I go out for a little run once a week. It’s a big deal for me. For several years now yoga has been my refuge, a way of slowly reconnecting with my body one breath at a time. I used to take it really easy, following the advice to listen to my body. Until I realised that my body spoke in a strange language which I didn’t always understand. I thought it was telling me to be careful, go slow, take care not to break…
Now I’m getting better at interpreting it. Now I begin to hear it whisper me a different story. I hear a story of fear and chronic self-protection through staying small and quiet. Its cautious movements are a long-held habit, but they conceal a very different impulse. Beneath all this I can now hear a dream of being wild and free, strong and steady, of moving with grace and surety. Some days they seem like impossibly bold dreams that can exist only in my imagination or my body’s quiet whispered yearning. Other days they feel like my birthright and more possible than I dare to believe.
So once a week I make my body speak differently. I take it away from its safe space on the yoga mat. I coax it to move faster, to explore different rhythms, beyond my habitual careful-moving asanas, beyond even my most dynamic surya namaskar cycles. I gently persuade myself out for a run, a modest circuit to be sure, but one that feels full of adventure to me!
Every week as I set off I pass one of my elderly neighbours as he returns from buying his newspaper. I give him a big wave across the street. Some weeks he waves back, other times I get only a smile. It depends how he is doing in himself — whether he’s getting along OK with just a stick for mild support or if both hands are occupied holding onto a wheeled walking frame. I like to see him; I think we cheer each other up. Our smiles are genuine. But part of me feels a little guilty that for me he is also a reminder of what I am not: I am not old and clinging to a walking frame. I am young enough and energetic enough and I will retrain my body to love running once again. Running for pleasure, for the simple joy of one foot-strike after another, of my gait naturally adjusting to the terrain, the wind on my face, my breath and blood pumping. I love this feeling, this miracle of being alive.
If I could let go of the breath-constricting anxiety, the disbelief that my body can actually do this after the quiet years which I think of as a hibernation from life… if I could let go of the heavy baggage of the past I might just run on and on and never stop! The thought is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.
Roll on next Sunday when I get to try it all again 🙂