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From running to yoga – A quest to find inner peace.

In my twenties I despised running. Actually what I probably dreaded most was cardiovascular training. Ugh! That word, ‘cardio’, still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. The thought of sweat stinging my flushed face as I struggle to catch my breath. Just something I did not look forward to. But after the birth of our son, I was atleast 20kgs overweight. At first the love and care for my newborn stole my heart and attention but as the year went on my negative attitude toward my body only grew. Looking at myself in the mirror was like a scene from a horror movie; I closed my eyes and tried to avoid looking at the scary parts. My selflove and confidence went to an all-time low. So my type-A personality and I began looking for solutions.
I started as I often do by looking around (and comparing) to the people I knew at what worked for them. A couple of family members were into running but that was a big ‘no way’ for me. There was absolutely no way I could run for more than a minute let alone finish a 5k without dying! But thankfully there were local friends who took part in a bootcamp and had lost a lot of weight and looked amazing and had the confidence boost I was looking for. So off I went to get my butt kicked by a professional body builder. It worked. Temporarily. I lost some weight. I felt a little more comfortable in my own skin but it hit a plateau. I became frustrated with all the hard work especially while trying to juggle my career and a family and getting absolutely nowhere. So it petered off.

I began to wonder if it wasn’t my body image that was causing so much disharmony as other aspects of my life. I took a step back and realized I felt extremely unhappy in my current job position. More than half of all my shifts were nights. Since sleeping habits change as you become a new parent my ability to sleep properly after a nightshift became a huge problem. Money was constantly a stressor. I felt unempowered in my place of work. I felt stuck! With no chance of change if I didn’t upgrade my education. I began to think that if I got a better ‘job’ and made more money, that maybe then I could afford to spend more time on my body image which in turn would make me feel happier.

 So off to school I went. Adding even more to my plate as ‘student’ became another responsibility. As the stress compounded so did my weight and further unhappiness with body image. I kept reminding myself of the end goal. Finish school first, worry about my body later. I kept repeating that over and over as I’d toss back an energy drink and a bag of chips at 2am while studying for another exam the next morning. It was no surprise really that my health took a major downward spiral. At age 28 I was hit by the metaphorical 2×4 when my doctor had to prescribe a medication for my blood pressure that was out of control. Talk about a wake-up call.

I couldn’t keep ignoring my health. It couldn’t sit on the back burner any longer. Fear became a motivating factor. On my summer break before the final year of my degree program I made some huge changes. I completely cut out meat from my diet. And refined sugar. And basically anything processed. I tried to stick to a raw diet and started walking every day. As the weight melted off that summer I began to feel like my body could handle more. As a broke student, mother, wife etc. I knew I could not afford a fancy gym membership or private trainer or bootcamp session. I had to find something I could do from home.

Running crossed my mind again. And since I was desperate to get my health back I figured I had nothing to really lose. I found a running app for free and started a couch to 5k program with no real intention of actually running a 5k race. Except the body is a fascinating machine. The more it is used the better it runs. So naturally running became easier. I kept it slow. I kept it do-able. After awhile it became an addiction. There really is such a thing as a runner’s high. Haha that was something I always found myself rolling my eyes at whenever I heard anyone talking about it. But it’s the real deal. The endorphins kept me motivated enough to sign up for my first 5k race. The second I crossed that finish line I wanted to sign up for another one. I no longer needed medication for my blood pressure.  The 5k goal turned into a 10k one. And as if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to run it by my 30th birthday, just a little over 5 months way. 

So I finished my first 10k race. It was 2 months after I turned 30.

I’m proud of my accomplishment. But I’m not proud of the conceited, over-confident, self-destructive attitude it rendered. My family took a backseat to my priorities. I was doing things with my new healthier body that I wanted to do and could do for a change. But deep down inside I still felt lost. Even though I felt healthy. I was not. Not in a holistic way, that was for certain.

Because I didn’t see it that way I pushed harder. I signed up with a running trainer and was forcing my body to the point of pain. Determined as ever, I would find a quick fix from a massage therapist, chiropractors, or acupuncturists just to get back out on the trail again. I dumped piles of money I didn’t have into custom orthotics and fancy running accessories. I became so attached.

Until one morning I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed.

