My yoga teacher training manual notes that the purpose of asanas is to “allow the body to sit still for long periods of time in meditation.” I do believe there are great benefits physically, mentally, and spiritually to meditation; however, I have some personal moral qualms about sitting still for “long periods of time” in any state and expecting the world to heal itself through positive vibes or energy. That’s topic for another day, though.
We were not put in these physical bodies to disregard them. As humans, we were made to use them. Our bodies are capable of so much and it seems like a very selfish notion to only use our bodies to sit still for “elongated periods of time” and say that all our highest potential is within our minds. Can’t I use my body and mind to do other activities and still gain these mental and spiritual rewards which the yogic tradition speaks of?
Lately, I’ve been using my second two-hour break mid-way through the day to run. I’ve very quickly realized a few things this does for me both mentally and physically.
Sometimes a rooster gets in your way along the path.
My body was extraordinarily sore for over a week after arriving in Thailand. I wasn’t sure if this was from so much traveling, the humidity, my body’s way of acclimating, or just some kind of internal resistance to being here. I summed it up to a combination of all of the above until last Thursday when I finally decided I needed to just move. All this sitting on the floor, attempting to meditate for hours a day business was just hurting.
I’m a very active person in my normal life. I work out in the morning, run around teaching kindergarten all day, and go to yoga class at night. When I came to Thailand, I thought I’d be practicing asanas all day; that it’d be the most grueling thing I’d ever physically done to my body. I was not prepared to simply not move here. The hour and a half of asana class each day was not cutting it. My body was hurting because I was simply not using it. Not only was this inactivity affecting me physically, but mentally, and to a huge extent.
Did you know? Coconut husks are good for traction on steep hills. Fact.
I’ve been having a big problem with meditation since starting my teacher training program. Although I’m going through a huge life transition at the moment, I’m supposed to be able to drain everything from of my mind and simply think of nothing. Be in the moment. “That is yoga,” say both of my yoga teachers. Well, my knee-jerk reaction is resistance and I’ve had a hard time doing anything but. I close my eyes, “aum” with the group, hear the man next to me pass gas several times, or I inhale a bug, and everything goes to hell. Suddenly my to-do list creeps in; I think about my student loan bills; I wonder about my future after Thailand; my friends; my family; if I’ll ever be able to find a real job; the petting zoo in my room (probably crawling through my bed at this moment); what I’m going to eat for dinner. This is my meditation time, twice a day, every day.
Good practice for trail running in Colorado.
Running is different. It’s just me, my music in my ears, and the road in front of me (except in the case of today, in which two dogs ran alongside me half the time and then a monkey ran by).
I’ve discovered, rediscovered, and found solace in running when I feel a need to escape from life. I don’t need to think about anything except going. If my path starts getting too difficult or I reach a steep hill and don’t know if I can make it any farther, I push myself that little bit more, and once I feel accomplished – triumphant – I just stop and I dance to my music. Yeah, I do that. Then I keep going.
One of my break-it-down spots.
Running is my meditation. If yoga is “just being,” then running with music drowning out the world must be my yoga. My body feels lighter, my thoughts seem clearer, and I am more at peace with myself and the world. In Sanskrit, So Hum, or I am. This is one of the purposes of silent, seated meditation. At the present, neither my body nor mind have reached this point of passive strength and devotion. That’s not to say that one day this won’t be the case. In fact, I hope for my own sake that I get this whole meditation thing real soon. For now, though, it’ll just be me and the road on a daily respite – despite what my yoga teachers say about the “physical body.”
In England I ran along a highway. In Thailand I run on an uneven dirt road in a coconut grove.
With all that said, I’m not running today. At least not yet. My body is finally the good kind of sore I’ve been looking forward to for weeks. Instead, I’m sitting on a log, staring at the ocean, with my feet buried in the sand. The waves are washing over the music in my headphones. I’m feeling completely content with my iced coffee and coconut milk. Life is good in this moment. This is my lunch break on a Saturday in Thailand.