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Wheel Poses

Sonya practicing her craft. Photo: Steve Zdawczynski/

Start with these three tips I’ve compiled from my own practice that cultivate the mental benefits of yoga, both on the bike and in daily life:

Focus on the words “patience” and “mindfulness.” 

Cycling almost instantly becomes more enjoyable because these positive thought patterns limit frustration and judgment.

Be present while riding.

It makes it easier to simply enjoy the sport instead of degrading yourself and creating negative thoughts. Focus on the pedal stroke, the scenery or the sensations in your body.


Deep breaths in and out the nose can be used as a tool to slow the heart rate, or to ground the body and mind enough to push through difficult sections on a course. Breathing deeply, as opposed to shallow breaths, also teaches the body to relax and be more efficient.

In addition to mental benefits, the physical side of yoga creates more space in the muscles and joints and increases flexibility. Cycling is very two-dimensional, so by doing yoga, an activity that occurs on all planes, you can mitigate injuries. Cyclists tend to have very tight hips and shoulders, and I’ve found that poses like half pigeon, prasarita, crescent lunge and supine twist not only feel good, but also soothe tight muscles and joints. Side bends or twists also open the side body providing better lower back flexibility. Additionally, yoga can be a welcome break from competition. Kapinus says, “There’s a time and a place for competitiveness. The yoga mat is not one of them; it is a place for deep radical self-acceptance.”  Going to a yoga class and knowing that not every posture will be accessible leads to less frustration in all aspects of my life, including when I am racing.

The following yoga asana cues help when I apply them to my posture on the bike to increase both power output and comfort:

Extend through the top of the head. It prevents hunching.

Have an “up-dog” quality to the chest. Pull the heart open. It extends the chest cavity to let more air in your lungs.

Keep the shoulders down and away from the ears. A fatigued cyclist will shrug her shoulders, which can result in pain as well as reduced power output due to the effort it takes to keep the shoulders in that unnatural position.

Rise up out of the lower back instead of collapsing into it. It’s more efficient to use power from the core. A proper bike fit will also aid with your ability to maintain this position.

Think about producing power with the whole body. Instead of just from the legs. Fortunately, tapping in to the power of yoga doesn’t require a major time investment. In fact, yoga can deliver benefits to an endurance athlete when done only once a week. Personally, I try to create a lake of sweat around my yoga mat twice a week.

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