It could be said that we’re a little jealous of Polly Clark, founder of Mountain Yoga Breaks.
Not only does she live in the breathtaking valleys of mid-Wales, she gets to combine her two passions in life, Yoga and mountain biking for her job!
I think both mountain biking and Yoga are just the best stress-busters. I have this belief that cycling, is very similar to meditation, because it does do that, it just takes your mind somewhere else. You’re not thinking about stuff, and you’re just riding, it’s such a powerful tool.
I’ve been riding for about two and half years, so not very long, but I’ve done quite a lot of riding since then. I live close to Nant yr Arian which is a trail centre in mid Wales. One day, when I popped in there for a cup of tea, I saw these lads coming back covered in mud with their bikes, and I just thought I really want to do that.
For a while, I thought mountain biking was inaccessible to me, it was like something other people did, I especially felt it was something that boys did, and you know, I’m not really young, I’m 37, I didn’t start riding until my mid-30s. Then I started to work with Phil Stasiw, he was completely obsessed with bikes, so he took me out and helped me to find the right one. Once I had that sorted, I was utterly hooked.
Phil and I then started talking about how the two, Yoga and mountain biking go together really well together. I just wanted to bring these two things that I really loved doing, together. We’re in mid-Wales and we’ve got this perfect playground for mountain biking, loads of wild natural trails. So it just kind of happened from there, we thought let’s just have a go and see if it works and Mountain Yoga Breaks was born.
I’ve always been interested in Yoga really, since I was about 12-years-old. Picking up books from the ‘70s, I got into on my own, but when I moved to Llanidloes, where I live now, I found a really amazing teacher here, called Richard Adamo.
He taught Yoga that I’d never even realised existed. I thought I’d been doing Yoga, but I hadn’t. After going to his classes weekly for a couple of years, I fell in love with it and decided to go on one of his teacher training courses.
I do love a good blast round Nant yr Arian on my Trek Skye SLX D, it’s my closest trail centre and I really love the wild riding, the valleys, it’s ace.
Physically, Yoga is probably the first thing people look at and think ‘I’m going to do Yoga to help my mountain biking’. It unwinds a lot of the tension that builds up in the hips, the lower back, hamstrings, shoulders, neck and wrists. You know all those points that can get quite a battering on the bike. Yoga’s perfect for releasing all of that, keeping your body in balance.
You know when I first started mountain biking, suddenly I was like Oh my god, what’s happened to my hips? They’re suddenly really tight! So from that, I started working out ways to release it with Yoga.
Another thing I think that Yoga helps with mountain biking is the focus. With Yoga, you learn to focus on the breath and be really conscious of it, to stay relaxed in really uncomfortable positions. I feel that really translates over to mountain biking. You’re flying down some slightly scary single track, hanging off the back of your bike, if you can keep that contact with your breath and your focus, stay relaxed inside, it really helps your fluidity to ride the trail.
The top three Yoga poses for mountain bikers would be the Pigeon pose, to stretch out the glutes, lower back and hips. Then I would say, Crescent Pose, to open up the front of the hips, the hip flexors. Number three would be Supta Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose) which releases the hamstrings and helps drain all of the lactic acid out of the legs, so that’s a really nice one.
On a standard day at Mountain Yoga Breaks, you can expect an early morning Yoga session, to wake up the body and get ready for a day of riding. After that we have breakfast and then head out on the bikes for 4-5 hours riding. When we get home, we do a really nice long, relaxing Yoga session, to wind everything down and release off. Then it’s time for dinner and lots of time to relax.
We practise Vinyasa Flow Yoga, I love it because it’s quite free form, there’s no rigidity in what you can practice. You link a lot of postures together with breath, so it’s quite flowing. It can be fast, or it can be slow and it can be quite playful and that’s why I like it. I just really like that Yoga makes you feel really good. It’s self-sufficient, once you have learnt some basics, and it doesn’t cost loads of money.
To find out more about Mountain Yoga Breaks, visit their website, where Polly also shares useful positions to help release tension built up from cycling.