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  1. #1
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Yogic cycling question, perhaps a project

    I've been doing Iyengar with an excellent group teacher here in Ann Arbor, operated by our local adult education branch. More and more I'm impressed about how small details make a big difference in the effectiveness of each asana. It's improved my strength and fluidity on the bike so that my first few hill rides this season have been pieces of cake!

    I wonder if any Iyengar teacher or several-year veteran here has thought about "an Iyengar way of cycling." Our teacher is certified but not a cyclist afaik, but every so often he ruminates about Iyengar ways of doing mundane things, such as getting out of bed. This is what's happening in class while we struggle to hold a Warrior for another 15 seconds. I also think that I'd like to start this by seeing what has been done by perhaps a few like-minded people - typical engineer, I guess.

    Faced with a very difficult singing schedule last Christmas, I thought of some Iyengar things to do while on stage.

    Training-wise I'm in base right now and for a few weeks to come. I think the time is right to adopt some new habits on the bike if I can choose some suitable ones.

    Any thoughts? I think a free-form discussion is the way to start.

  2. #2
    Just ride. roadbuzz's Avatar
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    A couple of thoughts...

    Position: Anyone involved in an athletic endeavor is more aware of their body than the random couch potato. In yoga, and Iyengar in particular I would think, one hones this awareness even more, for example becoming aware of minor adjustments that make big differences in how a pose/asana/position feels and how your body responds.

    Breathing: Is it controlled and tied to the effort, or a gasping and disconnected from what you're doing? Not forced, just mindful and aware. Matched to what you're doing. A teacher in a yoga class described it with words to the effect of 'if you're gasping and struggling with your breath, it's an indication that your consciousness has become disconnected from your body.' Even under extreme exertion, you may be gasping for breath but if you're aware of what you're doing, you can make it more effective.

    Mindfulness: This kind of encompasses the other two. But also your environment, etc. Basically, I think it comes down to this. You can "check out" and let your body do one thing and your mind do another, or you can "go into" what you're doing.

    Now, as far as the yoga teacher ... they'd tell you to do an all out sprint, and then go off and assist some one with adjustments, etc., for a minute and a half while you're dieing.

  3. #3
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    You are absolutely correct. It is said that the difference between a champion and the rest of us is that the champion pays attention. In my profession, concentration is everything. If I think for an instant how well I'm doing, I've just seriously screwed something up. It's the same on the bike, but no penalty for screwing up unless one competes.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Well, I can't agree about my yoga teacher, he's not gonna tell me to sprint. He's not a yoga exercise or aerobics guy, he's a real Iyengar yogi type. Form is where we're at. But I've asked him about this and he doesn't cycle or do much endurance other than a little running.

    After this topic languishing as long as it has, I'm really grateful for some responses!

    I've been thinking in terms of back, neck and arm positions. I had a fitting perhaps a year ago done by a former UCI coach and current shop owner and yoga teacher (I don't know what style). He had suggested I was collapsing into my shoulders and not always bending from my hips. He suggested I should take some yoga and open up my chest and shoulders, which I have, and it has helped. That posture becomes tiring and hard to maintain, so I'm not sure it's on-target.

    Roadbuzz, I totally agree regarding remaining within myself, breathing, and mindfullness, but it involves some tough physical demands if I understand it right. My breathing tends to remain steady unless I go above LT, like on a steep or unexpected climb. If I gear down and reduce my power output, it comes back down. I don't have the extra capacity to keep my breathing steady under very high stress - need more riding, though my yoga teacher will say more Warrior 3, 90 degree knees!

    What do you guys think about cycling with feet aligned with the axis of the bike, instead of slightly toes-out? Toes out is easier on my knees while pedaling, but toes-in feels better in tadasana. Maybe that when I'm in tadasana I have my legs rotated from the hip, and of course one can't do that while pedaling.

  5. #5
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    Some things that I am trying are placing as much weight on the little finger edge of my hands as possible. This tends to help keep the nerves in the wrist from complaining. This hand placement would not be suggested by yoga. Yoga hand placement is to equalize the force on all four corners of the hands.

    Another thing that I do is the cat and cow on the bike as I ride along especially when my back begins to tire.

