I recently had a reverie of a 6,000km excursion motorbiking across the magnificent countries of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand that surprisingly correlated greatly to my approach to yoga.
That rumbling collection of metal, rubber and wire (which, in hindsight, has taken on the personality of a dear friend) taught me many lessons that are applicable to yoga.
1. Take care of your bike and your bike will take care of you.
You can’t leave your motorbike out in the middle of a rainstorm and expect it to run flawlessly the next day. (Trust me, water diluted gasoline doesn’t like to catch a spark.)
And, you can’t abuse your body and expect it to function properly the next day either. (Trust me again, thai whisky in your bloodstream makes it difficult to kick start your brain.)
It only takes a few minutes each day, checking the oil, lubing and tightening the chain, to ensure that your vehicle will run smoothly. These simple tasks prevent larger problems (such as the chain snapping), which could force us to tow the bike to the mechanic.
Our physical bodies are our vehicles for motor movements.
We have the electronics of our nerves, the fuel system of our lungs, the battery of our brains and the pistons of our hearts opening the throttle. Occasionally, we need to run diagnostic checks, taking a moment to simply see if there are any cogs in the system that require extra attention.
Performing a body scan prior to physical practice can help us create an awareness and set an intention that is aligned with our ever-changing bodies.
Perhaps we’ve been idle for too long and need to warm up, run our bodies in neutral for a moment and connect with our breath, before putting our engines into gear.
Or, perhaps we’ve been running the engines a little too hard and need to let ourselves cool down lest we risk an injury that sends us towing ourselves to the doctor.
2. Function is more important than form.
My motorbike won’t be gracing the cover of any automotive magazines.
Its black paint job with faded teal decal sticker edges starting to bubble and a welded-on carrying rack, don’t scream the word “sexy.”
And, its 110cc’s of power aren’t the envy of any Harley Davidson owner.
But that bike never failed me, and what it lacked in shiny chrome and extra engine cylinders it made up for in spirit.
We don’t have to have the stereotypical, lean “yoga body” to do yoga. Our muscles function the same whether bulging out of a t-shirt or hidden behind a few inches of fat.
Our yoga practice isn’t dependent upon what brand of mat we use or even if we use a traditional mat at all. I would rather wear my comfortable ratty gym shorts than form-manipulating high end garb that hugs too tightly in the wrong places.
Feeling good in your practice is paramount to looking good.
As more powerful bikes cruised past me on the highway I remembered thinking,
“It sure would be nice to have that bike.”
That thought was usually followed with,
“But this is my bike and she’s good to me.”
Similarly, it is common to be in a class and notice someone doing a really advanced arm balance or backbend or their heels easily touching the ground in down dog and thinking,
“I wish my body could do that.”
But our bodies can already do innumerable incredible things and there is always room for improvement as our journeys progress.
And it’s all about the journey.
3. The journey is much more important than the destination.
What makes riding a motorcycle so freeing, so sublime, is the removal of barriers between you and all aspects of the journey.
Most places you can go on a bike, you can reach in a car. The destination is the same.
But on the bike there are no windows to obstruct the panorama before you; no doors to prevent the invigorating air from rushing across your skin (and in my case, insufficient shocks to prevent you from feeling the changing contours of the road).
It is easy to make riding pleasurable because we become immersed in the experience, enjoying each moment as it drifts along with us.
Transformation occurs in the series of small moments along the adventure. It is not automatically achieved once we reach a set point, a destination that is merely the realization of our progress.
Looking back on my experience I can recall the sensations of cruising along roads between minuscule villages, enraptured by the experience, uncaring about where I was headed.
And, I remember vividly the soreness that accompanies a few hundred kilometers ride.
The perfect opportunity to run some self-diagnostics.
The prognosis: some glute stretches were definitely in order to keep that journey running smoothly.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Chris Sakowski
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Courtesy of the Author.