My friend Carol has been cycling—by herself—across America. She calls me from the road, tells me what amazing things she’s seen, and that her back hurts. She really misses yoga!
My dad has cycled across New Zealand, while my brother has been through Canada, Japan, Russia, and Mongolia on his bike. Even my mom has jumped on the bicycle seat lately, taking day trips to nearby towns with my dad.
Long distance cycling is an excellent, sustainable way to get around that always turns out to be the scenic route. Being hunched on a bike for long periods of time, however, can take its toll on the body. In situations like these, when there’s no roadside yoga studio to stop by, it can be very helpful to have a little yoga in your pocket. Here, for my cycling heroes, is a simple sequence you can do at the side of the road, without need of a yoga mat, or even having to take your cycling shoes off.
This sequence would also be appropriate on a long walk or road trip, a quiet moment at the office, or anytime you need quick pick-me-up. As always, check with your doctor first if you have any health concerns.
1. Warrior 1
Step your right foot back about three feet behind you, back heel down around 45 degrees. Bend your front knee over your ankle, and square your hips and chest forward. With a super straight back leg, point your tailbone downwards, stretch your arms up.
This pose stretches your psoas (a deep hip flexor), your quadriceps, and calf on the back leg. Hold for 5 breaths on both sides.
2. Pyramid Pose
From the Warrior 1 shape, straighten your front leg. Lift your chest, and then fold forward towards your toes. You can keep your hands on your hips, or reach them down to touch the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstrings love to stretch after long periods of cycling. The forward fold will also soften the lower back and calm the mind, which you’d need if you are cycling in a place like Russia, where my brother rode alone on a narrow highway with huge trucks steaming by.
3. Twisted Lunge
Step your right foot back into a lunge, keeping your front knee right over your ankle. Your back knee can be up or down. Cross your right elbow over your left thigh, and place your palms together. Twist your spine to the left and slide your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat on the other side.
Twists are excellent for relieving back pain and giving your organs a detoxifying squeeze. They can also be quite heating, and may add a little pep to your step if you have a little ways left to go on your bike.
4. Standing forward fold
You can do this one with your feet hips distance apart or 3-4 feet wide. In either case, the feet are parallel. From standing, interlace your fingers behind your back, and squeeze your shoulderblades together. Fold forward towards the floor, letting your knuckles rise towards the ceiling.
This rejuvenating forward fold opens the shoulders, which can get tight from leaning forward on the bike. The pose also calms exhausted adrenal glands, which can happen if, like Carol, you have to struggle up hills through rain and wind in the Pacific Northwest.
After the sequence is complete, take a moment to exhale any remaining stress out the mouth, hop back on your bike, and enjoy the ride.