Yoga and the Art of Moto-Body Maintenance
GABRIELLA LINFORD Moto-body maintenance basics: breathe, salute the sun, and braap on.
I would often be subject to some quizzical looks pulling up at yoga class on my DRZ400 with no muffler.
Removing my helmet, boots, and armor, rolling out a mat and relaxing into savasana, I’d blissfully sink into silence.
Yoga and motorcycling? It may seem like a contradictory choice of activities, but isn’t life all about balance? About finding equilibrium in everything you do? After the excitement, we need rest. After the noise, we seek quiet. We learn to ride the ever undulating ups and downs, highs and lows of life with acceptance and grace. But anyway, are they really that different, moto and yoga? Take away the loudness and high adrenaline factor in motorcycling, and you have two disciplines which require strong mental concentration, give special attention to core strength and focus on overall mind/body performance.
If you ride off-road, then you will know how much of a beating you and your machine can cop. Proper enduro and rally race engines are highly tuned, with the frame built for performance handling and suspension designed to take the gnarliest of impacts. To achieve longevity and performance out of your vehicle, a regular maintenance schedule should be abided to. It needs attention, and love, and regular servicing.
But have you forgotten, that aboard this sand-munching, hillclimb-hitting, mud-slapping, rock-hopping weapon of a bike, is you? You are copping just as much abuse as the bike. What are you doing to ensure the health, reliability, and performance of your own body and mind?
Here are a few points extracted from ancient yogic teachings, which funnily enough were compiled by a Yogi who traveled to America in the 60s and witnessed how the people would care more for their vehicles than their own bodies!
Proper breathing connects the body to its battery, or energy supply: the solar plexus. Oxygen is essential to the performance and health of our cells and to keep it flowing freely throughout the body, learning to breathe properly is a must. Wherever you are now, sit with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed, lightly close your lips and bring your awareness into your breathing, in and out through the nose. Notice how when you become aware of it, you begin to breathe deeper and slower. You may start to feel relaxed. Breath deep into your belly and really utilize your whole capacity of the lungs. Focus on your solar plexus, which is where huge amounts of potential energy are stored. Incorporating a few conscious breaths into everyday situations can allow you to overcome stressful moments, re-energize the body, and keep your cells (building blocks!) healthy. We breathe all day every day, yet very few people actually know how to breathe properly! Breathe properly and keep your battery charged.
Just like the moving parts of a motorcycle need lubrication, so to do your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments in your body. Basic exercise and stretching increase strength and flexibility, whilst also increasing circulation, carrying that all-important oxygen to every cell. An amazing way to incorporate both exercise and breathing is to start your day with a few rounds of sun salutations, which is a series of movements connected together with your breath, and lubricates every joint, stretches every muscle, and pays special attention to the spine, which is the core of your entire body.
For those who aren’t familiar, here’s a video to demonstrate:
Breath and movement coordination helps to focus the mind for the day ahead. When that day ahead is 350km of braaaping in the wilderness then this can be especially beneficial!
It cannot be emphasized enough how important core strength is. Imagine your core is the bike chassis, and your arms and legs are the suspension. The core must stay strong whilst the limbs remain fluid. Core strength will help to prevent aches and injury by building muscles and therefore support around your shoulders, chest, spine, and abdomen will enable you to stay more comfortable during long days on the pegs, and will also help your body to withstand falls easier. The simplest way is to start with planking, maybe along with your sun salutations. Begin with 30 seconds and add on 10 – 20 seconds each day. To increase upper body strength which we women sometimes lack, yet is so important for dominant riding, add some pushups to your routine or, a much more fun way, learn to handstand! Start against the wall and try holding for as long as you can. Keep that core engaged! Your riding will benefit from this.
Your mind is the driver. The control center behind the bars. It must be calm and focused and in charge. Long riding periods are hugely draining on the brain due to prolonged periods of concentration. Mental stamina is not to be overlooked. But also remaining positive. We’ve all experienced those tantrum invoking situations. Battered by the elements, mechanical failures, exhaustion, rear-wheel vanished in a puddle of mud or sand dune.
Stop. Inhale, and exhale some of those conscious breaths. Smile and reveal the bright side, because there always is one. Staying positive and rational is of huge importance when putting the body and mind under stress. As fun as it always is to look back on these epic riding experiences, they’re almost never without at least a short period of doubt, frustration, sometimes rage! Overcoming these moments with positive thinking is very pleasing to the soul. It gives you the courage and confidence that you can get through anything!
If you care for your motor you’d use clean quality oil and fuel wherever possible. The fuel for your body is the food you eat. So make it count. Consider it nourishment, medicine even, rather than just hunger satisfaction. Be conscious of what you put in your body. This obviously comes down to personal preference but the general rules are simple: eat locally, eat seasonally, eat less meat, more fresh food, and avoid preservatives and processed food. Keep some healthy snacks in your backpack for energy fixes while riding such as dates. Stay nourished for extended fuel range!
This is your cooling system. A day of high revving, loud noise, mental concentration and physical battering requires proper downtime to recover. Try to get some quality rest now and then and allow yourself some proper recovery time after intense riding. We know how counterproductive it can be trying to start a hot engine. Like a hot bike we also need a cooling off period. In a society which tells us it’s good to be constantly occupied, that to be busy is good, we have lost the ability switch off. Put the phone down, relax the mind, go back to that breathe, and ride that dream dune off into the horizon.