Cycling is big business on the Costa Blanca, and for some very good reasons. Altea enjoys 330 days of sunshine per year. Our roads, though admittedly rather narrow to allow for both peloton and motor vehicle, wind through mountainous landscapes, the glare sliced only by the purplish shadows of Mediterranean pine trees. The air is incredibly pure, delicious to breathe, and the deep blue of the sea stretches out below, enticing tired bodies as they make their descent, whizzing downhill after a day of pedalling. A healthier break one could not find. No surprise, then, that five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Induraín lived for some years in Finestrat, just below the Puig Campana, and no doubt honed his thighs on these same roads.
You can’t miss them. In the winter months, the roads around here are full of packs of brightly coloured cyclists whizzing around the mountain curves. They can be a menace, it’s true, but I would rather the roads be full of bikes than lorries!
I rode a bike for years. It was my main form of transportation until I was 34 years old, and even then I only bought a car when I moved to Spain and had a child. I consider myself a lover of the pushbike, and an advocate of its use. I regularly cycled 100+km/week, through winter and summer, up hill and down dale.
However, I will admit that years of cycling left me with unbalanced musculature that I only corrected through the assiduous practice of hatha yoga.
As with most cyclists, my leg and hip muscles were well developed, but unbalanced. You may know that muscles work in pairs (agonist/antagonist), so any time there is too much tension or strength in one area, there will be another area compensating. In cyclists, because of the forward flex, the hip flexors and gluteal group seek, but might not always find, balance. Lest we forget, the shoulder girdle is also given particularly rough trade on a bike due to the over-stretching of the rhomboids/latissimus dorsii/lower trapezius and simultaneous compression of the pectoralis major/abdominal/upper trapezius areas. Let me sum up: hunched over, head up. Got me?
Yoga for Cyclists
The judicious use of certain yoga postures alongside controlled and conscious breathing can help to address these muscular and postural imbalances.
I recommend the use of danda postures, that is, postures that are mainly symmetrical and whose aim is to straighten the spine. These are “millimetric” postures. What I mean is that we work a small range of motion but with great precision. How do we do this? Breathing, movement and mental focus.
Cycling is an asymmetrical activity – one leg up, one leg down. To restore balance, we need to work with the pelvis, legs and feet aligned. This can involved standing, sitting, or lying postures, but most beneficial is a combination of the three.
Cycling is, furthermore, an activity that is performed with the feet off the ground, and with a lot of wind passing over the body. This can create energetic imbalance in the Wind or Air element. The way to counteract this is by using postures that favour the Earth element, which help the cyclist to ground after a ride. Attention on the feet, the rooting of the heels, the use of mûdra, certain types of pranayâma…these are all yogic techniques that can be applied in a healing context by a qualified and experienced yoga teacher.
Viniyoga for Cyclists
Viniyoga is almost unique in yoga lineages because it equips the teachers to design their own practices. Unlike, say, Bikram or Astanga or Sivananda, in which the same sequences are done time and time again, Viniyoga sequences are highly personalised, and can be modified over time using the Vinyasa Krama method, or even, equally, on the fly, depending on who turns up to class. Viniyoga is an excellent system of yoga for athletic people, like cyclists on a cycling holiday.
So, if you are thinking about hitting the Costa Blanca with your bike, you could do a lot worse than popping in for a yoga class with me. Check out my schedule current as of 17 March 2018, but check back or subscribe because magic is afoot and I am on the verge of opening my own centre.
Peace, and happy day,