Yoga for the Tour de France

Photo: Eric Bachellier

Photo: Eric Bachellier

In a very early memory of the Tour de France, I (Martine) am standing on the side of a road in the Hautes-Pyrénées, somewhere between Arrens (my family’s ancestral home) and Marsous, peering between grownup legs, tiny hands clapping as a colorful swarm races past.

The older I got, the higher my family would climb, hiking the twisty road that winds from Arrens’ little square to the top of the Col du Soulor. There we’d await the cyclists who slowly and inevitably would round the bend from the Col d’Aubisque, one of the race’s most grueling mountain stages. The coureurs would hammer past us, less a vibrant flock now than a rhythmic tide of grunts and rivulets of sweat, and we’d strain almost as hard to catch a glimpse of the maillot jaune. Beyond the cyclists, the Pyrénées’ massive green peaks would be, as always, polka-dotted with cows and sheep who’d look on impassively. Just another day in the mountains…

But it’s never just another day in the mountains, never the same race! Even with the annual course changes, the Tour remains one of the most astonishing sporting events in the world. For three weeks, cyclists compete against the clock, against each other, against themselves, in a trial of athleticism and endurance. For all the glory of the leaders, it is a team sport: domestiques support their team’s stars and sprinters, and rouleurs slow down for competitors who have crashed.

When the race launches tomorrow, I will be glued to all the footage I can get my still-tiny hands on, listening intently to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen’s commentary, laughing at the Bike Snob’s assessments, and marveling at the beauty of the French landscape. And marveling, too, at how many hours those men spend in their saddles in that hunched over position!

If you’ve ever spent any time at all on a bicycle, then you know it puts unique stresses on your body: your neck and shoulders get achy from bending forward, your quads turn to cement and your psoas lock up. Since most of us don’t have personal masseuses, below are some recommendations for yoga poses that will bring relief to tightness, and create a greater sense of ease.

1. 5 Poses for Common Cycling Ailments
I’m in complete agreement with Amy Ippoliti that Virasana, Hero’s Pose, is your friend. To set the thigh bones into their sockets and create more grounding in the lowerbody, grab your ankles with your hands and pull up while in the pose. You should feel a nice release in the thighs and hips.

2. Best Cycling Stretch
Kristin McGee suggests a low lunge twist variation, an asana I’ve always called “Swiss Army Knife” pose because it’s so many things in one: a thigh stretch, a shoulder opener, a hip opener and a twist. Who doesn’t need all of those things? To protect the knee in this pose, try not to rest on the kneecap proper, but come forward to balance more on the part of your thigh above the knee.

3. 3 Anti-Injury Poses for Cyclists
My favorite of Jacob Young’s instructions is right at the beginning, when he instructs you to lie on your back and reestablish the natural curves in your neck and low back. This wisdom is especially important when doing setubhanda, Bridge Pose.