Breathe. Relax. Let the moment pass.

 

Part of my pre-marathon ritual involves attending a Bikram Yoga class the day before my race. Now, while many people argue that I should be resting, and tell me that Bikram will dehydrate me, I ignore them, knowing that for the past 4 or 5 races, a pre-race class has been just what I needed to physically and mentally prepare. Today was no exception.

I started with a pre-race “dead body pose,” (or in the yogi language of Sanskrit, “Savasana”) where I visualized a solid race with little pain and no injuries or other issues. In other words, I played out a little fairy tale in my head, because I know that few (if any) marathons feel “SOLID,” or even “GOOD” the entire 26.2 miles.  There are hiccups along the way that challenge my body and my will. That’s the nature of a marathon.

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Savasana or “Dead Body Pose”

This said, I decided to dedicate my class to visualizing my desired finish time (which will remain unprinted for fear of jinxing it) and along the way, visualize as pain free a run as possible.

My corpse pose was interrupted as the instructor entered the room and asked us to come to our feet. At the start of every Bikram class, instructors poll the room to see if there are new students- those who don’t know the Golden Rule- that you must stay in the room the entire 90 minutes.  Next, the instructor will try to calm those who freak out at the possibility of no escape, by telling them that if they feel sick or tired, they can take a break on their mats. (To which many new yogis no doubt reply in their minds with, “Thanks, Jerk, it’s 105 degrees in here, I’m sure sitting down will help  me feel better.”)  Each instructor has a different way of giving that “you better not leave” message.  It seems that my instructor today catered these words just for me.  What he said was perfect not only for that particular class, but also for my marathon tomorrow, and quite possibly for every uncomfortable situation in my life.

The instructor told us, “Welcome to Bikram.  My name is Cornelius. As you go through the poses today, if you feel uncomfortable or challenged; just take a moment. Breathe. Relax. That uncomfortable moment will pass. It always does.”

How do you say “BINGO” in Sanskrit? In about 15 seconds, this instructor articulated the solution to my biggest marathon dilemma- how to deal with the many instances throughout the 26.2 miles that were uncomfortable or challenging. Any marathoner knows that a given race can hold many such moments. They are moments of physical pain (i.e. blisters, leg and stomach cramps, runny noses, aches that come out of nowhere, emergency bathroom issues) and mental pain (We are only at 10?!?!/ Why is that man breathing so loudly?/When is the next water stop?/Why did I sign up for this?).  And here’s the thing, new issues crop up all along the course.  It’s not like each runner gets just one uncomfortable thing to deal with and that’s that for the run. You don’t know how many challenges will pop up, and you don’t know when to expect them.  Sort of like teaching a class full of middle schoolers, the likelihood that something is going to send you over the edge exists at every moment. You’re never “safe” during a marathon.

With this in mind, one can imagine how my wise yoga instructor’s words resonated so deeply with me as I prepare for tomorrow’s challenge. I thought about his words throughout the class; a class which at times was difficult as my head chatter brought all of my anxieties to center stage in what was supposed to be 90 minutes of meditation. Again, the instructor repeated the message, this time during one of Bikram’s most challenging poses- camel. Camel is notorious for bringing all emotions and physical pain to center stage at once.  Instructors will tell us after camel, “If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or emotionally spent after doing camel, you’ve done it right.”  Well, Cornelius had his own version of this message as well, “Remember that in camel pose, sometimes you’ll feel like a million dollars, other times not. Don’t worry about it if you feel uncomfortable; just acknowledge what you are feeling and then move through it.  The pain will pass.”

Image Camel Pose

Again, a fabulous reminder that no matter how bad I feel… whether at mile 20 in my run tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. during a bad day at work, or in any given situation where I’m feeling discomfort… that moment WILL pass. Acknowledge the pain, yes. But acknowledge it, knowing it won’t last forever.

