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Iyengar Yoga – for Casual, Commuter & Competitive Cyclists

by Rebecca Haralabatos

As I look forward to teaching the upcoming 4 class Iyengar yoga series designed for cyclists, I reflect on the deepening of my practice and how it empowers me as a cyclist with greater balance, agility and ease.

With each and every asana, we initiate actions from the base or foundation, addressing the relationship that the feet, legs and pelvis have with the whole body and spine.  In Tadasana, as I practice articulating the arch of of my feet, spreading through the balls of my feet and reaching out and down through my heels, my foundation of grounded legs provide the support from which I can extend my spine.  On the bike, the cyclist’s feet inform the knee and how it tracks.  As I press through the balls of the feet to the pedal and fully extend my inner heel I create stability for my knee joint.  The stability and mobility in my knee joint then directly impacts my leg bones and their rotational freedom in my hip sockets.  With that rotational freedom,  I can lift the base of my pelvis to my navel and lengthen the side of my trunk.   My breast plate no longer shortens, drawing the shoulders in.  Rather my collarbones widen and I can lift my chest.  The spinal extension nourishes the entire central nervous system & thus transforms my ride holistically.  In other words, I become a cyclist who can breathe more fully.

The spinal flexibility and health developed in the asana practice such as with twists and back extensions complement well the repetitive shape and actions of cycling.

Photo credits:  Evan Lee 510-269-3229

SaraKay Gross, a bike commuter in the East Bay for the past 5.5 years and an Iyengar yoga practitioner at the Adeline Yoga Studio for the past 4 years expresses her similar experience:  “…when I found Iyengar yoga I noticed that I had better spinal alignment when I bicycled, that my torso was longer, not scrunched.  Knowing how to best hold my body has felt great.”

And for competitive cyclists?  Obviously, the muscular balance and joint health developed through the practice is of benefit, AND there’s additional value for cyclists looking for more speed and power.  Researchers have found that with the pelvis rotated forward, the power applied to the key pedal downstroke increases with the ability of the athlete to reduce the knee angle at the bottom of the pedal stroke to close to 30 degrees, without rolling the hips from side to side or coming close to locking the knee. This enables the greatest power to be drawn from the large quadriceps and gluteal muscles. Furthermore, the hamstring flexibility and length developed in the practice of Iyengar yoga increases the cyclist’s leg strength and subsequent power.  

Why Iyengar yoga specifically?

  • QUALITY – extensive training of Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers in application, practice, philosophy and anatomy
  • PROPS – the use of props to find the space for extension in the various asanas (for example:  Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog with ropes brings the pose into the legs allowing the spine to find optimal extension)
  • SEQUENCING – Iyengar yoga sequencing is a many year study in and of itself.  There is a rich intelligence in the ordering of asanas practiced wherein they layer and build upon one another to optimize flexibility and the flow of movement through even the most stuck parts of the body.

If you cycle, join me to transform your ride.

Wednesday Evenings 7:30 – 9pm

May 10, 17, 24 & 31

$45 for the series, use your class pass or drop in

for details & registration