A Quick Guide To The Most Effective Poses For Mountain Bikers - Monthly Yoga With Abi

Jul 26, 2017
by Abi Carver  
Handstand on the beach in Sumba Indonesia. Phone credit Fiona Peters

"Yoga has remarkable brain-scrubbing attributes." - Joe Rogan

Practicing yoga has significant mental benefits for athletes including sharpening attention, increasing resiliency and calming the central nervous system, and the poses themselves have physical benefits even when performed in isolation. The original yoga postures were developed thousands of years ago and are at the root of much of the conventional stretching taught in gyms and prescribed by physical therapists today. I’m often asked which poses are the most effective for relieving specific aches and pains, increasing flexibility in certain muscles or training particular aspects of athletic performance, so in this post, I’m going to pull together all the themes I’ve written about over the last few years and give you a quick guide you can refer to that covers all these major issues. 

You’ll find detailed instructions and modifications for all the poses on my website and feel free to drop me an email at abi@yoga15.com if you need further clarification.

1. Lower Back Pain

This is a complicated issue that can be caused by a number of factors but one that yoga has an excellent track record at alleviating. The type of back pain that yoga can help with results from muscular imbalances that pull structures out of alignment causing stress on the lower back. The common pattern we see is tight hips and hamstrings, weak core and glutes and a lack of mobility in the hips and thoracic spine. Here are two sets of poses you can practice to help balance out these issues.

If you have a back injury, please get the all clear from your physical therapist before performing these exercises. They are not meant to replace medically supervised injury rehabilitation.

Yoga 15 Lower Back Pain 1

- Hold each of these poses for a minimum of 5 breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Repeat 3-5 times a week. 
- In the morning, during the day or before a ride.

Yoga 15 Lower Back Pain 2

- Hold each of these poses for at least 3 minutes on each side. 
- Repeat 3-5 times a week. 
- In the evening. Always ensure you’re warmed up before you perform static stretches.

2. Knee Pain

Knee pain can also be caused by a number of different factors, including weak adductors and glutes, a lack of mobility in the ankles and hips, and tight calves, hamstrings, quads and IT Band. Here are 4 poses that simultaneously stretch and strengthen the muscles involved. 

Yoga 15 Knee Pain

- Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Repeat as often as required.
- In the morning, during the day or before a ride.

3. Pain In Between The Shoulder Blades

If you have pain in between your shoulder blades, your natural inclination is to stretch your upper back and although this might give you temporary release, it is also likely to make things worse in the long run. You actually need to strengthen your mid/upper back (the muscles that support your shoulder blades) and open up your chest and the fronts of your shoulders. Here are the 2 sets of poses you need. 

Yoga 15 Upper Back Pain 2

- Hold each of the poses for a minimum of 5 breaths. 
- Repeat 3-5 times a week. 
- In the morning, during the day or before a ride.

Yoga 15 Upper Back Pain 1

- Hold each of the poses for at least 3 minutes. 
- Repeat 3-5 times a week. 
- In the evening or after a ride.

4. Tight Hips

Tight hips are a problem for almost all riders and you need to stretch them from multiple different angles to hit the hip flexors, groin, and glutes. Here are the 4 poses I recommend.

Yoga 15 Tight Hips

- Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths.
- Repeat as required.
- Post-ride.

5. Tight Quads

Overworked quads, that are not stretched out after exercise, become tight over time, limiting your power and speed. Here are 4 poses that stretch the quads. Choose the right one(s) for your level.

Yoga 15 Tight Quads

- Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths.
- As often as required.
- Post-ride.

6. Tight Hamstrings

The hamstrings are a group of muscles that run down the back of your thigh. They are one of the main muscle groups that are active when you’re riding and they can get incredibly tight if they’re not stretched out after every ride.  

Yoga 15 Tight Hamstrings

- Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths.
- Repeat as required.
- Post-ride.

7. Core Strength

Good core strength is a vital aspect of athletic performance. It will give you greater control, power, speed, and endurance on the bike as well as reducing your risk of injury. Here are 4 core exercises to incorporate into your training.

Yoga 15 Core Strength

- Try to hold each pose for a minute or more. Repeat the Spider Planks 3 x 5 on each side.
- Repeat 3-5 times a week. 
- In the morning, during the day or before a ride.

8. Balance and Agility

This was one of my most popular articles, which is testament to the fact that you guys are always keen to push yourselves to take on new challenges. Here are 4 balance poses for you to master. You can find detailed instructions on my site.

