Words by Hannah Barnes
Since doing my yoga teacher training last Summer, sharing yoga with friends, family and together with Specialized at events has been amazing. I love teaching a weekly class for the local mountain rescue team too. It will be a while however until we can all enjoy these social luxuries again. Due to Coronavirus, we all know that the world has dramatically been turned upside down. This is a crazy new reality we are functioning in right now, where staying at home and physically isolating ourselves is the most effective and socially conscious action we can do, have to do, in our efforts to manage COVID-19. We are isolating ourselves at home and having to quickly adapt to a new normal.
I’m sure most people have said so at some point that they should really do some yoga, to loosen up and help fix a bad back or tight hips. Usually, time is the limiting factor. Why not try it now? The physical benefits are widely appreciated - practicing regularly builds a stronger, sharper, more supple, balanced body. A body that can stay at its peak for longer. Working towards building stability without tension and rigidity. Yoga brings mind body awareness, the ability to slow down and really listen to the body’s subtle needs. Everything is connected. Ultimately, it is a great addition to any sport, overall fitness, health and wellbeing. Sun Salutations
warm up the body and increase flexibility in the muscles. This flow, and variations of it, is central to most of my yoga practices.
My teacher said that the fire inside us burns impurities, and the quality of our breath affects the quality of the flame. I love this analogy. With ‘normal’ breathing we utilise roughly 500cc of O2 intake and lung capacity, but as much as 3000cc by training our respiratory muscles with pranayama and yogic breathing techniques. It’s all about the breath!
Whilst we all have limits to flexibility due to age, gender, muscle mass, joint structure and genetic influence. Most people feel reduced flexibility, due to:
Underuse - layers become bound together.
Overuse - connective tissues comes accustomed to increased tension.
Injury or tear - Scar tissue. Cat/Cow:
this gentle flow warms up the body and brings flexibility to the spine, opens the chest and encourages breath to become slow and deep, whilst also connecting movement with breath.
Stiff joints & tight muscles block the flow of energy. Yoga helps to create internal space, releasing bound up tension at a deep level from the tissues, organs and joints. How to increase connective tissue length? YOGA! The perfect combination of heat and time under tension. Yoga is preventative medicine!
Pay attention to your body and make minor adjustments, to alignment, to breath. Much as in the same way we do in life, we listen and we learn, we make minor adjustments in all aspects of our life. Yoga is the art of listening. Listening to our body and our mind. High lunge with a twist:
I sometimes add in slowly lowering my back knee so that it hovers over the ground. Stay here and aim to relax your breathing for say 5 deep breaths. Focus on the exhale. They say that the pose begins when you want to come out of it! Rise back up to a high lunge and then twist. I love adding in as many twists as I can to my yoga practice. Twists help develop length and flexibility in the spine, they also aid digestion by creating movement in and around our organs.
Good for you if you can do a pose, good for you if you can’t, the beauty of it is that it really doesn’t matter. It’s about attitude, approach, learning about yourself, willingness to listen and allowing yourself to change and grow - on the mat and off the mat. Turn up and see what happens!
You cannot compartmentalise health. A healthy body and healthy mind is not possible without each others full support, and as the great yogi BKS Iyengar says “It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self and intelligence.” Now more than ever we need to give attention to our mental and physical health to maintain our wellbeing in this stressful uncertain time. If we look after ourselves, we are better able to look after others.
I like to remind myself when I feel sluggish “Focus on keeping the spine straight. It is the job of the spine to keep the brain alert” BKS Iyengar. It works every time! Pigeon pose:
This asana is the king of hip openers, targeting the psoas muscle and hip flexors, and requires an engaged core to keep the hips level. Be mindful of your knee, you shouldn’t feel any pain or sensation there at all. Downward dog:
This inversion is the ultimate all-over rejuvenating stretch. Move around, experiment with what feels good, walk the dog, try a deep bend in your knees to lengthen your spine, push your heels towards the ground to lengthen and stretch the backs of your legs. Three-legged dog:
Make circles with your raised knee, really open your hip up. A great prep for deep hip opening poses.
Practice daily, little and often, and I’m sure you’ll reap the rewards short and long term. Lizard pose:
This is another great hip-opening pose and also strengthens the muscles in your legs. I then added in a twist here too to give some love to the spine and open up the chest, let your front knee fall open too to open up your hip at the same time.
Let's give mention to a few more asanas that cannot be forgotten.
• Childs pose:
I love coming into this deep relaxing pose throughout my yoga practice. Try knees together or wide, really let go and relax into it.
• Tree pose, Eagle pose and Warrior 3:
I try to include balancing poses such as these, which are great for strengthening, honing all over body awareness, proprioception and focus.
• Happy Baby and supine twist:
lovely therapeutic poses to include during winding down your session before Savasana.
There are lot’s of fantastic yoga teachers and videos online, have a look and see what style suits you. Here are a few ideas:
• Lululemon have great videos with something for everyone: here
• Yoga With Adriene
• Yoga for Cyclists with Ryan Leech Thoughts on how to keep sane and healthy at home during this crazy period:
• Run and ride, only if we can do so safely. Keep it local, minimal risk, and by ourselves (or household).
• Home workouts, yoga.
• Routine! Go to bed at a reasonable time and get up early. Get productive, write lists. Have weekends away from admin/e-mails/work, draw boundaries.
• Minimise time spent pouring over coronavirus news updates, it is overwhelming.
• Limit screen time.
• Connect regularly with friends and family via phone, face-time etc. Do what we can to help and support each other.
• If it works for you, share, connect and check-in with the online community on social media, inspire and support each other to help us feel connected, inspired and motivated.
• Eat healthy delicious homemade food. We need our immune system to be fully functioning. Take this time at home to cook the nice meals, bake bread and make the tasty home-made treats we always wish we had time to do. It’s pure wholesome fuel for the body, and therapeutic to cook and bake too.
• Clear clutter. Tidy and organise cupboards, paperwork, the shed, all the boring things that always get put off. De-cluttering the home de-clutters the mind.
• Gardening, it’s the perfect time of year to get going with it. I’ve just planted salad, rocket, herbs, garlic, rhubarb, blueberry and strawberry plants.
• Do something new and challenge yourself in some way - I’ve set a challenge to walk along our slack-line. It is so hard and I get so impatient that I can’t do it, practicing patience and perseverance is as much of a challenge as the physical element.
• Play my fiddle every day, even if it’s just a few tunes whilst dinner is cooking.
• Remind ourselves of what we are grateful for, who we are grateful for, and that we are all in this together.
• Put in as many hours as is necessary in A&E [Accident and Emergency in the UK = Emergency in North America] during this crazy period. Then, if there are time and energy left, I can enjoy and work on all of the above.
Mellow trails and socially distanced. How riding will look like for the coming months. I'm grateful to live where we do and be able to ride at all during this time.
This period will be so difficult and also different for all of us, trying to navigate it the best we individually can. If you don’t already practice yoga, I hope it will provide a welcome addition to your day. Now is the perfect time!
Stay healthy everyone. Much love!