This post has been brewing inside me for weeks. She's ready now.
I'm not penning these words for the spritely go-getter who jumps out of bed each morning, laces up her runners and hits the track.
Nor am I writing this for the devoted yogini who effortlessly finds ease, presence and profound flexibility on her mat.
Though if you are, you're more than welcome here :)
I'm writing this post for the chicas that only dream that maybe, just maybe, one day they might. They want to clock the kilometres. They long to be one of 'those' ones who seems to find bliss in yoga - a practice that currently leaves them a little frustrated and impatient at best, begging for savasana.
In truth, this is a blog post that preaches the importance of presence and progress. Of patience and gentle determination.
Because when we get the balance between these virtues right, we become alchemists of muscle endurance and lung capacity and of blasting the shit through those glass ceilings our minds place upon us.
So, my yoga and running wannabes, let me just tell you straight up:
/ You CAN run
/ You CAN do inversions
/ You CAN free up your spine, improve your balance, find 'the zone'
You can. And, like all good spiritual practices, the path of progression is less about building your tool kit, skill set and learning new things, and more about releasing all that's shackling you from experiencing breakthroughs in your body.
And we do that, by simply starting. One day, hopefully very soon, you'll get out of bed with a few embers burning in your belly. They're the electric charge that tell you it's time to try something different, that it's time to start exploring your body in new ways. Those embers know that exercise ain't just exercise - it's a gateway to deep personal discovery, profound energetic shifts and cellular freedom.
Our struggles on our mat, and on the track, teach us about how we process and deal with our struggles in life.
/ Do we forcefully push through the pain?
/ Do we throw our hands up in the air and give up too easily?
/ Do we plain old get the shits at the onset of a mild cramp, a little discomfort, or an uphill section?
/ Are we constantly thinking about the end of this pose, or the next stretch of road, or the next lap, instead of allowing our bodies the right and privilege of taking in the moment as it is; what this foot feels like when it hits the ground. And now this one. Instead of feeling the space that this breath creates in our chest. And now this one.
These are the very reasons I've become so acutely dedicated to yoga. Because apart from observing the way I interact with others, it's the truest and most revealing method for learning more about myself as a woman.
Am I pushing here? Am I surrendering? Do I need to dig a little deeper? Can I do this?
All legit contemplations that I bring to both hanamanasana (the splitz) and final km stretches.
But I'm going to crack this wide open in the Honesty Ranks, 'cuz let's be real - it's the days where my internal dialogue is as follows that makes me feel strong and capable:
Oh fuck yes I can! Holy crap I am actually doing this! Pick it up Ta's - bring it home! Yep this is it... this feeling right here. Yes.
Ahem. That sounds a little sexual, non? (All good things are a little saucy!)
So, in the spirit of inspiration, of brightening those there embers of yours, let's riff a little about progress, because what I've noticed is that apart from Glen's kitchen creations, what seems to get the most attention on my social media streams is when I share openly about my running and yoga practices.
Decide to start.
Decide to be patient, compassionate and in total acceptance of where you are in this body, right now.
I remember the first time Glen and I ran a lap of Burleigh Beach; a 2km stretch. It took me 17 minutes and I thought I might actually keel over and die. Together, we built up gradually; so, so gradually. Sometimes, we would even set out for interval sessions (run 500 metres, walk 1 kilometre, repeat). The point? Don't be afraid of baby steps.
Stretch generously. If your body's tight and inflamed, you may link running with inevitable pain. We don't want that. Back when I use to play elite volleyball, I never, ever stretched. And I wondered why I was always in agony. Allow your time to stretch to feel lush and wholesome.
Take magnesium supplements. An awesome heads up from this babe.
Craft a killer soundtrack. I can't emphasise this enough - it's invaluable. I sometimes like to imagine that my body is the music. That my feet are one beat, my heart beat is another, and the sound of my breath is yet another. You can check out my Spotify playlist here if you need some inspiration.
Look up. Stop looking at your feet, sweet potato. You're outside with the oxygen and the children and the foliage... don't let it pass you by. Know that you are a part of this world, and that with every inhale, you're breathing in a little more of it.
When the mind pipes up with a case of the I Can't's, drop your awareness back into your body. With injuries as the exception, of course, DA-ROP back down into your heart, lungs and legs; the areas of your body that need your focus and determination.
Heat is different to exhaustion. Don't be afraid of sweat, in fact, I dare you to smile at the muggy, sometimes humid discomfort of perspiration. Sweat is a drug and soon, you'll love it.
One of my intentions this year was to run 10km. 2 days before I left for Japan, I did it. Those 10kms literally woke me up at 4:30am and said, Tara, it's time. Today's the day.
Heed the call of your longings, friends.
Your mind will criticise you.
You're not flexible. You're uncoordinated. You should be doing better than this...
And what's beautiful about the body, is that she whispers: Honey, you can't be anywhere but right here.
There's no hiding from yourself in yoga, and wishing for things to be different than what they presently are is nothing but energy wasted, so...
If you're feeling rage well up as you sink deeper into your pigeon pose, see the rage. If tears are coming, let them, but most importantly, see that rage as something that needs to come up for air. Allow it to breathe.
Remember, that to exhale, is to release. Every so often I have beautiful moments with my body that go something like this: I start knocking up against something that I perceive to be difficult, so I smile. And as soon as I release the resistance, and allow a sense of amusement, curiosity and joy to enter my practice, it's as though my body says Thank You. And I respond by saying Ah! There you go. You want to loosen, you're just waiting for me to meet you half way. If that's not the epitome of yoga (union); marrying the body/mind, then I'm not sure what is.
Pimp out your variations. Don't be too proud to avoid the block/ strap/ blanket/ bolster/ bent knee. Give yourself permission for yoga to feel incredible. Your hamstrings will eventually catch up to a serene and open mind.
Yoga will ask you how patient you're willing to be, but it will also ask you to call on your courage, as well as your equanimous (non-reactive) mind. There's really no practice as diverse and revealing as yoga. Some days, I feel supported and grounded on my mat, and others, completely exposed and vulnerable. Sometiems I feel shackled, like my whole body is closed and has no interest in opening, and others, all it takes is a pinch of intentional presence and I feel as though I could unfold for eons.
When I started doing arm balances and inversions, I felt as though I were having outer-body experiences. All the limiting beliefs hovering around in the archives of my psyche would float to the surface with loud booms of You're Not Strong Enough, You Don't Have The Focus To Pull This Off, This Is Going To End Badly... The number one tool that keeps this gremlins at bay? The breathe. Please, my friend, let yoga teach you how valuable and golden your breath is.
A few final notes on yoga and running
/ Sweat is the skin's greatest healer
/ Lifting my knees and stretching out for that last 500 metres of a lung run is the epitome of FREEDOM
/ Recovery is an extension of my self love practice
/ Sharing this experience with others has made it seem more soulfully purposeful. (I run with Glen, and Rach and I have a Sunday morning yoga ritual)
/ Both yoga and running and have brought me back home
So, sweet thing, just start.
Do your best to smile at the onset of struggle.
Nurse your body while it's recovering.
Touch it often. (I mean that. Lay your hands on your body as you're getting to know it again)
Be willing to be patient.
You've got this.
In Spirited, Rach and I have devoted a whole chapter on finding your perfect brand of exercise; the type of sweat that makes your soul sing. Learn more here.
If you loved this post, please share it with your friends and leave me a comment below. Share anything - you're struggles with exercise, your progressions, your resistances. Your biggest take away from this post? I'd love to hear from you xx