Back in October, I started realizing that my comfortable married life was slowly but surely showing up on my waistline. It had been a happy, but stressful year of buying a home, planning a wedding and welcoming a puppy to the family, and one of my favorite ways of treating stress is with sugar in all of its various forms. Pants were tighter. Shirts were shorter. Worse yet, I’d stopped running.
I love to run. It makes me feel beautiful and powerful and centered – nearly invincible. I love sweating, feeling my lungs expand, wind on my face and blood pumping through my veins – all capped off with a euphoric surge of energy, not unlike orgasm. Last year, for whatever reason, I’d forgotten about all of that. So, one October afternoon, I decided it was time to get back to it. I’d run for just ten minutes today, ten minutes tomorrow…start slow, not push it. I strapped on my running shoes and hit the sidewalk. The enjoyment of this renewed pastime was interrupted by a rhythmic noise in my left knee every time my foot hit the pavement – click, click, click, click. This was no good. I continued for the full ten minutes, rationalizing that I wasn’t feeling any pain. The next day it was a little sore, but I soldiered through a second ten minute run with the same soundtrack – click, click, click. The day after that, I’d characterize my knee as in pain. No real swelling to speak of, just soreness. I decided I probably needed new shoes, to lose some weight and to do something less impactful for awhile. I got a gym membership and started the elliptical instead, with some soreness from time to time, and late last month, finally broke down and went to my sports medicine doctor. He diagnosed me with patellafemoral pain, said that my knee was in good shape and referred me to a physical therapist. He also encouraged me to pick up some core strengthening exercise, like yoga.
Yoga. Blah. I’d tried yoga videotapes before and had been unimpressed. I found it difficult to relax enough to enjoy it, found the hippie music and skinny, ridiculously flexible chicks sort of irritating. Plus, given the fact that I didn’t even break a sweat while doing it, it didn’t feel like it was worth much of anything. Give me a good runner’s high any day over that snoozefest.
So somewhat reluctantly, a friend and I went to a yoga class this morning at the gym. A smiling, skinny, ridiculously flexible woman demonstrated child’s pose – knees bent, buttocks to heels, arms extended on the floor in front of you. Her voice was warm, accented, calm as she described the breathing process, encouraged to pay special attention to our emotions with each movement and release them in order to be fully present in the moment.
For the next hour, I really did let go. At the end of the session, sitting in our original pose, our palms pressed together in front of our chests, our instructor wished us hearts full of sunshine – in front of our lips, words of compassion – in front of our foreheads, joyful hearts. I was so relaxed - so calm and at peace – that those emotions I had been letting go of through each pose streamed down my face in tears. It was nothing short of a spiritual experience, not unlike the feeling of sitting in a church sanctuary, surrounded by others in total silence. Release.
This must be what people see in yoga. Different from the power and solitude of running, and in some ways, the exact opposite. Namaste – the light in me honors the light in you.
I think I'll be back next Sunday.