Dec 082011

Sunset with bike and person doing yogaEvery so often I go to the Friday afternoon flow yoga class at Spokane Yoga Shala taught by the uber-flexy Betsy Lawrence, founder of Belles and Baskets. It’s a great way to end a usually hectic week, including the ones I know will wrap up with me going home after yoga, logging on again, and working more just to make Friday night extra-special. (My job doesn’t exactly work in 40-hour chunks.)

Yoga is a great complement to riding a bike, since it’s weight-bearing exercise, builds upper-body strength, and stretches parts that get tight from the repetitive motion of cycling with moves like those hip openers you need after all that leg movement that keeps going forward and back.

The catch is it’s a 4 p.m. class uphill from where I work. Really uphill. As in, near the corner of 24th and Grand, which should definitely mean something to Spokane bike folk, Grand being a steep and somewhat busier arterial that runs past a hospital.

While I appreciate Grand having two lanes in each direction, making it easy for drivers to get around me, it includes a stretch just below the hospital on which (at least right now) I have to dismount and push the bike up the sidewalk because it is just too steep and there’s a dangerous blind corner.

So I don’t ride up Grand at all. Instead I basically ride home and then keep going because I live about three-quarters of a mile from the studio. This lets me take a really familiar route and one with less traffic.

It’s still uphill all the way from the time I leave downtown Spokane. There is literally nowhere that my chosen route flattens out and gives me a break, and it wouldn’t be any better if I went another way—only steeper and harder.

I pant and sweat (yes, I do occasionally sweat when I ride despite good-faith efforts to avoid doing so) and often realize that I left the office just a little bit too late to make it to class before it actually begins, because of course life always, always offers Just One More Thing Before You Go.

I’m going to be one of those late people—the ones who try to tiptoe in but make more noise being quiet than if they just brought along a marching band and handed out the maracas.

Last Friday I did this. I had plenty of time to think about how my usual Zen approach to bike time was failing me, about how you really can’t make up for lost time on a bike unless you’re riding downhill all the way or in far better uphill sprinting shape than I am and that’s certainly something I could consider working on, about the fact that I should either leave earlier or not even try to go to this class and just go home (since I’m going right by it) and log back on, about how tired I was going to be before even starting to do yoga and what a tough teacher Betsy is (totally in a good way).

I had texted Betsy before leaving the office to throw down a mat for me so I knew an empty spot awaited me. I had to go.

I got there late.

I locked up my bike and unloaded things I worried about leaving on the bike while it stood in the rack out front. It got later.

I forgot my water bottle and had to go back to the bike. It got later.

I changed my clothes. It got later.

I put some water in my bottle. It got later.

I grabbed my cell phone to make sure the ringer was off. It got later.

I got into class—late—and tiptoed (ha) to my mat right up front.

I jumped into whatever they were doing at the time and tried to get my monkey mind to shut up and quit scolding me for being late/later/latest. I started doing yoga, at long last.

About 30 minutes into the class I realized that statement was incorrect. I had been doing yoga all the way up the hill—or could have been. I didn’t need to see “riding my bike” as one activity and “doing yoga” as a separate activity.

The first part of a yoga practice involves movements intended to warm us up, and I certainly got more than a little warm going up the hill trying to push a little faster with each stroke.

When I start a practice session I’m also trying to quiet the mind and let the rest of my life fall away. There is nothing on my mat but the practice, ideally. The other things that I worry about will still be there when I step off and there’s no reason to give them my mental energy in this moment, when I can’t actually do anything about them. I will have more mental energy after the practice than I did before and thus be better at dealing with them so this is not “wasting time.”

So instead of worrying all the way up the hill about how late I was going to be and how disruptive that would be and how I should have left earlier and what a steep hill this is at this particular stretch and should I have tried to leave in time to put my bike on the bus and let them do the uphill work but then what if the rack is full and I still have to ride and-and-and-and—

I could have been doing yoga on my bike. Maybe next time.

And I had this “aha” moment before seeing this video that makes this much more literally true than I had imagined.

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Your Turn

  • What other things do you do in your life that you can do while riding your bike (safely!)? Compose poetry? Sing songs? Compile your grocery list for that stop you’re going to make on the way home? Spend time with your kids and/or your beloved?
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