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The Yoga in Running

Red-Maple-Tree

Sometimes I think there’s more yoga in running than in actual yoga.

I have a little bone to pick with yoga.

But before I go there I need to pre-apologize. I love yoga. I really do. It’s healing and transformational and life changing and about so much more than the physical postures. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All those things.

But it’s also a little judgey.

I know what you’re thinking. “No way! You don’t understand yoga at all, Laura! If that’s what you think than you don’t understand yoga at all!”

Because that’s what we talk about in the yoga world. How yoga is misunderstood. How Western culture has turned yoga into a fitness program, a perky butt in a pair of $100 spandex pants. We talk about how so many people practice yoga without realizing that it’s also about how we live our lives off the mat. It’s about the connection between the mind, body and spirit. About our connection to whatever we believe in that sort of feels like what you might call God.

And it’s true. A lot of people really only see yoga as exercise. That’s how they approach their practice. As exercise. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

*     *     *

Last Thursday night I couldn’t sleep. For no real conscious reason. As I lay in bed I thought about our house back in California. I thought about the Japanese maple tree in our backyard. I remembered standing in our kitchen just after we moved in. Looking out at it through the tall glass panes of our french doors. How remarkably beautiful its bright red leaves looked against the morning fog. I remembered the first spring I noticed a single red rose peeking over our fence from the kitchen window.

Red-Rose-Fence

I laid awake and remembered these things and wondered why I couldn’t sleep.

*     *     *

Saturday morning I went for an 8 mile run, a distance I consider long at this point in my life. It hasn’t always been and it won’t always be. But right now it’s long. So I took it easy. After a couple miles I had settled into a comfortable rhythm, my breath easy, steady. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor or a GPS watch these days, but I’m sure my pace and effort level were consistent.

I don’t remember what I was thinking about. Not much I suspect. When I turned a corner and felt a rush of emotion. I thought of the early morning runs with my running buddy back in California. Chatting about work and husbands and children, all the celebrations and uncertainties of life. I remembered running alongside her in the Benicia Run for Education in April 2014. I was working through a flare-up of an old injury and she was feeling tired so we walked a lot of the race that day.

She was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months later and passed away a few months before we moved to Colorado. You could call it her spirit, if you believe in that sort of thing, riding the wind, checking in on her loved ones. Or blame it on the memory, my brain, the right hormonal cocktail. But for a moment I felt like she was running beside me.

Tears came to my eyes and I let them flow as we ran together. I told her about how I missed my tree and that rose bush, her companionship and my old life. Even though I really love my new life. I really do.

She told me there’s been a lot of change. Good or bad. Change is hard. Go easy on yourself.

Then she was gone, as suddenly as she appeared. And I kept running. One foot in front of the other, same as before.

*     *     *

Later that day we learned about the Prana Vayu in Yoga Teacher Training. Different words to describe a concept we’ve already gone over. The idea that the breath is the connection between the body and the mind, the path to meditation and enlightenment.

I can appreciate this lesson because I’ve experienced it. Through running of course. Yoga is giving me language to describe what my running body already knows.

You see, it’s nearly impossible to run without breath awareness. And once a certain level of base fitness is established the breath flows easily, synchronized with the rhythm of the legs. Running at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditationRunning at an easy, consistent pace is by definition a moving mantra. A meditation. Click To Tweet

That’s when we get to all the juicy stuff. The wisdom to understand our emotions. The ability to process and clear them from our body. A feeling of connection to something outside of ourselves.

So why is it then? Why do I feel like yoga judges running so harshly?

I suppose it’s all just a misunderstanding. Our culture has turned running into a fitness program. We beat our bodies and joints into the ground in order to get thinner, faster, better. But that’s not the only way to do it.

It’s all in the approach really.

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Big Things Are Happening

Garnet-Hematite-Mala

Big things are happening around here these days. Let me share.

My husband cleaned the ENTIRE HOUSE this weekend. Isn’t he the best? I don’t even remember how he forgot to pack my wedding dress.

Baby Girl is no longer staying up with me after Big Girl goes to bed at night! Instead, they both go to bed at the same time and Big Girl does the consoling. It’s a win all around. Big Girl feels super proud of herself for putting Baby Girl to bed, I get time to myself in the evening and Baby Girl gets to confront her fears! (I’m sure she feels really grateful for that opportunity.)