Yoga 15 Balance

- Try to hold each pose for 5-10 breaths.
- Repeat 1-3 times a week.
- In the morning or before a ride to focus your mind.

9. Sidebends

I have a video for side bends in the Yoga For Mountain Bikers series but it is not a category of poses I have covered on this site. Side bends are great for stretching the side of the body, improving posture, enhancing breathing and increasing lateral spinal mobility. Here are 4 side bends for you to incorporate. They feel great after a ride. 

Yoga 15 Sidebends

- Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths.
- Repeat as required.
- Post-ride.

10. Twists

The final category of poses is twists that I've also not written about in detail on the site but are covered in the Yoga For Mountain Bikers series. It is a type of stretch that is commonly neglected but one that is great for increasing spinal mobility and stretching muscles throughout the body. Twists are great to do in the morning to wake up your spine. You should avoid them however if you're suffering from a back injury. Here are 4 twisting poses to wring out tension throughout your body. 

Yoga 15 Twists
Must Read This Week

94 Comments

  • + 52
 That first picture.... pretty sure my last OTB crash looked exactly the same.
  • + 16
 When you're as good as Danny Hart and you can do Yoga mid-race...
  • + 26
 I have been doing some of Abi's routines for the past month or so and I am definitely noticing progression with my flexibility and comfort levels. Given I'm either on a bike or sitting hunched over a computer desk it's good to kind of reverse some of the damage that does.
  • + 5
 That's good to hear. If you can get hold of a block, spending a few minutes every evening in Supported Bridge (with good alignment) should buffer some of the ill-effects of having to spend a lot of your day sitting.
  • + 3
 I second that. I have found myself waking up with less discomfort throughout the day. These activities, some of them, are even what my PT suggested I do after my hernia surgery. They helped to get my body back in an agile state. Thanks Abi!
  • + 1
 @macross87: Awesome. Agile is good!
  • + 2
 Been using Abi's routines for a year or two now, they're the best! Bought her MTB yoga videos and Core strength videos, like to switch up which one I do each time so I don't get bored. Totally worth it. Always a great exercise, always feel better for doing it, and always tell myself I'll start doing it everyday from now on...
  • + 1
 @HamsterPants: So good to hear you're mixing up your routines. It's easy to get stuck in a rut of just repeating the same moves over and over. Maybe see if you can do at least a couple of poses every day in August. It's best if you stick to the same time and place. I have faith in you!
  • + 2
 @HamsterPants: Not sure this has been said, but I reckon it takes at least a few months of diligent stretching/yoga type exercises to start feeling less pain. It's not a quick fix if you're in the age range where you can really benefit from this stuff. We took years to mash ourselves up, the cure is never going to be instantaneous. I did over 50 physio sessions for my back (I love you French health system) and stopped a month ago, although i keep doing as much of the recommended stretching/strengthening as I can. It's only in the last couple of weeks that the muscle pain is subsiding. Hard work, basically, just like anything else.
  • + 1
 @BenPea: I completely agree. With all the important things in life―there's no quick fix.
  • + 1
 @BenPea: reading your comment I realised I've never been back to the physio since I started following Abi's videos. I used to go a lot, especially for the same slipped disc.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: only too true unfortunately...
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: good to know
  • + 1
 @iamamodel: that's pretty awesome!
  • + 11
 I like the expertise and mastering from Abi but I have difficulty to put my socks on. I need to try some step by step that don't require too much elasticity.
  • - 21
flag mikealive (Jul 26, 2017 at 0:35) (Below Threshold)
 I appreciate all of these, but I've found I'm really more of a Savasana master myself. Abi are you by chance anywhere in Oregon? Something tells me I'm going to need a some instruction in order to pull off most of these!
  • - 30
flag otto99 (Jul 26, 2017 at 0:37) (Below Threshold)
 @mikealive: dude stfu quit trying so hard she's taken.
  • - 21
flag MaximumOfBass (Jul 26, 2017 at 1:10) (Below Threshold)
 @otto99: Yeah so? Soccer has a goalie, doesn't mean you can't score
  • + 11
 Hahaha... wow. "Quit trying so hard" to what? Be nice? And taken or not, it's gonna get REAL AWKWARD when I show up to her class with my girlfriend, lol. How else do you think I knew there was a pose where you just lay on your back?