    I think that the arm alignment for crocodile and riding in the drops is fairly close. Keeping the elbows close to the side and trying to keep the shoulders open should help with breathing as well as supporting the upper body without causing undue stress to the shoulders.

    My toes want to flare out but I am practicing riding with my feet parallel. Keeping the feet parallel does seem to rotate my upper hips out a little.

    Like in yoga the breathing on the bike seems to be very important. I like to try to use deep and slow breathing when possible. I have read that deep slow breaths will slow the heart beat.

    I don't know if any of the things that I am trying are worth doing but it makes the ride more interesting for me and keeps my mind occupied analyzing how each of the different things that I am trying are affecting my body.

    I am looking forward to others remarks about how they apply yoga to riding.

    One other thing. I have always been taught that yoga is not a competition. We are always advised not to go to the point of pain in any pose and if we can't breath steady we are pushing to hard during the yoga practice. So if your instructor is trying to push you my advise is don't let it happen. Take it at your own pace and let your body improve over time.
    Last edited by jim p; 04-05-12 at 10:53 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Jim P and all, thank you! Let's keep up this thread over time.

    My teacher does not lead us to the point of pain, far from it. He does go off and help someone with arm or finger details, leaving the rest of us holding say, Warrior 2 for an extra minute or so. I can't complain, these poses have helped my leg strength tremendously, though not so much my muscular endurance. We're always encouraged to swing out of a position if it becomes fatiguing or excessive in any way, exemplifying ahimsa.

    I do cat/cow, and open my chest rotating the shoulder blades down. I guess it is possible to rotate the hips as you suggest, "separating the ischial tuberosities," as the teacher says (I also take voice lessons, so I'm getting very used to these seemingly irrational physiological instructions!). I'll have to try it. One suggestion by the yogic fitter was to enter a riding position starting seated in something like a tadasana, then folding forward from the hip to reach the handlebars. Then I like to slide backwards to re-center my sitbones on the saddle support points.

    I've found trying to align my feet with the axis of the bike, with a line from the center of the heel to the middle toe, feels more open, though I don't think I keep the position when climbing. I am climbing a lot better early season since starting yoga. I don't know if it's because my quads/glutes are stronger, my alignment is better, core is stronger, I'm more relaxed, hamstrings are loose and I'm not impeding force production on the downstroke, I can pull from the handlebar more effectively while climbing, or there has been mitochondrial improvement. Or a little of all of the above.

    I'll have to think about the breathing suggestions, too. We don't do much with pranayama, but I have found some good descriptive writing on it. In singing we breathe very low expanding the body both in front and in back. With my upper body rotated down rather than bent excessively, it should be possible to do this while pedaling.

    If all this focus on the body is not mindfulness, I don't know what is!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim p View Post
    Some things that I am trying are placing as much weight on the little finger edge of my hands as possible. This tends to help keep the nerves in the wrist from complaining. This hand placement would not be suggested by yoga. Yoga hand placement is to equalize the force on all four corners of the hands.

    Another thing that I do is the cat and cow on the bike as I ride along especially when my back begins to tire.

    I think that the arm alignment for crocodile and riding in the drops is fairly close. Keeping the elbows close to the side and trying to keep the shoulders open should help with breathing as well as supporting the upper body without causing undue stress to the shoulders.

    My toes want to flare out but I am practicing riding with my feet parallel. Keeping the feet parallel does seem to rotate my upper hips out a little.

    Like in yoga the breathing on the bike seems to be very important. I like to try to use deep and slow breathing when possible. I have read that deep slow breaths will slow the heart beat.

    I don't know if any of the things that I am trying are worth doing but it makes the ride more interesting for me and keeps my mind occupied analyzing how each of the different things that I am trying are affecting my body.

    I am looking forward to others remarks about how they apply yoga to riding.

    One other thing. I have always been taught that yoga is not a competition. We are always advised not to go to the point of pain in any pose and if we can't breath steady we are pushing to hard during the yoga practice. So if your instructor is trying to push you my advise is don't let it happen. Take it at your own pace and let your body improve over time.
    Jim, do you have a link to a picture of the Crododile hand position you are thinking of using? I think its makarasana, but I've found a few different representations of it. Not sure what you mean, exactly.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Yogic cycling question, perhaps a project

    Bumping, will soon have some new info to share.

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