Yes, my heart has to admit that biking and yoga are two serious passions in my life.
Both became a healthy “addiction” since 2004; the same year I started studying abroad and exploring the way in which I could feel fully free and happy. I believe that biking and practicing yoga are a perfect complement.
Through the years of cycling to my yoga schoo, l I have discovered the amazing benefits it has brought to my practice, and life overall.
Both have allowed me to find an inward sacred space, anywhere I go. Like yoga, biking is a creative moving meditation that requires full awareness of everything we do and all the world around us. Missing a hole on the road, a car’s door being opened, cars rushing to the sides, buses honking, motorcycles flashing across the way, or just a technical flat tire could have significant consequences in our lives.
Patanjali describes Dharana as the seventh limb in the Eight-Fold path, where full concentration is desired. When a perfect state of consciousness is achieved and where we are able to fully connect to the one object of concentration; the present moment.
Your putting your life at risk, you are challenging yourself to cut off all your external senses and fully concentrate. Each second you pedal, each right or left hand you turn, the mind needs full clarity to have it all under control.
“Life is like riding a bicycle, you don’t fall of unless you stop pedaling,” Einstein used to say.
Biking for numerous years as the only means of transportation has allowed that all the technicalities of how to safely bike become second nature.
When biking, I am in a state of mind where I am fully aware of where my pelvis is in space. As I touch the bike saddle and listen to the sound of the bike chain flowing through the air, my leg muscles become fully engaged and my heart pumps pure love.
Biking for yoga has become a wonderful strategy to keeping up with a committed six day Mysore style practice. Days where I wake up lazy or feeling heavy, my bike is always there to prepare my body, mind and soul to practice.
Usually I have a 20 minutes bike ride to my yoga school, and this is my early morning meditative time. The sun is still asleep, the air is in its freshest mode and the city engine is slowly turning on. This is the time when I start the conversation with the “lazy” body.
As I stop fidgeting in the seat and wondering whether I really want to practice today or not, suddenly a sacred space is being created. As I am half way to my destination, I feel happy and proud of myself that I actually hopped into my bike to practice, start my day in a pure yogic manner.
Once in Samasthiti (in Sanskrit meaning equal standing, the very first pose of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice), I already feel my body warmed up, clear and focused on my Sankalpa (personal intention).
Like my yoga practice, biking has gradually evolved. I was not naturally flexible, so biking actually has brought more challenges to my practice and “extra” work to do. During the first years the body was digesting anatomical information, the muscles, joints, and ligaments developing new memory—and today, I have to admit that it doesn’t matter whether I happen to be feeling stronger and full of energy or tired and creaky; the body is aware that we have to do the work to get the rewards, to create that sacred space that opens every time, but each time a little more deeper.
As my teacher Linda says, “The Ashtanga Yoga Practice is more of a mental practice, it looks physical but is mental, so it is not forcing yourself through things…” The mind will eventually decide where our body is going to be. The sacred space, can be defined as the precious seconds of life where we have a pure one-on-one conversation with ourselves.
Where we are able to reflect about our current challenges, where we get creative inspirations, or simply where we let go any pain. When biking and finding this sacred space, stamina, light and clarity takes over, just like yoga, one is able to feel more love, compassion, happiness, and gratitude with every second of being alive.
I ride for the same reason as I practice yoga—to find the balance in my life.
When my sacred space opens, I feel fully connected with my true essence. Although for most, “what is out of sight is out of mind,” Yoga Bike always proves the contrary—all that is out of sight potentializes our dreams and allows our mind and senses to self-purify.
In the past couple of years, I have devoted myself to the Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style practice. As I flash back to the beginning years, I scan my body and discover all the positive effects that my biking has brought to my Yogi body, i’ve develop a higher endurance, it feels stronger, healthier, balanced and more flexible.
When biking, we experience tightness in both the lower front and back of our bodies.
Here some interesting anatomical points:
Upper and lower legs (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, glutes): tightness in these ones won’t allow extension of the spine or forward bends. Usually what happens is that the pelvis is not able to tilt forward, so the body uses the weaker parts and forces the back to round sending all the pressure to the lumbar spine, eventually developing an injury.
