Stretching at pretty much any time of the day can be a great way to loosen tight cycling muscles. But incorporating bedtime stretches, done soon before your head hits the pillow, can deliver the added benefit of prepping you for a good night’s sleep.
Bedtime stretching “helps bring you down and just relax and let go of your day,” says Alejandra Guzman, certified spin instructor and yoga instructor at the Cycling Pigeon in Los Angeles. Gentle yoga moves paired with deep breathing can diminish tension in achy muscles, promote mindfulness, and help quiet a brain that’s swirling with stress.
In fact, research shows that yoga is an effective way to help reduce stress and anxiety, particularly when compared to groups who don’t take part in the practice. Several studies also suggest that yoga can help those suffering from insomnia get better sleep.
To help you gain the advantages of yoga and stretching, Guzman created the below seven-move sequence that cyclists can do before bed to wind down and relax. These yoga poses specifically target muscles used in cycling—like the hips, glutes, quads, and calves—so doing them at the end of the day can help release lingering tension from your ride.
An important note: As you do these poses, you should feel a gentle stretch sensation, but never pain. If you feel pain, back off and stop completely if needed.
How to use this list: Perform this sequence every evening if you can, or at least two to three times a week, Guzman says. You can even do the final three poses in bed. Do each bedtime stretch for the time described below. You don’t need any equipment, but an exercise mat is optional.
Jennifer Acker, Bicycling health and fitness editor and certified yoga instructor, demonstrates each move so you can mimic proper form.
1. Seated Pose
How to do it: Sit cross-legged on the floor with legs folded close to body. Relax shoulders down, and maintain neutral neck and spine (not arched or rounded). Rest hands on knees, palms facing up. Hold for three to five minutes as you take slow, deep breaths.
2. Yogi Squat
How to do it: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower hips down and back to get into a deep squat position, with weight in heels, hips low to the ground, and torso up straight. Bring palms together in front of chest in prayer pose, elbows touching knees. For a deeper stretch, press elbows against knees. Hold for three minutes, shifting weight side to side and then forward and back to stretch the muscles of the hips. If you feel like you can’t maintain the pose, release by standing up, take two deep breaths, and reset.
3. Downward-Facing Dog
How to do it: Start on all fours, shoulders over wrists and knees under hips. Lift hips up and back to form an inverted V shape with your body. Drive heels into the floor, slight bend in knees, and press chest between shoulders. Hold for at least five breaths, pedaling one heel toward the floor, then the other. Continue alternating.
4. Pigeon Pose
Why it works: Open your hips, while allowing the rest of your body to melt into this pose for muscle relief and relaxation.
How to do it: From downward-facing dog, lift right leg up toward the sky, then lower it to the ground, bending knee and placing it near right wrist. Position right shin parallel to shoulders (or as parallel as you can). Keep left leg extended behind you. Place arms in front of right shin and press palms into the ground. Open chest and pull shoulders down and back, away from ears. For a deeper stretch, walk hands forward and fold torso to floor, bringing forehead to the ground or hands. Hold for one minute, breathing deeply. Then switch sides and repeat.
5. Bridge Pose
Why it works: Hips often sit in a flexed position on rides and at your desk. Extend those hips, stretching the quads, with bridge pose.
How to do it: Lie faceup, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Extend arms down by sides and reach for heels. Slowly lift hips toward the sky as you engage glutes and core. Squeezing glutes at the top, hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Then slowly lower hips to the floor. Repeat for 3 to 5 reps, moving slowly and with your breath.
6. Supine Spinal Twist
Why it works: Stretch your back, glutes, and thighs, while preparing for deep relaxation.
How to do it: Lie faceup, arms and legs extended. Hug right leg into chest and keep left leg extended on the floor. Take 2 to 3 breaths, then pull right leg over to the left, across body, and place left hand on top of knee. Extend right arm out to the side to form a half T shape, and keeping both shoulders on the floor, turn head to face right arm. Gently press right knee to floor. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Then switch sides and repeat.
Why it works: Also known as corpse pose, this allows for total relaxation of the body and mind—all you have to do is breath deep and stay in the moment, letting yourself find stillness.
How to do it: Lie faceup with arms and legs extended. Close eyes and focus on breath. Relax muscles and make sure every breath you take is deeper than the one before. Hold for 5 to 10 minutes.
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