Last weekend I went on a yoga and mountain biking weekend in the stunning Elan Valley, led by Polly Clark. It only really struck me during the first evening meal when we were getting to know each other that I hadn’t actually been mountain biking before. And there were some pretty serious (as in dedicated) cyclists and mountain bikers in the group. But, I established a bit of kudos by cycling c.36 miles to reach the venue (from Aberystwyth to the Elan Village, via Devil’s Bridge – some of this route is part of Sustrans Route 81 Lon Cambria). (We’ll gloss over the fact that another participant also cycled this distance, in half the time it took me…)
Having had a long cycle ride that day the first yoga session, before dinner, was really welcome to ease my muscles particularly my hamstrings and shoulders. In fact, the yoga sessions were designed so that the morning sessions were a warm up with energising routines and the post-ride sessions were more relaxing, focusing on working deep into the muscles we’d worked hard during the day.
And we did work those muscles hard during the mountain biking! Saturday we were out for 6 hours on a 40km (24mile) route, Sunday for just over 4 hours. The routes were varied and interesting, ranging from small B roads, to upland grassy slopes, forest tracks, sheep paths, boggy bits, rocky bits, mountainous bits, climbing to up to 500m, and even crossing the river Wye!
So how does yoga relate to mountain biking? The tips both Polly (who’s a trained cycle guide) and Phil (the lead instructor who is part of Mountain Bike Wales) gave me when going up the hard ups and down the scary downs do relate to some aspects of yoga: relax the breath, relax the body and don’t grip the handlebars, let the body flow with the movement, trust in the bike, believe that you can do it, etc. There were definitely many moments of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’!
In one of the morning yoga sessions Polly asked us to set a personal intention for the day. I decided on ‘positive mental attitude’ and repeated it to myself several times that day, useful in the face of torrential downpours, seemingly endless challenging uphills and scary downhills!
Some of the post-ride stretches were very beneficial for our muscles, and Polly is posting examples of good post-ride stretches that you can do, on her website. She also has a review of the weekend as well and on her Facebook page she has some photos from the weekend. (You do not need to have a Facebook account to view these.)
We were rewarded for our hardwork with the wholesome and plentiful food provided at the Elan Valley Lodge, and Polly had also made some delicious cakes, including a vegan one, pieces of which sustained me on the rides!
If you’re interested in incorporating yoga into an outdoor adventure weekend, Polly’s website has details of her forthcoming cycling, walking or swimming weekends, all in lovely Wales. I really enjoyed the challenging weekend and came away with a few bruises, some new yoga flow sequences to practice, and lots more confidence for mountain biking!