January 3, 2009

From the Obsessive Compulsive Department

My excel running log for 2008 is complete:

1,391.38 miles on my feet -- or an average of 26.75 miles per week. It didn't feel like I ran that much. It is amazing how much something can just become a habit such that you don't even realize how much of your life is defined by it.

For 2009, I wish to continue running, and to increase my speed -- perhaps I'll even do another marathon. But, for the big picture, I'm not focused on trying to beat the mileage from 2008. In fact, I suspect my mileage will be much less than 2008 because I'm going to be changing my focus this year.

In 2009, I have decided that I want to try to do more yoga and to deepen my practice. This is likely to come at the expense of some hours in my running shoes, and that is okay.

December 2008 was the most yoga-filled month that I can recall. Prior to leaving for the holidays, in addition to my at-home once-a-week DVD or book-based practice with E, I fit in several Anusara classes at work before our instructor's last class, one Ashtanga-inspired session with my sister, and a hatha class with B at her gym.

I do not know where the new yoga drive came from, but it continued in full force after we landed in Atlanta. While here, in addition to fitting in some medium-intensity running I had the pleasure of attending five yoga classes, at Atlanta Hot Yoga.

If you ask me, Yoga studios, while expensive, can be better than practice at home for three reasons:

1. The friendliness and community of taking a class with folks who are focused on the same practice that you are.

2. The spiritual leadership that a truly accomplished yogi can offer while you struggle through the physical and breathing aspects of the practice.

3. A more physically demanding practice than you would otherwise challenge yourself to have.

I picked Atlanta Hot Yoga for the location, and was pleased to find that it (and particularly Bethany) exceeded my highest expectations in all 3 areas. In just 5 classes I pushed my yoga practice way beyond what it had ever been and I achieved a level of meditative peace at times that I had never experienced before. In two separate classes, I had to stop and skip poses because the *hot* part of the hot yoga classes was too intense for me to handle at the level I was pushing myself. I very much enjoyed the environment where I was not alone in hitting the edge of my fitness and needing to lie down, skip poses, and recover (and in one case, leave early). It may sound as if this would be unpleasant, but I assure you, it was the opposite. It was a relief of immense psychological and physical tension to show up to class and to push myself as far as I could, sometimes even beyond success and all the way to failure. I left each class feeling as if I was in better shape, stronger, more flexible, humbled, and that I'd learned an important life lesson.

Certainly, the timing was perfect -- I had done both hot yoga and power yoga in the past, so I was prepared to handle the difficulty (although it still kicked my ass like nothing I have done in years!), I was on vacation and had more time to donate to my practice than I ordinarily do, my yoga practice had not been seriously challenged by a knowledgeable instructor for at least a year (so I was ready), and my Zen studies are similar to and allow me to be very open to accepting the spiritual side of a yoga practice.

However, even if I was just in the right place at the right time, I felt so lucky to experience it and sad to say good bye after my last class today ... I won't be back for several months and I felt more of a bond with this studio than with any studio I've ever attended.

While I expected this to be yet another Bacon Christmas in the South, in truth there was much less bacon than last time. I have a suspicion that this may go down in history as the yoga Christmas, when I made a transition from being a casual once-a-week practitioner of yoga to someone who is slightly more dedicated. As for just how much more dedicated, only 2009 will tell.

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