Yoga restores mind and body balance


In a second story studio, Melanie Green leads coaches and athletes on the Berkeley High School mountain biking team in yoga every Monday afternoon. She asks riders to consider how many hours a week they spend hunched over their handlebars, spines bent and muscles tight, and prompts them to compare that to the time they spend each week doing yoga. Overwhelmingly, the athletes in the room spend just this one hour each week balancing out their movement. 

“When we’re practicing our sport, and we just do the same thing over and over, but we’re not balancing it with the opposite, then it’s much harder to listen … when something might be going on (with our bodies),” Green said.

For her Monday classes, she invites riders to be curious about what is painful or sore, adding, “I try to think about what muscles mountain bikers use.” 

She shapes her practice by working through inverses of the stress that biking puts on rider’s bodies. She incorporates shoulder openers to combat the biker hunch, as well as working in balancing poses to strengthen racing focus, clearly detailing these benefits as she leads.

For example, the downward dog: in biking, there isn’t much upper body work. In addition to stretching the legs, “downward dog creates a lot of strength and balance in the upper body. The arms, the triceps, the bicep, the shoulders,” said Green. On another level, “because the head is hanging, it’s a very releasing posture for the mind and the brain.”

“The practice of yoga quiets the mind. It stops the churning,” Green said. By concentrating on the breath and body, athletes eventually learn to focus their minds. For Lauren Turner, a former collegiate athlete and current owner and CEO of a sports consulting practice in Inglewood, California, sports taught her “the consistency of discipline, and just what it means to be able to really make a commitment to something.”

Girls varsity basketball holds an overall record of 5-19. Their final conference game is at 5:30 p.m. away on Friday, February 10 against Piedmont.