And she’s not the only one confronting her fears. After congratulating myself last week for pursuing my dream of becoming a yoga teacher, I asked myself what I’m afraid of NOW. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Losing my Mom
  2. That I’m a terrible parent
  3. Driving in the snow
  4. Having my blood pressure taken
  5. Talking, with my voice, about my business to real live people
  6. Sales tax laws

The way I figure it, there’s not much I can do about fears #1 and #2. Fears #3 and #4 aren’t going away, but I confront them as necessary. I don’t hide in my house or avoid the doctor.

Now as for fear #5. Anytime someone asks me what I do I say, “Mostly I’m at home with my girls.” You see what I did there? I used the word “mostly”. That means the same thing as “not entirely”. Clever people should pick up on that subtlety of language and ask about the rest of what I do, right? Not so, my friends. They pretty much just leave it at that. So from now on I’m going to answer with, “I’m a running coach and soon to be yoga teacher. Oh, and I also spend a lot of time watching my girls.” How about that?

Now that that’s handled, let’s move on to fear #6. A little while ago I developed a mala making habit. The gemstones are so pretty and the tediousness of the hand-knotting feels so very therapeutic. But it’s kind of an expensive habit and I really only need so many malas. After gifting several to friends it occurred to me that I could sell them.

So I spent many hours researching and trying to understand the Colorado sales tax laws as they pertain to online sales. So many hours, in fact, that a friend of mine complimented me on my dedication. I assured her it was actually a combination of perfectionism and paranoia driving my research.

This past Thursday I noticed a flyer at the YMCA asking for donations for a silent auction/fundraiser benefiting the kids’ programs. Donations were due on Saturday. It was just the kick in the pants I needed. I dropped off a mala and made a commitment to myself that I will submit all the paperwork and open up shop online here before the auction at the end of April.

That’s right. There will be malas. For sale. Right here. In just one month. That's right. There will be malas. For sale. Right here. In just one month. Click To Tweet

If that’s not enough to convince you that big things are happening around here, let me just add – I also took a shower this week.

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The First Step on My Path to Teach Yoga: Overcome Fear

Overcome-Fear-Yoga-Teacher

To overcome fear we just have to do the scary thing. Like become a yoga teacher.

I drove past the Bikram Yoga studio in El Cerrito, California I don’t even know how many times before I finally decided to overcome fear and give it a try. Even then I couldn’t bring myself to do it alone. I had to convince a friend of mine to go with me. And when she stopped going I recruited someone else.

Over time I became more confident in my practice. I took comfort in the routine. Laying out my mat, a beach towel over top of it and a hand towel along its head, my water bottle just outside the top right corner. Rolling up the package into one, big bundle after class. Letting the cool air of the locker room dry the sweat on my skin. Chatting with my yoga partner before finally mustering up the energy to change into dry clothes.

I can’t remember when I first thought of becoming a yoga teacher. Just like I can’t remember the first time I noticed the studio. A seed was planted and over time the idea grew into my conscious awareness, showing up with roots so thick it felt like they had always been there. I knew with a certainty that I wanted to teach.

Yet I still came up with a lot of reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t. Teacher training was way too expensive. Not at all a wise investment given how much yoga teachers make. I couldn’t take the time off work. I couldn’t leave my babies.

But if I’m honest with myself, the real reason I decided not to apply for teacher training was fear. And not even fear of something reasonable, like the ability to practice for 3 hours a day in 105 degrees without becoming dehydrated. No, I was afraid of asking the studio owner for the required recommendation letter. Afraid he would think I was not even remotely close to ready, not at all teacher material. I was afraid he would think I was a joke. So I kept my little dream a secret. Not just from the studio owner, but from everyone, afraid that if I gave it voice someone else might judge me as harshly as I judged myself.

At one point I went so far as to develop a 6 month plan. I don’t remember all the details, but the basic premise was to practice a lot more and get a lot better at asana. I would practice and practice until I felt like I was good enough to ask for the letter without embarrassing myself. I would overcome fear by over preparing.