And then all the white knights roll in to downvote. Get serious. Thirsty bastards.
  • + 9
 chakras aligned af
  • + 3
 This is brilliant Abi, thanks. The pictures are good for a quick reference. I do enjoy working through a video sequence but for the times when I just need to throw a couple of shapes to limber up, these 4-pose pictures are ideal. Cheers Big Grin
  • + 2
 My pleasure. Vids are really important but sometimes I feel that doing poses in isolation can also be useful as you're able to focus more on how the stretches feel in your own body without having to move on at the teacher's pace. I go into a bit more detail on my own site: www.yoga15.com/blog/yoga-for-mountain-bikers. Let me know if you have anything to add.
  • + 7
 "Dear Santa
Please get me some Abi Yoga Pants - large"
  • + 2
 I like these if for no other reason than I can "try" yoga in my own home rather than subject some poor local yoga instructor to my complete lack of experience. -- I know I'd be 'that clown in the back row'.

You're doing the world a service keeping some of us out of local yoga studios, Abi !!!
  • + 2
 Haha! Just doing my bit. If you're a total beginner, you'll find full instructions for all of the poses on my site: www.yoga15.com. And you can always drop me an email if you have any questions. Maybe one day you'll be the clown at the front of the class.
  • + 6
 ...when PB starts their story with a Joe Rogan quote
  • + 6
 Tried the crow and face planted the floor hahaha
  • + 1
 I'm starting to feel some results of planking which is motivating me to do more. I like it! Hopefully that will lead me into doing some other poses. I'm mostly trying to reduce my ummm...belly. It seems to have taken a liking towards chicken wings and Oberons lately :-/
  • + 2
 mmmmmmm...Oberon....
  • + 5
 We love you ABI! Thank you for taking care of us Smile Big Grin
  • + 1
 Haha. You need it!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app These are amazing. I have one femur longer than the other from a MX accident so I suffer with a tight lower back. This compounds with being a software developer and a road racer. Let's just say I been doing stretches every night for a long time but your videos have helped my loosen up and I can sleep a lot better. I am also faster on the bike.

Thank you so much.
  • + 1
 Abi, is there muscle pain that yoga can't beat, because its just too late and its too ingrained ? Or will it eventually subside given enough time? I'm thinking hips... I've been stretching a lot in recent times, inspired partly by your content, but feel like they are always hurting regardless.
  • + 1
 Maybe try complimenting the yoga with some foam rolling? Yoga can help release some trigger points through lengthening the muscles but it may be much faster to target them directly with some foam rolling. Personally I like using an orbital buffer. Look up orbital buffer massage on YouTube.
  • + 2
 @Tallgeese: sweet, thanks. I often just dig a thumb in and trying and extract the pain. No, I'm not an expert.
  • + 0
 I'd also like to know the answer to this. After decades of riding trials and not stretching afterwards my hamstrings in particular are, to quote my ballet-teaching wife, 'ridiculous'. She's tried working on stretching exercises with me but I'm convinced the damage is irreparable after so much abuse for so long. Abi, please tell me there's hope!
  • - 3
 @gibbon-on-an-orange: go to a f*cking doctor If you're looking for medical advice
  • + 2
 I can't speak with any authority on your particular case but I would recommend you commit to spending at least 15 minutes every day for a month to stretching out your body. The Hip Opener videos in the Yoga For Mountain Bike series would be a good place to start. Here is the link: vimeo.com/ondemand/yogaforbikers

A lot of my clients start off doing this routine several times a day, they feel so tight. They then titrate back over the next few months until they just need to stretch out before and after rides and when they're travelling. You may never touch your toes. That's not the aim. The aim is to restore range of motion and increase your suppleness so you have more energy and feel more athletic.

Also, look at your nutrition. If you're eating inflammatory or processed foods that may be part of the problem. There's definitely hope for you both!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Ta duck! Nutrition is a possible factor. Might experiment with veganism for a bit. I love you cheese, but it's just not working.
  • + 2
 @BenPea: Woah there! Veganism is pretty extreme. Could be good though. Or you could try giving up dairy for a month. Maybe add in a green juice every day.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: anything that doesn't kill you and all that! Cheers
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Are you vegan? My wife is watching all sorts of vegan documentaries/articles and is pushing to go vegan now......a little scared myself.
  • + 1
 @inverted180: Actually no. I eat a Paleo-style diet myself―lots and lots of vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy and fruit. I'm pretty strict about it. If you'd like to know more about doing a vegan diet well, check out Lucas Rockwood.
  • + 5
 This is my new homepage. Thanks.
  • + 3
 Thank you for all tips! Tried yoga cause of your PB posts, and it feels so good!
  • + 1
 Great to hear you're feeling more supple.
  • + 2
 I'm always up for yoga but it seems I always have some deep bruise on some part of my body, or a scrape/scabs on other parts from riding. I feel like a leper in yoga class.
  • + 0
 Thank you for sharing in such a structured way Abi! Smile
I have been doing the 15min post ride recovery routine after every ride for several months now and I love it! It took some time to get into some poses but in the long term it is really worth it. Less thigh hips and better night sleep helped me improve my riding skills.
Thanks again!
  • + 3
 Awesome. It's great that you got through that first level of resistance. Check out my site: www.yoga15.com if you'd like to try mixing it up with some new routines. There's lots of free videos on there.
  • + 0
 "yoga fans have grown by the millions, with few realizing that they are practicing a chanted-up version of early 20th-century gym class"-

