This month's post is an interview with a young electrical engineer who has practised yoga for many years and recently became a Registered Yoga Teacher. And I'm extra proud to be say she's my sister too. =D Read on, ride bikes, and be nimble.
Sarah (SD): So normally I would ask how you got into riding mountain bikes, but I know you don’t so I’ll just ask, how are bikes (in general) a part of your life?
Griet (GD): Bikes are a weekend form of transportation for me, and a lunch time form of exercise. I like to ride bikes over lunch to get away from email, phones, work in general, and get out of my head. Normally this winds up being inside on an exercise bike, but on weekends I try to get outside and ride on a trail.
SD: Sounds similar to the rest of us… trying to get as much time on the bike outside of work. What does your work consist of?
GD: By day, I am an electrical engineer focusing on electric power, mostly high voltage. Most of my work is on various infrastructure designs and conceptual designs. In essence, I help design safe and secure methods to bring electricity where it needs to go. By night, I teach yoga a few times a week.
SD: Smarty pants! How did you become interested in yoga? Why did you decide to become a registered yoga teacher (RYT)?
GD: I became interested in yoga by accident. Literally and figuratively. About 7 years ago, I hurt my spine in a snowboarding accident so badly that any movement was absolutely horrendous. That accident guided me to my first yoga class where I learned so much about how bodies move in space, how to treat your body with kindness and respect, and myself. I was hooked from the start. I decided to become a RYT to share all the positive it has brought into my life. I think that in any passion you will find people that inspire you. I’ve been lucky enough to meet many individuals who have helped, supported, and loved me on my path of self-discovery. Becoming a teacher was a chance to give back to a community that gave me so much and offers to others what has resonated with me.
SD: Community… that’s what’s mountain biking all about too. Where do you currently teach? Where do see you yoga teaching taking you in the future?
GD: Presently I teach at Sanctuary Yoga, Barre, and Dance in Pullman, Washington. As far as the future goes, I'm not quite sure... I'd like to continue teaching yoga, maybe in different parts of the world. Eventually I'd like to offer yoga retreats and immersion, combine my love of the outdoors with that for yoga.
SD: Sounds exciting! Yoga is often added to mountain bike camps and retreats. Any suggested positions for post-ride?
GD: I can see why yoga is coupled with mountain biking! The great thing about yoga is that it’s a full body activity, so there is always a pose, or set of poses, that can compliment your existing fitness regime. Here are some suggestions for the target areas worked by biking. Practice these poses before, after, or at a mid-ride break. I’ve structured them to resemble a mini class. I hope they help!
SD: Awesome, thanks for taking the time to put that together! Just two more questions and then the mini class is just below… What’s your most memorable yoga experience? And would you ever try mountain biking?
GD: You're welcome. I hope the poses work out for you all! My most memorable yoga memory... that's a tough one. But since you put me on the spot, I'll go with the moment in a vinyasa class last year where I finally got into final expression of hero's pose. It took me six years to achieve that pose and I honestly never thought I'd be able to do it because of that back injury we started the conversation with. I guess some things take time. Sure, I'd try mountain biking, as long as the trail isn't too steep and if someone gives me some pointers!
Thanks to Griet for taking the time to answer my questions, and provide this mini yoga class. Next time, she's in the Lower Mainland, those of us at Ozmosis will drag her onto the trails. =)
All photos are by Johnny Minor. Check out his landscape photography here.
MINI YOGA CLASS - provided by Griet Devriese
Standing forward fold
- Relieves back tension
- Stretches hamstrings
Stand with feet hip distance apart, bend at the hips forward (bending knees as much as you need) until your hands reach the ground. Tilt your hips upward. To intensify, reduce the bend in your knees or straighten one knee at a time.
This is a great warm-up pose; try variations by clasping opposite elbows with your hands or clasping behind the knees.
Downward facing dog
- Opens heart and chest
- Stretches shoulders and hamstrings
Come to a table top position (on your hands and knees, knees stack below hips, wrists stack below shoulders). Walk your hands forward one hand length, tuck your toes, and straighten your arms and legs to lift into downward facing dog. Maintain a micro bend in your knees or as much as you need to be able to sustain in the pose. Roll your shoulders onto your back and continue to lift your hips upward.
For a variation that is more core intensive yet easier on your wrists, come to dolphin. Keep your body in the same alignment as down dog, but bring your forearms to the mat.
- Stretches hamstrings and iliotibial bands
- Works your balance
From a standing position, set forward with your right leg about 1 meter. Rotate your feet such that both hips and shoulders face the front. Raise your arms overhead with hands in prayer, or keep your hands on your hips, and hinge forward from the hips with a flat back. Bend you knee as much as you need. Place your hands on the mat in front of your right foot for stability if needed, or keep them in prayer for a balance challenge.
- Stretches the thighs, knees, and ankles
Sit between your ankles (if this hurts, sit on a block/ book/ folded blanket or avoid the pose), lengthen your spine and place hands behind your feet. Slowly walk your hands back until you feel a stretch. Avoid letting the knees come up from the mat.
Please be very careful with this pose. It's a great stretch, but if you have any knee pain please back off a little by not leaning back very far or at all.
- Opens front of body and spine strengthening
Lay flat on your back, bend your knees placing your feet flat on the mat (feet roughly below your knees). Engage your core and lift your hips, bringing your chest to your chin (not your chin to your chest - leave your head and neck facing forward on the mat to protect your neck). The weight should be on your shoulders and in your legs, not your neck. Relax your arms alongside your body, or clasp below your spine to intensify. Use your legs to lift into this pose, avoid compensating with your glutes and try to relax your glutes instead.
If you find it hard to engage your quads rather than relying on your glutes, place a block between your thighs and squeeze it to engage your quads.
- Deeply opens hip
From downward facing dog, lift your right leg and swoop it forward placing your knee behind your right wrist. Adjust the angle of lower leg so that it lies comfortably down on the mat (adjusting this angle also varies the intensity of the hip stretch). Lengthen your spine and if you like, walk your hands forward to come into sleeping half pigeon. You should feel a gentle pinch in your right hip (gentle pinch does not equal pain!). Remember to do the left side also.
If this pose doesn't please you, try figure 4 on your back. Same stretch, different pose.
Head to Knee Forward Bend
- Stretches entire leg (foot to hamstring), groin, and spine
Sit on your mat with both legs extended. Bend your right leg such that your foot comes to the inside of your left thigh. Lengthen your spine and fold forward over your left leg. Fold forward as far you like. If you have any discomfort in your extended leg, bend the knee (maybe even placing a rolled blanket in the bend of the left knee). Switch to the other side.
Legs up the wall
- It's restorative; you deserve a rest and restoration.
- Legs and feet release and relax
Find a wall/ tree/ etc. Scoot your right hip up next to the wall, swing your legs up the wall. Relax your hips and upper body on the mat. Let your arms fall wide alongside your body. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and relax.
My name is Jaclyn Delacroix, I live work and play on Vancouver's North Shore, this is my story.