I literally had so much pain in my hip I couldn’t walk, or sit, or lie down. I was crying in pain and ended up in the emergency department where I was diagnosed with hip flexor tendonitis. So needless to say I was cut off of running for weeks. Just like that. I was so freaking angry. How could something like that happen?!! I was finally getting the body I wanted, down 30 pounds, off bp meds. It wasn’t fair. But it was a sign. Looking back I’m grateful for it.

I spent those three weeks caring and mending my aching body. Not because I wanted to but because I didn’t really have a choice. I found a youTube video called ‘Yoga for Runners’. It was impossible. I remember watching the screen and thinking ‘you want me to put my foot where?’ My body was so inflexible. So I figured I should start with the basics. I found another video that was a little more suitable for my current body condition and gave that a try. I remember laying flat on my back and stretching my arms overhead and feeling my entire back clench up in a gut-retching spasm. Wow! 30 years old and it felt like I had the body of a stiff 90 year old. (I mean that in the kindest way). I remember laying there in the meditation part of the video not being able to have an in-breath for the count of 8 and thinking that was so ridiculous. Downward dog; as if they called that a resting pose!!! I never considered stretching before a run. Or any exercise for that matter, let alone holding a certain position for more than 30 seconds even during my brief post-run stretches. Needless to say, I was a huge skeptic.

I have never been a sit still kind of person. Type-A, adrenaline junkie, to-do list expert. I’m always on the go physically and mentally. So at the time yoga seemed to be a good counter-balance.  I accidentally fell into yoga unintentionally but it could not have come at a better time. I stuck with it and eventually I was able to do that ‘Yoga for Runners’ video. Once I was able to get back to running I felt much more resilient. My obsession with running faded and quite frankly I was scared of injuring myself again. It came as no surprise when I read the statistics that over 60% of all runners will injure themselves at least once. I had only been running for less than 2 years and was already a statistic. So I quit being so hard on myself and just tried listening to my body. I began running for the fun of it. It didn’t matter if I ran 2k or 10k. When something started to hurt or cease up I would just ease back a little. I tried focusing on my intention in the beginning which was to just get healthy again. That didn’t mean I needed to go out and run every 10k race that came up in the area. Don’t get me wrong for some people having that goal in mind is great motivation but not injuring myself became more important than a metal or a new personal record.

Not surprisingly my love for yoga grew. I started attending a local hatha beginners yoga class one night a week. I could feel the benefits in my body. What surprised me more was the benefit I felt on my mind – my frantic consciousness. The holistic wellness approach was much needed. I became more and more curious. Like I had opened up the door to a whole new world. Once I learned that yoga was more than just the poses, that it truly was a lifestyle – I became hooked.

Several years later I find myself teaching both my passions. Running and Yoga. I will forever remain a student of both these practices. Additionally, I have the humble honor of sharing them with others who are interested in selfcare. Running and Yoga support each other just as the mind supports the body. In my world, one can’t survive without the other. As my practice grows deeper I am able to develop that stronger sense of inner peace not just because of the physical benefits but because of the benefit it has in all aspects of my life. Harmony really can exist in all the chaos life has to offer. Those moments when you are out on an early morning run: you hear the sounds of nature, feel the movement of your breath, and your body is gliding along the trail. When there is no finish line, no competition, no membership or fancy equipment, no pain, no thoughts, no to-do lists just you and the road ahead. When the body, mind, and spirit are in pure equilibrium – those are the exact moments I cherish for the rest of the day. Essentially that is yoga. A state of being in the doing. In yoga the whole point of doing the poses or asana, a very western focus, is to prepare the body for meditation. Which is often how people become introduced to yoga. And the whole point in doing meditation is to find enlightenment or self-realization, liberation, moksha, or awakening. It is not just something you do for an hour on your mat but rather a practice for everyday life. Of course this is very simplified. It is no easy process. But it is a process, one that takes time and effort, a certain appreciation, and patience for the unraveling. It’s not a self-help, quick-fix fitness program. It’s a way to find inner peace and acceptance for the self and the world around us. “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” (Bhagavad Gita). 

This is why I love being a student and teacher of Yoga. To spread this ancient, incredibly life-changing practice and hopefully have an impact on others as I move through this sometimes chaotic yet beautiful world. From running to yoga to my vocation as a nurse: both the practice and promotion of selfcare and wellness — that is what gives me purpose and meaning. For what is the goal of life if not to share and connect and to love and create peace. To live awake in the perfectness of the imperfect. “The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to soar, stumble and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence. We were born to live my dear, not to merely exist” – Becca Lee

As always, thanks for reading. 

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