“… setting your intention is like drawing an arrow from the quiver of your heart.
You aim the arrow at a distant target, a reflection of your heart’s desire, and with care and mindfulness release the bowstring.
And as the arrow flies toward the target, it draws your heart toward its destiny.”
My intention was set; my arrow aimed at first-born (Sophie) who becomes troubled when I leave for my Friday night trips away (an unhappy agreement made during mediation to give her father more time to parent without my ever-presence).
She cries as I leave, and as I jump into my car and drive away, I can’t help but wonder for how long she feels the pain of my departure.
There is nothing I can do to ease her pain when I’m gone.
At the end of yesterday’s class, prior to a deeply personal moving meditation and an awfully good time spent upside down in playful inversions, the class returned to our backs for quiet savasana.
As proof that I’d set the right intention, the prettiest song came through the speakers above my head; a version of Sea of Love I hadn’t ever heard.
For Sophie I’d set my intention. Now and forever, Cat Power’s Sea of Love will be our song.
Do you set intentions off of the mat? Does a particular song remind you of someone you love?
On Saturday morning the stars aligned and for the first time in much too long I was present on my mat.
Sometimes it’s tough to know what it means to be present when our lives and our minds are so busy with me, me, me.
But for an hour on Saturday I was able to find presence and defy judgement through breath and flow; freedom while working limbs and trunk into shapes not usually made in the span of a normal day.
When you find that elevated place of spiritual liftedness it’s a a lot like the illusive runner’s high. Not until you meet it do you recognize it’s been there all along, but you have been the thing standing in its way.
I stood on my right leg with my shoulder tucked under my left knee, arm wrapped underneath my left calf, hand holding the outer edge of my foot. To make the bind, I needed to wrap my right arm around my back to meet the left hand, while pressing through the right foot to find leverage; to stand up, lifting the knee, while pretzel wrapped around myself.
I worked to the point where my loose right arm met its resistance (so far from where it would have liked to have gone), but instead of feeling any negativity toward myself or the pose, my spirit was set free in the act of the trying. I laughed, and standing in mountain with hands in prayer, smiled under thumbs at the site of my fellow yogis “going for it.” Twisted and bound and strong and upright, many of them even straightened the lifted leg.
Like breathing flesh and bone statues, working their bodies into the shapes of birds, I felt profound pride.
The moment had nothing to do with what I could not achieve or never have been able to or how I felt about my differences from others or how I stood alone.
And there it was….
Gratefulness in a moment, in an experience far beyond the boundaries of my own vida loca.
Have you ever had an experience like this on or off the mat? Do you lose gratefulness sometimes and have difficulty locating it again?
Most people I know are aware of how important yoga is to me in my life. What they may not know is what I’ve never written about; that it can sometimes leave me confused and frustrated, wrought with angst over the time spent fighting my own body to do what I tell it to do. It’s hard to understand if you’re not a practitioner. Strangely, it’s almost as hard if you are.
Yesterday’s class was the first in ages that left me feeling more confused than enlightened.
I’ve been processing it since I rolled up my mat to go home.
There’s a saying in yoga to, “leave it on the mat,” but this is sometimes easier said than done.
So what was it that has gotten me so perplexed?
1. The class was a fire practice where we generated heat through vinyasa (flowing movement through breath, anji mudra (clasped hands with pointed forefingers), and kriyas (repetitive and fast one minutes of movement meant to prepare the body for meditation). The fire that is built also leaves a person drenched in a pool of sweat (or having achieved maximum detoxification, depending on how you look at it).
2. My time on the mat was unbalanced. One moment I would be flowing just fine and out of nowhere would lose balance and fall over.
a. I held tree pose on the left (was even able to throw in a little backbend with pointed hands overhead), but couldn’t do so on the right.
b. I had moments of bliss like when I “flipped my dog” to the left, a full expression looking a lot like a rainbow, but found my right tricep so stiff and refusing to budge (like it hit a wall) making the possibility of a flip impossible.
c. My one legged chaturangas felt better than ever until my wrists locked up making it necessary to sit out the final vinyasa flow.
d. Even crow (my nemesis), which I can never get into properly became yin and yang. From chair pose down to a high toed squat I found the perfect placement for the perfect crow. But just like that, with all the concentration in the world, it didn’t last and my placement slid. It was over.
e. Half-moon was a cruel joke. Determined to make it work on the right (after massive failure on the left) I ran out of the room for a block to help me out. When it was time to try I leaned forward to find solid hand placement on the block, but despite all of my determination, struggled until the class had moved on.
3. The clarity in my mind led to more confusion, if that makes any sense at all. I felt clear, but confused. Fog that I didn’t know had been present in my head had lifted, but left in its place was an emptiness.
I must have looked like my own little island out there alone. I surely felt that way. Around me were nine glorious female souls focused and floating strong on calm waters. I envied the clear skies and smooth energy above them. How elated they must have felt after class having found strength from the fire.
After all of this pondering the simplest explanation is that yesterday’s practice was a mirrored reflection of how my internal fire has been flickering. I’m fighting for balance, trying to find my way on rocky seas, hitting walls that I wish could just be crashed through.
But it is what it is and I’m finally ready to leave it on the mat.
First things first, I need to go and clean off the remnants from what happened there yesterday with Manduka mat cleaning spray and a damp towel.
At least I’ll be sure that my next practice will begin on a freshly cleaned slate.
Do you meditate? Do you have days like this on the mat? What do you do when your time on the mat brings up stuff that you would rather not deal with? How do you move forward?
The sun salutations were plenty. One legged chaturangas, too. So many utkatasanas (chair pose), core cultivation, crescent lunging, crow (side crow is beyond me; watch superstar Kathryn Budig’s unbelievable video below) and twists.
My arms, back and sides were awaken. They are sleeping again now, but will probably scream at me tomorrow morning after a long night’s rest.
I walked out knowing that the addition of weekly guided vinyasa is going to help me build strength in areas that running alone can’t provide.
Will I have the stamina for both? This remains to be seen.
On the schedule tomorrow is any easy 6-8 miles. Compared to this morning’s yoga class it will be like a good old walk in the park!
Tell me running friends…. Do you incorporate yoga and/or strength training to improve performance?
What began as a pretty somber morning (with matching post) has turned into a pretty great day full of stupendous things to make any lady happy.
1. Gluten free me is feeling fab. Sugar; a thing from my long distant past. I cannot believe I’m not struggling!
2. A full hour on my Manduka before picking the kids up from school gave me the opportunity to do some seriously deep backbends, which opened up the heart, which zip zipped me along. There was even time for a few inversions (there’s never enough time for inversions, it seems). Get this girl upside down and things start to happen…
3. The handsome and talented Zach McGowan, Jody from the Showtime show Shameless, responded to a tweet I’d sent asking for permission to use his image on the blog. He said, “yes.” He didn’t have to say anything. I practically did a cart-wheel I was so excited that he’d read the post and liked it. Small satisfaction for the “work” that I do.
4. Anna Paquin, otherwise known as Sookie our favorite fairy, has had twins. No word on the flavor of the babies as no names have been released. It probably seems silly to consider the birth of babies to a person I do not know a highlight of my day, but as a mom of twins I know what an unbelievable day that is. Twin pregnancies are hard. Twin babies often have more problems in utero. I’ve been there and I know the relief of finally having them born. Congratulations to her and her vampire husband Bill (Steven Moyer).
5. It goes without saying that the weather outside is just perfect (sunny, mild, lovely). Everyone is talking about it, shocked that it finally turned so after the brutal never-endingness of our Southern Summer. What was more perfect than the weather was watching the children on the playground for almost two hours under our favorite tree. Talking to the moms for that long was like the frosting on the cake that I won’t be eating anytime soon and haven’t an urge to eat anyway.
The whole purpose of beginning this blog was to document my marathon training while living this crazy place called Mommyland.
It’s with relief that I am now coming full circle as training for race number two officially begins on September 24th.
In the space between the last marathon and now I have worked and re-worked the plan making educated and experience based substantive decisions, which I will do my best to follow.
1. I will again be following Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 schedule, but instead of three-day mid-week runs, I will be combining the mileage to run only two. This will mean that those mid-week runs will be longer, but I’ll have more days in between to rest and recover. I am hoping that exhaustion from too many successive runs in a row (which was an issue last time) will be resolved with this plan. I will also use the Galloway system of strategized walking, as I do believe it works and will help me go farther with more control.
2. I’ve agreed to help out my most favorite yoga instructor on Saturday mornings by checking in her students in return for a free pass to her phenomenal class. Last marathoning go around I was so consumed by the run that I neglected my yoga, neglected a huge piece of what grounds me to my life. Agreeing to be at the studio every Saturday will ensure that my yoga practice is built into the schedule. It will also give me an opportunity to re-build the dusty resume and re-establish the fact that I am consistent and committed and pretty competent at tasks in which I’m given.
3. Long runs, then, will have to happen on Sundays or Mondays (last year I ran long on Saturdays). The most gratifying runs are the long ones, for me. I am looking forward to those hours and hours on the road, out there on my own two feet, floating alone inside my own busy brain.
4. I’ve been off of sugar for twelve whole days, off of Diet Coke a week longer, and I’ve been much more careful about the overall contents of things like cereal and yogurt and so-called healthy snack bars and drink supplements. An ongoing process, I am sure there will be much more written about my emotional connectedness to food as it’s the one part that I still haven’t fully figured out. I should mention another change, too. I will NOT be getting on the scale anytime in the near future. More about that to come.
And so I am ready to go.
The last factor (of which I have no control) is with mother nature.
Yes there will be days in the next months that I will have no choice but run in the drizzle and/or rain and/or the early morning freezing cold. I can handle all that. It’s part of the challenge.
This heat, though, needs to go.
September marks a new beginning for me in so many ways and the muggy humid air has gotten very very old.
What races are you running? What will your training plan look like?
Instead of running on Saturday I headed over to Evolve Movement (North Raleigh) where I paid the drop in fee to attend Tina’s (one of my favorite teachers of all time) class.
Before savasana and after our flow (complete with what felt like a hundred or so chaturangas), Tina challenged the class to a bit of core work that I had never tried. In the background she cued up Eminem as the audible motivator for the upcoming task (my kind of girl).
With thinly folded blankets placed under flattened feet (off the mat and on the slippery floor) she demonstrated for the class. Beginning in straight armed plank the goal was to muster as much core strength as possible to keep hands planted in place while pulling straight legs into downward dog. From dog, by sliding the blanket back along the floor, we were supposed to end with straight legs in plank, core engagement creating the steady smooth movements. Back and forth (slowly, as it is difficult) Tina made little grunting noises (more for our benefit than hers I think) and told us to pray to whomever we needed to pray to for strength during what would turn out to be an incredibly intense ab workout disguised in a sneakily fun package.
I could barely get the blanket to cooperate. As I tried to pull my legs into dog my knees buckled and bent to the floor. The blanket slid everywhere but where I needed it to go and as I maneuvered back to plank, slipped too far off course and again ended on my knees. Back up I went to try try again, sweat dripping down my face, determined to get the blanket and my body to cooperate. When I was too tired to continue, smiling and exasperated by the degree of hidden toughness, I sat to watch the attempts of the others who to my relief were also fighting to control the blankets underfoot.
Two days later on this Monday morning I can still feel the effects of the class from deep within my belly. My side abdominals pulled and engaged when I reached up to get out of my bed and I can feel the deepest part of my core, my support, alive and engaged.
Ab work ranks below arm work on my list of favorite things to do, but after a summer of little running and lots of S’mores, they are at the top of my goal list (at least until marathon training kicks into full gear at which time I will try to maintain balance by continuing the practice).
“Blanket Sliding” is being added to the arsenal of healthy activities to make me strong and centered as I enter back into the land of personal health and well-being.
When I agreed to drive home from our seven weeks away it seemed like a good idea. I knew I’d have collected various suitcase filling objects and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to fit our stuff in the belly of a plane or comfortably underneath our seats.
As predicted, we left Groton Long Point yesterday morning with a car stuffed full, so much so that the only way to get to the cooler full of drinks was through the rolled down back window of the Four Runner (the door was blocked by a finicky bike rack). The roof rack above was filled to the brim with dismantled Hello Kitty bikes, dirty towels and random soft bags with items that normally do not go together (shampoo and shoes and Barbies, for example). I placed my precious laptop against the safest spot I could find (next to my feet on the passenger side floor) and surrounding us in every other empty space was an explosion of brought along foods, coloring books, items from the pencil boxes, empty Dunkin Donut bags and pillows and toys.
We rolled into Raleigh after eleven and promptly released the girls.
Said Grace later; “Mom. It’s like we were in jail and we didn’t even do anything bad to get there!”
All along the way I kept thinking that the trip could be described as Yin and Yang.
Yin: Passing around the nectarine and pear I’d brought and watching each family member take a bite.
Yang: Breakfast at McDonald’s (the girls and I didn’t actually eat it, so maybe that’s yin). But dinner at Wendy’s? So yang.
Yin: Outsmarting the GPS that was determined to take us over the George Washington Bridge. We found our way to the Tapanzee and were certain it would be smooth sailing all the way home.
Yang: Three hours of stop and go traffic through D.C.
Yin: Both girls falling asleep and staying that way through most of D.C.
Yang: The cries from the back seat when they woke with sore backs and crampy legs.
Yin: Listening to Sophie sing the words to Call Me, Maybe? (beginning to end) in her high-pitched lovely little voice.
Yang: Listening to Sophie singing the words to Call Me, Maybe? (beginning to end) after twelve or so hours on the road.
Yin: Listening to Adele full blast during my turn at the wheel.
