This is part 2 of the Yoga for Cyclists series.
Being a keen daily cyclist and a yoga teacher, I am often wondering how many London cyclists actually stretch out their cycling muscles.
I wonder like me, if you stay in bed in the mornings for as long as possible so when you get to work dead on time, there is no chance for a stretch, and when you get home all you want to do is cook dinner or relax!
To keep the balance in the body it is important to counter stretch the cyclists position, which I fondly refer to as the prawn position – hunched forward, shoulders, abs, hips, wrists and neck short and taught. The neck and digestive areas have such important functions they do deserve a stretch out every few days. (Lance Armstrong takes yoga classes twice a week!!)
Today I want to take a moment to look at the neck area.
When we cycle we need to keep our eyes up so as we are leaning forward that means the back of the neck gets slightly crunched and shortened. These muscles and get very strong to support the head, but need to stay long to avoid long term pain or disc damage. It is clear from the cyclists workshops I hold that most people feel sore in the shoulder and the next from cycling.
Below I am demonstrating 3 poses that can lengthen the back of the neck.
Yoga Pose 1: Neck alignment
Firstly you need to master the art of lengthening the back of the neck, without tightening and gripping the front of the neck. Try now if you are sitting or standing comfortably to imagine someone is pulling your spine up from a string attached to the top of your head.
Can you do this without gripping the front muscles, so eventually the neck feels soft and long?
Yoga Pose 2: Neck stretches
Keeping this alignment tilt the head to the right and extend the left arm away.
Make sure you are gently lengthening the back of the neck, without pulling and that the head is above the pelvis – i.e., you are not sticking your head forward slightly.
Keeping your head tilted turn your chin towards your right shoulder. You should feel a stretch down the left side of the neck – not crunching on the right side. If you feel crunching go softer and pull gently up by your strings.
Pose 3: Forward bend
Standing with feet hip width apart and toes facing forward, keeping the knees softly bent, gently roll down to hanging and hold on to the elbows. You want to let the head hang down COMPLETELY so that the 10 pound weight of the head lengthens the back of the neck. We are often holding tension in this area, so really concentrate and breathe deeply to keep relaxing and letting it drop. When it is really relaxed the chin hangs near the chest. There should be no muscular activity in this area. If this pulls the back bend the knees and stay here for 5-10 breaths.
I run 2 hour yoga for cyclist workshops in London. Even if you are just an occasional cyclist, its fun, super informative and everyone leaves feeling stronger, longer, looser, relaxed and full of information about which stretches or movements they need to do for their personal posture or weak areas.
My next workshop is 11th June 2011 at Evolve Yoga Centre in South Ken. £25 early birds, £30 on the day. firstname.lastname@example.org
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.