Saturday, September 04, 2010
I had an epiphany this morning.
Backstory: I am short. Very short. Extremely short. As in, under 5'0" (although on my driver's license... um... I rounded up). And no matter how many people said "it's cute to be petite!" to me, I always wished I was a little bit taller. I wished I was a baller. (Actually, no. I was a tennis kind of girl.) I remember the first time I realized I didn't like my legs. I was in ballet class getting measured for a recital costume, and the teacher pointed out that another girl had a shorter torso than I did, but longer legs. I realized that long legs = good and short legs = bad. And I felt bad.
It's a nasty world out there when you're eight.
It was the first time I realized I should have an opinion about my legs, and I didn't like them. All through high school, I hated my legs. They could always have been longer and skinnier. Even when I was at my absolute skinniest (too skinny, in hindsight) I hated my legs. I hated almost everything under neck level, but my legs maybe most of all.
I've since grown up and realized a few things:
1) I am never going to be tall, and I am never going to have long legs. Oh, well. It's just the way it goes.
2) It's not worth my time to hate any part of myself.
3) My husband likes my legs, so that should be good enough for me too.
Internalizing these three propositions has brought me to a position of neutrality with regard to my legs. I'd still love it if they were longer and skinnier, but I've accepted that they won't be. I also see them as functional now. They are strong. They carry me for miles on my runs... they operate the pedals on my bike so I can zoom past people... they guide me down a mountain on my snowboard... they anchor into my yoga mat as I settle into Tree Pose, my favorite pose. Looks-wise, I have some ideas for improvements. But as far as functionality goes, they've held up pretty well. I'm satisfied.
But then today, I realized something. I was lying on my back in yoga class, with my right foot stuck up in the air, taking a IT band stretch that I had never done before and wondering what exactly the teacher was going for with this. For a moment, I stopped looking at my foot and looked at my knee instead. Just to check in, make sure it was straight. And all of a sudden, I realized something.
This leg is nice.
I liked my knee. I liked the way my calf curved up to meet it. I liked my ankle, too. I liked the smooth but sloped line between my ankle and my knee, and upwards. I liked all of the shapes I was seeing.
I thought about my mom's friend, who is tall and statuesque and has those long skinny legs I always wanted. I remembered her saying to me, once, at the beach: "I always wished I had shapely legs."
I released my right foot to the floor and replicated the pose on the other side. Hmmm. This leg is nice, too. Same nice ankle and knee. Same smooth lines, nice tone and muscle definition. I like this one too. I like my legs. It was so easy; just like that, I let go of 20 years of not liking something about myself.
From now on, I'm going to like my legs. Not just because they are good and strong and they take me places and they let me run and do all of the things I enjoy doing. I'm taking it beyond my "I'm so thankful I can run" gratitude meditations on my long runs. I'm going to like my legs for another, somewhat superficial reason, too. Because they're freaking nice.
Who's with me? Let's all like our legs, and own it together.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
According to Lululemon, it's National Yoga Month. (Isn't every month National Yoga Month? It should be. Get on that, Barack!) In celebration of National Yoga Month, I am challenging myself to 30 days of yoga. It doesn't have to be a lot of yoga - it could be a 90 minute vinyasa class, but it also could just be a gentle restorative practice or a few minutes of child's pose, or meditating in hero's pose - but I am going to do something every day. I actually thought up this challenge on my own, before I realized it was National Yoga Month. But it certainly is fitting.
I love yoga. I love the way it makes me feel when I'm in the middle of a needed stretch, and I REALLY love how I feel after leaving a class - relaxed, serene, completely loose - it's as close as I can get to a fancy schmancy massage without forking over $90. Every time I do yoga, I think, "I should do this more." So I'm going to.
I didn't always love yoga. My mom actually got into it before I did. I first did yoga as part of a Pi-Yo routine with my mom, her BFF Denise, and myBFF Jenn on a multi-family vacation to the Outer Banks. Denise had a Pi-Yo class that she loved and the instructor was moving away, so she memorized the routine. I had a sticky mat because I was a Pilates kind of girl, but my mom forgot to tell Jenn and me to bring mats (Jenn may not even own one to this day - she's a running kind of girl) and we ended up practicing on beach towels. We had one session on the beach at sunrise. It was brutally hot and (sorry, Denise) kind of miserable. I remember thinking that I SHOULD feel like I'm in a yoga video, but instead I just feel sweaty and like there is sand in my pants.
Not long after, I bought my first yoga DVD, "Yoga for Dummies" with Sara Ivanhoe. (LOVE Sara Ivanhoe.) I wanted to tone up for my wedding. I'm not sure if the yoga had more to do with it or the fact that I just ate a cup of plain yogurt for lunch every day all summer - we're not even going to go there - but I looked pretty good on my wedding day. Good enough. The dress and veil helped. I forgot yoga for awhile.
