Yoga for Cyclists

Want to improve flexibility and strength? Want to get faster? Want to recover faster? Ever feel tight in the hips and back after a riding? Then it's time work Yoga into your schedule.

We spoke with Gabor Bukovinszky from Yoga Flame. He's passionate about the benefits of yoga, especially for men, and tells us why we should all be getting involved.

Words - Gabor Bukovinszky     Images Erin Pimm and Tara Stubbs

As an experienced yoga practitioner and trainer, I can confidently say that yoga has undeniable benefits for athletes in any sport. I had the privilege to train professional cyclist Jeremy Hunt and as a result became curious about how yoga can help cyclists and other athletes, both professionals and weekend warriors.

Cyclists spend long periods of time in a set position. This tightens the hamstrings and hips and shortens the hip flexors. The body is often in a forward bending position, that over time creates a rounded spine. This contributes to a generally tight body with not much space for joint mobility and spine extension.

Here is the great news, attending general yoga classes or sport specific classes with a trained professional yoga teacher can help to bring the body back to its optimal state. This is hugely significant, as we love what we do, whether it be cycling, running or cross training. We don’t want to give up these passions so finding a way to counteract any undesirable side affects is the key to health and longevity.

When people hear about yoga… especially guys, they think “it’s not for me, I am not flexible.” The funny part about this, is that this is the reason we all need to do it.  Yoga will help you become more flexible and help you recover faster after riding.

A complete yoga session will also build strength, holding postures uses major muscles and smaller supporting muscle groups as well. This is a key benefit of the physical practice.

In addition to the muscular benefits there is the involvement of focus and concentration. The concentration required during yoga teaches you to focus while in the the saddle and control your breathing, resulting in a more efficient ride.

Overall, a down to earth, physical yoga practice will support an athlete very well. We can put aside the esoteric aspects of yoga such as eastern religion and chanting and focus on the areas that are important for an athlete. Creating tremendous physical and mental balance to support our passion and sustain it for a very long time to come.

What are the main benefits of yoga for cyclists from a performance perspective?

Yoga will stretch the hamstrings, open the front hip flexors, lengthen the spine, build core strength, improve focus and help breath control. All of these factors improve performance on the bike, shorten recovery time and prevent injuries.

What sort of yoga practice would you recommend for cyclists?

For a professional I would recommend a physically challenging practice during the off season and a more gentle practice during the racing season. For the enthusiast, the combination of these two practises will be beneficial on a weekly basis.

Is Yoga just stretching? What if I’m not very flexible?

Yoga is a lot more than just stretching – it is also strengthening, aids concentration and improves our breathing. When someone is not so flexible (like the majority of people) yoga is a must on a regular basis. The reason we do it to become more flexible

Will Yoga make me stronger?

Yoga can definitely build strength depending on the style – go for a more physical practice like vinyasa and hot yoga. They can be surprisingly challenging! Yoga is also a great way to create a very deep and strong core that is very important for a cyclist.

Do professional cyclists practice yoga?

For professional athletes yoga is a must and it is included in most training schedules. I have had the chance to work with athletes like cyclist Jeremy Hunt and other professionals in different sports and they all find it extremely beneficial.

How can I find a good yoga practice and how can I give it a try

You can find yoga studios in all major cities in Australia and overseas. Head down to a studio in your area, talk with teachers and let them know what you are looking for. Sign up to an introductory package and give it a go! At our studio Yoga Flame in Moonee Ponds we offer a two-week and a monthly introductory unlimited package. Most studios would have this or a similar option for first timers.

What do I need to bring

You will need a yoga mat (most studios have mats you can use but it is good to check first.) It is also good to have a bottle of water and a towel and you can dress as you would at the gym. The great news is that you don’t really need all that much so it is pretty easy and inexpensive to start.

About the Author - Gabor Bukovinszky

Gabor began his yoga practice after the demands of a high level of sporting background left him with a serious back injury. Practising and teaching for over a decade he has trained with some of the world’s leading yoga teachers and is a qualified “Yoga for Athletes” and “Broga” teacher. 

In 2009 he co-founded Yoga Flame where hundreds of people take care of their bodies and minds on a weekly basis through yoga classes, workshops, retreats and teacher training. A transformational life coach, he facilitates both yoga and personal development workshops, events and retreats in Australia and overseas.