A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Keeping on living the dream.

I had discovered yoga back in November 1999, when, after some serious martial arts competitions and training with lots of throwing one's body on a concrete floor, I ended up with 2 herniated disks, causing me not being able to do things even as simple as put my shoes on - or get in and out of the car. After 6 months of conventional treatment, I was scheduled for a surgery, when a friend recommended to check out Bikram yoga. I did, re-scheduled my surgery, and 3 months later, seeing a huge progress to my pain's diminishing, cancelled it all together. 4 months later I ran my first race, soon after 2 events happened: I became an ultrarunner AND was asked to teach yoga in that very studio back in Westchester, NYC, Bikram (primarily) and Vinyasa style. I did so (taught yoga) for 2 years, anywhere from 2 to 6 classes a week, as an addition to my Pharmaceutical company job (and training for ultras, and yes, of course, family). I loved it. It was an outlet for me to share my medical knowledge, my desire to help everyone become healthier human being, and to thank this Eastern weird thing for "fixing" me without intervention. That, and the space it provided for me to be still. Running was my moving meditation. Yoga was my "focus on the moment".

Life moved me into Portland, and not only did I dive in to ultras training full speed, mountains explorations, and some seriously challenging changes in my family, I also couldn't find a yoga studio that would feel like home. I was taking a class a week - or a month - and only in the last year of living there did I stick to twice a week consistency, again.

Moving to Austin proved similar challenge. While I did find a Bikram studio that spoke to me, Bikram style was loosing its appeal for me. I still believed in its benefits, but the sameness, the heat I was getting more bothered by, the lack of challenge, and the boom behind its founder was shaking my interest to say the least.

This when, on Labor day in 2013 (day of free yoga in Austin), my running friends Janice and Gabe suggested me to check out "Breath and Body" studio, at the time associated and teaching Baptiste style classes. Baptiste Power yoga was my passion for sure, this is what I brought to the time in my NY Bikram studio by taking workshops with Baron Baptiste. It is powerful, flowing, has all the poses you can imagine - after a sequence of the same that will warm you up inside out. And, the studio (BB) and its teachers, owner and students were so awesomely welcoming, I stuck around and fell in love all over again.

No wonder that when my "science life" was being planned out to come to an end, and my massage job and the passion for healing people was coming to fruition, applying for yoga teacher training at the studio was a no-brainer. 

I wish I could share with you a lot of details, but let me tell you, this was not a simple: learn the yoga poses and how to deliver them. It was a life-transforming process. It's been challenging on far more deep levels than physical - in fact, those "far more" were far more important and stood out on its own.

Let me simply share with you my final short assay, a part of graduation process.

And invite you to come to take classes where I will be co-teaching and assisting for the next month, in hopes to eventually teach a class or few on my own. 

What a journey it has been! 4 months of deepening of my own practice and learning how to deliver the knowledge I glimpsed here to others. Yet there is entirely different reason I was told this training will transform me to be “the best I can be”.

I have a thing: I love studying and re-reading subjects I am passionate about. It’s like going in circles, or, rather, in spiral, new knowledge, deeper every time. I had been focused on growth path, psychology, yoga, Ayurveda, and all sorts of non-traditional, East-oriented stuff, for a decade. But it seems there are always new things to dive into.

Re-learning on a deeper level Yoga philosophy, the 8 limbs, the meaning of Om has been super-exciting. Can you believe, when I joined the studio, I just stood there without a sound? Now Om makes my whole body vibrate from inside out, and indeed, it does seal the resolve and the practice. Talking so much about all-yoga makes me want to read more and practice mindfully not only the physical part of it, but study all aspects, especially explore mediation and vegan eating. Yep, I said it, I may give up meat, at least for a while, and sit still too. Chakras, previously only touched in passing-by, enlightened the knowledge why we become who we are, how our biography correlates with biology, how our past shapes our future; and how healing Yoga can be by moving and activating all those centers of energy and breaking the blocks.

The Anatomy has always been my favorite subject. I love not only figuring out muscles, joints, bones and other structures for myself, but sharing it all with others, sometimes to a fault of too much. What’s not mesmerizing about body’s complex mechanism, its functions, ability to compensate, eventually break down, and then begin a healing process? Applying my 30 years of fascination with Anatomy to every Asana is totally my kind of nerdiness.
As far as Asanas, 16 years of practice and previous classes of studying with yoga teachers, various workshops and seminars had not given me even a quarter of what I had learned here, in this training. My friends keep asking me if I am, finally, able to do a split, or a handstand, or any other amazing final expressions of difficult poses. The fact of the matter is, no, I am not. But every pose, from the simple Tadasana, to my funny-looking leap-frogs and hitch-kicking hops, had benefited greatly in details I couldn’t even imagine. And sometimes I think it is even better, to a certain degree, that I am not that far advanced, because sharing those minute points becomes my strength in teaching methodology and a way to relate to many students on a more personal level.