Hip flexors (primarily Ilio PSOAS): a central player in Yoga Asanas as it connects the torso with the leg. Julie Gudmestad explains that if is out of balance we can significantly injure our lower back and pelvis. So it it is key to develop the awareness on this muscle as it can help us develop a healthy strong and balanced practice or rather a harming one leading us to injuries. So if biking is one of your hobbies, it is necessary to practice Yoga poses that strengthens and lengthens the psoas muscle.
Upper body, trapezius (shoulders, neck, arms and hands): maintaing the alignment of the shoulders, arms and hands is essential to releasing tension away from the wrists and developing upper-body strength. We should also release any tension from the trapezius muscle by relaxing the neck and keeping the shoulders away from the ears.
As Gudmestad defines, “A healthy muscle is one that is able to be strong and flexible, and one that is able to contract, relax and lengthen.”
So here some some guidelines that are able to work both for biking and practicing Yoga; of course with the difference that in biking you have a permanent prop—your bike—while in a yoga practice you are fully grounded on the earth (mat):
- Develop the body awareness—identify your weaker parts and work in the direction of balancing the asymmetries.
- Make sure your bike is set up correctly, especially the saddle height. This is usually the big mistake and hurts riders’ knees. So the height should allow your leg to extend and if standing being able to barely touch the floor. So it’s usually waist height.
- From the moment you hop into your bike saddle, find the ujjayi breath (victorious breathing by inhaling and exhaling through your nose, while lightly contracting the glottis—the throat’s back muscle, and making a delicate sound of the ocean) this breath helps us to warm up our inner body and cool our mind.
- Engage the bandhas (Mula—root lock found by gently lifting and contracting the pelvic floor) and (Uddiyana—translated as flying up by pulling in the lower abdominals and bringing the navel up and backwards towards the spine). Both bandhas allow us to protect our lower back, be aware of where our pelvis is in space and help us healthfully engage our legs.
- Focus on lengthening the spine while relaxing your shoulders and taking them away from the ears.
- Maintain the alignment of your wrists, elbows inwards and shoulders externally rotating. Release any weight on your hands, the body weight should be equally distributed from your center of gravity (in the pelvis anterior to the sacrum).
- Keep your feet and knees parallel and aligned with your second tow, while keeping the circular movement of all your joints in the same line direction (ankle, knee and hip) as you pedal.
- Yoga is a therapeutical practice that teaches us how to stretch the body and be aligned properly—and again, how to consciously scan the body to carefully work on the weakest areas.
- Don’t stop practicing, learn your way around injuries and keep listening inwardly when the body is talking.
- Develop a full connection with the body’s natural wisdom as it will allow to release and relax muscles into different asanas without any forceful effort, but rather ease and comfort.
The yoga practice allows us to become more vigilant with our body movements. As we connect fully to the Ujjayi breathing we are able to listen to the subtler parts and work on the quitter sides.
We are able to strengthen our muscles to work on holding challenging poses, while releasing tension and opening to its flexible ranges of motion where our breaks of bandhas have total control of our limits.
Yoga Biking brings tons of tiny grasps of Samadhi-like states of pure bliss and love.
Today I am sharing my latest poem:
Life in a Bicycle
Yoga biking through life is fun.
Like sailing within dreams.
Exploring all senses.
And nourishing a joyous clear mind.
When pedaling through life,
The natural flow,
Guides the path.
Where creative possibilities pop up through the way.
Today I am able to see life through two wheels.
With the engine in the heart.
And a chain full freedom.
Adventurous and Intuitive.
The bicycle is weightless
Energetical and free of gasoline.
I am inspired by Einstein,
My love for bikes started as a toy
And today one decade later
Since I have never stopped pedaling
And never losing my balance in life.
Is a creative moving meditation.
The best tool
And multiplying Prana (vital energies).
Don’t be too idealistic.
Just practice feeling creative.
And inspire all those around.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise