a glimpse in to yoga.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

 I ran.  And ran.  And ran.
{And clearly needed to eat a cheeseburger.}
The first time I ran a mile was in gym class when I was 12.
I was neither fat nor thin, but not the least bit athletic.  
Those ridiculous physical fitness tests were my worst enemy.  I was lazy.  And annoyed.  Just wanting to be left alone to chase boys, primp my sweet bangs and killer perm, reapply pastel pink lip gloss in any mirror I passed.
But one day I thought, "I'm gonna' run this damn thing!"
All the mile-run fitness tests prior, I'd run for 10 feet, stop.  Run for ten feet.  Stop.  Walking in at comfortable 20-minute miles.
Not this time.  I ran.  Hard.  My chest hurt, my breathing was out of control, the thump, thump, thump of my flimsy Keds doing nothing to support my angry feet.  My ridiculously poofy bangs and Aussie hairspray NO match for the sweat pouring from my face as I struggled to fight the wind.  But I didn't care.  
A fire had been lit and there was NO puttin' out this flame.
And I kept going.  This was just a mile, but for a 12-year-old with ZERO distance running experience it was a marathon. 
I ran the whole way without stopping, coming in under ten minutes to a completely shocked gym teacher,
"Elizabeth Sorenson!"  She yelled in her cranky voice, her whistle jingling at her chest as she swung back and forth looking for her clipboard to record the time.  Looking at her stopwatch then back at me, jaw to the ground.  "Do my eyes deceive me?!?!  What has gotten in to you?!  Atta' girl!!!"  A small, satisfactory smile creeping across her face.
I BEAMED!  In tears because God, did I hurt, but SO proud at what I'd accomplished.
I COULD run.
And I kept running.  And running.  And running.  A la Forest Gump.
Four years of high school cross country, track, road race after road race.  A few medals (like 10th and 20th place.  I didn't say I was fast.)  Logging hundreds of miles each year, yards and yards of ace bandages from pulled achilles and torn hamstrings, pounds of ice on strained calves and tired knees. 
But I continued to show up.  I just did it.
If you are a runner, you know.  There's nothing like the high of the last stretch of the race.  Where everything hurts, your chest is burning, sweat is rolling down your back, but somehow, your legs keep moving.  The game switches tracks from physical to mental.  It's your thinking, your head that keeps you going, not your physical strength.  
Your legs become detached from your body as your mind goes to another place.  You become numb to the pain, your only focus the finish line ahead.  And somehow, they pick up.  That inner strength within propelling you toward the finish, no matter how tired or hurt you are.  It's unreal.  Often bringing with it tears of joy, happiness and great relief at having accomplished something that just a few seconds ago, you wanted to quit.
But years of running took their toll.  
My new 30-something-3-kids-rifled-through-it-body was calling for a time-out.  
Years of weight lifting, pounding pavement and intense workouts have done some damage.
I got to a new place where I needed to be nurtured.  
Seeking to be transformed somehow, to awaken within things that needed to come alive.  Still needing exercise, but now a DIFFERENT tool to carry in my belt to deal with the anxiety that had become my best friend, 
something that would help to end that relationship.
From that deeply rooted desire, I developed a NEW relationship,
with YOGA.
I was introduced to yoga YEARS ago, but with no real acceptance or appreciation for it.
A flimsy handshake at best.
I only saw it as another workout.  Knew nothing about the history, the benefits, the deeper meaning behind the practice.  To me, it was just another way I could battle baby weight and stay in shape.  
It wasn't until recently, over the past two years, that it intuitively sidled back in to my life.  Only THIS time, to reveal it's TRUE purpose and to help me in the ways I most needed.

A spark was lit within, like when I was 12.  Not knowing how or why but that I needed to make a change.
Running did that for me for so long, but after 15+years, it became so uninspiring.  And painful.  Dragging myself to the gym with 3 kids, the pulse of treadmills, the whir of spinning bike wheels, the thud of weight lifters dropping 50 lb. dumbbells heavily to the ground, got old.
There was no connection.  No marriage between my breath and my movement anymore.  No motivation.  Although I've witnessed the benefits of intense cardio and sometimes miss my mornings at the gym, it was and IS no longer what I need.
HENCE, the yoga.
I had many doubts.  Oh, for SURE I judged.
What is this goofiness?  You put your leg where?  And how are you burning any calories doing that?!  Are you even sweating?
Could I do yoga?  I was in rough shape.  Ah, a thick and round shape.  The instructors I'd seen were phenomenally fit, long lean arms and taut little legs like dancers,
glowing skin and eyes that sparkled.  Almost other-worldly.
How would I find my place in that?  I was a hot mess.  Toting relentless baby weight, never-ending fatigue, screaming joints, a belly that would not be flattering in anything spandex. Touch my toes?!  Ha!
But again, I was called to it.  Yoga.  And I've learned when you're being called to something, when the universe is yelling at you, you pay attention.  
The practice of finding balance, a connection between mind and body? 
It sounded lovely and just what I needed, but really?  Was moving slowly and twisting and stretching REALLY going to improve my life?
I was reluctant to try something new and was totally outside my comfort zone walking in to our local yoga studio's.
But I showed up.  And I haven't stopped since.  
For awhile, I clung to my mat with ferocity.  Taking up cozy space in the back of the room, where no one could see me or judge me and I'd be 'safe,' where a door was always within an arm's reach.
Rolling out my mat tentatively, but now, confidently.  With passion and excitement and appreciation for another day to practice. 
The om's and namaste-ing have sucked this tired mom in, revitalized and rejuvenated me in more ways than running or ANYTHING EVER could have.
The little arm of my mind's mini slot machine, crashing down hard, "DING!  DING!  DING! 
You've found it!  Here it is for you, the fountain of youth, girl!"  
Dropping down into my open palms, golden nuggets of more harmony, peace and balance with each new day I unroll my mat and plop down to practice.
We are SO fortunate to have the opportunity to take up space in these quiet little sanctuaries,
the yoga studios of our lovely, little towns, guided by the best of the best.
The quiet, the peace, the music, the pleasantly painted walls, the nurturing of the amazing teachers that pitter patter between yogi's on the warm studio floors of Pure Yoga. . .
To take up space in the morning sunlight that seeps through every window,
 I have ditched my gym membership.  Instead, showing up to what I REALLY need.
I still really have only scratched the surface on what this beautiful practice can do,
but already knowing that my body AND mind, LOVE it.  CRAVE it.
Have been nurtured by it and continue to reap the benefits each day.
Of course, like any sport or team or club, yogi's have their accessories.  Their stereotypes.
Their high quality non-stick mats.   
No numbered jersey's or team logo's,
but some pretty damn cute AND functional Lululemon attire that allows your body to move and breathe easily in each posture.
Fancy bracelets with spiritual sayings, mala beads and toe rings.  Which is fine and dandy and I buy in to all of it,
but you can tell a TRUE devoted yogi not by their greatest accessories or adorable pants, but by their presence.
An arresting inner strength, confidence and unavoidable inner beauty. 
And I'd like to hope (and dream,) I'm becoming one of them.
That through my own practice, I'm proudly acquiring those beautiful things.
{See?  Bracelets?}
But it's not the beads or the bracelets (which, hey, I'll rock out,)
more importantly, the posture.  The peace.
The stretching and reaching, holding and pressing
balancing and shaping my life in ways I NEVER thought possible.

learning to be present with simply my breath to guide me, through tension, heat and fatigue.
It is an amazing thing, in this practice, 
to know, no matter WHERE you're starting from or how long it takes,
you will touch your toes without wincing in pain, find expansion in muscles that seemed immovable, find a STRONG core, a strong CENTER beneath years of pregnancies or pastries. 
But also a flexibility and strength you'll found internally, things you'll learn about yourself in practice that will work to ground you in REAL life.
I've seen all heights, all weights, all ages perform poses beautifully in their own unique way.  Reminding me daily, that you can leave your ego at the door, being stronger, faster, better gets you nowhere.
It's about TUNING IN.  Noticing YOU.  How YOU move.  HOW you breathe.
Running in a pack, drawing from the breath, movement and strength of those around you, to propel you forward to a new place.  But also falling back, if you need to, without judgement.
Knowing that you don't have to try to keep up.  
The teachers themselves (and I have some amazing ones, like Suzy Schaak of PureYoga above,) are everything to the practice.
Quietly but confidently guiding, like little yogi angels, to bend deeper, twist further, push harder but ALWAYS supporting you in proper alignment until "one day, someday," spoken often by one of my favorite teachers, Renee Lindquist, you arrive.
Between the four corners of your sacred mat, surpassing boundaries with challenging poses that maybe a month ago, you never would've attempted.  To that desired pose you've worked so hard to get to or never thought you'd achieve.
But you do, with practice.  Like running a grueling race,
a natural high of pride and sense of accomplishment that gives you self-confidence to keep going.
always able to reach further and higher with each hour you devote.
What I love about yoga, is knowing there is a place I can bring my mat AND my muffin top, without judgement or shame.
Where there is no competition.  The only thing or person you are challenged by or have to show ANYTHING to, is yourself.
With an equal physical challenge to that of running, requiring the same endurance, strength and desire to finish.  To move forward despite the discomfort.  
That being said, I have quietly but proudly slipped off my running shoes for bare feet.
My body still craving that intensity and challenge, (minus the impact and stress on my weary joints.)
My OWN yoga practice has become as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.  
Trudging the hills of this town, rain, sleet or snow, yoga mat in tow,
to the nestled little buildings that are our towns best yoga studios.
No matter how tired, how unmotivated, how annoyed, how angry at my husband or kids, I just show up.  I cram my extra goodness in to comfortable yoga pants, schlep my kids to school, my weary head and mat to class, day in and day out, to the welcome mat of each morning, that is rolled out from these places. . .
to delve a little deeper.
To move.  Breathe.  Sweat.  
Whether in the rays of morning sunlight through the windows at PureYoga or the warm lights and mirrors of Studio One,
has become a staple in the healing process of my past life, 
learning to JUST STAY but also move forward and grab hold with more grace, ease and kindness towards myself and others.
I have been able and continue to do that, in the loving hands of the yoga instructor.
I have had workouts in intense heat, pouring with sweat, wincing at poses held, wanting to collapse or escape,
only to relax through, guided by the voice of the teacher.  To breathe.  Settle calmly in to each pose, no matter how my mind is fighting against it.
And when you've found a good one, one that motivates, encourages and pushes, but does it with a kind, gentle and reassuring voice, you've hit the jackpot.  
 Sarah Stormoen of Studio One and her equally amazing beau, Dariush Moslemi,
this dynamic duo do just that.
Bringing to each class, a unique style but also experience, knowledge and guidance that is untouchable.
Exuding physical and emotional strength, but also kindness, gentleness, playfulness.
Their love for not just each other, but the practice, wrapping you up the minute you step through the doors.
The playfulness and devotion this couple brings to the studio, softens the hard edges of this often challenging practice. 

Guiding you through heart opening and hip opening postures, that literally change the way you see things.
To have these mini-sanctuaries in our sweet, little town, is to me, one of the greatest gifts.  A safe place to find balance, enlightenment, self-awareness and mindfulness of all your body is and CAN be, simply by moving, breathing and letting go.
Through the guidance of these amazing teachers, from Suzy Schaak (above,) the inspiring Michel Tigan, Renee Lindquiest from PureYoga and all the other fantastic teachers that guide these practices, I have learned to be still.
I have learned, in the hottest, the most challenging, the most exhausting of classes, when I'm looking for an out or being beckoned toward the exit to escape heat and exhaustion,
wanting to give up and slip out under the curtain of class,
My new mantra (inspired by said teachers.)
No matter how difficult, how exhausting, how uncomfortable, 
anywhere in life, to just ride it out.
That before you know it, it'll be over.  You'll be slipping out the dark in to new light.
With yet, another opportunity to do things differently. 
Although I am far from svelt and still a young student of this lifelong practice, I am in.
And I am stronger than I've ever been.
Thanks to yoga.
Thankful each day for my body's ability to move more freely.  
Grateful for my mind's ability to let go.
To more easily find breathe.

{This was written from the perspective of a yoga devotee.  Who finds strength and solace in daily practice between hockey practices, potty training and pirouettes.  Pictures of me taken by Shawn Hogendorf of Stillwater Patch.}
I would LOVE to know how yoga has improved YOUR life or where you go.}


Adele said...

Are you sick of feeling twice your age?

Are you achy, tired and stiff? Or has your job made you chair-shaped?

Are you tired of dragging through your day — or of dosing yourself with industrialstrength coffee just so you can focus?

If that sounds familiar, I’m here to tell you there’s hope.

I was on a fast-track to burnout too — and I was a competitive athlete! But yoga changed all that for me. And it will work for you too.

Yoga will completely transform your life by doing 3 crucial things:

Shutting off chronic pain that robs you of energy and makes even simple routine tasks a trial.

Increasing your flexibility without spending hours and hours of boring stretching.

Turning back the clock on aging and making you feeling younger — by a decade — in just 4 weeks.

For more info please click on the following link: How To Yoga at Home?

Thanks again

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