If what you love about mountain biking is the adrenaline, speed, or inherent risk, it stands to reason that yoga may not be high on your list of things to do. A growing number of testimonials suggest yoga and mountain biking are less oil and water than one might assume.
Professional rider, coach, and certified yoga teacher, Lorraine Blancher says practicing yoga daily brings balance to her outdoor lifestyle.
“I think of yoga as body maintenance; maintaining full range of motion of your joints. If you can maintain full range of motion of your joints, add a strong core so you have structural alignment. If you maintain, develop, and increase that, it’s going to make your riding better,” says Blancher.
Yoga classes generally cost $15 to $20 to drop in, and up to $150 a month for a membership, which means they just aren’t accessible to everyone. Blancher says it can be helpful to go to a few classes to learn the basics and make sure your posture and alignment are correct, but after that she says working on your personal practice at home is a great way to increase strength and flexibility.
“You don’t need to go to an organized class just like you don’t go mountain biking in group rides all the time. It’s cool to go when you want to go, but sometimes just going for that solo ride or with one or two friends is what you want,” says Blancher.
After four years of doing yoga, North Vancouver rider, BC Cup downhill racer and owner of Bicycle Hub service only bike shop, Dave McInnes says yoga has had a massive impact on his riding.
“Yoga has helped me strengthen my core and fine motor control muscles, has improved my flexibility, and given me valuable mental tools like meditation and focus, which have all helped my racing and riding. Physically, I have noticed a huge difference in my riding position and strength, especially over longer courses or tracks. Cornering and pedalling benefit directly from the strength yoga has given me,” says McInnes.
Blancher says upper body and core strength are major factors in preventing crashes from happening in the first place. Having the ability to be strong on the bike and recover from mistakes keeps the rider upright and away from major accidents. When a crash does happen, having good flexibility can mean less severe injuries and faster healing times.
While the benefits are becoming more widely accepted in the outdoor community, the word yoga can still invoke a level of skepticism in some circles.
“Yoga – the word kind of gets used like the word organic, but like organic it’s nothing. It became trendy and people like to trash on it, but organic is nothing new . . . it’s kind of been skewed. That’s how I feel Yoga is. Take the word Yoga and make it whatever you want. Just think of it as body maintenance; maintain range of motion in your two main joints: your hips and shoulders and then getting your core strong.” says Blancher.
Lululemon ambassador Ryan Leech gave yoga a try at the behest of his friends who suggested it would help him with his injuries. In his video From the Mountains to the Mat Leech explains how yoga has improved his health and his cycling.
Riding constantly can create muscle imbalances, such as over developed hamstrings, tight calves or lower backs, which can make the first few yoga classes difficult and intimidating. To get you started, Dave McInnes takes us through a few poses he found beneficial early in his practice.
Disclaimer: Consulting a certified yoga instructor can be an important first step to ensure the prevention of injury, especially at the beginning of your practice. If you feel any pain, stop immediately.
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Ash Kelly : Ash Kelly has been riding since 2006. She moved from Edmonton to Vancouver in 2007 to spend some time on the North Shore trails. When not on one of her four bikes, Ash can be found trail building, backcountry skiing, sledding, cooking or reading a book.