Tuesday, March 22, 2011

1 Inch & 5 Seconds: Forever Changed

One of my yoga therapy clients raised her foot one inch off the ground tonight in a balance pose.

And she cried.

First she cried because she was afraid.

Just one inch.

Then she cried because I said I wasn't going to start counting to five until her foot was actually off the floor.

Just one inch. For five seconds.

And then she cried because she did it.

She raised her foot one inch off the floor. For five seconds.

This doesn't sound like much to most of us, but for her this was huge. It's been five years since her accident that left her with serious physical issues. Five years of learning to live with pain, being told no you can't do that, and being afraid to even try.

And for tonight, for just five seconds, she proved she could and she did.

And I had to work really hard not to cry.

What saves a man is to take a step. And then another step.
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Be Still Then Run

"Why can't I stop myself from always running balls to the wall."

That is the text I received this morning from a friend training for his next half marathon. Yes, his next half marathon. He's run quite a few already so he understands a training schedule, rest days, and the tapering off period.

He understands them. He just doesn't always follow them. And right now his knees are bothering him four days before race day.

We had talked earlier in the week about how since this was his taper time he would take it a little easier. Some extra yoga and pilates, but no more long, hard runs.

So, of course, this morning he went out and ran.

Dude, seriously? Your body is talking to you. Listen to it!

(Disclaimer to those reading who know me well -- yes I know I am not exactly the poster child for listening to your body. Yes I remember I am the one who tore the ligaments in my foot on a run after the doctor told me no more running. I am attempting to apply those hard earned lessons here.)

The first yama of yoga is ahimsa: non-violence. Not only do we not hurt others, but we don't hurt ourselves, including pushing our bodies into pain or injury.

The beauty of yoga is that it teaches us to listen to our bodies. So when the knees are saying stop running, we'd be wise to listen.

My runner friend admitted he has a really hard time letting himself take it easy. We talked about how taking it easy doesn't mean the same thing as laziness. The body needs worked to be healthy and strong. But just as importantly it needs rest. Resting sore, tired, perhaps injured muscles is an important part of the training process for runners, athletes and yogis.

It could be something as simple as his stride being a little off, needing new shoes or just running a little too hard for a little too long. But the knees are like shock absorbers for the body. Any extra physical weight will affect the knees. Psychological weight will have an impact too.

So what else is going on right now? Is there anything emotionally he is holding on to that is weighing him down?

I don't know the answer. I did encourage him to make it to yoga class in the morning. Spend some extra time just being still, breathing, and seeing where the stillness takes him. Discover what he feels in the physical body, and also what he feels internally.

He's worked hard these past few weeks doing the physical work. Now, be still and do the mental work.

Come race day, I know he'll be ready to cross that finish line.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Working the Yoga

I don't feel good today. Physically, mentally or emotionally. It's just one of those days where I want to huddle under a blanket in the corner.

There have been times in my life when I would have grabbed some chocolate and went and hid away. Instead, today I'm choosing to work my yoga with Patanjali's 8 Limbs.

Patanjali is considered the father of yoga and the author of The Yoga Sutra. In the Sutra's he lays out an 8-fold path to living a better life through yoga.

  • Asana - check. I locked the bedroom door and allowed myself 20 minutes for a nice meditative flow this morning.
  • Dyana - check. It was only about 5 minutes, but a quiet meditation helps center me before I unlock the door.
  • Pranyama -check. Quite a few times today I've stopped and focused on my breath. Whether it's my stomach cramping up or my insides feeling a little anxious, I close my eyes and breathe my way through it.
  • Ahimsa - check. The first yama: non-harming. I'm not going to harm myself by feeding my feelings with chemicals and sugar. I've drank some extra water with fresh lemon today and kept my food healthy. Tonight's dinner will be some fresh salmon for a little extra omega-3's to boost my brain function and sweet potato and broccoli for the anti-oxidant boost.
  • Satya - check. The second yama: non-lying. When asked what's wrong with me, instead of answering nothing, I've let those around me know I don't feel good. Nothing specific is wrong. Just cut me some slack today.
  • Santosha - check. The second niyama: contentment. It was a busy day around here today. We have an appraiser coming to look at the house next week so I wanted to be sure the house looked good and a few little projects that had been needing done finally got completed. In the midst of it all, I gave myself permission to take advantage of this rare, warm sunny day and I lay down on the front porch swing and just soaked up the sun's vitamin D. Of course there were more productive things I could have been doing, but instead I let myself be content with how everything was at that moment.

Staying present, staying focused and staying true to my yoga has helped me get through today. So it actually ended up being a good day. That's the thing about living the yoga - no matter what external circumstances are happening, I have a guide to living through it in a peaceful, positive way.

Tomorrow I'll wake up and start the yoga all over again.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm a Happy Dolphin

In my next life I want to be reincarnated as a dolphin.

I have this theory that as we go through life we have lessons to learn, and as we progress and complete the lessons, we return to earth each time a little more evolved. Until eventually we are reincarnated as a dolphin.

Why a dolphin? Dolphins are amazingly smart, beautiful to watch as they glide through the water and just plain cool.

I think today I may have earned part of a dorsal fin.

I had a conversation with someone today that would have in the past caused me to get upset and defensive. I admit I have a strong personality, and this person also has a strong personality. Unfortunately, our personalities have a way of combating each other rather than working together.

Today's issue was nothing earth shattering. I presented an idea, and for reasons I don't agree with, she vetoed it. In the past my ego would have roared up and I would have defended my position, argued my point and taken it personally.

That didn't happen today.  I made my point, she made hers and I accepted it. I don't agree with it. But I accept it and don't feel the need to challenge it.

And I'm ok with that. After all, this is only temporary.

It's a temporary conversation. A temporary job. A temporary time and place. A temporary life.

At one point during the exchange I remember thinking I feel nothing inside. No anger, no resentment, no pain. Just contentment.

In yoga, contentment is the second niyama. The Sanskrit word is santosa. Santosa means seeing things as they are, without expectation. It's a way of finding peace with whatever stage of growth or circumstance you are in.

Santosa doesn't mean giving up or allowing myself to be treated badly. It just means I find a way to be the best person I can be, no matter what situation I find myself in.

I'm here in this job, this place, this life for now. But someday, I hope to be jumping freely through the waves.