Why Yoga and Mountain Biking go Together
Wednesday 5 September
Yoga and Mountain Biking? A few reasons why.....
Having been asked a few times recently why Yoga and Mountain Biking go together I have spent a while pondering this question...during my Yoga practice and while out on the bike..noticing the similar feelings I get from each thing...and I could answer with lots of kind of physical benefits of each thing but for me theres a bit more to it than that so hopefully without being too “out there” for everyone these are my thoughts.
Reason one - Focus. Yoga insists we pay attention, it demands that we show up and be present in this moment, punishing us with at best falling over, at worst with injury if we aren’t mindful about what we are doing, where our body is in space and in relation to gravity, but it also rewards our constant striving for focus with a sense of infinite peace and belonging. Mountain Biking also requires us to be super focussed on now, on body awareness, total concentration, we become one with the bike, the ground we are moving across, the landscape we move through and experience the same sense of bliss.
We also have in Yoga something called Drishti - which is a point of gaze or focus - usually in the direction of the stretch. This Drishti even though it is seemingly an external focus its aim is also to direct the attention inwards, towards the breath, the body and the mind and to help us keep our focus. I find that when riding the remembering to look ahead to where I want to go (sounds obvious but I sometimes forget and look down at the rocks and the drops and then I wobble!) automatically reminds me to breath, to relax, to smile, and there the ease and balance follows.
Which leads me nicely on to my next reason - Balance. With focus comes balance. Improved by practicing Yoga - essential for Mountain Biking. We learn in Yoga to use our focus - both internal and external, to improve our sense of balance. Practicing balancing also tends to strengthen up core muscles and the body starts to understand how to balance - the muscles remember what to do.
When teaching people balances in Yoga I always remind people to Breath and Relax, which are my Reasons number 3 and 4.
Yoga generally improves posture which has the knock on effect of increasing lung capacity by giving more freedom and space in the ribcage, upper chest, and upper back. We also learn to control our breath during Yoga and to keep the breath calm and steady during difficult and uncomfortable postures. As the ancient Yogic text the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says “When the Breath is Steady so is the Mind......” Most Mountain Bikers would probably agree that its really important to stay relaxed when hurtling down a speedy rocky singletrack and the key to this is to stay connected to your breath. By focussing your attention on your breath, keeping the breath steady, the mind calms down and the body finds it easier to relax - we can tap into that inner sense of calm that we learn on the Yoga mat and fly down those hills with a sense of elation and a smile on our face - not complete terror!
My last reason is simple - I love Yoga and the sense of being one with the universe that it gives you - but I also think that being outside in the wilds, on the hills, in the wind, rain and sun is supremely healing for the spirit. It takes us away from the mundane worries of everyday life and leads us back to a more essential elemental space which feeds our souls. I don’t have to spend hours studying, chanting, meditating in a room - just being out there on a bike is to me the ultimate meditation.