January 19, 2012

The Dharma of stumbling in the dark: or what yoga teaches me about running. ~ Brandi Reynolds


Photo: donjd2

It’s dark and early and the December air is pushing into my lungs. Next to me an 85 pound weimaraner named Shilo lumbers along as I take halting strides on the pavement.

I am a new runner and right now, I’m feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

This sucks, I think.

As I turn a corner that will take us deeper into our neighborhood, a memory floats past my eyes. A yoga class where the instructor proclaimed: Just move and breathe. That’s all yoga is-moving and breathing’.

The word yoga, as I’m sure many readers know, means ‘to yoke’. I have come to understand this practice of mine as a way to integrate-or yoke-my mind, body and spirit. When you are focusing on your breath along with your movement, it seems almost impossible not to do just that, create union of the mind and body. And if you can infuse your intention or your gratitude or your love into those movements then, well. You’d be flying high on enlightenment.

I am not flying high at the moment. I am hurting at the moment. But I start to focus more on my breathing and after a few steps, my lungs don’t hurt as much. My strides seem smoother. My mind no longer seems to be fighting my body’s agenda.

The dog and I make it another block and I decide to step it up a notch. I’m training for my first 5K and I don’t want to look like an idiot. I pump my legs and arms harder. The icy air makes my chest feel like it’s exploding. There is no way I will be able to keep up this pace, at least not at my current experience level.

I remember what I tell my own yoga students: You achieve a yoga pose one millimeter at a time.

Okay, so maybe I don’t need to push quite as hard, I think. I take my pace back down a bit, just slightly above my original pace. My breath becomes easier to focus on. I remind myself that 5 years ago, I couldn’t fathom getting into yoga poses that I can now do with a fair amount of ease. The pace will get there, I tell myself.

Remember what you tell your students: pull-your-ego-out-of-your-asana stop focusing on the outcome and just notice what’s going on now.

We’re back to moving and breathing and another block floats by me. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this.

Suddently, my dog cuts in front of me and I stumble over my feet, destroying the rhythm I had started to achieve. Dammit, you big oaf, cut it out. I admonish Shilo silently. Shilo is channeling the honey badger and doesn’t care.

I try to regain my pace and feel myself struggling to get back into the groove I had going. I start to feel irritated with myself –– and with my dog. Yet again, a thought drifts through my brain: Wobbling is working.

I originally heard that phrase from one of my power yoga teachers. It usually made an appearance when we were 10 minutes into a balance series and dripping sweat on to our mats, falling all over each other and uttering (sometimes not so quietly) curses of exhaustion.

Most of us were not getting into half moon or bird of paradise or baby eagle with ease and grace. We fell and our muscles shook, sweat ran down our faces. But what I took from my teacher’s statement was that the only way we could eventually experience those poses with fluidity was to do the work first-the messy, wobbly work of trying out the pose over and over again until our body understood what it needed to maintain balance.

I reassure myself with this thought as Shilo and I near the end of our run. This is the necessary work, I think, the crunchy stuff that I need to get through to reach my goals. I will find my balance if I keep trying. It will not always feel this uncomfortable and awkward.

I slow down to a walk to cool down. Shilo meanders beside me, his big ol’ tongue hanging out, grinning. I grin back at him (it’s impossible not to) and look towards the sky lightening in the east.

Gratitude pours through me as I breathe in the first rays of watery sunlight. Once again, I am amazed and humbled at what my yoga teachings and practice brought to this experience. Yoga didn’t make it less wobbly or suddenly transform me into a zen master full equanimity and peace. Maybe that’s what some people experience when they start down the yogic path but that doesn’t seem to be on the agenda for me.

For me, what yoga brings to this experience and any other experience I bother to pay attention to, are the tools to keep turning towards with every step I take.


 Brandi Reynolds is a yogini with a rebel yell, a veggie vixen and a fierce animal advocate. She writes about yoga, art, love and dog puke on her blog: http://www.joyrebel.com.



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