Saturday, September 13, 2014

Running Blind

Dear Mom,

I went out for a run today without my glasses or contacts and here is what I learned about myself:
  • Sometimes I'm terrified of what I can't see even if there is no reason to be afraid. Bunnies are not going to harm me, but their rustling in the bushes when I'm in a place that is new and unfamiliar can sound like mountain lions and wolves and bears coming to eat your daughter.
  • Usually about 2 miles into a run I have to pee. Sometimes it's so bad that I have to walk funny and then curse at myself for having had children who have made my bladder weak and my pelvic floor muscles loose. Then I realize that it's not their fault and I should spend more time working on my Pilates or maybe even just remember to use the bathroom right before I run.
  • I miss the fall. Wilmington doesn't really do fall at fall time. It kind of waits until winter to have fall weather and then sometimes it's 80 degrees in January. And I like watching the leaves change, even if they hadn't yet here....I still knew they were going to and that made me jealous.
  • I have not yet conquered my fear of outhouses. Remember when we were younger and you would make us use them on the side of the road on family trips? Remember how I would cry because of the Daddy Long Leg spiders that lived inside and how it was a giant hole in the ground filled with human waste that I might fall into because I was a little girl? Remember how it smelled worse than driving past a large scale pig farm in the dead of summer? REMEMBER!? Well, the turn around point on my run had one and it was my only option after 3 miles (1 of which was a walk run in between what felt like bursts of pee attempting to escape).
  • I haven't changed much in other ways either. I still feel like I did when I ran cross country in high school almost 20 years ago. I still suffer sometimes from that painful right hip and I still have an affinity for running in dirt over pavement. I love the smell of being outdoors and having a long and winding trail in front of me. And holding a set of keys as I run is about the most natural thing for me. I also could care less about Truffle Shuffle when I'm out there staring at the blue sky and the greenery.
  • I still got the distance! I ran (and the little walk included) 6 miles today! And I'm amazing in that I did it at an average pace of 9:00/mile and felt like I could have kept going for a little more! This so made up for the lack of fitness center at my hotel whose furniture looks like it was taken from a retirement home yard sale.
  • I suck at Pratyahara. :( This makes me sad, but only just a little. It reminds me that my yoga is still, and probably always will be, a practice that needs to be cultivated. I wish I could tune into my body more and turn off all other senses or rather, direct them inward. Instead, my brain lists and thinks and finds it hard to shut down. I guess that's just another way I haven't changed in the last almost 34 years.
  • I am happy! Thank you Mom for giving me life. I will be 34 in two weeks from today and I just thought you should know that I'm still me, but a slightly better version of me. Always changing, but always the same.
Love Always,
Your Daughter AL

Nowhere to Run

Friday was the first day that I didn't hit my run goal for this month......

I taught yoga for four hours Friday morning and then came home to take care of kids, pack, pick up my niece and then drive two hours through the pouring rain to drop the family off for the weekend. After that I headed to my hotel, much later than anticipated, with the intent of getting in a late night (10pm) treadmill run. I arrived only to find out that they had removed the fitness center from the Comfort Inn Farmville.

So, because I'm not into taking chances in the dark in a town I've never visited before....I'm going to have to take up an extra long run on Saturday. Sadly, in the hubub of yesterday's rush around, Truffle Shuffle got left behind.

How do you deal with hiccups in your training plan when you travel?

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Today is September 11th and maybe that's why I'm not seeing a whole lot of posting going on on my favorite blogs. It's hard not to feel a little unAmerican when you decide to write about something other than what happened 13 years ago, but there's more to it than that. So, today, I thought I'd look back and remember where I was that day.....not just when the towers fell, but also in my life in general.

On September 11, 2001 I was sleeping soundly in my apartment in Vacaville, California right next to my husband of about 6 weeks. I was 20 years old, married, had moved across the country from the only state I'd ever lived in (Iowa), had started taking classes at a community college (I'd previously done two years at a university back home), and had absolutely zero friends that weren't adopted as part of my marriage. My husband was in the Air Force and stationed at Travis AFB. We lived in a little two bed/two bath apartment on the second floor with a lot of total strangers near by who often felt the need to take my clothes out of the washing machine and leave them on the floor if I were even a second late at getting them out when my time was up. I was young, naive, ambitious, all of the things that make for a disaster of a person. I was also walled off and falsely threw myself into a marriage with someone who was very nice to me and made me feel secure after my dad had walked out on our family just a few years earlier.

