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Develop patience, breath awareness, humbleness, and focus with these three yoga balance postures demonstrated by Ryan Leech.
Just like cycling, the more you integrate yoga into your lifestyle, the more profound and transformational the benefits.
My ability to enjoy cycling has skyrocketed thanks to my yoga practice. I know how to breathe now, and conscious breathing is an anchor that allows me to be more aware of my cycling experience, as you can’t appreciate the fresh air, the scenery, or the meditative rhythm of your cadence if your mind is busy in another world.
Yoga also allowed me to develop a relationship with my body, understand it, feel it, know it, and to be comfortable in it. I credit this for the sustainability of my pro cycling career.
Yoga teaches you to work with what you have because every “body” is different, with a different history of injuries and of muscle lengths and bone structure, so it becomes vain to directly compare how one yogi looks compared to another yogini. Facing and working with your own unique body makeup is both humbling and enriching.
Standing Balance Postures
I am a balance fanatic. Give me a train track, handrail, or chain, and I’ll try to figure out how to ride my bike along it. I need patience, breath awareness, humbleness, and focus for this (qualities that can be applied to far more than fancy bike tricks), and these three yoga balance postures develop that beautifully.
There are three foot placement options for tree: First, place your heel on your inner calf and your toes on the ground pointing to the side; second, your sole on the inner calf below the knee; and third, your sole on the inner thigh above the knee. Use your hand to help place your foot if going for the third option, and be sure to use your leg to press against your sole as much as your sole presses against your leg.
Aim the knee of your bent leg outward without twisting on your standing leg. Your hips remain facing directly forward to create the tension necessary to stretch your groin and open your hips. Your hands can either be in prayer position at chest level, above your head, or they can act like branches, which makes it easier to balance. Your gaze remains focused on one fixed point and your breath is steady and deep in and out of your nose.
+ Benefits: Enliven your arches that sleep in your cycling shoes and take pride in your posture that tends to hunch on the bike.
You may eventually look like a capital letter T with an extra-long top, but that requires plenty of hamstring flexibility and strength through the shoulders, core, and glutes, all things that are developed while practicing this posture. Move your left leg up off the ground and backwards while leaning forward and reaching with your hands. You’ll be pivoting forward in your right hip joint rather than bending in the low back, and be sure to keep your butt cheeks level. You’ll want to aim for one long line from your hands to your foot. For a bit of quad cross training, add a few one leg squats while maintaining the posture!
+ Benefits: A good warrior is relaxed and poised, something this pose requires, which translates nicely for more intense commutes!
This pose packs some serious cycling body punch, opening your hunched shoulders and chest and stretching your quads and hip flexors, all the while building stability and poise in your balancing leg and foot.
Begin by grasping the front of your right ankle with your right hand for a classic standing quad stretch. Pull your foot toward your butt while pressing your right hip forward to receive an added stretch in your hip flexor. After a few enjoyable moments begin transitioning into Dancers Pose by kicking your right foot against your right hand while leaning forward to reach with your left hand. Watch that the right knee and leg don’t jut out to the side, keep them moving fore and aft. Create an evenly tensioned front body arch and enjoy this balance challenge.
+ Benefits: Turn your cycling posture inside out with this all-in-one pose.
Ryan Leech is a pro mountain biker on the Norco Factory Team. He performs trials shows at special events and schools. Intimate with the benefits of yoga for a thriving pro career, he became certified to teach and produced a popular Yoga for Cyclists video and offers yoga and mountain bike workshops around the country. As a Professional Integral Coach, he works privately with people, such as pro athletes during transition to help them discover what’s next more quickly and with less suffering. ryanleech.com | @RLeech