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Yoga for Motorcyclists

Yoga for Motorcyclists: Beginning Yoga

Everyone can do yoga; you don't need to know the names of the chakras, or be as flexible as a circus performer to practice yoga. Yoga is an excellent form of physical and mental training for any sport, but particularly for sports involving balance and mental focus. Motorcycle racers from many disciplines have discovered the benefits of yoga in recent years. Yet I encounter many motorcyclists that find the idea intimidating. I've heard people say 'I'm not flexible enough' or 'I can't touch my toes' – both objections are silly. Yoga is about gently extending your body to enhance your flexibility; success is not measured by how far you can bend but by the extension of your limits, whatever they are. So what if you can't touch your toes? Reaching towards them will provide your body with a good healthy stretch. By gently stretching on a regular basis, your toes will get closer each week. As you practice more advanced yoga you will find what vigorous exercise it can be.

I'm starting this 'Yoga for Motorcyclists' series with very basic yoga poses that should be accessible to nearly everyone. If your physical limitations are extensive or you are recovering from injury consult your health practitioner before beginning any program of physical exercise.

Notes on your practice of yoga

Yoga is smooth, flowing and gentle. You should encourage your body to the edge of your comfortable stretch, pushing your limits only gently. If you push the extent of your flexibility too much you will hurt later, and be less able to continue your practice. Be gentle with yourself, and respectful of any signs or warnings your body gives you.

Yoga is balanced. When you stretch one way you will stretch the other way after. When you stretch one leg you should stretch the other, and when you twist to the right you should twist to the left after. The same applies to forward and backward bending stretches, be sure to balance one of each.

Begin and end every session of yoga with several minutes spent in relaxation pose, and notice how still your mind can be after the practice of yoga. This is the best time to practice meditation.

Relaxation or Corpse Pose

How to do it:
Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms a bit out from your sides. Your feet should relax outward, and your hands curl gently with your palms up.

What to work on:
Concentrate on relaxing each part of your body, starting with your toes and working your way up to your hair. Tense the muscles in your feet as you inhale, then relax them as you exhale. Next tense then relax your calves, knees, thighs, hips, abdomen, ribcage, shoulders and neck, jaw, mouth and tongue, nose, eyes and forehead, and finally relax your hair. Breathe deeply and check through your body to find if tension has crept back into your body anywhere. Allow your body to relax down into the surface beneath you with each breath you exhale.

Mountain

How to do it:
Stand with your feet parallel and about hip width apart, and your arms relaxed at your sides. Balance yourself and close your eyes, breathing deeply.

What to work on:
Relax and breathe deeply. To help centre your balance on your feet, first shift your weigh to the outsides of your feet, then to the insides, then shift forward onto your toes and back onto your heels. Spread your toes and place your weight evenly on both feet. Keep your legs straight, but don't lock your knees, use your thigh muscles to keep your knees active and engaged. Elongate your spine, pointing your tailbone towards the floor and reaching the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Relax your shoulders, open your chest and let your shoulder blades slide down your back into a relaxed position. When you are centered and balanced, close your eyes, breathing deeply.



'Lie down, stand up, then lie down... there has got to be more to it than that' I hear you thinking. Well, yes, there is rather a great deal more to yoga than those two poses. But those are two that almost anyone can start with, and they will help you get past the idea that yoga is only for the flexible. Your practice should also include forward bends, backward bends and twisting excercises in both directions, and balance poses too.




Links for more Yoga reading:

Poses sorted by categories, good photos and descriptions:
http://www.yogalearningcenter.com/asanas/index.cfm

Poses with photos and Descriptions:
http://www.yogabasics.com/yoga-postures.html

From the YogaSite - great stick-figures for basic poses:
http://yogasite.com/postures.html

And for the Sun Salutation:
http://yogasite.com/sunsalute.htm

The Great Salutation:
http://yogasite.com/greatsalute.htm

Yoga Postures divided by category:
http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/yogapractice/postures.asp

Index of Yoga Poses in 'About.com' - Ad intensive, but helpful to look up a pose
http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/An_Index_of_Yoga_Poses.htm

Great animations of many basic poses:
http://www.hathayogalesson.com/

The 26 Postures of Bikram Yoga:
http://www.bikramyoga.com/Yoga/26Postures.htm





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