Yang: Being so engrossed in that beautiful voice and missing the last big freeway change.
Yin: The Map Quest directions that said the trip would be eleven hours door to door.
Yang: Fourteen hours later peeling myself from the seat of the car and walking around my house, happy to be here but exhausted and with a headache.
Yin: Pechie’s bowl of freshly made spaghetti and meatballs in the fridge.
Yin: A fridge full of groceries that she bought for us so I wouldn’t have to take the girls in the car again today.
Yin: My house; relatively clean.
Yang: Out of toilet paper and coffee.
Yin: Kids off playing.
Yin: Me typing at my space.
Yin: Back to blogging and writing and running and yoga class and preschool and my juicer and my friends (both real and bloggy).
I have been tired and there is a great list of possible culprits; the heat, the running, my kids early rising, allergies, my rough food week, hormones?
Whatever it is I’ve being plagued by exhaustion.
After an energetic run on Saturday morning, my laziness took hold. It was hard to sit at the computer, so I took it with me to work horizontally on the sofa. When the girls needed milk I dragged my body to the fridge only to plop back down after handing over their sippy’s.
It was gross.
I decided to roll out my mat.
Knowing that I wasn’t ready to start standing, I lay flat on my back in savasana. I yawned and stretched there for a minute and then reached for my blocks.
For my friends who don’t practice, blocks are also known as props. They are helpful additions to poses when the body needs assistance getting there. They aid in alignment, too.
Certain poses and I always require blocks.
If, for example, I am going from warrior into half moon, I recognize that a block must be waiting by my front foot to give my hand a lift and to keep my spine from crunching down.
In triangle, it is more important to keep the spine straight that to be able to reach the floor. I’m not a yoga instructor and I try not to judge, but when I see a student pulled forward into triangle and bent over to reach the floor causing a U shape to their form, it takes everything in me not to march over and readjust their positioning.
Caring for the spine is more important than deepening a pose for the sake of the ego.
As I stared at the dining room ceiling deciding where to start, I made the call to stack two blocks and tuck them under my sacrum for a gentle assisted bridge pose.
By lifting the pelvis up off the floor a stretch is created along the spine. With the tail bone hanging over the edge of the blocks, the shoulders roll back, the chest is forced to lift and open, and the arms roll out to the side causing the lungs to fill with fresh air (prana).
I hung out there for a while. It felt good.
When I was ready I played with leg and foot positioning.
With bent knees and one foot planted on the floor, I pointed the toes of the other foot and curled them back toward my rear end, palm of hand to sole of foot and pressed into the mat causing a delicious front quad stretch. For balance I repeated with the other foot.
With legs straight and high, toes splayed and pointed down (yoga feet) I imagined a string being pulled through my heels.
I made a wide legged V and then froggy legs with the balls of my feet pushing together for resistance.
Coming down I eased the blocks out from below me and slowly curled my back flat to the floor. I rocked my knees back and forth until they fell all the way to the right, arms folding over me to the left; an unscheduled supine twist. As always to keep balance, I rolled my knees to the left and arms to the right. Breathing and resting, it felt like a great big body yawn.
The pose I had just exited (supported bridge) led perfectly into a shoulder stand cycle. Without planning or thinking about it I allowed my body to go there.
From an unsupported bridge to a shoulder stand and then to one of my most difficult poses, the plow.
Plow is difficult for girls with DD’s and despite my best efforts I often find myself with a crunchy spine, so instead of pressing my feet entirely overhead, I eased back into shoulder stand before returning to the floor.
The entire cycle was slow and just what I needed; restful and energizing at the same time.
This is the beauty of a home practice. Go with your flow and you get what you need.
Rejuvenated, I turned over and cat-cowed until I was ready for a dog, legs pressed into the floor and walking. One at a time I raised each leg high to the ceiling and then bent over into a hip stretch.
Surprisingly, I had generated enough energy that a few slow and deliberate salutations to the sun came pouring forth (a few breaths per movement).
Before I knew it I was in that zone. I popped up, turned on music and grabbed the incense out of my desk drawer. I struck a match and lit the fire igniting my home practice companion.
The energy that I’d created spread through my house and before I knew it my quietly playing kids wanted in on the action. Just like that my solitary yoga play was done.
A full home practice is is not as easy with kids around and because of them it rarely ends in savasana.
Still, that time on my mat was enough to give me what I needed to be more productive and present in my own life.
With newfound energy I cleaned up the kitchen, gathered cut up paper from around the children’s art table, went outside to water the garden and folded every last piece of clothing from the laundry bed. That alone was a miracle!
