“Boy, I made the mistake of looking up at one point in hot yoga and was like, damn, who is that fat guy? Then I realized it was me. But right after that, I realized it was posing between two mirrors, which was stretching me out even more than usual.” 

It’s 5:50 am. Pale Thunder and I are twisted into pretzels topless, profusely sweating while a bearded man in the corner tells the entire room of barely awake Vuori-clad yogis to “move at the speed of trust.”

If you had told me in 2009 at 11:27 pm amidst the blurry back and forth of vodka pong (we had run out of beer) that the pale, blue Speedo-clad oaf chucking dirty ping pong balls into red cups, I would, in 15 years, voluntarily be waking up early, sober, and alert, and willingly not only decided to go but pay to do weird stretching and breathing exercises in an oversized sauna under the direction of a gentle shaman coaxing us to drip our consciousness into our breath, I would have had a stroke.

But here we are, unironically greeting the day with the ‘sacred play of prana,” finding the ‘guru in our tissue.’

I blame my wife.

 

After safely putting the 2023 cycling season behind me, I promised myself and probably a few others that I’d try new things. My wife latched on to that and said,” OK. Let’s do some hot yoga.”

Integrity is a mistake. Few things are worse than keeping your word. But my wife is smarter than me at her worst and devious when motivated, so, just like the best approach to jumping in a cold lake, I spent zero time trying to fight it, put on some skimpy Lycra, charged straight for the door of YogaPod Longmont, and leaped.

I still have not surfaced.

Never mind the bizarre postures, bewildering phrases, oppressive heat, obsessive breathing, absurd proximity, and speakers booming tribal chants under the sizzling neon of a Red Lobster sign – in the simple square of my mat, I found something.

Stillness.

Outside that room, stillness isn’t allowed.

I’m not smart enough, skinny enough, fast enough, rich enough, funny enough, good enough, caring enough, young enough.

I’m just not enough.

But I tell myself that if I can get my act together, I will be, that it’s just around the corner, and if I do, I’ll be worthy.

Stillness won’t get me there—I need frenzy, more caffeine, more focus, and better systems than five minutes ago—more, faster before it’s too late.

But on my mat, there’s no room for frenzy. With the sharp intake of breath, the slow arch of my arms above my head, the cracking of my shoulder blades into a dive that passes crown, throat, and heart, driven by the complete diaphragmatic exhale of breath, my consciousness expands in that emptying. It drives out everything I’m not, leaving stillness.

Yes, my mind wanders. Yes, the frenzy circles my mat like a wild animal in the dying flickers of that stillness, only for Jai’s words to pour kerosene on the remaining embers and send the darkness leaping back.

“Let your breath ignite your tissues.”

In the 30 hours I’ve spent on this mat since the first class, I’ve rarely opened my eyes and taken in the horror of the reflection in the mirror, this aging, hopelessly stiff manlet getting lapped up in every posture by everyone in the room.

It doesn’t matter. I couldn’t care less. There’s only stillness.

Unlike anywhere else, I’m not competing against anyone. I’m not straining to be more than whatever I am already, and when my mind surges up to tear me apart, my breath washes it away.

Soon enough, it’s over, and Jai glides throughout the room, depositing rolled, lavender-soaked cloths at our heads and saying,” The light in me recognizes the light in you. Namaste”

Back out in the world, I’m railing the left-hand turn onto the diagonal while the trapped heat boils off my body and streams the windshield. The Flatirons rise in the distance, and already, it’s all back—the pounding insistence, the rapacious yearning to do more, me more NOW.

But the stillness has still won something, and when I burst through the door in the morning, my wife’s smile, my daughter’s hair, and my son’s antics all seem new. It all seems to slow and magnify even the pop of the toaster into something beautiful.

“This is the medicine of movement.” Jai said, “You are stardust on a mat, a living conduit of prana rooted into the Earth, sharing your gifts with the world.”

I don’t know what that means, but it all seems to mean more whenever I stop trying to be more than I am.

Oh – and there’s something else that has gradually emerged after 30 hours of early morning hot torture – I’m no longer a 2×4.

Positions that were formerly not ‘available to me’ aren’t easy, but fiber by fiber, inch by inch, my body is opening up. My hamstrings are gradually unfurling. My hips, locked up for years, have finally begun to move. My toes are no longer totally inaccessible to reach. My shoulders rotate. 

And on the bike? That phantom dagger in my left QL rarely speaks. 

And off it? I’m looser, faster to match the kids, wincing less if I ever have to sprint for a soccer ball or do anything laterally. 

Lately, at work, I’ve helped adapt the process of an endurance strength coach into a comprehensive strength training process for endurance athletes. 

I’ve learned that all endurance sports involve repetitive movements in incomplete ranges of motion. If that’s all you do, imbalances are inevitable. Unaddressed, performance is limited, and chances of injury increase. 

But – no offense – executing a comprehensive strength program sucks. Personally, I like riding, not the gym, and I don’t have all day – not anymore. If there’s a choice between riding and lifting – I’m riding. That’s the bottom line. 

The problem is that, eventually, that choice limits you. The muscular imbalance finally manifests. And even though you’re still confronted with the same choice – lift or ride- riding isn’t so clean anymore. It’s darkened by screaming muscles shortened into oblivion that have shirked their duty onto smaller, unsuspecting neighbors. 

You’ve got to do something. 

Funnily enough, the course points out that strength training priorities are a pyramid, and the bottom of that pyramid isn’t doing jump squats or throwing cinder blocks around a room, but mobility and stability – EXACTLY the type of exercise in every yoga class. 

So, if you follow the logic of this course, you should either be entering into a long-term contract at Golds Gym until you can untwist pretzel cycling has crunched your body into after years of neglect. 

Huh. So, it’s fair to say that eventually, yoga is the bare minimum you should do to ensure you can keep riding without pain. 

Neat. 

But there’s more—you might go to yoga for the mobility and stability benefits and endure all the guruic woo woo, but in the end, I’d argue that most of us need regular doses of stillness, and competitive cyclists really need them. 

NOT constantly:

  1. Obsessing over their training 
  2. Comparing themselves to others
  3. Torturing their bodies
  4. Trying to be more
  5. Blinding themselves to everything else in their life. 

Stop. Breathe. Find stillness, even if it’s just twice a week. 

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