It is not a secret that yoga is a good compliment to the sport, Triathlon. Having to do three sports, swimming, cycling and running for a long period of time is taxing to the body. As they say, yoga is a body, mind and spirit practice. Maximize the potential of your body with yoga poses that will benefit the body for swimming, biking and running.
Among the three sports, swimming uses a lot of upper body movements and core strength. The continuous use of the shoulders to glide and pull you forward results to tightness from the repeated strokes. Core strength comes in to play as well to keep the body stable as you swim and move the entire body. Here are three yoga poses to maximize the range of motion of the shoulders and to stretch and strengthen the core.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Savasana)
Upward facing dog strengthens the muscles of the shoulders, arms and the spine. Stretches and lengthens the chest, shoulder and abdomen that will build alignment and length through the whole body.
Lie on the mat with your abdomen on the ground with both legs extended to the back. Hands shoulder width apart and start with your wrist directly under your elbows. As you inhale, ground down firmly through the hands as you straighten both arms, spreading the collarbones lifting the hips and the legs a few inches of the mat. Reaching the legs, feet and toes towards the back.
Half Bow Pose (Half Dhanurasana)
Half Dhanurasana is a core and back strengthener. It focuses to stretch the hip flexors, abdominal muscles and the pectorals. It improves the flexibility of the thoracic spine that builds length and alignment along the body
Lie flat on the ground extending both legs to the back and arms all the way forward. Bend one leg (right), to start, and slowly with control extend the arm (right) all the way to the back and grab a hold of the ankle (right). With one motion, press your leg back against your hand as you reach the opposite hand (left) all the way forward. Lift the opposite leg (left), reaching it straight to the back and try keeping both knees close to each other.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
The Bridge Pose opens the chest and stretches the pectorals, deltoids, intercostals and the hip flexors. It strengthens the quadriceps and the rhomboids and releases the tension in the upper and lower back.
Lie flat on the ground with your backs on the ground. Bend both knees, with feet hip width apart and parallel to each other. As you press the heels down, lift your hip and buttocks up and off the floor. Open the chest and lift the breastbone toward the chin. Interlace the fingers, press the inner wrist down and shimmy the shoulders in underneath your upper back.
Among the three sports, cycling is the discipline that the triathlete spends the time most. Spending hours and hours a week on the saddle will definitely affect the body. It results to tightness in different parts of the body: lower back, sacrum and hips. Below are great poses to do to minimize the tightness and help you perform better on the bike.
Pigeon pose Variation (using the bike as a prop)
This pose is a variation of the king of hip openers: pigeon pose. This asana strengthens the legs and the ankles. It works the glutes, mainly the pirformis muscle which tightens up due to cycling for long periods of time.
Set your bike in front of you. Ground down with one foot (right) on the ground. Bring opposite ankle (left) over the opposite knee (right). Flex your (left)ankle to protect the knee. Slowly lower yourself by sitting down and bending the standing leg (right). Use the bike to support you and avoid rounding the back and keep your spine long
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Ground down with both heels with hip distance apart with feet slightly turned out. Squat as low as you can bring the buttocks all the way down by bending both knees. Root down on both heels and lift the inner arches. Press the knees against the outer upper arms set up hands in prayer position as you lengthen the torso. If your heels don’t come all the way down to the floor, you can roll up your mat and place it underneath your heels.
One-Legged Lizard Pose (with Twist and Quad stretch)
This Lizard Pose variation is a hip opener, chest opener at the same time a twist. It deeply stretches the hip flexors (psoas) and the quadriceps. At the same time a good relief and release on the spinal compression due to the twist. Pretty much a good combo pose for the athlete.
Step one leg forward and lower the back knee on the ground, protect the knee by using or placing a towel or padding underneath it. Check your stance, make sure that the front knee is over the front ankle. Ground both hands to the floor with the front foot in between. Bend the back knee twist your torso to grab the foot with the opposite hand and opening with the chest wide.
Between the three disciplines, running is the sport that has complete contact with the ground. As you run and continously pound the hard surface it results to tightening of the ankles calves, quads, hamstrings, hips and IT bands. Minimize stiffness, soreness and injury by stretching the lower body. Try these are three Yoga poses that can help a runner perform better.
Anjenyasana or low lunge is a good stretch for the hamstrings, quadriceps, IT Bands and the groin. It also releases the tension in your hip at the same time strengthens the knee.
Step one leg to the back and lower the knee to the ground. (You may put a towel underneath the knee to protect it.) Bend the front knee coming a little over the front heel and adjust the back knee far back until the sheen is flat on the ground. Reach both arms up and straighten the torso. Bend a little bit more to access a backbend.
Warrior III works a lot of the leg and the ankles. It strengthens and tones the shoulders, back and abdominal muscles as well and improves your focus, balance and coordination.
From standing position step one leg a foot forward then shift your weight towards the front leg. Bring both hands to the hips as you lift the back leg up hinging at the hips bringing the torso parallel to the ground. Reach the crown of the head forward at the same time extending the back heel all the way to the back.
This variation of the forward fold releases and stretches the hamstrings and the IT Band which is very good for runners specially long distance runners. With the arms interlaced over the head gives a good shoulder and chest opening.
From standing position cross one leg over the other leg with the crossed leg bent and the other leg straight. Slowly fold forward all the way down bringing the torso and clasp both hands as you bring the arms over head. Bring the torso as close as the legs as possible at the same time bringing both arms as forward as you can without rounding the back.
Alvin Gomez is a triathlete, swimming coach and yoga teacher. He teaches yoga to his fellow triathletes and has private classes as well.