As class wrapped up, and we again found ourselves in Savasana, or “dead body pose,” Cornelius had one final message for the class. He thanked us for coming to class and sharing our energy with each other. He reminded us that “yoga” means “union,” and that in our class, we all moved together, struggled together, sweat together. In other words, whether we thought about it or not, we all got through those moments together. Tomorrow, as I run with thousands of other marathoners, and pass the crowds who have gathered to show support, I’ll try to remember that there IS indeed energy all around me that can help me get through the uncomfortable moments that await me along the route.

So friends, the next time you feel especially uncomfortable or challenged, please remember to breathe and relax… and know that you are not alone. Those moments will pass… they always do.

Namaste

imrunnerchica.com

by abbey algiers

copyright 2012

The Best of Plans

One of the great things I’ve discovered about activities like running and golfing with others is that each activity comes with a sort of automatic “get to know you” clause. You’re out there, on the road or on the course, and you have no choice but to make small talk. Because you always have the sport you’re playing to fall back on, silence is rare. The hour or so together almost always ensures bonding on some level. I’ve never walked away from a run or a round of golf thinking, “Well, that person had nothing to offer me.” Most always, I pick up a gem or two to think about.

This past week I had the chance to sub on my husband’s work golf league. I saved my co-worker small talk until after the round in the clubhouse. Here I met Bob, the CPA in charge of scoring and all things statistical in nature. Well, after all of the cards were handed in, Bob went “off duty” and we all started to talk about our families. An interesting highlight was hearing about Bob’s daughter, who would be entering her fourth year of medical school in the fall. Bob explained, “She got married to a guy from Germany during her third year- this April. This fall she’ll start her fourth year. However, she’s pregnant, so… in December, she’ll move to Germany after finishing her first semester of medical school. They’ll live there one year, then come back to finish her second semester of her fourth year, then go on to do her residency.”

Bob’s daughter sounded like she really had it together, and you could tell Bob was pretty proud of her. However, towards the end of his story he added, “You know I told her that all sounded great. However, she needs to realize that at some time in her life, one of the great plans she makes for herself just isn’t going to work out. Everything doesn’t turn out perfectly all of the time. Life just doesn’t work that way.”

Having lived that sentiment a half a dozen times or more in my life, I can see the wisdom in Bob’s advice. Plans- no matter how carefully and thoughtfully they are put together- have the propensity to blow up in our faces at any time. These can be small plans- “I’ll run five tomorrow morning”- that change when we awaken to a thunderstorm or bout of the flu. They can be bigger plans, that leave us not participating in a marathon that we’ve trained long and hard for because of a slew of circumstances- from injury to weather to life happening. And they can be larger than life plans that are interrupted when jobs are lost, marriages end, kids screw up, or worse things happen.

The bottom line is, no matter how precisely we plan for the “perfect” anything- be-it a run, round of golf, trip, school experience, marriage, or whatever- the only thing we can plan for sure is that we absolutely don’t know how things will turn out. So, instead of taking the extreme and not planning for anything, knowing it could go awry, I guess the best we can do is just prepare the best we can to tackle anything that might come our way. For runners, this means hydrating well, wearing proper clothes, buying a Road ID, lubing up to prevent chafing and blisters, and putting the miles in during training for the best race experience possible.

For life, this means getting in touch with the goals, dreams, and people that are most dear to us, and doing everything in our power to make sure we achieve the items on our buckets lists, and appreciate the people we love.

And of course as we do all of this, there’s a danger that we could get carried away while in pursuit of all of these grandiose plans. This could leave us focused solely on the goals at hand, and while we would then get the results we desire (i.e. miles that are quick, great rounds of golf, successful careers, beautiful homes, successful kids, etc.), there’s a danger in getting too wrapped up in “the plans.” It seems that then, we might miss out on the best part of it all- enjoying the people we happen to be with in the miles we travel. It’s there that we have the most interesting conversations and learn the most interesting facts. It’s there where we just might learn that the best of plans are the ones we never plan for in the first place.