Thursday, June 16, 2011

Yoga, Running and Gratitude

Like a desert wanderer, my vision was obscured by the blurry, hazy horizon of hopelessness, savage heat, and hunger. Seeking an end to my suffering that was more than a mirage, my legs shook as I pounded out each step. The sweat dripping from my brow stung my eyes and my aching lungs stressed against my ribcage ready to burst like the lungs of a deep sea diver.

I remember the pain like it was yesterday. Running the mile each spring in high school was torture.

How funny is it that ten years later I could run a mile in high heels after devouring a 72oz steak – if I had to.

I’m not the best runner. I’m not even a good runner – I’m not fast, I wimp out often and I rarely run more than 5 miles. Eliminating all that, though, I can run.

Any one can run.

Running is still hard for me. It is a challenge - but thats one of the reasons why I do it.

Only one in a million of us will become a Lukas Verzbicas, a runner from my hometown, coached by a family friend, who recently became the 5th American high school student in history to break the 4 minute mile with a time of 3:59.71 . A stat like that might actually put Lukas in a smaller group than 1 in a million.

His accomplishment is amazing, and a true testament to what the body can accomplish.

I’ve been running for about 5 years (a timeline assessed by the moment I moved exercise on the treadmill to outdoor running – and when I ran my first race.) I’ve been practicing yoga for about a year. The two activities come together harmoniously. One reason I first began yoga was to improve my running (and to protect myself from the flair up of a back injury) but it turns out the two activities have more of a symbiotic relationship.

Running lets me get outside, and lets me play with the push and pull of my physical ability. It allows my mind to traverse even more exotic routes than my sneakers. I think, I sweat and I observe and exist within my environment.

Yoga demands my concentration. It builds my skill, my patience, and requires that I keep my mind focused and present. Yoga makes me listen and follow rules.

My runner’s body feels leaner and stronger from the conditioning of near constant yoga, and I can withstand the 60 minutes of heat and demand on my muscles in a yoga class because I am a runner.

The most important thing that I have learned from my practice of yoga is gratitude.

There is something inherent in our bones, our blood, and our psyches that challenges our ability to feel good about our bodies. We stress about our weight, our shape, our ability. The colors of our eyes, hair and skin. The perfection of our smiles. We are always criticizing ourselves for not being perfect.

Yoga has given me an opportunity to be thankful for my body for enabling me to eat, to drink, to hug, to do downward dog – and to run. I am thankful that my body listens when I say “faster” or “one more mile.” I am thankful that my body will grow stronger and learn new things. I am grateful for yoga and how I’ve learned through my practice to be grateful for my body and all that it does for me.

Do you remember to be grateful for your body?

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