If it weren’t for those blocks I would have become one with the sofa; a blob of a mom with a messy house and a sadly wasted day.
So props to the props (in this instance the blocks) and to the home practice that pulled my being out of Lazyland and back to Mommyland where I belonged.
Julie Armer; young, long red hair, Birkenstock wearing, wise and able to call me on my chit.
We started meeting when I was on the tail end of a semi nervous breakdown. At twenty-eight and with my life far from where I wanted it, I needed help to sort stuff out.
My coping mechanism was food.
At night I’d curl into bed with a bag of Teddy Grahams. I’d watch t.v. and devour the bag until all that was left were bear legs and bodies; tiny body parts crumbled against the bottom of the metallic bag.
Julie and I had long talks about the Teddy Grahams. Why did I do this? What compelled me to keep eating?How did I feel once they were finished and expanding in my belly?
The conclusion we came to was that I was filling up my stomach in an effort to control something in this uncontrolable world. What I really needed was to fill up my heart, not my gut. I know it sounds sort of ridiculous, but she was onto something. Eating to the point of fullness left little room (body and mind) to dwell on the emptiness elsewhere.
Her solution? When being pushed toward a tryst with Teddy Grahams I was to go and hug my nephew who happened to be living upstairs from me at the time. Filling with love would quell the urge toward food as a love replacement.
There’s a lot of talk online and amongst friends about losing weight, calorie control, and diet management.
I very seldom read about the emotional aspect of food as a drug, as a coping skill, as a way to manage feelings.
On Wednesday I ran into Whole Foods with my girls and a short list.
Sophie had requested the organic Blueberry lollipops we like, Grace wanted some animal crackers and I needed apples and greens.
We left with our bags filled, but instead of traditional animal crackers chose two bags of 100% natural, made by Barbara’s since 1971, Snackimals Animal Cookies in vanilla and chocolate chip.
On Thursday, after a few really stellar days for me in the healthy eating department, I went searching the cabinets for a snack. I picked up the cookies and portioned them out in a pink plastic bowl. With them I poured a cup of milk.
My intentions were pure. I was still on the straight and narrow.
When my bowl was empty I stared at it feeling blue. They tasted just like Teddy Grahams, if not a little more crisp. They crunched the same, melted on my tongue the same, tasted just the same.
Without thinking, I started to eat them out of the bag until they were gone. And then the next bag. Gone.
As if something had triggered my good sense, my managed eating habits earlier in the week had vanished from my being.
Like an alcoholic might fall off the wagon after succumbing to the pull of a little sip, I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in compulsive eating hell.
Unable to feel the food that I consumed, I ate more. My head knew what was happening, my alter ego (I need to name her) didn’t care. I was aware that I was spinning, but continued to find more to fill myself up.
When Brian came home with a huge lemon cake and chocolate covered Oreos it didn’t take long before I was going at the cake with a fork and eating the cookies without even checking the calorie content and fat grams on the back (130 for 2 and 13 per serving I now know).
My stomach hurt badly, so I’d give myself a break. And then start up again. A cycle of pleasure and pain and exhaustion and energy.
Why did it happen? What was I really searching for? Aren’t I happy? Don’t I have enough love, friends, health, family?
I have heard that food is the good girls’ drug. This is true. It’s not even about the food. It’s not about weight. It’s about control.
Teddy Grahams, those sweet little bears manufactured for children’s lunch boxes are as dangerous to me as crack or heroine or a bottle of pills to another person searching to fill whatever is missing inside them.
Last night after two pieces of pizza, a couple of bread sticks and three ranger cookies I fell into a “food coma” as I put the girls to sleep.
When I woke later in the evening, the mania was done, just like that. I drank a big bottle of water and settled back to sleep.
Today the food mania has stopped completely and I’ve woken up feeling better and able to see the light through the fog of the past few days.
I drank my coffee with skim milk and ate a lemon 0% Chiobani with some blackberries and half cup of Go Lean Crunch.
I sat down to write as I always do and this post came flowing out.
Since I try to speak the truth, though, I figured it might be helpful for anyone else going through a similar struggle. It also might be helpful to people who view over weight folks as food mongers and sloths. It isn’t about the food at all, so try not to judge.
In fact, a hug or a meaningful conversation about something other than food might snap them out of the cycle.
Most importantly, it is helpful to me to be able to recognize the triggers and the patterns and do what I can to avoid such occurrences in my future.
Total control will never be mine. It doesn’t exist. Not for me and not for you.
It’s a new day and I am off to yoga.
My solution. My church. I will Om with the group, get centered, and try not to judge myself or others.
But as they say in church, which will be my mantra for this Sunday, “Peace be with you. And also with you.”