Yoga and Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe

A wink and a smile.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Gin and tonic.  Some things just go well together.

Such is the case with yoga and bicycling.  Trisha and I discussed this lovely combination in 2009, and I mentioned recently that I’ve begun practicing yoga every weekday morning.

So when I read about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, a new ‘zine written by Kelli Refer of the blog Yoga for Bikers and published by Elly Blue of Taking the Lane, I decided to order a copy.

While the 44 page booklet is not a comprehensive guide, it outlines interesting links between bicycling and yoga, beginning with the importance of breathing fresh air and ending with the ability “to invite meaningful change into our communities.”  In between is practical information with action steps for integrating the practice of yoga with bicycling.  While some of the information is aimed at those taking long, sporty rides, much is applicable for those – like me – who simply ride for transportation.

The first half of the booklet provides several different yoga poses that either integrate a bicycle into the pose or are especially helpful for bodies subject to the repetitive motion of cycling.  Each pose is presented with a sketch and a description.  The poses can be performed either directly on the bike while waiting at a stop light or with more space pre or post-ride.

My friends Chika and Sara were cool enough to experiment with and demonstrate the poses when we met up for a free yoga class on Lake Michigan.  Below are their thoughts on a few of the poses.

They started with Dancer’s Pose: Natarajasana:  a little hard to balance while standing over a bike, but otherwise easy to do while waiting at a stoplight.  Good for the thigh and ankle, which both get a lot of strain from bicycling.

Heart Opener:  feels good! especially after leaning over handlebars.

Turn Around Twist: not much of a twist feeling…

…but they achieved more leverage by putting the front hand in the middle of the handlebars, allowing for a fuller twist.

Down Dog with your Bike:  feels good, would work as a pre or post-ride stretch, but obviously not at a stoplight.

Down Dog Twist: even better!

The booklet offers several different flow variations for these and other poses.  After completing this series of poses, Chika and Sara said they felt warmed up and ready to go and could see themselves enjoying these poses on their own.  Two thumbs up from my testers.  :-)

The second part of the booklet contains a basic guide to chakras “for you and your bike.”  Some of this I’m not really into, such as “true your wheels and repack your hubs to feel more freewheeling in life.”  But some is inspiring, such as bicycling as a moving meditation.

Consider your bike ride to be a moving mediation.  Notice all the sensations: Air on skin, steady breath, sweat rolling down your brow.  Move with keen awareness of your body and surroundings.

I need a recording of those words read in a calm, yoga-teacher voice to play whenever I get frustrated by heat, cold, potholes, or drivers.

Overall, Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is a unique and thoughtful read for those interested in both bicycling and yoga.  Definitely worth $5, especially considering the money supports cool, entrepreneurial women.  You can buy the ‘zine HERE and read more about the topic at Yoga for Bikers.

Now that I find myself doing heart openers at stoplights, I’m curious: do any of you incorporate yoga into your bicycling routine?

  • http://iwanttoridemy.blogspot.com.au/ Fat-bottomed Girl

    How interesting, I had never thought of so literally combining yoga with bicycling. Lately, my only application of yoga in relation to bicycling (or at all!) has been calf stretches when I remember to do them. This has inspired me to try the ‘heart opener’ as a rest for my shoulders, at least.

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  • my hyggelig

    thanks for the great post. i find bicycling very meditative and in the winter have switched to yoga for many years for the same benefits. i totally get the parallel.
    http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2009/08/meditative-solitude.html

    http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2009/12/winter-bicycling-and-me.html

  • my hyggelig

    thanks for the great post. i find bicycling very meditative and in the winter have switched to yoga for many years for the same benefits. i totally get the parallel.
    http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2009/08/meditative-solitude.html

    http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2009/12/winter-bicycling-and-me.html

  • http://twitter.com/SimplyBike Simply Bike

    Awesome! Love this! And just in time for National Yoga Month this Sep!

  • Janice in GA

    Great post, great pictures!

  • Janice in GA

    Great post, great pictures!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.brammeier Sara Brammeier

    I’ve been incorporating the poses you showed us on my longer rides and I can attest that it truly makes a difference, especially in how my body feels in the following days. Thanks again, Dottie!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.brammeier Sara Brammeier

    I’ve been incorporating the poses you showed us on my longer rides and I can attest that it truly makes a difference, especially in how my body feels in the following days. Thanks again, Dottie!

  • Alyson Herreid

    I always have the natural inclination to stretch during or after a ride. I think this zine is a great way to add structure to that craving and to not forget any muscle groups. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    That’s very cool! I take yoga regularly at a climbing gym where it’s Yoga for Climbers, but I don’t do many bicycle-specific poses, much less ones that include a bicycle. I have a DVD of yoga for cyclists, but it gets a bit repetitive doing it over and over again. A booklet would make it easier to combine poses in different positions.

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  • http://www.bicitoro.com/ Jessie K

    Awesome review! I got my copy in the mail a few weeks, and although I’ve glanced through it I haven’t had enough time to really absorb it yet. The Heart Opener looks fantastic.

    I’m a pretty recent yoga dabbler—I started after a bad bike crash as a way to get my body to start working correctly again, and I’ve started to incorporate some poses and stretches throughout my day. I’m so inspired that you’ve been doing it every morning. I know regular practice would be so good for me, but I haven’t gotten entirely into the routine yet.

    I think yoga pairs fantastically with cycling, since you can get so tense when hunched over the handlebars after a long ride. I can’t wait to dive into Kelli’s book!

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  • ragthought

    I combine them. I especially like to combine yogic postures/self massage/stretches while I am riding. A form of downward dog while I coast down the hill, or transitioning between cat and cow positions. Using my handlebars to massage tight spots in my hand, or using them to stretch my wrists. Getting bold, taking one leg up behind me in a kind of modified warrior 3 while coasting always brings a smile and even grander sense of flight. I firmly believe the two explorations go hand in hand. More than practicing on a mat, the hyper aware state of moving, and balancing allows for a combination unlike much else I have done… and so accessible, even within the time of a daily commute. I just ordered the zine to see how it lays such ideas out, and to inspire me to sharing what I naturally find myself doing on a bicycle. Thanks for sharing and publishing a space for enriching such resonances.