Saturday, June 9, 2012

Life on the mat

On May 13, 2012 my daughter and I started our 60-Day Bikram Yoga Challenge at Bikram Yoga Stockton. My third. Her first. It's called a "challenge" for a reason. It's not for the faint of heart. You have to be truly committed and determined to finish otherwise it just won't happen. One could say the same thing about running, but the cool thing about running is that I can almost run when I want to. There is no scheduled class that I have to be at. No doors that will be locked if I get there late. If work has been hectic and there is a TON of stuff to do when I get home, I can always run at night. Even if it means wearing the ugly reflective vest and the "miner's headlamp." Ha! Not the case with Bikram yoga. Classes are only held at certain times so you're either there or you're not. You're either meeting the challenge or you're not. This is often a bit too structured for most people.

In order to complete the 60-Day challenge, the yogi must take a minimum of six classes per week. One a day, or you can double up if you miss a day. In order for this to happen, one must schedule one's day around the classes available. This means an hour and a half per class, plus the driving time (30 minutes round trip for me) which adds up to two hours of my time every day. Not an easy task when you're working full time and caring for your kids etc. Everything from laundry to meals has to be scheduled so we can get it all done. It's exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time, however the mental and physical changes that go on during a challenge are astounding and are the reasons I keep showing up on the mat. There are days that I feel the same way I do when I hit the proverbial "wall" in a marathon: "Why am I doing this?!?" "Why did I sign up for this?!?" "Would the instructor just shut up already?!?"

And then there are days when I feel like a million bucks! "I'm a rock star for completing this challenge." There are days I manage to do EVERY posture without taking a break and I  feel like I could do yoga forever. This week I did double classes twice to make up for days I had to miss and I felt empowered. Three hours of yoga a day?!? Yeah! I rocked it! Kinda like running. The days when I feel so light on my feet that I feel as though I could run forever. I love days like that! The valleys and the can't have one without the other.

Despite being very different, yoga and running have a lot in common. Namely, structure, commitment, endurance, determination, and integrity.The structure part of it is obvious as yoga requires structure in order for there to be any real change in ones body and running requires structure in order for one to improve one's pace etc. Commitment and endurance are also required as both sports demand a real commitment in order to see improvement in the postures/pace and endurance if one is to finish strong in either sport. The determination in both these sports is what allows one to reach the finish line. That "bulldog determination" where one refuses to give up no matter what the obstacles are and the joy that comes from the challenge.

I've often said that I could go into the Bikram yoga studio and simply "go through the motions" of doing the postures without any real integrity and still get credit for the class and tell myself that "at least I went to class." The same could be said about running. I go out on my runs and I am accountable to no one but myself. I push myself as much or as little as I want to or feel like. I could tell myself: "Well, at least I got out there." The instructor in the yoga studio may or may not notice that I am not pushing myself as hard and I can also "fake it" to a certain point to make it seem like I am exerting all my energy. The point is, I either have the integrity to do all the postures and to push myself to my limit or I don't. I either have the determination to stick to the plan or I don't. No one can give that to me or do it for me. Only I know what my limit is. Likewise, only YOU know what your limit is. I can feel my body telling me to run just a little faster or to push a little harder on that hill and it is up to me to listen to that voice or ignore and it. I can feel the muscles on the back of my legs begin to engage to give me the strength to hold the posture in yoga for one full minute without falling out. I KNOW when I can give just a little bit more and I also KNOW when giving just a bit more will make the difference between an OK run and a GREAT run and an OK Bikram class and a class where I kicked butt and my body knows it. There is something to be said for the integrity in that. I would venture to say that most non-runners simply do not get it. And that's OK.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day about this topic and I commented about the amount of miles he was putting in and the time spent doing it. I said to him that to most non-runners, people like us simply DO NOT HAVE A LIFE. Ha! At least it appears that way. In fact, we DO have a life, it's just different. It simply revolves around running. I often schedule my runs at the beginning of the week and for sure before I go to bed at night so I know what workout I'll be doing the next day. I guess that's too structured for most people and perhaps it is, but my runs/workouts would never happen unless I schedule them that way. I have found that most people who "talk about working out" but never end up doing anything or start and then quit, usually give up because they don't want to live such a structured life. With jobs, kids, errands, bills, friends, relationships, appointments, church and whatever else takes up your time, how do you fit in a workout everyday? Life is busy and its crazy that taking care of one's body is usually at the bottom of the "to do list." It takes determination, structure, commitment and integrity, with a little bit of endurance thrown in. :) Whether you're hitting the mat or the pavement, you need a little of each.


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