Over the next two years, I revisited Sara Ivanhoe periodically. I liked the DVD fine, but I preferred my "MTV Pilates" video. I wanted to like yoga, I did - if only because Gwyneth Paltrow likes it. But I was just more of a Pilates girl. I put on some happy weight and stress weight (a combination, I think) over my 3L year of law school (the stress part) and first year of marriage (the happy part). Studied for the Bar, gained a little more. Got a job at a government agency in DC and joined the gym. They had group fitness classes. I went to one yoga class with my new coworker Sarah, but was too distracted by the 50 other people in the class, the instructor's creepy earlobe expansion system, and the woman who kept trying to take my brick, to focus. Plus, I had a perfectly good Pilates class to go to with an instructor named Mimi who wore cargo pants. Was I really going to throw that all away?
Then I left my government agency for private law practice, trading in a small paycheck for a large one, great hours and lots of vacation for long days, high stress, and no vacation. And I came back to yoga. For the first time, I needed yoga. I needed a release, something to deal with the stress of my new career. I needed to get out of my head and back to a place with tapestries on the walls like my college dorm room, where my tie-dyed, granola-crunching nighttime self would be understood. First, I tried a studio in Adams Morgan.
Now, I love Adams Morgan. I am out there waving the rainbow flag and chanting with the best (or at least loudest) of them. I've marched in many demonstrations in my day and even picketed a Cornell professor's house. Adams Morgan is a place that welcomes weirdos like me. But it was too far from work. I found a studio closer to home, one with a location very near work so I could go on weeknights too if I wanted to. I took classes with different teachers, and I learned my favorite poses (child's pose! cobra! tree!) and my least favorite (lizard, ugh). I moved again, switched studios again, and adopted a new hobby of creeping out my new neighbors by doing asanas in my yard.
And somewhere in there, asana practice became something I found to be calming, energizing, and very necessary. It went from being a way to tone up for my wedding to a way to stay sane. And now I want to take it to the next level, explore more of what yoga means to me, improve my ability to hold challenging poses, and make asana a habit in my life. I want to call myself a yogi.
Yesterday I did a stretching practice with some of my favorite back stretches and hip openers. Tonight, I'm going to do some more back stretches (I need them after the day I had at work) and practice crow pose. Tomorrow, who knows? I just know I'll do yoga.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Got my first birthday gift last weekend, almost two months early. But I forgive the hubby for jumping the gun, because I understand. My present wasn't something easy to hide. It was rather large, as a matter of fact.
Ladies, meet the Specialized Dolce Comp. www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCBkMo
(That's the 2011 model; I got the 2010, which is white and blue).
Oh, my heart. This bike is fast. It has stolen my affections from my mountain bike and maybe even my beloved running. Sometimes, I just stand at the top of my garage steps and look at it.
The day I got it, I took a quick spin around the neighborhood to see how it felt and I was wobbly. Balancing on those skinny tires with my feet strapped onto the pedals felt different and unnatural after cruising on my mountain bike's fat tires for so long. Two days later, I got home from a long drive in the car and immediately jumped onto my bike for the sensation of the wind on my face for eight miles. Then yesterday, I set out to do ten and accidentally did twelve instead (and crashed into a fence because I was busy staring at a deer. Lesson learned: watch the road, not the wildlife). It's okay. Blue and I are tight.
Yes, I named my bike Blue. I am a super cool person. Fear me.
I'm not as fast as the guys on my local bike trail, with their Lance Armstrong jerseys and tight shorts. But I'm a lot faster than I was on my mountain bike, and even than I was on Blue five days ago. I still clutch the brakes during steep downhills and I'm sure if you snapped a picture of me careening around a tight curve, you could file it in the dictionary under "terrified." But I'm counting down the hours until I can ride again.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
This morning I read a (non-Spark) blog post that really resonated with me. The blogger was writing about how much she loves running. Why? Because you can leave everything on the road - stress, frustration, sadness...
That's the major reason I love running, too. My life isn't exactly stress free. Even as I go from yoga class to yoga class, meditate and hike in the woods near my house, I still have stress. Plenty of it. I'm constantly looking for ways to reduce my stress, and I've figured out a couple of things that work. One of them is running.
Yesterday sucked. Yesterday was an absolutely terrible day. Okay, parts of it were actually pretty great. I went out to lunch with my favorite partner and had a wonderful time and a delicious meal. It was Friday and it was sunny and I had zucchini cakes for dinner and watched Rick Steves episodes with my hubby. But in between those nice things were more not-so-nice things. And the fact that I was miserable despite going to lunch with my mentor should speak to how awful things were otherwise.
Hubby and I are in the process of selling our condo. I've been pretty zen about it, even when it took longer to get an offer than I thought. I've been patient and now we finally have a closing date. I can't even communicate how relieved I have been that things are finally moving toward a conclusion. We haven't felt like we can really enjoy our awesome new house while we're stressing about paying two mortgages. Well, after next Thursday, that was all supposed to end.
Until yesterday, when I thought it was all falling apart. It still might be falling apart. I don't know. But I know one thing: I just got back from a four mile run and I'm not worried about it. I run without music (not by choice, but I don't have one of those wicking iPod armband thingies) and so I spent four miles listening to the rhythm of my breath, the cicadas in the trees, and the sound of the river. And now I'm at peace. I don't care about the woman who is jeopardizing my closing next week and potentially costing me over a thousand dollars - or more. She doesn't have the power to stress me out right now. I'm just happily worn out, serene and tranquil. And when all those feelings come back, like I know they will, the trail will be waiting for me.
Like an old friend.
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