5 Stretches for Motorcyclists
When it comes to riding, stretching is usually the last thing on a motorcyclists mind. But after holding tension in the muscles of your core, arms, and legs, a cool-down can restore your mobility and prevent injury for the next ride. Frani Assaf, owner of The SweatBox Yoga, Seattle, suggests five poses to help motorcyclists get their stretch on (with as little as ten minutes a day)!
While the rider is mostly stationary, stretching can release the long term tension a biker holds while gripping handle bars, steering, and pushing the gas and break. You can make the following stretches a routine, choose any number for a cool-down flow after each ride, or put them in your back pocket for another day. Try holding each pose for three to five breaths, deepening the stretch as you exhale.
With so much forward pressure while riding, it's important to stretch the back intentionally. Sitting comfortably while criss-cross applesauce, extend the arms over head. Lean your arms to the right, placing the right hand by your hip for extra support. Take the stretch left for a few breaths, and then upward again. While stretching up, drop the head back and cactus the arms to open your chest. It's "important to lift and lengthen the chest and not just drop into low back," Frani encourages. To help support the spine, you can place your hands on your lower back. Flow through these backbends several times as you breathe deeply.
2. Cat & Cow
This stretching rhythm increases blood flow from the tailbone to the neck, both major touchpoints for strength and sensitivity as a motorcyclist. With hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart, take a deep breath as you start to push the belly down, dropping your shoulders and gazing straight ahead. When ready to exhale, drop any tension in the neck, letting the head hang comfortably as you round the back upwards, tucking the tailbone in, relaxing into a Cat Pose. Flow through Cat Cow Pose with deep belly breaths and audible exhales three to five times.
3. Sphinx Pose
Frani Assaf suggests Sphinx Pose, the more supportive cousin of Cobra Pose, for a motorcyclist's stretching routine. "Sphinx is more supportive, with forearms down and shoulders stacked over elbows." To begin, lay flat on your belly with your legs side by side. Once you're comfortable, gently press the top of the feet flat into the floor, lifting any pressure off your knees. Start to bring the elbows directly under the shoulders, with palms flat on the ground. Slowly lift the chest up, elongating the spine. Hold this position for three to five breaths, as often as feels good!
4. Child Pose
A wide-kneed Child Pose can be a great hip opener for the average rider, who is often planted on a bike seat for extended lengths of time. To hold a wide Child Pose, kneel on a cushioned floor with the knees as wide as is comfortable while still expanding the hips. Begin to stretch the arms forward on the floor, naturally bringing the chest further down. For those with shoulder issues, consider placing the hands further outward and bending the elbows as needed. You can place a pillow or rolled blanket under the hips for extra support, as you breath into this stretch. This should feel supportive and relaxing. If you like this pose, you might try following a Yin Yoga flow.
5. A Shoulder & Chest Opener
The average person's tendency is to cave the chest inward, maintaining poor posture as we sit at our desks, watch TV... or ride our motorcycle. Open up the tension of the shoulders and chest by first laying flat on the belly. Once comfortable, extend the right arm out at shoulder level. Then, bring the left hand under the left shoulder, and gentle roll onto the right shoulder. It might feel awkward at first, so bend the left knee and place the left foot under the right leg for support. Take three to five breaths on this side, and then repeat for the left.
After you've stowed your beloved bike, hung up your jacket and kicked off your boots, taking just one more minute to stretch can bring a lot more ease to the body, and better rest in the night that follows. With your muscles still tingling, awake and sore from the days ride, lean into that stretch, listening to the signals of your body, and breathing into the relief of slow movement, so you can get back on the bike and do it all again the next day. (And if you'd rather be lead through poses by an instructor, visit The SweatBox Yoga for any number of yoga resources and classes!)