Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Yes, it's the off-season, and I have been running only when it means that I hang out with my friends, and doing (very few) other activities to help make room for the cookies, besides yoga to stay warm.  But, though my blog has been slow this time of year, it's not for want of creative efforts.  I am pleased to present to you .... my Christmas Card / Year In Review!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Smile, it's Yoga time!

Seems that a month has flown past since my return from Athens.  If the words on a blog's page are supposed to describe some of my thoughts and feelings, then I suppose their absence over this period has been telling.  My 2010 racing season ended - with what I consider great overall success, and a grande finale.  And then - silence.  Mental silence.  Strolling down the street in the snow, watching for lovely light or smelling for Christmas trees.  Shopping not because I have to, but because it's interesting and fun.  Making a point to reconnect with friends.  It's winter time, and I deserve it.  The days are short but there's nothing left to do in the yard, and plenty to do inside.

I find myself still working out, not because I must, but because I like it.  I don't like the feeling of lethargy or largeness, though there is some forgiveness in the winter of a small insulating layer, I suppose!  I do short runs when they mean being with my friends, I spin when it means I can watch fun movies, I swim when I feel like slipping through warm water from which I can see snow outside the window.  I even raced a couple times - like the Berbee Derby 10k on Thanksgiving morning, which has become a tradition for my family and the Team, to help make some room for turkey.  I also did an indoor triathlon last Friday: a 10-minute pool swim, a 20-minute stationary bike ride, and a 10-minute treadmill run.  Not to race or post great times, but to have a fun time playing with my friends during a great excuse to drip sweat on the first day of snow in Madison.

And I do yoga.  As my mind rests for a couple months from the obligations of a well-thought-out training plan, it's been telling me one thing consistently: do yoga.  Lately, it suggests this constantly, perhaps because my new job is just two blocks away from the studio.  (Did I tell you, I got promoted to the DOT headquarters, which means a better job - that I can walk to from my house!!)  The classes at Inner Fire Yoga are in warm or hot rooms, a very welcome and very deeply warming immersion as the nights drop into single digits outside.  Tonight I went to my old favorite class, Hot Yoga (in the Bikram style if you're familiar) where the room is hot, and the poses are deliberate and challenging, each asking part of the body to stretch while another part relaxes.  Other times I enjoy Flow Yoga, a more fluid and moving practice in a warm room, often accompanied by music and a more "loose" atmosphere.

I get energy from the group - although people come for different reasons and look different and have different "abilities", yoga is a place for intentions, whatever they might be.  No need for judgments.  It's entirely individual, but being with the instructors and the group of other yogis adds support and accountability, not to boast but to encourage.  For me, the yoga is not too unlike triathlon: a place to find presence, which flings open doors to joy.  In fact, my regular yoga practice has been a critical, fundamental cornerstone to everything else athletic I've done: the yoga has given me strength, balance, and range of motion, and has also given me a regular place to explore my own patience, confidence, and presence.  Yoga has taught me the mental skills to deal with bad weather, motion sickness, panicky feelings, unforeseen obstacles, and cramping.  When my left hamstring suddenly cramped and brought me to an excruciating stop in the middle of the Chicago Triathlon, I had skills in my mental arsenal to make it stop.

And like at the races, sometimes I wonder: why do there seem to be people around me looking miserable in their efforts?  If it's not fun, why pursue a hobby or sport?  An hour into a 90-minute yoga class in a 100-degree room is often the perfect time to feel miserable.  But the mental practice begs: right now, what can I do to lighten up?  To continue to work as I fatigue?  Why should I be unhappy?  For so many reasons, I find myself smiling through yoga classes.  Usually right from the beginning, then trying to call it back over and over as the session intensifies.  Although the effort is hard, I look for the parts of myself that are stretching, realigning, detoxifying, replenishing - and I find them.  And as I look inward, the need to worry about anything else in life fades away, because in fact there's nothing to do about any of it in those moments.  As I seek this phenomenon, often known as "presence", I can't help but feel: this is great!  I feel great!  My situation here in this place is wonderful!  It's only natural to smile.