My favorite yoga instructor always stresses how easily a yoga mindset can be applied to everyday life. Whether you’re grocery shopping, playing with the kids, or sitting at your desk at work, you can enhance the experience with both a meditative mind and an awareness of the body. So it stands to reason that yoga could also improve your performance in other physical activities, like sports, running or cycling.
Gail O’Reilly and Susi Hately Aldous, co-founders of Yoga Mind Connection, are using this theory in their new fitness program, “Cycling With a Yoga Mind”. The program is made up of a DVD and website with downloadable podcasts, so that you can learn the technique and utilize them in the gym, at home, or on the bike path. On the DVD, you’ll find 2 cycling workouts that focus on endurance and strength, along with two specially-designed yoga sessions intended to relax muscles and increase stability, balance and concentration, while teaching yoga-inspired breathing techniques.
Besides giving you an intense and well-rounded workout, what’s the purpose of combining a traditional, Hatha-based yoga with the modern fitness craze of cycling?
The answer is twofold. A yoga practice can help any athlete, but especially those involved in a repetitive motion activity like cycling where endurance and pushing oneself to achieve a personal best is the ultimate goal. First of all, unless proper posture and full range of motion is used while biking, strain injuries or “overcompensation” can occur. By learning how to move the body more fully and organically through yoga, a cyclist can ensure that all his muscles are being used in the most powerful and efficient way possible. “The program is meant to give you a good workout ‘with a yoga mind’ and then provide you a yoga sequence that unwinds the muscles that become tighter with cycling. So you won’t be seeing a bunch of Sun Salutations – rather you’ll be seeing hip openers, spinal releases, and shoulder/chest openers. And of course, there will be leg strengthening too,” creator Hately-Aldous tells YogaFlavoredLife.
But perhaps more importantly, yoga instills a respect and awareness for the mind-body connection. On their website, O’Reilly and Hately-Aldous explain how this can help athletes push themselves to their personal best without harming themselves in the process:
“When we exercise, there is a constant mind game going on in each of us that tells us what we “should” really be doing. Mind games such as we should be working harder, and we should be moving faster, and we should be lifting more…. As a result, fitness turns into mind over body, where the body isn’t being listened to… When you follow Yoga Mind Connection programs, you develop your awareness to a place that is highly tuned so that your fitness becomes an organic flow of inner and outer strength, and you experience a workout that is much more gratifying, challenging, fulfilling, and personally motivating.”
Besides avoiding further bodily harm, approaching strenuous exercise with a “yoga mind” can help those who have already sustained injuries. The “Cycling for a Yoga Mind” program teaches you to distinguish between actual pain and the discomfort that comes with healthy progress. That can come in handy in any activity – even a traditional yoga class itself.
Think about the last time you held a difficult pose. If you’re anything like me, there was probably a moment (or two, or five) where you wanted to give up and collapse into child’s pose. Your muscles were burning and your mind was screaming “enough”! But if you stayed with the pose and pushed through the discomfort, using your breath as your guide, you probably discovered unknown reserves of strength. And the next time you took that same pose, the knowledge that you could sustain it helped you make the asana brighter, fuller, and more rewarding.
Since many of us seek an aerobic fitness activity to compliment our yoga practice, “Cycling for a Yoga Mind” might be the best of both worlds. At the very least, this program understands a fundamental truth: by bringing the mindfulness of yoga into everything we do, there is no limit to our potential.