Tourers describe motorcycling as a sense of freedom, adventure, finding oneself, losing oneself, a unique relationship between man and machine.
Different people may have different ways to describe motorcycling, however, all agree that motorcycling is an experience. An experience may sometimes be difficult to explain in words and the best we can say is you need to ride to experience it.
However, there are certain factors which hold us in having that experience. Some of them are external to us while some are within and very much in our control.
There is no doubt that external conditions like bad roads, traffic, unpleasant weather do affect our riding experience. Similarly, touring does not remain the same when gripped by internal situations like memories, thoughts, sadness, mental fatigue feeling of nonfulfillment and many more.
Factors from both the branches drag a rider closer to ‘stress’. An increased level of stress does reduce the experience a rider has. Internal factors are very much workable. Though several external situations are generally beyond our control but we surely have the capability on how do we respond to situations.
Symptoms of under stress during riding
Before moving on with the practice of keeping stress in check, let’s see how do these factors affect us at the level of body and mind.
We know that motorcycling requires constant focus, balancing and responding to situations.
Some easy to observe symptoms of stress are:
- Shrunk and pulled in shoulders
- Stiffened grips on handlebars,
- Squeezed thigh and calf muscles
- Pulled up toes on gear and brake
- Tight elbows
- Change in breathing pattern (short and paced up).
Do an experiment next time when you take your bike out and observe how many of these are happening to you.
‘Stress’ is a signal to the body to create a fight and flight situation. This results in releasing of hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, heart dilates and blood pressure is raised to have the extra energy in order to cope up with the stressful situation.
The aforementioned effect is cascaded to the respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal and nervous system. Some probable side effects are a bloated stomach, change in moods, panics, uneasiness and discomfort. Read more How stress affects the body and mind.
Motorcyclists particularly tourers are susceptible to such stresses which may often lead to fear, worry and fatigue.
Imagine what happens to your body when you feel hundreds and hundreds of such spikes in a day.
How can we experience the ride and feel the freedom when we go through this every minute?
Under stressed out muscle and mind, all we would be doing is trying to escape and getting nowhere closer to feel the synergy of man, machine and nature.
Working on regulating these factors with Pranayam and Dhyan
Let’s agree with the fact that stress is not going to disappear and we don’t want to get rid of it 100% and forever. We surely need these hormones but only when it is absolutely required.
Pranayam works at the level of mind (मन). Responses to situations can very well be regulated by mind, and Pranayam is an effective practice for this.
Pranayam exercises like anulom-vilom (alternating breath through Surya and Chandra naadi (nostrils), bhastrika and bhramari help in slowing down of senses and mind. Study on pranayama and brain correlation.
Dhyan increases the depth of thought, sharpens the intellect (बुद्धि) and raise our conscious and subconscious awareness. In case you don’t know from where to start wrt Dhyan, vipassana method should be good to start with.
A compelling engaging experience, in other words, oneness with man-machine and nature can be felt with the lowering of adrenaline rush. We don’t want to linger in fight or flight situation but we are out on two wheels for a broader purpose.
I have definitely noticed the change in my behaviour before and after practising Pranayam and Dhyan. My awareness of the presence of stress in my body has progressed and I keep checking any such stuff going around quite involuntarily.
As soon as I sense that my shoulder muscles or ankles are stiffened or getting in that direction, I immediately let the muscle release and make the breath long and deep.
The de-stressing is very soothing and it helps in having a very pleasant and peaceful motorcycle ride.
Let me know your thoughts on this post.