One day after class one of the teachers handed me a sticky note that read, “Bikram – This certifies that Laura is ready for teacher training.” It meant the world to me. Such a simple little thing, but I will never forget it. I taped the sticky note in my journal and it’s there still.  You might think this was the turning point, the validation I needed to overcome fear. Or that I at least used it as an opening to a conversation about my future in yoga. But no, instead I very emphatically assured him that I couldn’t possibly ever become a teacher.

When I look back over my life and my career, especially, I see the same pattern repeating itself over and over.

  1. Realizing something about myself, something I want to do, getting an idea.
  2. Coming up with a million practical reasons why it won’t work.
  3. Developing a plan to better educate or prepare myself for whatever the thing is.
  4. Doing nothing.

Because here’s the thing about fear. Here’s what I’ve learned. The only way to really get past it, to overcome fear, is to confront it. Sure, practice and preparation helps build confidence. But in the end we just have to do the scary thing. Here's the thing about fear. In the end we just have to do the scary thing. Click To Tweet

When we moved to Colorado a year ago I decided it was time. I picked a Yoga Teacher Training program. I met with the studio owner. I submitted an application. I began practicing at the studio, trying out different styles of yoga for the first time. A lot of the poses I hadn’t seen before, and I didn’t know what to do with all the props. I felt uneasy closing my eyes and the music was distracting.

But just as before, it gradually became familiar. One blanket folded in half twice and then in thirds to sit on. Two blocks at the top of my mat. A sweater and even socks to keep warm during centering at the beginning of class and savasana at the end. Head always facing the front of the room while prone or supine. Peppermint soap in the bathroom. Rooms full of teachers and students I now call friends.

This past weekend I took a class at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Denver. I talked a friend of mine into going with me, just like that very first day. Because new things never stop being a little scary.

After class the teacher checked in with us to see how it went. A lovely welcoming gesture. She asked me if I was a yoga teacher, and it meant just as much to me as that sticky note once upon a time. The only difference was this time I got to say, “Almost.”

Photo Credit: IMG_6683 by The Yoga People is licensed under CC by SA-2.0 / Cropped and text added to original

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Death and Meditation

Death-Meditation-Trail

I am recommitting to a regular meditation practice while we all process death.

I parked my car in the strip mall lot facing the home brew shop. It was an accident. I was going to yoga. I took a few deep breaths and willed the tears still in their ducts.

“Please don’t cry during yoga,” I pleaded with myself. It had been a rough day, week, month with Big Girl. Everything we read online said kids her age don’t understand the permanence of death. They think the deceased is alive and doing all the regular things somewhere else. Maybe they’ll even come back.

This was not the case with Big Girl. She got it. We didn’t even have to really explain it. When we told her Papa died she cried and said, “I”ll never get to see him again.” Every once in awhile she’ll stop me and say, “I’m so so sorry your Dad died.”

People tell me she’s so smart and often I politely disagree. She’s still learning to recognize all her letters and numbers. I’m not worried she’s behind but, at least academically, she seems pretty average. But then she goes and processes death like an adult.

Her Daddy travelled a lot for work last month, right after her Papa died, and now she’s having a lot of separation anxiety anytime he leaves. She wakes early in the morning panicked that her Daddy forgot to kiss her goodbye. I wonder if she’s afraid her Daddy won’t come back. That her Daddy will leave her like mine did.

My poor baby Big Girl. It’s like her little body can’t contain all these big, grown up emotions. She’s like a bright and brilliant star collapsing, under the pressure of gravity, into its core before exploding into a supernova. Except for she does this every day. Multiple times in a day. And it’s really hard. For her of course. And for me. Of course.

It was at the end of one of these days that I drove myself to a restorative yoga class, my thoughts consumed with Big Girl. I only noticed the home brew shop after bringing my awareness back into the present moment. Park the car. Turn the key. Pull it out. Notice the shop.

We all went there just a couple month ago. My husband, my Dad, the girls and I. My Dad started his career working for large breweries like Stroh and Coors before opening his own micro-breweries. For the last decade or so he worked as a consultant for micro-brewery startups. One of his last projects was teaching my husband to home brew. They were supposed to brew the weekend after he passed away. When I went through his email I saw the formulation my husband sent him for review 1 hour before he was rushed to the emergency room. Unread.

