HOW DID I GET INTO YOGA?
I wish I could tell you that I experienced a life-transforming, spiritual awakening on top of a mountain in India, but sadly, the truth is not quite as exotic.
I got into yoga because I was living in a small village in México, miles from the nearest gym or workout studio, and I needed a way to stay fit and strong with a calisthenics-style bodyweight workout. I’d been working in gyms as a Personal Trainer for a few years and it was time for a new approach. I set myself a challenge to train with nothing but yoga and hill sprints, and it worked—better than I could have expected.
Unfortunately, in the process, I discovered that the majority of yoga classes were 10% what I was after and 90% setting intentions, aligning chakras and balancing brain hemispheres. They were infuriatingly hit or miss, unnecessarily complicated and lacked clear structure. So I qualified as a Yoga Alliance Instructor and started to design my own method—a distilled version of the practice that questioned common assumptions and stripped it back to basics.
WHY YOGA FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS?
My first ever student, and my husband at the time, was a competitive mountain biker who suffered such debilitating back pain that sometimes he couldn’t even lift himself out of bed. On the day I qualified as a yoga instructor, he came to pick me up from my yoga school—on the bank of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala—as he was riding the volcanoes nearby. I showed him a couple of poses I had just learned and the effect was immediate and profound.
His lower back relaxed, his pelvis settled back into position and the pain disappeared. As I had already started to design my own yoga method, I decided to simultaneously help him put together a program to support his riding.
The real turning point came when I submitted my first article to Pink Bike—we had a photographer friend who made the introduction. The article went viral, with 100k views in the first week, so I knew I’d struck a chord. PB took a big risk publishing my content, as initially, they came under intense fire for the occasional offensive comments I received. Luckily, they stuck by me and I’ve now been writing for them every month for over 3 years. I can’t thank them enough for their support.
It suits my style to go narrow and deep on a subject rather than taking a broader and more surface-level approach, so I’ve loved researching how yoga can help with the specific conditions mountain bikers experience. I can look at an issue, work out the causes and biomechanics, see what imbalances arise, and isolate what needs to be stretched, strengthened and mobilised.
There’s also a lot of nonsense in the yoga world and I’ve never really fitted in. Many teachers make wild, unsubstantiated claims that give the practice a bad name and seriously over-complicate things. Unfortunately, no amount of shoulderstands are going to cure your thyroid disease and a few twists are not going to detox your liver and kidneys after a 3-day bender.
I have a fairly unconventional style of teaching, though the non-spiritual approach is certainly gaining popularity. Maybe too much. Yoga is not just a fitness workout. It is a practice that is thousands of years old and has innumerable valuable lessons to teach.
DO YOU EVEN RIDE, BRO?
I’m not a mountain biker myself, I was just married to one, but I know the scene pretty well. My ex used to dig trails for the UCI so I’ve been to hundreds of races and seen plenty of crashes! I’ve really been overwhelmed at how well I’ve been accepted by the MTB community and at the crazy testimonials you send me every day. I’ve never met a group of individuals who have experienced such incredible benefits from yoga, and I haven’t even asked anyone to chant om yet.
Teaching at Crankworx last year was a dream come true and I got to meet so many riders I’d been talking to online over the last few years. I’m looking forward to teaching at more MTB events in the future.
WHERE AM I BASED?
I left England in 2009 and lived in México for 6 years. I now live in Bali and travel back to Europe for a few months in the summers. I don’t teach a regular class because I like to control my own schedule, and also I have around 50k online students to look after.
I love researching and writing the articles and creating new content. I edit the videos myself and I built this website. I like being involved in all the creative aspects of what I do.
WHAT DOES YOGA DO FOR ME?
I’ll try to keep this concise, because it’s everything really. I don’t practice fancy stuff like the splits because I’m not sure that’s even that good for you but I am fascinated with study of movement, breath and with the mind-body connection.
And here are 8 slightly less pretentious reasons:
- Core strength. I don’t have a rippling six-pack but I am functionally incredibly strong at my core. This translates to good balance, body control and overall athleticism.
- Sport-ready. I don’t even think that’s a word, but I can pick up almost any sport super fast. I got up on a surfboard on my first wave, scampered up my first rock face. The combination of strength, flexibility and balance prepares you for all physical activities.
- Breath awareness. This is one that develops over time. I can now very effectively use my breath to control my central nervous system.
- I’m smarter. No doubt. The combination of focus, concentration, coordination, skill acquisition and calm helps me to think very clearly.
- No aches and pains. I rarely suffer aches and pains and if I do, I can knock them on the head pretty quickly.
- Meditation. I have a very busy mind so often my morning meditation sessions are a washout. At the end of a yoga session however, my mind is clear and my meditation is generally pure bliss.
- Patience. For my first couple of years of going to yoga classes, I skipped savasana or if I stayed, used it to plan the rest of my day. Now, I am much more patient and acutely aware of the benefits of being still. I trust the process. Those yogis were onto something.
- Longevity. I’m 37 but no-one ever believes me. I have to think that the yoga has something to do with that. It’s an elixir of youth!
Yoga gives me a strong body and a clear mind and that is what I hope to share with you.
Photo credit: Ronald Leonardi