I love combining the physical benefits of classic exercise with historic yogic tradition. One of my favorite hybrids is the yogic bicycle. Usually reserved for ab classes, bicycle crunches are a nice complement to the typical yoga session. Yoga has very few abdominal strengthening poses, other than the dreaded Boat Pose—and even that doesnt do much for the obliques, or side abdominal muscles. And bicycle is actually a Vinyasa, or “breath and movement sequence.”
Just because you may have done bicycle before doesnt mean you can just throw it in a yoga sequence without thinking twice. You want to be very conscious of your breath—something you may not normally do when you do bicycle crunches at the gym. When you practice yoga, your energy is open, and the way you breathe really affects your level of energy. How you breathe in any given sequence can have some pretty dramatic effects!
Begin on your back with your knees bent together and touching your chest. Keep the knees here as you interlace your fingers behind your head and sit up slightly. This is the inhale position. As you exhale, squeeze the outside of your right arm to the outside of your left thigh and straighten your right leg. Inhale to come back to center with the knees into the chest and sitting up straight. Exhale to twist to the other side. Repeat for at least a minute, up to 5 minutes for best results. This can be practiced every day.
Yogis have a system of energy channels, called nadis, and they believe that the right side of the body represents the sun channel, or the masculine, extroverted side of the body, while the left side is the moon channel, the feminine or receptive side. It may sound incredible, but if you are always inhaling on the left and exhaling on the right, youll drain yourself of energy—this can leave you introverted and depressed. On the contrary, if you are always inhaling on the right, you can agitate your system and develop a nervous condition.
The bicycle sequence not only helps balance your energy, but regular practice also will leave your tummy toned and taut. Plus, paying attention to your breathing will help you reap the rewards.