Dear Plan7 Fam,
As the cycling race season winds down you may be experiencing chronic issues either on or off the bike. The most common complaint I hear after races, or the reason for not being able to keep a tempo necessary to stay competitive, is low back pain. More specifically, low back pain stems from several factors but the one I want to emphasize today is chronic abdominal disengagement or weak abs. In yoga your core is referred to as uddiyana bandha which can be translated to "upward flying" and protects the lower back.
A weak core or disengaged uddiyana bandha increases demand on the back body and it will compensate by reaching from mid back instead of low pelvis. The weaker smaller muscles in the neck compress and injury soon follows suit. It adds up quickly! For example, picture a profile shot of many/most cyclists and you will find their spine makes a perfect "C" from pelvis to top of head. We should not exhibit this body posture unless severely fatigued and climbing up a hill.
Core engagement (not just pulled in but also rising up into the diaphragm) gives you lift and range of motion out of this base/bandha. Your shoulders will release and roll down away from ears. The neck is now free to curve upward creating a gentle curve in your cervical spine. Now bring your gaze down the nose or between the eyes at the road ahead!
This posture is supportive and calms the mind of it's never ending chatter as you create effortless circles with your legs. Full body engagement is inner cooperation which equals efficiency. Your upper and lower body work in tandem to relieve overworked and tired legs. You will begin to feel your entire body become able to pull yourself up the hill instead of just your legs. Upper body and lower body now balanced, strong and able to take "pulls" for each other.
When this seated variation of upward dog clicks and you can ride your bike without causing major compression in the low back your recovery will feel less intense. No more old man back, basically. Once low back is released the front and back body align. The organs are balanced and the spine supported. The ability to stay connected to your core will be a secret weapon on race day so make it a priority this year.
I am excited to be your contact point for staying connected and stable on the bike. Feel balanced in your approach to efforts and commitment to rest. This will prevent injury and contribute to feeling content with your efforts and results. Please feel welcome to reach out to me by email if you have any questions about how you are feeling on and off the bike, yoga questions or if you would like to schedule a consultation or private with me. More details on yoga and Pilates classes (with Breanne Nalder, our resident fitness expert and nutrition coach!) on the Coaches Bios and the House of Watts pages of the plan7 website.
Thanks for reading. Your feedback and comments are encouraged and welcome as always. Let us know how we can better support you on and off the bike.
Plan7 Coach and Yoga Instructor