At the start of 2015, I dipped my toe into the world of Yoga. Knowing very little about the subject, apart from the fact that Madonna & Jennifer Aniston were advocates, I decided to give it a whirl. There are clearly many different types of practices – I stumbled across Vinyasa & the Earth Yoga Studio and was instantly hooked. It gifted me with so much more than I had envisaged. I was a pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the workout, but this mindfulness thing was a real revelation. The training of my mind in focusing my attention and developing the ability to shut out the whirling thoughts in my brain was an real bonus. The next tick was the benefits it brought to my cycling.
I hooked up with Sandra Donovan at her Yoga Studio in Santa Catalina, to discuss the linking of Yoga to Cycling…
DM – How long have you been practicing Yoga?
SD – About 15 years. I fell in love with yoga. I was in a theatre school in NY and our modern dance teacher was also a yoga teacher. She used to get quite frustrated with us actors as she felt we had no talent for Modern Dance (which was part of the acting program) so she would instead lead us through a very intense yoga practice. I still remember us practicing with no mats, on a hardwood floor, with steam dripping down the windows from everyone´s effort.
It centred me. I loved the sense of calm and ease I felt after the yoga classes. I also noticed that my body became stronger and a lot more flexible. Building strength while at the same time lengthening the muscles was something totally new to me.
DM – And how long have you had Earth Yoga?
SD – I founded Earth Yoga with my friend Jessica 2009. We opened a small studio on Calle Sant Magi in Santa Catalina. Jessica ended up moving back to England and since 2010 I have been running Earth Yoga – with a lot of help from other teachers and Jay and Katja. Three years ago we decided to move to a bigger space. We are still located in Santa Catalina, now behind Plaza Progreso.
As we have discussed, I have found that my cycling has benefitted from my regular yoga sessions. I also know that the professional cycling teams have started to introduce yoga sessions to their riders….
DM – What do you think is the best form of yoga for a cyclist to practice?
SD – For a cyclist I would highly recommend Vinyasa Yoga or maybe Yin Yoga
DM -What are the differences between the two?
SD – In vinyasa yoga classes, students coordinate movement with their breath, flowing from one pose to the next. It’s a very dynamic yoga practice that builds strength (especially in the core). It also offers a huge amount of stretching and opens up the hips & shoulders. Vinyasa is also the term used to describe a specific sequence of poses that is used within the class.
Yin Yoga is a much more of a still practice, where you hold mostly supine postures for a longer period of time. This allows you to get to the tissue underneath the muscle – called Faschia. Faschia surrounds every muscle in the body and is less elastic than the muscles. So when we get to the faschia, we can really notice the difference in our bodies. Supine yoga postures are done on your back, release stress, promote flexibility, and help to connect your practice.
DM – What would you say the benefits of yoga are for a cyclists?
SD – The opening of the body. The ability to stretch out quadriceps, calf muscles and also a chance to lengthen & strengthen the core.
What strikes me when I observe cyclists is how incredibly strong they are. But also how many hours the body (especially the core and abdomen) is hunched over the handlebars. There isn’t much time to lengthen out and stretch out whilst you are on the bike.
Also, the rounding of the upper back that happens when you are cycling …yoga can counter that as we are constantly building strength in the muscles around the spine. We are also of course creating more space in the whole body.
DM – How about the breathing?
SD – This is one of the most important parts of the yoga practice. We are constantly reminding our students to breathe more deeply and to pay attention to when they are perhaps holding the breath. They need to become conscious of the breath and really notice areas in your body where the breath may get stuck. An interesting fact to know is that a lot of the soccer players from the German Team who won the World Cup last year were yoga converts. They were made to practice yoga through the tournament. A very known yoga teacher travelled with them during the World Cup.
A lot of runners and cyclists that I have met and who are also practicing yoga have told me that they have improved their endurance by developing a more dynamic breathing technique while they train.
It has been proven that when we use the yogic breath (called Uuyjai Breath, funny word, I know) we receive about 50 % more oxygen into our lungs and body.
More oxygen into your body brings more oxygen to your muscles, thus improving the movement, stretching or do whatever it is that you are doing at that moment.
If cyclists are bad at stretching …yes, yoga could definitely be a huge help. By practicing yoga just once or twice per week, a cyclist could take away 3 or 4 stretches that they could use at home after a long cycling session.
DM – I have certainly taken a few from your classes. My favourite pose is Pigeon Pose, a very deep hip opener. What other poses would you suggest?
SD – My suggestions for best poses for a cyclist : Pigeon Pose ( huge hip opener ), a supported Bridge Pose to stretch out the abdominals and strengthen back muscles. A Low Lunge or High Lunge to stretch quadricep muscles and psoas muscle (Psoas is the big muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body).
Pranayama ( breath work ), Downward dog to stretch back muscles and strengthen arms and legs and last but not least …Savasana …Deep Relaxation on backs.
DM – how do people get started?
SD – Just come to any of our beginners classes at Earth Yoga or to any Vinyasa Yoga / Yin class. We have all the materials you need, all you need to do is to pop in.
We are also offering a special Men´s Yoga Introduction Workshop in January, the weekend of Jan 13-15th. This will be a yoga workshop led by a male yoga teacher ( David Lurey ) and will take you through the yoga practice on a very basic level. We will cover breathing, stretching and the main postures of yoga.
DM – How many sessions should you do a week?
SD – If you are new to yoga and feel it would benefit you, I would recommend trying to make 2 classes per week. You will really start to see the benefit. Of course one class is better than none and if that is all you have time for, but to see results quite quickly, the best would be to try to come twice per week.
Earth Yoga – 34 Carrier Despuig, Santa Catalina, Palma de Mallorca, 07013 www.earthyoga.es [email protected]