Around 6 something that morning our home phone rang. You remember when everyone had a home phone? My husband worked swing shift and got home around 1am, so having someone call that early was never a good sign. It was someone from base who called to tell him three things:
  1. Turn on your tv
  2. Pack a bag
  3. Get on base as fast as you can
So, he did all three. And I, groggily, followed him to the living room to see what was going on. I sat there not believing my eyes and soon another phone call came. This time it was my mom. Her oldest child was across the country near a military installation and no one knew what was going on, so she needed to make sure I was okay. I sat there barely talking to her, more a nervous laugh as she scolded me for laughing. Eventually we got off the phone and the days progressed in kind of slow motion from there. My husband left for base and for more than 24 hours I had no contact with him. I didn't know if he was still on base or gone or when he would return. I sat there in that apartment, completely alone, eating Oreos and watching tv.

When he did return we talked very little as he was now on 14 hour shifts until further notice and we would see little of each other for a few weeks. The community college was closed for days and the base was off limits. Some of our friends' wives were trapped off base and some were trapped on. It was all surreal. I remember checking in with my cousin who was in college on the East Coast whom I had visited the Thanksgiving previously. I remember calls to and from my family. But most of all, I remember that nothing really changed at first.

Later that month we moved on base and I had my 21st birthday. We almost didn't get to celebrate because of my husband's work schedule and I remember feeling like  was being cheated out of something because of that. How stupid of me to worry about doing shots when the world was being attacked by terrorists! When people were losing their lives and their loved ones! Idiot I say of myself now, but at the time it was just how I felt. I was still very much in my own little world.

Thirteen years have gone by since that day. Today I am remarried and in a relationship that's a lot more sturdy and a lot less like a romantic weekend vacation gone wrong. I am a lot less naive and a lot more concerned with the world around me. My ambitions are less directed by my goals and more a look to the future of my children and family. There are still terrorist attacks and people are still losing their lives and their loved ones. I can no longer walk a family member to nor meet them at a gate at an airport. Traveling by plane now requires some extra effort in packing and a few more security checks. There is a lot more internet and I no longer have a home phone. Life has changed, but it hasn't.

Fundamentally, when I was 20 going on 21 I was a good person with a good heart. I was closed off more so then than I am now, but I was still me. I still had the desire to exercise and eat right (minus the Oreo binge) and I still held my family at the forefront of my heart. Thirteen years may change the world around you and the way you look, but it doesn't have to change you at the core of your existence. I choose to be a good person with a good heart that tries not to judge another human being based on race, age, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, weight, or disability.

Today's run was a hard one, probably because it needed to be. My feet felt heavy and the sun was hot. I was out of breath due to sinus congestion and the work I was doing. Yesterday I was able to fly through my run with a friend by my side. I could easily have taken for granted my freedoms and the freedom that my body provides me with. Today I reflected while I ran on what to write here. Looking back at your life is hard sometimes and appreciating what you have may be harder yet. But these are necessary evils in life, for if you don't know where you've been you can't truly know who you are. Remember today, but don't let the world around you shape you negatively. Move on from bad experiences and look to the light always.


Release....or maybe NOT!

*Intended post for Wednesday, September 10th*
In yoga we practice a lot of letting go. Letting go of tension, stress, judgement, preconceived notions about ourselves and others, etc etc etc. Letting go and learning how to immediately set your body at ease are some of the goals of meditation and final relaxation in a yoga class. Sometimes we work with mantras, chants, readings, or other forms of mental cueing to allow the body to let go both physically and mentally. My yoga training has allowed me to be a less angry person in life by teaching me to exhale and let go of what was building inside of me. This allows me many times to avoid unnecessary confrontations and arguments over trivial matters.

The idea of releasing has also helped with tensions that build in my body physically. I've been doing a lot more running in the past ten days. A lot more than I did in August that is. And while I run, I often find little things that aren't going so well. I may be breathing too hard or my stride may be off; I may find that there's a twinge of discomfort in my shoulder or I'm just not mentally in the game at the moment. No matter what is going on, I'm using my mantras to help align my running pattern to produce the best results possible. Lately my right shoulder has been the one with that pesky twinge. I don't know if I've been pushing the double jogger too much with my right arm or if I'm pulling it up as I run and allowing my shoulder to creep toward my ear? I remember back in my days of high school cross country often finishing an event with one arm that was numb because of the way I held it as I ran. I was pinching a nerve because my upper body was being carried too tightly.

