Hitting the wall (in a good way) with Seattle-based yoga instructor Kelli Refer

Pedal-inspired poses.
(Photo: Althea)

This is a guest post by Seattle-based writer and yoga instructor Kelli Refer. Kelli specializes in yoga poses for people who bike, blogs about it at Yoga For Bikers, and is the author of the new zine (published by none other than Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane Media), Pedal, Stretch, Breathe.

Usually when we hit a wall it’s a bad thing. But after a long bike ride, the wall is your friend*.

Taking time to recover after a long ride is an important part of self care for cyclists. You let your muscles relax after strenuous riding to build strength and replenish your energy for the ride tomorrow. This practice is called an active recovery. You may already know Shavasana, the corpse pose — which is how you end each yoga session, by laying flat on your back and relaxing into the floor.

Here are three of my favorite restorative poses for cyclists:

Reclined Pigeon

(Drawings by Kelli Refer)

With your back on the ground and your butt a few inches away from the wall, place your left foot on the wall. Your left knee is bent. Place your right ankle over your left knee and flex your right foot—this keeps your knee happy. If you do not feel a stretch in your outer right hip, scoot closer to the wall. Press the back of your head into the mat and slide your shoulders away from your ears. Relax and let the wall do the work. Breathe deep into your hip. Each inhalation offers fresh oxygen to refresh strong hips. Switch sides. One hip may be tighter than the other — that is fine.

Legs up the Wall

Lie on the ground. If you like, place a blanket under your back for comfort. With your butt flush to the wall, place your legs up the wall. If your hamstrings are very tight, you may want to scoot away from the wall a few inches. Lie back and relax. Rest your hands on your belly or by your sides with the palms up. Relax one muscle at a time with each exhalation, until you melt into the mat. Legs up the wall pose offers a stretch to the back of the legs without any effort. Let gravity and breath do all of the work. Once fully relaxed, take at least 21 breaths in this pose.

Quad Stretch with the Wall

Set a blanket down on the right side of your yoga mat. Start on your shins, facing away from the wall. Step your left foot into a lunge and slide the right shin up the wall. Get your right knee as close to the wall as is comfortable for you, with the knee on the the blanket. Press your hands into your left thigh and breathe deep down the right side of your body into the quad and hip flexor on the right leg. Hold several breaths and slowly release. Switch sides.

A Note on Hamstrings
Our hamstrings have a lot to teach us about patience. Hamstrings are actually a set of three muscles that connect to the hip and knee joints on the back of the thighs. Cycling strengthens the hamstrings, which is great, but to balance that strength you need to stretch to maintain flexibility. Tight hamstrings can cause low back pain and are more prone to injury. Stretching your hamstrings helps you find that balance of strength and flexibility.

*If you have no walls around, old trees with grand trunks also can make great support for restorative poses. Please ask the tree if it is cool with you using it for support!

Kelli’s new zine will be officially released this Friday. You can meet her at Velo Cult Bike Shop at an event from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on August 16th.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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11 years ago

Thanks for publishing this excerpt, JM. There’s a growing amount of interest in combining yoga and bicycling and it’s cool to see the diverse and energetic approaches people take to doing that.

11 years ago

…accidentally hit “post” on that too soon. The point of that preamble is to urge y’all to come to the event on the 16th (Here’s the Facebook invite) and meet the author who is a lot of fun to talk to about all sorts of interesting topics. Curious beginners to yoga and shop talking experts about cycling, and vice versa, and vice versa that are all welcome.

Also, if you can correctly guess the topic of Kelli’s next zine I’ll give you a copy of this one free. Have at it!

11 years ago

I always seem to have a problem with tight muscles in my hips; thanks for posting some good stretches and poses to help with that!

11 years ago

I look forward to trying these. Gentle yoga after biking, while your muscles are warmed up but tired, sounds really nice. Thanks!