I went to yoga to get a break from Big Girl. I didn’t realize my Dad would be waiting there for me. So I took my breaths, tried to reign in the tears and walked into the studio. I managed to keep from crying for about 5 minutes, all the way up until the teacher asked how I was doing.

We chatted after class and she asked if I meditate.

“Sort of yes and sort of no,” I said. “I do, but not consistently.”

I’ve found it really helps during emotional times,” she said. Or something to that effect. My immediate, involuntary reaction was defensive.

“Meditation is not going to make it go away. You have no idea how big the emotional times are in my life. You have no idea what will help.” I thought these things not as words coming together into sentences, not as a voice in my head. But as a feeling filling up my physical body.

It wasn’t until reading the response to last week’s post that I fully processed her advice. She was trying to help, to share her experiences and the lessons she’s learned just as I am. The same lessons as it turns out.

Of course meditation isn’t going to make this go away. She knows that. The death of my father cannot be undone. My Mom will die too. My Big Girl is hard. And I will continue to feel all of it. Meditation creates space for these feelings. The feelings come up and we give them permission to exist, to flow freely through and out of our physical body. And somehow it really does help. I know this because I’ve been doing it for a long time.

So I plan to follow her good advice. I am recommitting to a regular meditation practice. It’s just going to look a little different than hers. Mine starts in a pair of running shoes.

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Suggestions Please for Growing This Business

Suggestions-Connect-the-Dots

How do you connect your body to your life? How can I help? I need your suggestions for blog post topics and product and service offerings.

I feel a bit scatterbrained this week. I’ve procrastinated writing this post as much as I possibly can. Mostly because I can’t decide what to write about.

I asked Big Girl for her advice this morning. She had about 500 suggestions, most of which I don’t remember. I do remember two options: ponies or the trash can turned robot. She was pretty excited about the prospect of a walking and talking waste bin.

My husband suggested I write about either Elmo or how awesome he is (after slamming him last week over the dress mishap). Turns out he’s about as good at brainstorming as he is at packing.

So I decided to ask Baby Girl for her input. She says I should write about, “Um…W”.

Sorry family. None of this works. I’m going to try another route.

If I ask myself what I truly want to do with myself, my career and my life it’s to help people. Not just physically, but emotionally too. I believe the two, the body and the mind/spirit are so very integrated. Exercising mindlessly does little to heal the physical body, and we cannot improve the quality of our lives while ignoring our physical bodies. So I want to help people. I mean, this is really it. This is the foundation. This is the core. My dreams are rooted in this. And I’m choosing the body as the vehicle because, at this point in my life, that’s what makes most sense to me. But it hasn’t always.

For most of my life I was taught to value intellect. I know all parents tell their kids to get good grades, but there was an extra emphasis on education in the household I grew up in. So I took the accelerated courses. I got the good grades. I did all the studying and earned a degree in engineering. I spent years working in a field built around data. Suppress your emotions, deny your gut instincts and base your decisions on numbers.

And all the while I found the most peace, the most contentment, the most clarity out on the trails, 2 hours worth of dirt etched into the tread of my running shoes. Lying on my stomach, my head turned to the side, my ear resting atop a beach towel soaked in my own sweat, the stink of my yoga mat somehow a comfort after 80 minutes of posturing in 105 degrees.

I still value my intellect. I still respect numbers and enjoy sinking my teeth into a good spreadsheet. But when it comes to my life I am learning to listen to my physical body. I’m making decisions with my heart, my gut and my intuition. My conscious mind is becoming aware of the lessons I have already learned with my physical body. I'm making decisions with my heart, my gut and my intuition. Click To Tweet

I was talking to a friend of mine this week about this business. I told her that there’s something here, but I also feel like it’s missing something. I haven’t quite figured out how to share what I’ve discovered in my own life. I don’t know how to translate these lessons into a product or service. I have lots ideas, of course. Lots and lots and lots of ideas and a foggy path forward.

I need help. Maybe you, dear reader, can do what my family and I cannot. Do you have any suggestions? What product or service would help you better connect to your physical body? What would improve the quality of your life?

