Timo Pritzel on Injuries and Finding Yoga
Timo Pritzel talks about riding bikes, injuries, getting old and finding Yoga...
Timo Pritzel talks about riding bikes, injuries, getting old and finding Yoga...
From Dirt Issue 114 - August 2011
Words Timo Pritzel. Photos by Viktor Strasse.
I got introduced to Yoga because I was in pain and conventional western medicine could not help me, even Cortisone injections did not do it anymore. School medicine confused and scared the hell out of me, then I got a blood test from two different doctors that diagnosed that I have Scoliosis, a rheumatic disease.
One Doctor was a specialist in the genre and got an autographed poster from me for her son! She also ‘needed’ (read: wanted) me to be living case study, she wanted me as a project and to scan my back every three months to show it getting worse!>>
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My stressful six year relationship broke up too, so it was an even better reason to pack my little backpack and travel to Asia for three months. I did not really have a clue where to go, but I’m sometimes lucky and gifted when it comes to finding the right spot or meeting the right people at the right time! I was in an internet cafe in Chang Mai and typed in ‘Yoga’ and ‘Thai Chi’ in the Google machine. I chose a place called Tao Garden, where an older Thai woman told me that my ligaments were so tight from my sport and that was the reason for my back pain…and that my tail bone was bent from a crash. This combination had messed up my system up a lot.
She helped me with my problems and I learned more about my body, did Chi Gung, Thai Chi, talked to body workers and natural healers, which helped put me in the right direction. When I got home I started to look for good Yoga teachers because it seemed more suited to me than Chi Kung and Thai Chi.
My pain came from all the crashes that where stored in my body which had become ‘energy blockages’. Also I had pain from not stretching my ligaments and having stress in general. The mental aspect is a huge part of what goes on in your body. This is another thing that conventional medicine does not do very well, it does not connect your body with your mind and spirit. Conventional medicine looks only at the body part that is hurt and does not see the whole system. For example, a bike rider that crashed, twisted his back and had a little concussion goes to hospital. He gets scans and the doctors tell him ‘it is OK, nothing is broken’ and he goes home with pain killers. A body worker would find out that two vertebrae are blocked and that nothing is flowing anymore, that is why he is so tired, because the liquid in the vertebrae does not reach his brain anymore and his neck muscles are super tight from the concussion (Craniosacral Therapy works really well when you have concussions).
I'm not against the conventional medicine, it’s very helpful in many situations and much needed. I m just a bit angry at the system. For example, I had cut my kidney seriously at the 1997 Backyard Jam in the UK. I stayed in hospital in Brighton for two weeks, had really good doctors, and I was close to being operated on four times! Then I went to a hospital in Berlin and they wanted to cut me open right away, take my kidney out, just to make money! Or they wanted me to pay for strong antibiotics, but not for any natural medicine that really does help.
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There is a lot of pressure for many riders to be a pro, many do not finish their education and are living with the risk and the thought in their mind that their career can be over quickly. A big named Freeride Pro, has a good contract, buys a big house and car on credit and at the end of the year the company drops him because they decided it is worth more to spend a million Euros on a road bike team instead of a small amount on a Freeride team. So now the rider has some serious pressure on his back and does not ride for fun anymore, so now he goes to a contest to make money.
I’m telling you this because often riders at the start have the idea that being a bike pro is only fun on your bike, and it’s the best job in the world...don’t get me wrong, it is! But I want you to hear the other side too. If you compete at the top level it is quite brutal on your body. Lets say you have around 16 big events a year, plus filming for video parts where you give 100%. It is almost normal to have a couple concussions and big crashes a year and one big injury every one to two years (especially now with new big tricks like double flips and triple whips, or one big drop at the finish line (like Crankworx) where you have to do a trick down from 9 metres to get a chance of being on the podium.
So if you do that, like me for 15 years at BMX Dirt and MTB events, it all adds up. For example, you just cut your spleen (like I did some years ago), then took little time off. Your body is weak, but you are already at the next event where people expect you to do good. Most of the time it is not your bike company that puts pressure on you, it is your own head that wants you to do good all the time. So off course you need a lot of will–power to just get that far.
For me it was such a hard process to accept that I m getting older and can’t take those slams anymore like I used to. I am 34 now and for a while I didn't see clearly what I wanted to do next, I just kept competing. So I’m quite happy now that I have good sponsors supporting me and that I can still be of value to them.
If you want to compete at a top level for a good period of time and still ride when you are over 30, or just be healthy and able to walk normally, you have to learn more about your body and work and heal after injuries.
You can call them ‘stretching poses’ if the word ‘yoga’ scares you too much. There are so many styles of yoga and every teacher teaches it with their own personality. Sometimes it is not easy to find a good teacher who has the style you like, speaks to your heart and has the knowledge and experience to give you the right cues and adjustments. But it‘s worth searching for the right person.
The yoga I do (Power Vinyasa Flow, Forrest Yoga) is not on a sheep blanket together with hippy chanting. It is a very strong exercise that strengthens the muscles of your whole body. You do push ups and the most intense abs ever and are motivated when the woman next to you does handstands easily and has stronger abs than you. Emotions and crashes are stored in your body and it’s such a relief to let go of stuff like that and release the tightness.
Yoga teaches you to breathe deeply and makes you shift gears into a higher level of health and energy, because breathing is literally your life force. What I am saying is that I really get worked, my busy head finds peace, my body releases tension and opens up and I feel good even beyond the practice: healthy and happy.
I think the reason why we love to ride our bikes so much is also because we can shut off our ‘Monkey’ in our head! We are just in the moment and not thinking about the ‘to–do list’ or nonsense. I thought for a while that I could only find peace by going over my limits in extreme situations on my bike and it was such a relief to also find peace on my yoga mat just breathing.
It was almost normal for me to wake up with a stiff body in some pain, and I thought ‘OK this is the price I pay for my job’. I guess sometimes you have to experience how it is to feel really shitty, so you can appreciate how good it feels to be healthy again.
It is quite brutal what we do to our body sometimes, it’s amazing how much punishment a body can take. My point is that for all the fun and ‘not thinking about consequences and just going for it’ we do pay the price and later you can choose just to accept the pain or find something like yoga that helps to heal and build up your body again. It was quite a hard experience that I originally had with my back and the wrong doctors, but in the end it put me in the right direction towards natural healers and yoga where I have learned a lot. I‘m really thankful for it.