Meanwhile, 9,250 km to the west…

Cycling and Yoga in the Napa Valley


Just back from a brief trip to NW California – San Francisco and the Napa Valley.  Long enough to catch up with some friends, go on a 2-day cycling trip, drink some wine, and visit a Yoga retreat.  Great scenery, with autumn colours still glowing, and acres of well-tended Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir to remind us of the Dordogne.

napabike-customA pause to inspect the vines.  This tree is just up the road from the legendary Frog’s Leap winery –source of the unforgettable motto: “Time’s fun when you’re having flies”.  (I’ve decided against trying to explain this to anyone when I get back to France.)

A word about the bike – kindly lent me by a cousin of a friend, and a wonderful piece of machinery. It’s a Specialized Tarmac, fitted with a SRAM Red shifting system – and is astonishingly light:  even fitted with extra tubes, a bag of tools, a Lezyne Carbon Lite   (excellent pump: I carry one on my ancient Raleigh racer, although this photo has another pump), the entire thing could be lifted with one finger (around 8kg –  or just over 16 lbs).

Extraordinary performance, too (at least in my experience: I don’t often get to ride bikes of this calibre). Its thoroughbred qualities really came to the fore on the famous southern section of Howell Mountain Road – 4.7 miles of winding road with well over 600 m of climb… breathtakingly fast on the way down, considering the incline, surface and twisting route… a joyful acceleration with good grip… a great ride. (You can read an entertaining description of the Howell Mountain Road loop by a seemingly-anonymous Californian fitness fanatic here.)


Yoga’s role in sports training

One of my aims on this trip was to learn more about how Californians use Yoga in relation to strenuous sporting activity – a subject I’ve been interested in for many years.

Cycling and rowing are well-known to be mutually complementary: whichever one is your principal sport, your performance will benefit from any training you do in the other. Less widely appreciated is the extent to which Yoga is complementary to both.  In fact, the extent is huge.  I know this from experience – having in effect rebuilt parts of my damaged body after a nasty car accident, using exercise and muscle-development rather than surgery and titanium. And the key to this process was Yoga.

High-speed car crashes aside, any strenuous activity can cause damage of some kind:  tendons, muscles, hamstrings, joints, vertebrae are all delicate mechanisms – and regular Yoga sessions can help you repair, enhance and understand them.  You can look at it as a kind of basic maintenance routine.

The Californians certainly understand this aspect of Yoga.  One of my destinations was the Pad Studios (“Located in trendy Cow Hollow, The Pad is your place to breathe, move, sweat and transform. While providing top quality power yoga and reformer pilates instruction…”) where I joined a class, and was given a thorough run-down on their whole approach by various members of their instructor team, as well as by Courtney Harris herself, who liked our sports-training ideas, and made many helpful suggestions.

The Austrian way

From what I’ve heard, the Austrians get this body-maintenance concept too, but perhaps in a rather different way. Despite appearances to the contrary, it seems that up in the Tyrol they may be paying more attention to the objective scientific and medical aspects of Yoga than do the Californians, who, beneath the loud music and informal jollity, retain much of the fundamentalist spiritual ethos.

Anyway, to find out more, I am setting off shortly to visit the Sivananda centre near Kitzbühel, with the aim of acquiring some of their skills, and learning how to apply their high standards.  I might even come back with a Certificate.

Yoga will, I hope, become one of our regular activities in Bergerac.  The Salle de Sport will be well suited for group sessions, and I’m looking forward to using it for some practical research into what we can achieve, in terms of measurable performance improvement, by combining Yoga with rowing and cycling in a balanced training program.

We’ll be needing some guinea-pigs though. Any volunteers?

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