In the world of physical activity, it seems as though there are two kinds of people: those who do cardio, and those who do yoga. The two activities couldn’t be more different, one can involve moderate to big intensity and involve lots of endurance, while the other is slower and gentler (although still a good workout.) Both forms of exercise offer plenty of benefits, and the opposite nature of the two is why cyclists can get a lot of value from doing a little downward dog once in a while. If you’re not convinced, check out these reasons why you should add a yoga practice into your training schedule.
1. Yoga is a great form of active recovery
If you’re feeling beat up from training, it’s a good idea to take a day off from riding to allow your body to recover. Instead of doing nothing that day–which is still fine–yoga is a great way to add gentle movement into your day to help you release some tension in your body, stretch out some tight muscles and bring your body into a more relaxed state. This may actually help you recover better than you would have by doing zilch, and you’ll return to riding refreshed and ready to go.
2. It helps you get in tune with your body
Most yoga practices emphasize paying attention to and listening to your body. Practising regularly will teach you to be more in tune with your body, not only when you’re doing yoga, but also when you’re out for a spin. This may allow you to catch signs of injury, over-training and burnout sooner than you would otherwise, because you’re better able to pick up on your body’s subtle cues that something is off.
3. You’ll improve your mental game
Yoga is great for your mind, and can teach you how to focus, tune out unwanted thoughts and remain calm under stress. Anyone who’s ever dealt with race-day jitters will appreciate how valuable these skills are for cyclists, and the ability to control your mind before and during a race can help you perform well, even when the pressure is on.
4. It reduces stress
Long rides can be be very hard on your body. According to Harvard Health, incorporating a few minutes of yoga into your weekly routine can help slow your body down and reduce that stress. This will help you in a number of ways, including improving your mood, boosting your immune system and helping you sleep.
5. It improves flexibility
While a certain amount of tightness in your muscles is a good thing for cyclists, too much tightness puts you at risk for tears, strains and other injuries. Regular yoga can help to stretch some of those tight muscles back out, and loosen up areas of the body that are holding onto tension. For those of you who are worried about too much stretching, if the amount of riding you’re doing in a week is exceeding the amount of yoga, you’re unlikely to become too flexible.
6. Yoga teaches you how to breathe
Learning to control your breath while you’re cycling will help you stay relaxed in the middle of a hard ride or race. Since yoga focuses so heavily on matching your breath with your movements, it’s a great way to teach breath control, a lesson you can take with you on the bike.