Yoga: Downward dog days in Arizona, March 2010


As you can see I'm hard at work, and practicing my yoga routine  ...

(Photos below from the YogaJournal.com site)

This picture was taken during my recent, oh-so-brief 5-day stay in the Bahamas, thanks to Bike Friday customer Hilge Hurford for generously inviting me to her timeshare.  My take on the Bahamas.

I got caught up on plenty of reading, including fully digesting the current issue (as opposed to being 3 issues behind) of Yoga Journal, a nice, tight publication with a very long history.  I've been doing regular practice ever since putting my back out in November at the end of my Japan trip, and it's really paid off.

After some emergency chiropractic, then letting the pain subside, I went to a yoga class after 3 weeks and was amazed that 75% of the pain and stiffness had disappeared by the end of the class. Wow! Sacro-iliac joint pain is so utterly common, than when it hits we seriously worry if we've done something drastic. It just needs some rest and, going forward, mindfulness of  your movement.

I've been continuing to develop the practice I'm developing to hopefully teach 40 cyclists at Arizona Camp this year. We'll be riding 53 miles a day on average, and even if you ride fast, that's still a lot of time stuck in a crouched-over position. The main issue will be finding a space to actually do it at each hotel. I envisage a future when we'll have iHologram apps and I'll be able to teach a class of people holed up in their individual hotel rooms ...

One thing absent in a lot of bicycle tours, is formal stretching and yoga. It's basically left to the participants, meaning it gets a lower priority than the beer tent. I hope to change that.

As cyclists spend a lot of time with arms and legs facing forward, somewhat like driving a car only a lot more athletic, my routine includes a lot of shoulder and hip openings and twists. Four main areas of focus are:

1. Lots of twists - with adequate preparation. On a bike you are often snapping your head, neck and shoulders around to glimpse who is behind or beside you. One side usually gets favored depending on what side of the road you're riding on. Some classes I have attended launch a bit too quickly into the twisted chair pose (parivrtta utkatasana - pictured right), before adequate warmup.

So I start with threading the needle, then from a Crescent Moon position on bended knee, then from a high lunge position, then leading up to the more advanced twists, like




2. Lots of shoulder openings. There's nothing quite like clasping your hands behind your back and diving into these poses:

  • Devotional (Humble) Warrior pose (which I can't seem to find a definitive sanskrit translation for),  
  • Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), 
  • Plow Pose (Halasana) and Wide Legged forward bending (Prasarita Padottasana - pictured right)

3. Stretching feet in upward facing dog (urdvha mukha svanasana  pictured right) : In cycling we're often putting our weight on the balls of our feet but rarely stretching the tops to the same degree, although pulling up with cleats helps. Pausing in Upward Facing Dog with weight on the tops of the feet is an unusual sensation that really stretches the extensor ligaments along the top of the feet.

4. Use the Ujjayi Breath, Luke: otherwise known as "Darth Vadar breath"or "ocean breath" because it sounds like both, this is my favorite pranayama (breathing) for these reasons:

a) Under stress, we tend to hold our breath, or breathe shallowly and erratically, which deprives us of oxygen and keeps us tense. Because it's so audible, Ujjayi breathing makes us acutely aware of the that which keeps us alive. This can be practised when the pedaling is easy and flat.

b) We often tend to pant, huff and puff while cycling uphill. Ujjayi breathing is an antidote to that short, sharp, style of breathing.
c)  The physical act of audibly drawing the breath over the back of the throat slows us right down and makes us calm.

I find this breath particularly rewarding when consciously adopted throughout the entire practice, but particularly during twists, when one tends to hold the breath. I tell students, let me hear your Ujjayi breathing!


Joschi Body Bodega new video:
The yoga school where I received my 200-hour Vinyasa Certification, Joschi Yoga Institute,  has posted a stunning new video. Take a look:
http://www.joschinyc.com/video.html

There's a shot of Joschi doing a cool shoulder roll move towards the end that I gotta try - hopefully not coming off a bike ...!

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