By April Geary for Yoga Medicine®.
When my boys first took up BMX, off-road sports bicycling, I would sit in the bleachers at the BMX track and watch my two boys and husband race around the track. There were never moms out there and only occasionally other dads. I would watch as they laughed, worked together, and had a great time.
After two years, one broken collar bone, and one divorce later, I realized that I could foster a closer bond with my middle son, the last one left racing. This potential was worth facing my fear of the track itself so I bought a cruiser bike, geared up, and began BMX racing at the age of 44. Mind you – I didn’t learn to ride a bike until well after the age of 9 because as my mom used to say “April is afraid of everything.”
I can remember my first stare down the first straight away. I could feel my heart start to race and my palms began to sweat. I knew instantly that my sympathetic nervous system was kicking in high and it was either fight-flight-freeze or surrender. I chose to stay! I suppressed my sympathetic nervous system by beginning my Ujjayi breath right away and told myself that this wasn’t fear, it was change and that change can be very exciting. So with my little guy cheering me on, I kept one finger on my brake and off I went pedaling and carving around that track!
I have now been riding for about a year and a half, and even have a district title of 3rd in Southern California! Mind you there is not many women my age racing BMX so it is relatively easy to attain. Riding at Freedom Park BMX has not just been an effort to conquer fears but also a test of how I can incorporate what I have learned through Yoga Medicine and apply it to many things in life. When riding BMX, the mechanics of the body change. I am forced to use muscles in ways I don’t use them at the yoga studio. When I teach group yoga classes, I am constantly telling them to hug in their elbows for a chaturanga dandasana.
The first time I took a lesson for BMX, my coach told me to wing my elbows out when I pump my bike. I thought well she must be wrong, but nope, she was right. Using the mechanics I have learned about protecting the shoulder I was able to adapt on the track and still maintain the ethos of chaturanga.
After a Yoga Medicine yin and meditation module, I knew I had all the tools to meditate but I kept searching for a way to meditate. I found it very hard to meditate seated and I was working too hard to quiet my mind. I now know that riding BMX is my moving meditation — it is my way to train my mind. I find that when I ride, my mind is clear during the three hours that I am out there sweating and I feel like I jumped into the fountain of youth. Since this realization, I have been able to settle for a seated meditation twice a day.
The integration of Yoga and BMX has provided several profound benefits including:
- A calm headspace
- Improved balance on the bike
- Increased strength and flexibility in the hip flexors
- Increased strength in my shoulders
- Breath work helps me recover faster from hours spent on the bike
I have found that for me, riding BMX is a complimentary form of yoga. It is a way for me to stay completely present and absorbed in the present without outside distractions of the mind.