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Yoga for Cyclists: 4 poses to stretch and strengthen your ankles

During the years I trained for triathlons, I spent many hours on my bike. I wish I knew then what I know now. Last year I explored cycling and yoga as part of a continuing education program and have put together a series of workshops for cyclists. The first workshop addresses the pain and strain that can develop in a cyclist’s ankles and feet.

Repetitive pedaling creates stress and muscle shortening around the ankle complex. Tightness in the calf muscles can contribute to poor foot alignment, plantar fasciitis (pain on the bottom of the heel) and increased stress on the Achilles tendon. In addition, pulling up on the pedals with bike shoes can strain the anterior shin area. Regular strengthening and stretching of the ankles and feet can help correct these problems. These four yoga poses are great for the ankles:

downloadTrikonasana (Triangle) By bringing your focus to your feet and ankles, you can enjoy some lovely lengthening in your calves and ankles. Root down through the ball of the forward foot and the outer edge of the back foot. Draw your inner ankles up and your thighs toward each other. Keep your lower body engaged as you lengthen your spine.

straddle-forward-bend_-_step_2.max.v1Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Straddle Fold) Stretch the outside of your ankles and your calves while strengthening your inner ankles. Stack your hips over your heels and press the outsides of your feet into the floor as you lift your arches. Tip your tailbone up. Deepen further by contracting the quadriceps (muscles in the front of the thighs), which pulls your kneecaps up toward your hips.

Upward Facing DogUrdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog) Point your toes back and press the tops of your feet into the floor. As your hips move forward into the backbend, your shins and the front of your ankles lengthen.

airplaneAirplane to Hip Flexion Balance Flow Any time you balance on one foot, you are strengthening the entire ankle complex. Moving between two balance poses adds another layer of challenge. Begin in the Airplane variation of Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) with the arms extended back like wings. Lifting the upper body, draw the knee of the extended leg forward and up towards your chest, then transition back to Airplane. Move slowly back and forth, matching your breath.

A regular yoga practice is wonderful cross-training for any of the endurance sports. Make a daily date with your mat.

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Free your inner chaos and flow through Dancing Star

“One must still have chaos in oneself to
be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Dancing star in my art journal.

Dancing star in my art journal.

Do you pay attention to the folks who pay attention to the stars? If you do, you know that we’re in the thick of it right now. There’s a planetary alignment called a Grand Cross going on and it’s stirring up all kinds of stuff. (There’s a great post here about what to expect this week.)

I created this vinyasa yoga flow sequence, which I call Dancing Star, in 2011, but it seems appropriate to share this week.

The circular pattern of the flow fills the whole mat, and the ever-changing focal points give you a nice sense of the cosmic chaos. The movements flow through five-pointed star and dance in and out of triangle pose on the way around the mat.

Roll out your mat, free your inner chaos and be a dancing star.

stand in tadasana
reach overhead and fill your lungs with a big inhale
as you exhale, fold into uttanasana
lift halfway up, hands to shins, and extend your spine
jump (or step) back and lower yourself to chaturanga dandasana
lift to urdhva mukha shavanasana
reach back into adha mukha svanasana
lift your right leg behind you into a down dog standing split
step your right foot forward between your hands into
runners stretch
spin your left heel down, reach your left arm forward
then up, lifting you into
virabhadrasana II
straighten your right leg and bend to the right
into trikonasana
lift your torso upright
turn your right toes toward the side of your mat and feel
five-pointed star
drop your arms down
sweep your hands together in front of your heart, then
press your hands overhead
open your arms back to shoulder height
turn your left toes toward the back of your mat
and bend left into trikonasana
lift out of triangle, bend your left knee and take
virabhadrasana II
windmill your arms to the floor framing your left foot
in high lunge
step back to plank and take the vinyasa to down dog
lift your right leg behind you
step your right foot forward between your hands
and flow from lunge to virabhadrasana II to
trikonasana to five-pointed star
(you should be facing the other side of your mat this time)
bring your hands together at your heart then press them overhead
turn your left toes to the front of the mat
and flow to triangle then warrior II and back to lunge
step back to plank and vinyasa back to down dog
now you’ve circled all the way around your mat
you’re facing front again
repeat the flow, beginning with your left leg this time
you’ll circle around in the other direction
when you flow back to down dog facing the front of your mat
hop (or step) forward
lift halfway up
fold deep and let go
come up to standing, reaching your arms overhead
return to tadasana
smile
you’ll make it through
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It’s not easy being green

Kermit was fourth Chakra green before being green was hip.

In the last post, we left Tarzan beating his chest and screaming from his powerful solar plexus. Now we wander upward to the heart center and find Anahata, the bright green fourth Chakra. Anahata translates to “unstruck,” as sound made without two things striking, but is taken to mean “unhurt” or “clean.”

Located in the center of the chest, in the cardiac plexus, it’s not surprising that Anahata is all about love. Being in the middle of the seven Chakras, with an equal number above and below, Anahata is the balancer and a healthy fourth Chakra creates balanced love.

Every individual has the basic right to love and be loved. Being a lover in a one-on-one relationship is part of that right, but there’s more. Loving oneself and, therefore, deeming oneself worthy of others’ love, is essential to Anahata’s energy, as is a sense of kinship and belonging as part of a community. When you recognize your kinship to and interconnectedness with all life, you can be certain your heart center is glowing green.

The fourth Chakra inspires healthy relationships, where both parties give and receive, creating intimacy and devotion. When the scales tip too far to one side, relationships become a place of fear rather than love.

When Anahata’s green light is smothered, we stop reaching out. Those with deficient fourth Chakras tend to be antisocial and intolerant, lacking the empathy needed to fit into the web of relationships. When the fourth Chakra’s energy becomes excessive and consuming, we find codependency, clinging, and the green-eyed monster of jealousy.

Our friend Kermit sings of his journey to fourth Chakra balance. At first regretting being green, and blending in with ordinary things, he laments not being red or yellow, the colors of those lower Chakras that want to stand out and be seen. Then Kermit recognizes his kinship to the leaves, mountains and trees and decides that being green is beautiful. He points out that green is the color of spring, the lovers’ season. In the end, Kermit is green and that’s what he wants to be. He loves himself as he loves the green life around him.

Kermit is right when he says green can be “tall like a tree.” Unfortunately for tall trees, they have a long way to fall. The risk of an open fourth Chakra, an open heart, is suffering great loss. It’s not surprising that practices to balance Anahata include some for releasing grief.

On the yoga mat, we can find Anahata’s green glow in heart-opening poses like Trikonasana (triangle), Virabhadrasana II (warrior II) and Dhanurasana (bow). Even rolling our shoulders back and down makes room for fourth Chakra energy.

When we step off our mats we can discover our green glow by playing with children and pets, those wonderful beings who love us just as we are and accept our love without fear. Look for creative projects that bring joy to ourselves and others and enjoy a good laugh every now and then. Rejoice in who you are and share your love with all who accept it and you’ll be basking in green light.

And listen to Kermit, because how can you not love a singing frog?

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