Biking Meditation

September 14, 2022
Bike leaning against a bench in a park
 

I'm not sure what to call it. Biking meditation. Bike yoga. Meditation in motion. Meditative biking. Maybe just mindfulness meditation while biking.

But I know something happens on my bike. Riding by myself, unplugged, no earbuds, outside in nature feels good. It relaxes me. It helps me let go of concerns about the future or past. If I have a problem I've been trying to solve, I often arrive home from a ride with a solution. Especially if I was not trying to solve the problem.

Matthew in bike helmet in a field 2022

It wasn't always this way. My biking meditations are different from the biking I did as a kid. Back then I enjoyed biking, but my bike was my transportation, my freedom. How I ride now is different from the group training rides for the AIDS Rides I did more than 20 years ago. At that point, I viewed biking primarily as a social activity. The act of biking from Minneapolis to Chicago, with people cheering us on over 500+ miles, was a statement. We raised money and awareness.

Matthew, Kira, and Nathan in bike clothing at 2002 Heartland AIDS Ride

When I got serious about yoga and meditation and started feeling the benefits, I soon noticed how biking could have a similar effect. If I focus on the flow of my breath while riding, then my concerns about the past or future blow away. If I soak up the smells of the woods on a ride, then shame and doubt dissipate. Focusing on my pedal stroke allows me to let go of repetitive negative thoughts.

I realized I was taking my practice off my yoga mat and meditation cushion out into the world. The yogic breathing practices were no different on my bike. There was no rule preventing mindfulness meditation on a bike. It was easy for me to "live my yoga" on a bike.

Riding a bike can also be a time to notice suffering. I might notice a pain in my knee and how my mind quickly decides that it's something serious. More often than not, the pain passes away as quickly as it arises. Sometimes on a ride I start to worry I won't make it back in time for the next meeting. If I'm mindful, I realize I can only ride so fast and that enjoying the ride is the best course of action. Ironically, it took me a while to realize that even on the bike path I could progress on my spiritual path.

A gray bike on a singletrack path in a field

As they say at Kripalu, "it's all yoga." Biking is one way that I live my yoga. We don't need the perfect yoga mat or a room at just the right temperature to surrender to the present moment. Where I live, the bike routes are plentiful. I can ride most days of the year. It's more available than canoeing in the Boundary Waters or backpacking in the mountains — two other activities that bring me joy. The more "easy" mindfulness practices I add to my day, the more I approach a life of mindfulness.

Fat bike by a bench in a field

I feel overjoyed that most of my days include yoga, meditation, and biking. I appreciate my physical health while I have it. If the attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga, then at this moment I am way up in the sky somewhere.

What activities do you find useful to put your mind at ease?

 

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Currently Reading

Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (2021)  (Join me at book club to discuss this book)