My friend commented, “It’s like there are so many great dots. There just has to be a way to connect them all.” Perhaps I’ll find some overlap between your suggestions and the flood of ideas swimming around in my head. And we can create magic together.

Speaking of magic, check that shape with Nick Jonas. I dare you to look away from these cool moves and focus on something important and adult-ish. Like writing a blog post.

Photo Credit: connect the dots by Michelle Milla is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Original cropped

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15 Things That Are Harder Than a Marathon

Airplane-Harder-Than-A-Marathon

The last 2 weeks of my life have been a marathon. Scratch that. Harder than a marathon.

  1. Finding a cupcake in Manhattan.
  2. Vacationing with a vomiting toddler.
  3. Discovering 1/2 hour before you were to leave for a wedding that your husband did not pack the dress you intended to wear (even though you specifically asked him to pack it and only one other item).
  4. Discovering that the Express around the corner from your hotel does not sell dresses because, well, PANDA.
  5. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler.
  6. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler and a vomiting preschooler.
  7. Flying from New York City to Denver with a vomiting toddler and a vomiting preschooler, while vomiting yourself.
  8. Auditioning for Listen to Your Mother via FaceTime because your husband is out of town and everyone is still sick.
  9. Learning that you did not get into Listen to Your Mother.
  10. Dealing with your preschooler’s 1 millionth tantrum.
  11. Dealing with your preschooler’s 1 millionth tantrum alone because your husband is still out of town.
  12. Realizing that the stomach bug didn’t actually go away. It was just silently lurking for a few days, waiting for an opportune time to initiate your next spontaneous cleanse.
  13. Watching 4 kids aged 5 and under for 9 hours.
  14. Watching 4 kids aged 5 and under for 9 hours DURING THE CLEANSE.
  15. Not running at all because your body just can’t handle it.

This is real life friends. It’s harder than a marathon. Shit happens. In my case quite literally, as it turns out. But I got through it and I’m planning on a run this afternoon. Yoga tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Shit happens. In my case quite literally, as it turns out. Click To Tweet

What’s your plan? Do you or someone you know need help building one? My bio says I’m not an elite runner. (I’m not.) But I do happen to have a lot of experience figuring out how to make running happen in the middle of real life. And I’m looking for 2 new Personal Run Coaching clients. Check out the FAQ or ask me a question if you’re kind of interested but not yet ready to commit.

Photo Credit: Airplane by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped and text added to original

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My Perfect Weight is Not a Weight At All

Perfect-Weight-Venn-Diagram

I asked myself: how can I find my perfect weight?

I’ve been feeling rather “soft” lately. I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of that one time in August when I lost my balance wearing heels. I’ve been limited in the amount of both running and yoga I’ve been able to do. The fact that I seem to lack any amount of self-control when it comes to eating doesn’t help.

I tell you this at the risk of sounding like those friends who have complained to me of their singular pimples. I had ACNE as a teenager. I have scars. I will probably never feel comfortable getting a facial because the idea of anyone getting close to my pores makes my heart race faster than a 5K does.

So let me assure you. I know I’m not fat. But I’m also not in MY best shape. I have put on weight, and it bothers me.

Years ago I read an article about crime in Oakland. The mayor commented that he thought people had the wrong idea, that crime was really only up in “East and West Oakland.” I knew what he meant, but I couldn’t help but find it amusing. My husband and I still joke about the crime-free 2-dimensional center line that runs through Oakland.

I feel the same way about body size and shape. If I don’t exercise much and eat a donut and Chick-fil-A in the same day (like I did today), I am not being healthy. I accept what society tells me. This is bad. If I exercise regularly and eat nutritious food I will lose weight and people will accuse me of having an eating disorder.

I feel like I can’t win.

A comment was left on Tommie Jean’s guest post the other week. What is the perfect weight? Isn’t that the one million dollar question? How do we find the 2-dimensional center line of optimal health?

And since I’m studying the Eight Limbs of Yoga, I will also ask: how do we strike a balance between the niyamas santosa (contentment) and tapas (self-discipline)?

