Mongolia Bike (& Yoga) Challenge

The Mongolia Bike Challenge was an 11-day stage race where riders pedal 1400km off road with 14,000 meters elevation gain. This distance took us into the remote edges of the Mongolian landscape—however this exploration pales in comparison to the edges participants travel within their body, mind, and Spirit.

My job here is to support athlete’s recovery in all three of those domains through a daily restorative bike yoga session. Leading just a body through some yoga postures isn’t going to cut it; closely tuning in to the athletes emotional state and general well-being supported both the design of the restorative yoga sequence and the energy and I brought to the yoga space. The feedback from riders has been positive; many built it in to their daily post ride ritual.


One example (which also speaks to the difference between simply stretching and what can be offered through yoga) of a deeper underlying theme for one of my classes was ‘stillness’. We first tuned in to the stillness of the expansive Mongolian landscape, and then allowed this sensing to be a reflection of the always present but seldom recognized stillness within. To then find this still place while on the bike was my instruction as it can provide much needed context and courage when the trail kilometers, elevation and saddle hours build.

I am ever curious about the inner atmosphere of an athlete in intense situations, one told me, “Let your mind wander” as a strategy for mentally surviving 140km off road across the desert. He said it sucks when he becomes too present to the reality of his situation!! Haaa, such a contrast to what I often preach as a yoga instructor and life coach–becoming honest and present to painful circumstances (whether in a yoga asana or in life) is the fuel to encourage change. In yoga, during a juicy stretch, I find that it feels just so damn good, so if you let your mind wonder you’re going to miss out!


But back to the riders daydreaming, I had to ask them, “but what about the scenery?!” During a casual ride, you can bring your attention to the scenery say 60% of the time but in race mode that will plummet to about 30%. When you’re in survival mode there is no scenery…during the most spectacular otherworldly stage, it was one of those survival days. We had huge rainfall, the rivers swelled, and we got temporarily (though we didn’t know how temporarily) stuck. The temperature fell, we woke up to ice at the camp in the morning, and we ended up having to tow the fleet of 13 off-road vans across a deep river with the lead expedition army vehicle. Exciting times!


Listening to some of the most durable athletes at camp talk about their efforts brings to mind the question why, why choose to put yourself in these intense situations? Yes, Mother Nature had a role to play with the epic rains, but signing up for such an adventure these situations are considered, and perhaps unconsciously yearned for. Just like gambling, the higher the odds against you the greater the reward. This just scratches the philosophical surface, but in the end I do know that these racers are going to take home some fond and frequently shared memories. To ground these experiences is another goal of my yoga sessions, so a couple times I started and finished my yoga session with a scan of all the things arising in this moment, which happens to be the interior and exterior of the individual and the collective, or the physical body, the inner thoughts and emotions, the trail network and Mongolian landscape, and the culture we found ourselves embedded in–clearly there is plenty to experience, so reminding ourselves of these riches in a important habit, one I consciously and frequently explore when travelling.


So while I missed out on watching the Olympics, marveling at the international field of MBC racers and witnessing first hand what their bodies, minds, and spirit are capable of enduring far surpasses any televised event. Thanks to all the racers, organizers, and local Mongolian staff for providing such a rich exploratory adventure.


The Mongolia Bike Challenge presented by Orbea is taking registration for 2013!

By |2017-10-03T06:33:03+00:00August 15th, 2012|Travel, Yoga|5 Comments

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  • Barbara Leech

    Great article Ryan – will enjoy hearing more about it sometime and seeing your photos.

    Love Mum

  • Thank you so much Ryan to let me rediscover my body,my mind and my sprit during MBC 2012!

    • You bet Arnold, it was an absolute pleasure!!

  • How frequent should yoga sessions be when in training season and racing season? Winter (cross country skiing) to be specific.

    • Really depends on the style of yoga you’re doing and long for. As a rule of thumb, aiming for 2 times per week you will notice some quick improvements in your recovery time, your general mobility, and your also a reduction in the typcial aches and pains that go along with a specific sport training routine. Hope that helps!