When I feel this issue creeping in, I often say to myself..... RELEASE! I do this during difficult yoga poses, when I'm stressed and need my breath to actually leave my body, and when I feel like I'm about to grind my teeth. Teaching your body to release, no matter how you get there, is of great advantage when you're running. If I can let go of the tension when it starts to build and let my body fall loosely into it's natural and free movement patterns, I find that every other aspect of the training then falls into place for the day. My mind clears, my breathing eases, my strides lengthen and turn over more quickly. And then there is the one negative effect to all of this body doesn't know how to let go of some muscles while holding on to others.

You know what I mean. That moment when you're flying down hill at top speeds feeling your legs stretch out to their fullest and all of your muscles are relaxed yet working and then it hits you....
You have just released all of your muscles...even the ones that you don't want letting go at that moment! Then you have a choice to I keep going and let nature take its course?
Or do you do "The Walk"? You know the one I'm talking about right? The one where you clench your lady parts as tightly as you can and curse yourself for skipping your Kegels that week while you also attempt to take as long of strides as you can to get to the nearest facility as quickly as possible.Yeah, I always opt for the latter of the two...ALWAYS!

This has made me feel like many of my training runs are ruined because I have to walk it off or walk it home. But I need to start focusing on all of the reasons that walking during my run or at the end of a run are okay and good for me. I need to let go of that judgement of myself and my workout and accept it for what it is on those days.

Today I ran with a friend who was getting back into running. We did long intervals (~1 mile each) of walking and running. It was slower than my usual pace, but thankfully not interrupted by bathroom breaks for either of us (kids...yes, and of course it was mine). I didn't judge my performance on the run or hers, we just did it and it was fun. Sometimes letting go is more than just the physical or the mental tension, but it's also allowing yourself to enjoy an experience.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thanks....A Lot

I try to remember each day that yoga is a practice, a way of life, it is something that I have to work at. And each day I try to be thankful for what I have and who I am. However, some days, I'm just a little on the snarky side. So, today is a list of "thanks", some of which are genuine and sincere, some are just outright attitude.
  1. Thank you to my best friend, Sarrah, for teaching me the word snarky so that I may use it multiple days a week for the rest of my life.
  2. Thank you to Britney Spears for writing the only music that seems to push me through my slumps when I'm running alone.
  3. Thank you to my husband for allowing me to run alone for two days this last week and with only one kid for another day making me feel faster than ever.
  4. Thank you to Mr. Kern, my high school English teacher for teaching me the difference between good and well. Now I can no longer sit through any conversation with anyone from the South without cringing at every other word that they say.
  5. Thank you to some of my favorite bloggers for posting things that make me laugh out loud so hard that my husband thinks there is something wrong with me. (see this post and what made me laugh! I especially love number 18, but that's probably because I live in a house full of guys.)
  6. Thank you August for causing me to get off track with all things fitness and yoga by forcing me to travel too much, not sleep enough, eat a lot less mindfully, and suffer through either rainy or sticky hot days. I have seen the return of the sack lunch stomach and it is not a happy place to be right now.
  7. Thank you to Pampers for their Gifts to Grow program which has allowed me to give gifts at Christmas when I otherwise would not be able to afford them. Thank you also for making the only diapers (Cruisers and Swaddlers) that don't make my children's' behinds break out!
  8. Finally, Thank you to the days for getting shorter as my lists of things to get done gets longer. You make me realize that time is not infinite and I should prioritize better. Mostly, thank you for making me see that family comes first above all else. I only have these boys for so many hours each day and so many years of their lives....I won't waste a second of it!
 Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Quickie

A short blog for you on this fine Friday afternoon.

One of the things I really enjoy about the Gates book is that he presents an idea and the continues to use that same idea for several days in order to give you different ways of looking at, thinking about, and experiencing a yoga concept. The first yama, Ahimsa, is that of nonviolence, non-harming, and non-judgement. In the Day 18 reading Gates suggests that we abandon the notion of separation from all that is around us. In Day 20 he tells a story about how his own fear of rejection kept him from meeting new people because it builds walls around us. Yesterday I read a really great blog post that I thought I would share with you here:

How to Make Mom Friends in One Easy Step
Two of my favorite internet people, Karen from Baby Sideburns and Elle from What's Up Moms got together to tell a little story (a true story) about making mom friends.


I too find that I have a fear of rejection when it comes to meeting new moms and that that fear and those walls are causing harm to my children in that they are missing out on meeting new people. I want to be the mom that goes up to the other moms and not only introduces myself and my kids (I'm good at that), but follows through when I see them enjoying the company of the other kids. I want to be the mom that asks for the playdate more often than not. Next week, at all of our many activities, my goal will be to attempt to make at least one new mom friend for each of my kids.

Let yoga tear down your walls and attempt to approach some new people this weekend. Do not be afraid of others because they are different, see them as an extension of yourself and your oneness with all that surrounds you.

Namaste and Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gut Full O' Nuts

So, this post is only partly about what I had planned it to be about today. I wanted to focus just on yoga yamas today, but it's found it's way into a whole lot of other areas of my life. In the Gate's book on Day 18 we get introduced to the first of the yamas: ahimsa. The yamas are the first of the eight limbs in the path of Raja yoga. There are five yamas and they are considered the moral restraints of yoga. This can be a little bit confusing and I am lecturing on the yamas and niyamas this week to my yoga class, so I'm hoping that I can clearly and concisely fit all of this info into one lecture for least enough for a beginner's understanding. The yamas and niyamas (the five observances) work together to form the yoga code of ethics to live by; much like the 10 commandments of Christianity. Ahimsa is nonviolence, similar to that of Thou Shalt Not Kill, but different.

In yoga the yamas and niyamas reflect a code by which you live first in your actions, then in your speech, and finally in your thoughts. This is a practice that must be cultivated over time and is (in the case of the yamas) in direct relation to the external world. This takes commitment. Four commitments actually:

  1. Jati: They are practiced universally in relation to all beings of all types of birth, species, or states of life.
  2. Desha: They are practiced equally in all places or spaces.
  3. Kala: They are practiced continuously in all times.
  4. Samaya: They are practiced uniformly among all circumstances or situations.
The day that I read about ahimsa I considered the action of meditating and what was the most nonviolent thing regarding yoga that I could conjure? For me that meant meditating in Child's Pose because what could be less violent than a child? I practiced in the way that I had done many times before and thought of all of the way's that child's pose is beneficial to my every day. I am still using it to surrender (read about that here), but it can also quiet the mind. Some days I need to use something to quiet my mind while meditating other than the practice of meditation itself and finding myself in child's pose with my forehead against the mat I can easily massage my "third eye" and release the tensions floating behind it in the mind.

Physically child's pose can also stretch the lower back muscles that we all wear out on a daily basis; allow our abdomen to relax so that we can digest (maybe even digest some thoughts along the way), and eases menstrual cramps for women (and mentally some other pains). I needed child's pose yesterday as well. I went out for a run and realized that eating trail mix before a run is not a good idea. I had to walk for a short stint of the run because my gut full o' nuts was pushing on my bladder as I pushed my pace down hill. With every jarring hit of my foot against the ground I felt like I was about to explode and leak all over the road. I should have been in child's pose to digest before I ran, it would have saved me some harm.

I need nonviolence in my life in so many ways. I need to not harm those around me with my actions. I choose not to spank my children because I never felt that it was effective in teaching me how to be a better person as I grew and I don't think that hitting out of frustration with an action allows a child to learn how to handle frustration of their own. I can practice not harming others through my actions by treating my world with kindness and not polluting so that future generations will be able to enjoy the things that I have. I can not harm others by not supporting industries that use child labor and companies that don't treat their employees well. There are so many other ways that I can choose nonviolence in action that I cannot possibly list here. But, despite the idea that the yamas deal with the outside world, I also believe in nonviolence toward myself. Today's run will be a gentle one to promote the care of my body after pushing my pace the first three days of this month and today's yoga will be more child's pose to rejuvenate my body as well as my mind and soul.

This nonviolence physically will also incorporate my choices in what I eat. I read a great memoir over at GMFR about being a chaotic unconscious eater and I need to remember that eating poorly is harming myself just as much as anything else. I have tried to keep my mindless snacking in check today although I had some troubling family news that made me want to avoid eating at first and then hit up all the carb filled snacks in my house after my emotions swung from anxious uncertainty to fear and sadness.

Today I ask you to think of the most nonviolent thing you can and determine how you can incorporate ahimsa into your daily actions. Can you truly accept it as a part of your physical life in each of the four commitments? Can you then move to incorporating it into your speech and thoughts? How do you practice ahimsa with yourself?

And, in order to keep positive today, I share this with you because it's what popped into my head before I thought to practice child's pose: