Yoga and Cycling: Finding Your Flow
I’ve been teaching mountain bike skills and racing Downhill Mountain bikes professionally for over 15 years. During that time I trained hard both on the bike and in the weight room, but until trying Yoga, I hadn’t really discovered the perfect cross training for two of the greatest challenges facing every mountain biker: Symmetrical conditioning and recovery from injury.
While riding a bike can make you really strong in your legs, and even in your upper body, it is core strength that is truly the key to maintaining proper position. Many cyclists, including me, have suffered from back problems. Throughout my career, it seemed that the harder I trained, the more my back hurt, no matter how much I lifted weights or how many sit-ups I did. There were times when my back was so bad, it took me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and I was often useless for much of the day. This had me thinking that my friends were right in saying I was an idiot to put my body through so much abuse for so many years. All that changed with Yoga.
Since starting Yoga, my body has become considerably more mobile and functionally strong – so much so that I would say that I am now stronger and more flexible than ever in my life – the result of only 3 years of practice. Yoga has also increased my ability to breathe properly in the many demanding positions riders find themselves in while in an anaerobic state. Also enhanced is addictive feeling of flowing down a trail properly with mind, body and spirit aligned.
Most cyclists and athletes are dominant on one side. Right handed riders typically turn better to the left, since the right hand and foot control the bike during left turns. Also, pretty much every rider has a favorite foot that they put forward when coasting or descending terrain, which makes the sport asymmetrical in much the same way as snowboarding. So if you spend enough time on your bike with your pelvis tilted in one direction for much of the ride, you eventually develop back problems. Yoga, on the other hand, is a truly symmetrical practice, bringing alignment, strength, and dexterity evenly to both sides of the body – all the while developing the body’s ability to sense its location, position, and movement in space.
While it is truly breath and peace of mind that bring me to my mat consistently, the physical results of my practice have been undeniable. Almost all the nagging injuries I’ve dealt with for the last decade have disappeared. I now tell my students that practicing yoga will help them find true strength by creating symmetry, not only of the body, but of mind and spirit.
Simon Lawton has raced Downhill mountain bikes professionally for over 15 years, and is the creator of the world’s number one selling mountain biking instructional film - “Fluidride: Like a Pro.” Simon, who is the founder of Fluidride, has also helped to establish two parks in the Seattle area – Colonnade Park and Duthie Hill Park, which have become havens for local riders. Additionally, Simon has worked to help create the world’s first prosthetic leg which allows above the knee amputees to stand and pedal a bicycle, and to get off the seat while descending. The leg is currently being used by many returning heroes from the Middle East and is being used as a rehabilitation tool at Walter Reed Hospital. Simon teaches most of the year in the Seattle area, and can be found teaching camps in Whistler during summer and occasionally in Central America and other warm locations during the winter. Simon has also earned Silver and Bronze Medals at the UCI Masters World Championships in addition to over 50 pro podium finishes at regional races. Want to learn to flow on your bike like never before, or get into the sport? Check out more info at Fluidride.