I've been more committed to my yoga practice this year, and the increased flexibility has improved my riding and overall well being. It's only right to share. So I talked to Mahnaz Jahangiri, the instructor and owner of Bikram Yoga Westake Village, about how sweating, stretching and mediating can improve your time on a bike.
Why do you think yoga can help cyclists?
The question would be, which posture doesn't help. We do 26 postures that help strengthen the torso, back, legs, ankles, and feet. The first two stretches alone acutally hit all of these body parts. The benefits of the first pranayama—improved breathing and increased lung capacity—is a huge plus for any cardiovascular sport.
In terms of focus how to you think practice helps athletes?
It is 90 minutes of "moving meditation." The practice demands absolute focus on breathing and posture—which I believe helps to sharpen a practitioner's focus and concentration. Meditation takes practice and discipline. It helps improve the mind and takes it away from a place where it is comfortable and "lazy." Absolute mediation involves a focus on the breath to the point where there is no thought. It is a mentally challenging practice which demands focus on each moment so that the mind and body are connected, and the body and the breath are connected.
If I want to practice, give me 3 tips to being a better yogi.
1. Focus on the Breath during class (and let go of the mind)
2. Make feeling better your only goal
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
Do you have a favorite pose?
Camel Pose. It is the biggest release to the front side of the body. We hold a lot of stress, tension and emotion there. Once you clear that away, you become stronger and more present in day to day life.
What do you say to all the people who challenge the benefits of extreme heat practice?
I like to ask the question, "what does your body do when it is sick?" It heats up and that's how it heals itself. The blood flow is increased and that is ultimately the main contribution to good health. Also, now you will witness more yoga done in the heat, like Vinyasa and different Ashtanga and flow classes. I have even seen the new trend, Bar Method, performed in the heat. So I think people are realizing the benefits of the heat and the body's response to it.
When you see first timers struggling, and they want to leave, what is the most powerful thing you think you have said to make them stay?
Just relax and breath. Honestly, we say it so much in class that people stop hearing it. But the importance of the breath transcends everything else. I remind them, not to let the mind take over. Just feel your breath, feel your heart rate and work with it. The breath will focus the mind and help the heart rate lower, so that the struggle is less intense.