Last summer I started having muscle cramps in my inner thighs. I am guessing these were either the sartorius or possibly the vastus medialis muscle. What I do know is that it was the worst pain I have ever experienced. It was made even worse because it was so severe that I found it difficult to move into any position from which I might stretch the muscle. How painful you ask? The pain was such that I broke into a sweat and became nauseous. The pain was so strong that I cursed involuntarily. As the cramp released and the pain faded, I would crumple to the floor whimpering and praying that it not return but it always did.
This happened despite my doing all the “right things” to avoid cramps. I ate plenty of bananas, drank lots of fluids, drank sports drinks, and took a magnesium supplement. I stretched. While I did not stretch as much as I should, it still should have been enough when combined with the other precautions. I was surprised that the cramps were occurring and reoccurring with such ferocity. The worst was when they would attack in the night with such force that it was almost impossible to get out of bed and start stretching in various positions with the hope that one of those feeble attempts would stop the pain.
During my physical therapy sessions to repair a shoulder injury, the therapist incorporated a number of movements which came directly from yoga. I mentioned my inner thigh cramps and she suggested I add the lunge, straight leg lunge, and pigeon pose to my stretching routine. I did but as mentioned in an earlier post I tend to be a little lazy when it comes to stretching. Still, this was the impetus to start thinking about taking a yoga class.
After a period of steady travel, I returned home in January and finally added a yoga class to my weekly routine. After a few sessions, I started attending a second class. I cannot assess the benefits in terms of thigh cramps until I start riding intensely in the Spring and into the hot Summer of the American South, but I am already realizing a number of other benefits. One of these is greater core strength and stability. I am also more flexible in terms of neck and spinal movements. Another benefit has been overall body strength. I had never thought of yoga as a strength building exercise but many of the poses require that you support some or all of your body weight. Finally, yoga has helped improve my breathing. We do several exercises designed to help you more fully utilize your lungs which will certainly help once I am back on the bicycle.
None of this is news to those who have been practicing yoga. Many professional athletes have added yoga to their fitness routines. Here is a good example from the guys at Global Cycling Network:
I am now a true believer. I promise not to constantly proselytize about the benefits of yoga or attempt to covert you into the ranks of the true believers. Still, when those night cramps grab you by the inner thigh or calf making you scream in pain, causing you to curse the universe, and tempting you to make a deal with the devil. Stop! Yoga is the answer to your pain my child. Namaste.