Early morning (well, early for me on a Sunday) and despite single-figure temperatures I’m out and running across the local fields in shorts and vest, hopping around the puddles, taking care in the muddy patches, enjoying the movement and being outside in nature. My cheeks burn (from blood pumping or the cold air?), my feet pad rhythmically. They are a little slower and heavier than I’d like, but I am doing it, and that’s all that counts today. I’m gaining a tiny spark of confidence in my body’s ability to move like this. It still feels terrifying and impossible each time, but there is also undeniably a growing sense of ‘I can’.
As I run I think of an advert from a local yoga studio that yoga is the perfect complement for runners. I wonder if the opposite is true or if the mentalities are quite different. Does a yoga brain, trained for calm control and a lack of striving, easily adapt to running? I just finished reading a book, a light biography-style work, about a man’s running hobby, his regular park runs and his marathons, how his family and friends join in… or not, in the case of his teenage daughter! I was struck by his descriptions of his attitude in running and how he would psyche himself up in pursuit of a PB, or to pass someone before a certain landmark, his quick calculations of lap times, ‘negative splits’ and the like. So many new ideas to me. I suppose I used to think a bit like this, with this kind of determination, when I ran at school. I remember the competitive spirit, the wild longing to be the fastest, to give it my all in the race towards the line. I was a different person then and I am uncertain whether I have lost something essential of myself or found a happier way of being… Or perhaps there is some ideal balance I could cultivate…?! Trust my yoga brain — always looking for the balance 🙂
Running is a wonderful time for such contemplations. My thoughts have space to flow seamlessly, one idea merging into another, and I am happy to watch the meanderings of my mind. My thoughts turn to yoga class the day before. The teacher asked us to imagine our youngest self at the start of class and to infuse our practice with the spirit of that younger version. I tried to allow myself a bit more freedom in my physical body as I remember how I was as a child: full of energy and curiosity, never walking if I could run or skip, eyeing up every tree as a potential climbing frame, unafraid to fight with the boys at school, making up endless, repetitive games at home to test my speed, skill or strength with a ball or skipping rope or whatever I could find in our large garden.
After quite a significant hiatus (and a lot of life events which left me feeling contracted and physically diminished) I’m slowly, slowly allowing myself to revisit this mindset — even if not the exact same exploits! I’ve definitely grown out of my ‘fighting with boys’ phase 🙂 As I reach my 5km goal I am conveniently in the local park and I still have energy in the tank. It’s deserted at this time so I go to the kids’ area where there are brightly coloured slides and swings. I do a bit of work warming up my upper body and shoulders and I do 5 really solid-feeling caturanga-style push ups, taking a certain pride at how easy this feels now, how my body responds to the demand without losing form. Then I spend a bit of time hanging from the rings. The metal is cold and smooth under the grip of my fingers. It’s a long time since I’ve tried pull-ups, so I just work with the negative today — jumping up to hold a breath or so at chin height and then lowering down as slowly as possible til my tip-toes graze the ground. Four like this and I walk away feeling proud and strong.
I’m also feeling a bit playful and wonder what else I could do, how to express this feeling through some movement. The swings and the slide definitely aren’t for me but away across the grass there’s a large climbing frame, a fancy affair of black rope and stainless steel. It’s so tall it’s almost ‘adult’ I think so I climb on, ignoring the fact that I hate heights and the disconcerting shifting of the ropes in hands and under feet. It’s my mind more than my body that’s uncomfortable with this. I can trust my strength and my agility to know I’ll be OK. So I go up, down and around, deliberately moving as quickly as I can, not so much thoughts and mental planning of how to place hands and feet on the irregular rope shapes, but moving as spontaneously as I dare. My younger self would have loved this!
I’m sure I looked hilarious, a grown woman on a climbing frame, but for me this was like El Capitan in Yosemite. I was out of my comfort zone, actually pretty scared, but putting my trust in my body and seeing what I was capable of. To anyone else this would be nothing, for me it was a moment of genuine pride in meeting a personal challenge. My body, once full of weakness and discomfort, is now a source of wonder. It’s slowly turning from enemy to ally. One day it’ll be my best friend. After all, I can’t live without it so it would be nice for it to feel genuinely like home. Maybe this little park adventure today was like trying out some paint samples and seeing which colour scheme I like best. That I get to make a choice itself feels like a luxury.