The body benefits from movement, the mind from stillness
The cool light of morning casts shadows across my bed as I open my eyes. It’s 5am and Kula noses up for her morning snuggle and more importantly, to tell me it’s time for her breakfast.
Passion is the best alarm clock. We follow our usual routine of a Ginja Ninja Smoothie and a bit of work at the computer before the call of the forest quickens our pace and we set off for the trails.
Among the trees, I receive far more than I seek
My wheels cross the divide between pavement and dirt and I begin to lose my mind and find my soul. We start ascending and the awareness of my body, my breathing and my surroundings become heightened; the sound of gravel crunching under my tires, the glow of sun beams against the sap green moss and the cool fall air biting at my skin. Kula runs along beside me, darting in and out of the bushes after every chipmunk peep, rusting around and always returning with a happy grin.
It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom. — Aristotle
The stillness of the morning allows me to get quiet and settle into a rhythm on my bike. I notice the feelings and emotions in my body. The sensations range from warmth to chills, stiffness, tension and ease. I let my emotions surface, being curious and checking in with myself.
Solo bike rides have helped hone my ability to nourish and rest my mind. Through my passion for cycling and craving for solitude and stillness, I’ve become more focused and less anxious in all areas of my life. Whether you’re hiking, biking, running or skiing, being outdoors increases well-being and helps restore the brain’s ability to think and engage the senses.
Stop and smell the loam
Unless we make a conscious effort to stop every now and then, and really pay attention to where we are and what we’re doing, we miss out on life. How often do you stop and allow all your senses to take in your surroundings? If you’re on your bike, do you pause and appreciate how lucky you are and how amazing the moment is right now.
In this go, go, go world, we rarely stop and take a breather between activities. This can lead to carrying the stress and tension of a previous activity or conversation into the next. Think of it like taking a spill on your bike, if you don’t stop and centre yourself before continuing on, you get frustrated, distracted or your timing is thrown off.
Shred your worries with a meditative mountain bike ride
Cruising downhill I am exhilarated by the speed, the breeze in my face, the smell of fresh air, dirt and cedar. My focus is on the trail, the next feature, my body position; my balance and coordination as my tire navigates the skinny, the amount of pressure in my fingers as I brake on a slab. At times my mind wanders into a daydream, but each time I realized it’s strayed I gently bring my awareness back to the sensations passing through my body and focus on what’s in front of me.
This need to be fully aware and present as you ride means that both the past and future become irrelevant. Meditation has been described as paying attention on purpose, or being mindful in each moment and mountain biking is much the same. Every pedal stroke is a chance to shed your worries and flow with the moment.
Moving Meditation for Anxiety
Anxiety seems to be the unspoken battle many people are fighting these days. Whether it’s from our digital addictions, suppressing emotions or the increasing pressure to consume as a way to find happiness, whatever the case, it’s not uncommon to reach for a quick-fix prescription. This is an artificial means of de-stressing which numb’s emotions. I challenge you to instead take a break for some therapy laps to help quiet anxiety and allow your nervous system to settle down—Studies have proven this to be just as and in many cases more effective than medication.
When you settle your nervous system your perspectives can broaden and the ability to look at issues with an open mind is more likely. Neuroscience research suggests that mindfulness practices dampen your urge to go into fight or flight mode and you become less reactive to stress. You become nonjudgmental of emotions and thoughts and can look at things as they are instead of what you perceive them to be. You learn to observe the ebbs and flows of your thoughts and develop a healthier relationship with what’s going on in the mind.
Another zesty bonus of moving meditation is breathwork. A tipping points of anxiety and panic attacks is improper breathing, and trying to breathe when you’re feeling anxiety is difficult because the brain is in a constant state of chatter. This is why moving meditation is so beneficial. The slow, deep breathing you experience when riding or running, combined with the slight distraction of physical activity allows you to practice breathwork. Learning to tap into your diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to defuse the stress feedback loop and encourage your brain and body to relax.
Zesty Body, Zesty Mind
Our minds play a vital role in everything we do, how we think, feel and respond. The benefits of meditation have been widely proven as beneficial for our mind, brain and body. Whether it’s traditional meditation, visualization, forest bathing or moving meditation such as solo bike riding, any meditation will help, but integrating it into your sport is a surefire way to stick with it.
Practicing meditation while engaged in a sport you love is a winning combination! When you exercise you’re not only strengthening your muscles, you’re increasing blood flow to your brain which improves cognitive function and your capacity to think and focus. You’re nourishing your Zesty Body and working on your Zesty Mind—and that’s pretty rad!