www.cracked.com/article_19283_7-ancient-forms-mysticism-that-are-recent-inventions.html
  • + 1
 Start yoga as soon as you can !! I was very late to the party, so glad to have given it a go

My body is happier with me now

Thanks Abi, my friends couldn't get me into it, much respect tup
  • + 2
 That's awesome! I know it's a bit of a leap of faith to start with. I'm glad you don't regret taking it.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: tup 100% effective. Even the basics yield welcome returns for my broken body Smile many thanks
  • + 2
 Been doing Yoga for a year and a half now... I totally love it, and made me a better rider; for me a week is not complete without my 2 hours of Vinyasa. :-)
  • + 1
 hi abi, just a quick question. whats the time frame within which to do the post-ride poses? should it be right after? sometimes it takes me 2-3 hours to get home from a ride, can i still do them? thanks
  • + 2
 Good question. If you could stretch your hips, hamstrings, quads and glutes for 5-10 breaths before you set off home, that would be great. In this case I would recommend Low Lunge, Dead Pigeon and a standing quad and hamstring stretch. Then you could do a more relaxed session in the evening. I hope that helps.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Im sure it will. Thanks again.
  • + 2
 Big fan of the lower back stuff. Between forestry work and biking my lower back feels like it takes a hammering.
  • + 2
 If you do the 4 strengthening poses before your ride and the 4 stretches after, you should feel a lot more supple.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: cheers I'll keep that in mind.
  • + 2
 Clicked to see how a headstand from the thumbnail can help me, usually I find myself in that position against my will
  • + 2
 Dammed! With this excellent prepared summery there is no excuse not doing it... well done
  • + 1
 True dat.
  • + 1
 Puppy pose looks like something out of the exorcist, but all of these are really helpful, thanks!
  • + 1
 Hi Abi,

Any poses to help with a tight QL? It's been bugging me for years.

Thanks!
  • + 1
 Sure. Sidebends are really great for that. You'll find a 15-minute video in the series: vimeo.com/ondemand/yogaforbikers

Standing Sidebend, Revolved Head To Knee, Extended Side Angle, Low Lunge with Sidebend will all be great for you. You'll find detailed instructions on my site: www.yoga15.com.
  • + 1
 Thanks Abi. My move list was just upgraded. Gonna try the Eagle, Crow and Spider Planks now.
  • + 1
 It sounds like you're up for a challenge! You should try the Balance series. It's free for a month on my site: www.yoga15.com.
  • + 1
 I'm going to need about 25 years before my Reclining Hand-To-Toe will ever look like that. ha
  • + 2
 Silver Surfer! Marvel Comics nerd in me likes.
  • + 1
 What a great resource and reference! Really well-thought out. Thanks, Abi! @yoga15app
  • + 1
 No problem. If you think of another issue, let me know.
  • + 1
 It's really handy having all these poses on one post. Thank you!
  • + 1
 No worries. You can start building your own library of poses that work for you.
  • + 2
 Thank you so much!
  • + 4
 No problem. I hope you find it useful. Let me know if you have any questions.
  • + 2
 Awesome
  • + 1
 She and GMBN have something in common.
  • + 1
 Like the format. So helpful! Thank you.
  • + 1
 Great. Let me know if you need any others.
  • + 0
 I'm working on a pose that will have the front of my right knee touching the back of my left shoulder
  • + 1
 You rock Abi! Thanks!
  • + 2
 No problem! I hope this quick guide helps. Let me know if you think I should add anything.
  • + 0
 Or you could, just, you know, ride your bike...
  • + 1
 Excellent. Thanks Abi.
  • + 1
 My pleasure. You can find instructions for all the poses on my site: www.yoga15.com.
  • + 1
 nice, thanks for advice.
  • + 0
 I'm pretty sure this is not good for my broken collarbone and ribs.
  • - 1
 Oh wow, that should be easy, right? Sure looks easy in the photos...
  • - 2
 Click
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