Tag Archives: yoga

channeling the yogi.

The final panel at the summit last weekend, prior to a free giveaway-palooza, was a casual talk by the planning committee entitled “Fitness for Everyone.”

Each blogger shared personal fitness-related stories, whether it be Kath biking to the supermarket or mowing the lawn, Caitlin and Tina navigating injuries, Meghann training for marathons, or Heather displaying a yoga-running balance.  The overall message was that exercise should be a priority, but that it should also be enjoyable.  There is no mold that perfectly fits us all, and we all have different activities that suit us best.

Then Jenna stood up and cemented that point.  She faced us without Powerpoint slides, without notecards, without any pre-planning.  She told us how running continues to disagree with her body and expressed that it’s likely she will stop entirely after her half marathon this fall.  What will she do then?  Yoga.  Just yoga.

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When I arrived in Boston, I knew I would be spending two days mingling with many, many runners.  I had prepared myself to be upset, to be frustrated, to be angry with myself and my knees.

But I wasn’t.

In my first couple months of physical therapy last winter, I tried yoga out, but I couldn’t focus.  I was counting the days until I’d run again, and I felt neither commitment nor connection to yoga.  But when my knees flared up again, I chose to give yoga another chance.  Somehow, in just a few short months, it has become just as rewarding to me as running once was. 

Yoga has made me more connected and aware of my body than ever before.  I used to say that about running, and it was true to a point.  I could tell when I was underfueled, overworked, or just right, depending on how I felt on that day’s run.  But having that awareness didn’t necessarily mean I listened to what my body was saying.  

When I ran, I was always planning.  5 miles today, 3 tomorrow.  Long and slow today, tempo tomorrow.  Yoga is different.  I can do it for twenty minutes or an hour and a half.  I can shake and stumble out of poses; I can also shock myself and balance with strength I never knew I had.  I can feel sweat coat my body, and I can also relax, letting my mat simply be a place for a gentle stretch.  Most of all, I never choose what to do in advance.  I allow the moment to guide me, and my body tells me if it needs work or rest, if it’s ready for a new and challenging pose, or if it needs to resettle in the familiar.

I still love to run.  I was only able to enjoy it for a year, but it was a wonderful year, and I am glad I was able to participate in the running community for that time.  I’ll always know I have the heart and the drive to run long distances.  But putting my sneakers in my closet and shutting the door is a decision I am not only proud, but content to have made.

I believe our bodies were meant for activity.  But I am also a firm believer that we each have our own unique niche.  Some people run.  Some walk.  Some enjoy the gym.  Some dance. [Have I ever mentioned I took twelve years of ballet lessons?]  Some people swim, some bike, some climb.  And some practice yoga.  

Exploring the many different forms of movement can be half the fun of staying active.  The other half, at least for me, is finding the one that’s right for you, falling in love with it, and treasuring its sweet release.


What is your exercise release?

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credit where credit is due.

In my weekly hot yoga class yesterday, my mind drifted, for a moment, away from an intense focus on the practice.

Towards the beginning, the instructor had us stand tall in Tadasana, feet hip width apart.  As she circled the room, adjusting what can seem the simplest of postures, she invited me to move my feet closer together.  Her words?  “Give yourself some more credit.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

greek yogurt and granolapost yoga snacking

The yoga studio I attend has three distinct walls.  Morning light streams through the windows on one; a single ballet bar adorns another; a third is composed entirely of floor to ceiling mirrors.  I never look in the mirrors.

Perhaps if I did, I might have seen that my feet were spread too wide.  But in that room, my reflection never tempts me.  Yoga has become a place where I am free from any needs or desires to dwell on the shape of my body. 

Ninety percent of the time, I do see myself as I am, and I am proud of it.  But those occasions do arise where old habits blindside me, and I can’t see my size realistically.  Rather than fixating on these moments, though, I evaluate them and move on.  

My feet were opened too far; some part of me believed they were mirroring my hips.  So, I moved them inward, and I drifted for a minute as I considered my past and my present.  I grinned, appreciating yoga for continuing to educate me day after day, and I returned to my mat.


What helps you to accept yourself as you are?

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what i learned on my running vacation.

Today I am finally getting fitted for custom orthotics.  My physical therapist swears I will run again, and soon, but I still don’t know.

Sometimes I am still surprised that I’ve managed to settle into a running-free life.  It felt like agony in the beginning, but in the past couple months, things have changed.  It’s not that I learned to live with it; it’s more that I learned to live in a different way.

sneakers and inserts

Sure, there were some tears.  There were some screams.  But looking back, I have grown an incredible amount, and I’m not sure that living out a dream of running a half marathon would have taught me the same lessons:

  • I discovered yoga.  Running was my outlet for any and all emotions.  Frustrated?  Run.  Angry?  Run.  Excited?  Run.  Afraid?  Run.  I had some of my most introspective thoughts while pounding out the miles.  But with yoga, I learned to shut my  brain off.  I stopped focusing on my body and my emotions, and instead centered on simply being.  That mental freedom is something I will treasure forever.
  • I practiced patience.  I followed the plans I was given, performed the strengthening exercises, stayed in when I knew I shouldn’t walk too much, rested when I was told to.  I did what I should have, but my body didn’t always follow.  I could never predict when I would have a good day and when I would not.  I couldn’t make my own exercise plans; I couldn’t train for a race.  I could, however, focus on what was happening right now.  As someone who always looks to the future, this was a difficult adjustment – but it was worth it.  Patience is a virtue, and appreciating each day as I live it has been a beautiful gift.
  • I started eating to live, not to run.  Most runners I know are a bit obsessed with food – what to eat, when to eat, how to eat it.  While I think the concept of sports nutrition is a fascinating one, it has been nice to take a break from it.  While running, I knew I needed to eat in order to run well (and the feeling of running while underfueled is not an enjoyable one).  But without running?  No longer was I eating for a purpose.  I was eating because it was an enjoyable, pleasurable part of life.  I’ve stopped seeing food as fuel, and I am now happy to approach it as something I love.
  • I realized the mental benefits of exercise far outweigh the physical.  I started seriously exercising a couple years ago in order to change my body.  And suddenly, I found myself forced to rest.  I was shocked to find that not only did my weight not change an ounce, but that I also didn’t care.  Far more than the calorie burn, I missed the high.  Each day I am able to walk, to press up into downward dog, even to zone out on the elliptical, I am grateful for the ability to do it.  I’ve proven to myself that I exercise to better my soul.

So really, who knows if orthotics will be a miracle cure.  But if they aren’t – I’m confident I’ll survive.


Have you ever been injured?  What have you learned from it?

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“we’re at yoga.”

Those were the words my instructor uttered this morning, while guiding us to release forward into pigeon, heads pressed to the mat, arms and leg outstretched and open.

hot yoga essentials

It was a bit of an intense class this morning.  The practice was led by a woman who demanded much more in the way of precision than I had previously experienced.  As she adjusted each participant equally and mindfully, we were encouraged to remain steady in each pose for minutes at a time.  

Halfway through, I was working so hard that sweat was literally dripping onto my mat (TMI?).  My arms were trembling; I questioned if I could continue at this slow, excruciating pace.  

Yet, for every minute that it seems impossible to continue, I always find that yoga evens itself out.  As we laid to rest in pigeon, the room was full of unique, differing, and audible breaths.  And the instructor said, “It’s ok.  We’re at yoga.” 

Simple and succinct, she said everything that needed to be said.  In the studio, in the heat, out of the world, out of stress – yoga is my safe zone.  It doesn’t need to be in a specific place, with a specific instructor, for a specific length of time.  I only need to be present and to try, and it is enough.


Where is your safe haven?

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americana.

Last week I was feeling green, but this one has to be all about the red, white, and blue.  My week leading up to the fourth will inevitably include…

strawberries and blueberries

Summer berries, in copious amounts.

beach outfit

Beach attire.

peppers, tomatoes, yogurt dip

Small snack plate: red bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, Greek yogurt + dill dip.

beach bag, fruit, sunglasses

Beach essentials: fresh fruit and sun protection.

quaker oats

Morning oats, of course.

yoga supplies

Yoga, on my new mat.

beans, barley, chili powder

Dinner, perhaps: red beans, barley, chili powder brought home from Istanbul.


How will you celebrate this weekend?

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power[ful] yoga.

Saturdays used to be my long run day.  Since getting injured, I have slowly transformed them into yoga days.

makeshift yoga supplies

I am very new to yoga.  I have always been hopelessly inflexible, never coming close to a split even after twelve years of ballet.  Running made my muscles even tighter, and my addiction to the adrenaline of high-intensity cardio made yoga seem like a slow, prolonged form of torture.  Needless to say, I gave up rather easily.

But then I found myself unable to run, and I needed a place to focus my energy.  I craved an outlet for it.  So I slid my old beginner’s vinyasa DVD into my laptop, set up a towel on my living room floor, and sat down in front of the screen.

“Breathe in.  Breathe in the energy from the earth through your sit bones, from the sky through the crown of your head.  Breathe out the stress, the worries, the pain you might feel.”

I’ve never been one for new-agey meditation, but at that particular moment, I believed those words could help me.

And so I awkwarly transitioned from pose to pose, my mind centered on my alignment, my breath, my strength (and sometimes lack thereof).  As I laid in Savasana, I could not locate any pain in my knees.

I felt I was on to something.

Running has many benefits.  But it is also hard on the body, pounding twelve times our body weight into the ground with each of the 1750 strides we take per mile.  Of course there are many intense yoga poses and flows (I certainly won’t be balancing on my head any time soon).  But I’ve learned to love how accessible it is – with a bit of trial and error, there can be a style of yoga for each and every person, for each and every need.  

I might be one of those people that isn’t meant to run.  But I am coming to realize that everyone may be meant for yoga, me included.  And today, I’ve finally decided that it’s time to leave my living room and brave a real class.  I haven’t felt such nervous excitement since running left my life.

I really do think I’m on to something.


Do you practice yoga?

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