into undistracted energy which is quite powerful. We need that laser like focus to accomplish our intentions. On the mat we take one part, one stage (krama) at a time to help achieve amazing experiences. We place our hands, lay our foundation in a downward dog, direct our energy from the focal point of our hearts to our legs and arms, feet and hands. It is bringing the macro of our life into the micro of full detailed attention.
While in Moab Geology Joel, our personal friend and ranger, guided us in Arches National Park Fiery Furnace. He had us at the end stop and look at the vista of beauty before us and passionately implored us to not just see the bigness but to get down there and touch feel be part of the detail. And that in and of itself will help us be less distracted or overwhelmed.

Today, do something that draws your energy back to you. Take time to calm the chaos and move from distraction to center. And in that center is love. So love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia