Some time ago, had I needed to pick one word to describe myself, “runner” would have been it. A runner is who I was, and running, no pun intended, ran my life.
Whenever life grew more complicated, as it sometimes does, my daily runs got longer. Last year, my life became hard to handle. I had moved to Los Angeles, I had no job, my boyfriend and I were stuck in the movie “War of the Roses”, and my mother, who lives in South America, was diagnosed with cancer.
I was constantly running for almost two hours per day during this time of pain until one day I woke up and could not move my legs. “Polio” was my first thought but an MRI revealed I had fractured a spinal disc (L5) and had to stay away from running for at least a year. Five weeks of bed rest took a huge toll on me on top of everything that was going on, and when I could finally move, I was so sad and depressed that I did not know what to do. I could not run to feel good and I did not know how to feel good without running.
One Saturday morning, I ended up at Runyon Canyon, which had free Yoga classes daily. I was not crazy about “doing” Yoga. I wanted to run. I always thought Yoga was geared toward people who could not push themselves, who were not strong athletes like me. I thought of it as very boring, but the Doctor had recommended it for my injury, and since Yoga was going to get me back to running, I had no choice but to “do” it.
My first class started at 10:30 am. The place was packed. The Yoga Instructor was a loud, tough-looking, military-sounding, fear-inspiring guy—the total opposite of what you (meaning ‘me’) would imagine a Yoga teacher to be like. The class started with the basic warm-ups, followed by sun salutations. I could not help but feel bored, but within the first 5 minutes of practice, I realized this was not the Yoga I had practiced before, this was hard Yoga, and I was barely following it. This Yoga instructor was not perpetuating any of my Yoga stereotypes. “I”, runner extraordinaire, was out of breath.
Yoga became my daily ritual, taking up to three classes per day on some occasions. I visited and took classes in as many studios as I could, while continuing to frequent Runyon as well. My practice became a serious part of my life, setting intentions, focusing and meditating. I did not know it at the time, but something inside of me was changing. I figured most Yoga and/or Yoga Instructors are not born equal—while some focus on meditation, others focus on breathing, and yet others tend to the physical aspect—but no matter which class I took, I found that in all practices, the goal was to achieve a certain unity of the soul, mind and body, something I did not know to be possible.
I learned the difference between Yoga and running, who I was as a runner and who I am as a Yogi. Running allowed me to think a million things at a time—the sadder, angrier, frustrated I was, the better my run was. With Yoga, I learned to be still, to focus inwardly, to introspect, and to meditate. The idea of being in the moment—of not fighting anything—was something new to me, and while I had not opted against the moment, I never really did anything to embrace it either.
I had learned something so very evident about myself, running had become a coping mechanism and it became a metaphor to who I was, and how I was living. All this time, instead of being present and experiencing life in the moment, I had decided to run from it, away, from whatever was going on.
I had also learned that while I loved training like an athlete, I had not been taking care of my body, my soul or my mind for that matter. With my Yoga practice, I learned to start loving my body instead of using it to escape my own feelings and fears.
As for the military-sounding instructor, it is Yogi Steve, my favorite, the man responsible for bringing the gift of free Yoga at Runyon Canyon for the past 10 + years; and also the man I hold responsible for my spiritual awakening. He has given so much to this great Yoga community, inspiring so much to so many, including me.
I understand now that my present life is precious. I had spent most of my life running, mostly in solitude, managing my anger and frustrations. In an age of egoism and selfishness, I found myself in despair, and Yoga gave me a sense of accomplishment, devotion, things I had not had before, and I have found myself craving for more knowledge to grow as a human being and to give back this amazing gift that this Universe has granted me.
I dream of inspiring others into finding what I have found, to one day know that my practice will bring peace to someone else, and when looking into Yoga Studios I could train, I chose ‘Yoga Den’ because of its focus on a multitude of disciplines, including yoga practices from Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini , touching on Ayurvedic healing and diet, as well as cleansing and Raw food preparation.
I want to start sharing this gift to impact our world, one Yoga class at a time. This amazing present has brought me such abundance in spirit and love, to be happy through it and to inspire someone like me who was running away from or to something, but never really getting anywhere.
I am no longer a runner. I am a human being at peace now, someone open to change without fear. I no longer log miles, I now mentally log positive thoughts. I measure my days on whether I was good to myself and to others, and throughout this journey, I have found an immense amount of love all around me, and most importantly, within, me. Namaste!
Assistant Editor: Soumyajeet Chattaraj
Almudena Alcazar is an Actor, Producer and Writer. She was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and has traveled and lived throughout the world. After attending many a school but never graduating from any of them, she has studied Law, Philosophy, Political Science and Art History. She continues to pursue her studies in Motherhood, Love, Relationships, Humanities, Veganism, Yoga and Hopeful Spiritual Transcendence at the Université de C’est la Vie, School of You Better get Used to it… Find your Happiness Within. Passionate daily Ashtanga practitioner and thrice a week instructor.