The teaching methodology designed and delivered in Breath and Body studio is amazing. The idea of North Alignment, the “From the ground up”, which is completely simple yet profound, is one that has never been explained before. Why, I ask? Build the foundation, focus on muscle energy; and from there on build the pose and expand! And the Inner Spiral, what a concept that makes everything align better and stay stronger! That was a revelation, along with a constant reminder of a big-toe-mountJ

When we began, I gave a commitment statement: give my best, accept challenges, to be open to failures and to success. During the training, I never wanted to walk out, but the times I wanted to shut down were aplenty. Yet I was able to keep an open mind and keep exploring, turn inside my soul and listen – and turn outside to accept a feedback.
To top it all off, I had acquired new friends – beautiful women who went through the journey with me, learned together, opened up, shared, and helped me grow.

“A person whose mind wanders is like a lost boat on the water carried here and there by the wind. But the person who has self control is calm and happy. Like the ocean stays calm when rivers flow into it, so a person with self control stays calm no matter what flows into her mind.” ("Bhagavad Gita", Chapter 2 Verse 70)

How many times do we find ourselves wandering inside our head daily, whether at work, with our loved ones, or on the yoga mat? We spend hours mingling tasks while thinking of plans ahead, completely unrelated. We sit at the dinner table with our kids, yet not hear a word of how their day went. We come to our yoga mat, the unsettled mind keeps running, and before we know it, an Eagle is falling apart, a Dancer is shaky, and a Handstand is not happening at all.

Imagine a small vessel in an ocean, and a storm comes. The boat gets thrown around and eventually shreds to pieces. We live in the vast world of unknown and are surrounded by all the outside influences, just like little boats at sea. If what we have in our thought process cannot be controlled by us, all the smallest winds and waves shake us to the core. It could be another car driver cutting in front, a traffic jam, a store that ran out of milk…If those tiny things impact us, imagine what illness of a loved one, a loss of an income, or a burning house could do. Even without disturbances of any proportion, the overwhelming amount of information surrounding us outside messes up the calm. The choices in the stores, technology, social media…

Yet with a steady mind we obtain inner strength and we can withstand the storms that life offers us, navigate them as lessons and opportunities to grow. Everything that ever happens to us is for a reason, even if it is not apparent right away. With steady mind, focused on a continual forward moving and doing to the best of our ability, the burdens can be taken in stride, and the ways to deal with any catastrophe are clearer.
Our yoga mat is often referred as a mirror of life. The body on one particular day is stronger yet inflexible; the other day we can stretch but not kick hard…it varies, offering us challenges at hand. If the mind is clear of chatter, strong and focused, work with what you have today, don’t allow disappointments to settle in, nor be taken out by circumstances, stay calm and enjoy the process.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Beuscher Park run.

I took a day off and drove a full hour to the trailhead which I obnoxiously consider the only real trail running heaven in Austin area, for a 3 hour play. Got so excited, not even 20 steps into the loop I kissed the trail and drew blood...welcome back? The irony is, I used to "love" Supermaning the trails, but that was due to being a little reckless, faster and somewhat clumsy. The only part that's left is clumsy, plus I completely forgot how to lift my feet to clear even tiniest unevenness of trails. 

This song came appropriately timely: "'Cause sometimes you just feel tired, Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up. But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up. And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse."

I always loved that song. It's just I used to listen to it at the end of a 100 miler, not at the first mile of a 15.

Came back to the car, washed off a bit, replaced smashed gel from the hip pocket (of course I fell on that hip!), and went on to complete the play, gluing my eyes to the trails under my feet. Ran, slow, every step for a loop and half, when back hills on the 2nd loop, however benign, humbled me to some walk breaks. 2 Voulchers circled over me waiting for my complete collapse, but I tricked them! Finished spent yet happy to give so much time to trails. Thankful I rolled from 50k option at Smith Rock to 15 miler, but now pray I get though even that in some kind of upright and coherent state. My running seems to really going backwards instead of progressing, but whatever is that I have not going to take me out of being on trails (and trying to run).  It was my 2nd and final 15M trail run in prepping for that Oregon trip. I had also done 5 runs of 16-20 miles on roads. Only first 2 felt ok. 

Now, though, I am a) scared of a shower (sissy!), b) not sure how to massage peeps tomorrow with both hands damaged, c) have a 3-day hot (!) yoga teacher training weekend ahead, sweat and bending and all!. Whoopsy-do!

Ironically, my friend emailed me a day prior with this question:
How do you feel about your body not doing what you want it to do?

Here was my response: I feel lots of things. Mad because I do love the running, and because it was a much easier way to control my body fat than not eating. Curious and upset that I have no clue why it happened - and, actually, what exactly happened. Somewhat relieved I don't have to train in this stupid Texas weather and ugly trails/roads. Lost/robbed of my own identity. Not sure who am I, not accepted by anybody, not having friends, no feeling of belonging. Lonely. At least not angry anymore.

On a good (great!) note, the friends are still here, and the old guard of Texas ultrarunners who had adopted me still has fun - and seems that neither one of them runs (though I am the youngest of the "old guard", somehow squeezing in due to longevity). There was a party a couple weekends ago, and in another 2 weeks Larry and I are hosting potluck for same folks as well!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The new (and improved) life.

It's been a long month since the last post, as I worked hard establishing my new position as an LMT for more hours at Massage Envy and Myo Massage, as well as doing 50 hrs a month of Yoga teacher training. Basically, I didn't have a day off since I stepped out of UT on January 16th (or, rather, came back from Russia and went to work on January 1st) until Monday, March 2nd. While I love my new life so much, I am learning to fiddle with what we call a "golden medium". Apparently, being a massage therapist for 6 hrs a day is a physical job. Ha. Who would have thought? And since I tend to maximize time I am away from home, I ask for "no breaks", meaning I have client after client with barely a breath in-between. This has to be adjusted in the future (we submit schedules 2 months ahead, so I can't move much until May), to figure out where I am comfortable financially, feel like I fulfill my duty as a member of a family as well as a healer to people, yet don't break down. Sometimes the physicality of it runs me so that I fall asleep way before 9 pm, and even miss a run or a gym. I don't really feel worn out while doing massages, it's the "whoosh" that comes once I am home.

That said, and since I managed to strain hamstring-overcompensate with right hip flexor-still dealing with left foot (never-ending injury from 2011), my attempts of speed work and somewhat faster-paced runs went to zero. I strap my Garmin and go without looking until the end of the run. I did manage to put a progression of longish runs - 14, 16, 18 - all on roads, as time is just an issue (and seems to be even more so) as it was when I worked at UT. Driving 20+ minutes each way to the trailhead, which (the trails in Austin) do not inspire me in a big sense anyway (though still much better than roads, indeed) can't fit into my schedule, and being so slow these days means same 6-10 miles will take me close to 40% longer staggering on rocks and roots. So, I keep circling the neighborhood(s), being happy if I pick the hillier area, for the better views and more muscle fun. I did go to trails once (like, in many months!!) though, and it was absolutely beautiful and awesome, and I am trying hard to re-write my schedule so I can make it a habit at least once a week!

That said, I took out the Idaho 50k I tentatively wanted to do in June (I still feel bad I won't get to visit the area and some of my friends!), and have no clue if it also means I'll be chasing cut-off's at Smith Rock 50k on Mother's day (or bail out so my speedy friends don't have to wait for me). Since I do not intend to not go to Oregon in May, I will play it by ear. So far I took a back-off week last week, and the runs picked up some overall pace. Smart coaching, huh? :)

Because of said injury and the road running making me stiff (and massaging affecting my back and shoulders), my yoga practice hasn't made progress as I anticipated (in terms of, no, I am not doing splits, or hand stands, etc.), but learning all the little details did help me with a much better alignment. Also, the training part of being a teacher is fascinating, I missed that since my 10+ years ago Bikram teaching stunt. We are all getting better, with my usual feedback including a positive or two (I know my stuff, have energy, fill the room) and a not-so-much (I talk too much by giving too many cues!). I got to teach Sun A series (about 7 min of the class) last Sunday and it felt so real.

And I did finish a dress I was making! 50% yak wool with 50% merino wool, yarn I bought as a shopping therapy back in November with no clear idea, used to make a sweater during Thanksgiving trip to Estes Park, then decided I didn't like it one bit, and re-made it into dress with creativity being born as the rows were stringing one on another. Used every inch of that yarn! That was close!

Well, back to that day off I had - since it was Monday, and I rarely see my husband these days between working into late evenings and all weekends being either at work or yoga training, I begged Larry to take a day off his job and have a one-day get-away.

We drove to Kerrville, TX (about 2 hrs SW of Austin), stayed in a nice place, ate in a great Mexican restaurant (says me who really doesn't like any kind of Tex-Mex rice-beans combo!), and the next day drove to Lost Maple state park and made one big loop (10 miles) to utilize very trail they have there. The park took our vote for being the BEST Texas state park (besides Guadalupe, which is a National park, and is basically in NM) for the variety of trails, flora, grand views (yes, the hills were beasts and very pretty). Despite the weather being foggy and cold, we enjoyed the hike and being outside immensely.

No trips planned until May (Oregon). Gotta buckle down for 2 more months.:)

Below are pics from the Lost Maple hike.