Yoga and pilates are commonly confused as the same thing. Whilst they have similar health benefits and both focus on a mind-body connection their approaches are very different. 

Yoga is a mind-body exercise that has been around for decades. There are several different variations of yoga that all involve moving your body into different positions and the use of breathing techniques. Pilates on the other hand is all about neuro-motor control and controlling movements. It includes repetitive movements with a focus on strengthening smaller muscles. 

Regardless of their differences, both are great forms of exercise and hold great health benefits for those who practice them. Yoga and Pilates are also great forms of recovery and strengthening exercises and have no age restriction, but, as a cyclist, should you prefer one above the other? We unpack these mind-body exercises to see which one is the better choice for cyclists. 

Yoga:

Yoga is a great addition to your training regime to improve mobility, aid recovery and heighten your breathing and focus. Cycling is a repetitive movement that occurs in only one motion plane, this often leaves a cyclist with sore, stiff and tired muscles. 

Flexibility

Yoga encourages the flexibility of muscles and can be beneficial for loosening stiffness and relieving pain. Cycling can lead to adaptive muscle shortening leaving a rider feeling tight and uncomfortable in “normal” positions. Yoga poses help to ease that tightness and can improve your range of motion, making riding more comfortable than before.   

Breathing and Focus

Breathing and focus are two key aspects of yoga that cyclists can use when riding. More efficient breathing can even help you perform better on the bike. Yoga teaches you to focus, a very important skill when tackling tricky trails or sitting in the middle of the groupetto at high speeds.

Balance

Balance is crucial when on a bike, without it you won’t be able to ride. The practice of yoga improves balance through certain positions and poses making you better on the bike. These poses activated and strengthen often neglected muscles to help better your balance on the bike. You’ll be comfortably tackling A-frame bridges and pipelines in no time. 

2 poses to help improve your cycling: 

Include these easy positions into your weekly routine to stretch out any niggles and prevent injuries. 

Cat/Cow Pose

Start on all fours, hands shoulder-width apart and knees below hips. For the cat pose, pull your shoulder blades in towards your spine while opening up your chest and lifting your head up. For the cat pose, do the opposite by pushing your shoulders away from each other to create a rounded back. Drop your gaze to the floor. Great for stretching out your lower back, shoulders and spine after hours of sitting in the saddle.


Pigeon Pose 

Release your hip flexor muscles, a typically tight set of muscles in cyclists. You’ll likely feel this stretch all the way through to your glutes. Start in a downward dog position. From there raise your left leg towards the sky before bringing it down by moving your left knee towards your left wrist and place it on the floor. Stabilise yourself by shifting your right leg backwards. If you can you can slide your hands forward and move your head towards the ground to lean into the stretch. 


Pilates:

If you’re looking for a more of a strength workout type feel Pilates is probably the exercise for you. Not only does it improve core stability but it also can be beneficial for injury rehab and general conditioning. 

More Power

The goal when cycling is to produce more power in order to go faster, Pilates strengthens your core, thus improving hip stability and therefore allowing you to effectively push more watts out. The stronger you are, the faster you can go. 

Less Discomfort

Lower back pain is a common complaint amongst cyclists and is often associated with weak glutes. Pilates teaches control or activation of muscles and muscle groups that can help the rider engage certain muscles better, preventing the overuse of other muscles. 

Fewer Injuries

A stronger body means you’re less likely to pick up injuries. Cycling is a repetitive motion exercise and muscles may become fatigued and therefore more likely to develop niggles if not conditioned properly. Pilates assists in strengthening muscles making them less susceptible to injury. 

2 Pilates exercises to improve your cycling: 

Use these two quick exercises to help dial in your form on the bike. 

Pilates Swim

The only swimming we’ll be making you do. Lie on the floor on your stomach with legs and arms extended. Raise your head off the floor to look straight ahead of you. Engage your core and lift your right leg and left arm off the floor. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Make sure to use small controlled movements and focus on your breathing.


Marching Bridge

Begin lying on your back, arms at your sides and feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your hips up off the floor by engaging your glutes and abs. Raise your left foot off the floor and bring it towards your chest while keeping the other foot on the floor and your hips up. Lower your leg and repeat with the opposite leg.


Which is better for me?

In short, both yoga and pilates have several benefits that can help you become a better cyclist and there is a cross-over between the benefits of both. Yoga is better for flexibility so try adding it to your post-ride regime. Introduce pilates as a stand-alone maintenance session to improve strength, specifically core strength.