I suppose this is a question we each have to ask ourselves. And I suspect we’ll all have a different answer. My practice of santosa includes accepting that I have a pear shaped body. I will never have skinny legs or large breasts. (Except for when I’m nursing and fill out an entire A cup.) Instead of telling myself that my thighs are too thick I can be grateful for the strength they provide. Those legs have carried me hundreds of miles.

My practice of tapas will never be too much as long as I’ve set the right intention. I can reduce my consumption of sugar and junk to prevent diabetes and strengthen my heart. I can run far. I can run so many miles others think I’m crazy because I know how much running long distances has already transformed my mind and life, and I want to travel even farther down this path.

I can do these things. One day I will. I know in my heart and in my gut that it will serve me well. My weight and shape will be what they are, and it won’t matter what anyone else has to say about it.

So I have some work to do on both ends – contentment and self-discipline. I could love my body more and also feed it a few more vegetables. I could love my body more and also feed it a few more vegetables. Click To Tweet I’m not there yet, but at least I know the answer. I know what my perfect weight is, and it’s not a weight at all.

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Getting Out There is Hard, Even for a Running Coach

This running coach understands it’s hard to get out there. And I’m accepting new clients.

This past Saturday my Big Girl turned 5! She starts kindergarten this fall. KINDERGARTEN! How did this happen??? Soon she will learn how to read and write. She will no longer be impressed with my ability to add 100 and 100 together quickly and IN MY HEAD. Before I know it she’ll be able to legitimately beat me in a 2K race. I mean, really, look at this girl go.

In the spirit of full disclosure I will share that it was challenging getting up and out Saturday morning for the Race My Toddler Virtual 2K. We all stayed up late Friday night drinking wine, watching Sesame Street and catching up with friends visiting from out of town. So naturally Big Girl tried really hard to sleep in – for the first time in her entire life – Saturday morning.

It was a good reminder that it really can be really hard to get out there, even for a 1.24 mile walk. And even for a running coach. But then, of course, it was great. Getting outside and moving felt great. How was it for you? Do you need more movement in your life? Do you want to break up your week with some walking and maybe even a little bit of running? Do you want to build or grow a running routine safely and effectively? I would love to work with you.

I opened up two Personal Run Coaching slots this morning. You can read more about what a running coach is and why you would want one here. If you still have questions check out the FAQ page or please don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

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My Hypnotherapist Fell Asleep and Other Stories From the Wrong Side of the Scale

Nachos-Pretzel-Beer

Guest post written by the fabulous Tommie Jean Valmassy

Hello, this is not Laura. Laura needs a minute, so I’m filling in for her, just this week. Laura writes a blog about fitness. She’s funny, moving, honest, and cool. And humble, so she may want to delete that, but I don’t think she should. Her tiny sneakers are big shoes to fill. I write a neglected blog about being a mom. My opinions and insights related to fitness have never been solicited before. But I can share with you the one thing I am a semi-expert in: my fitness story. Here it is.

I am obsessed with food. Not in that trendy “I have a food truck and a ‘pork’ tattoo” kind of way. I’m not a foodie or a chef, or even a traditional choc-a-holic. I’m addicted to food. I took an internet quiz which confirmed this, so you can believe it. Some of the criteria I meet are: eating when I’m not hungry, thinking my life will begin after I lose weight, and eating to escape feelings. One way to explain it is that I have no idea what it would be like to NOT be thinking about food. I’ll prove it: right now I’m thinking about tortilla chips. Now, so are you. Ooh, and guacamole, and maybe a cold Mexican beer. Wait, I digress.

I don’t know how long I’ve been overweight, but mostly forever. And I don’t mean TV overweight, like the sidekick best friend who is “fat” because she doesn’t look like a leading lady. To illustrate, my weight fluctuates greatly, but right now I weigh about 205 lbs. Good thing I’m 7 feet tall! (No, I’m not).

There have been three times when I really ate myself into oblivion: my parents divorce when I was 8, the death of my father when I was 20, and the birth of my child when I was 38. I guess you could say I’m an emotional eater. I’ve also had some great weight loss and fitness successes. I lost 50 pounds, over many years, on Weight Watchers. I completed several half marathons. I was recently asked to be a Jazzercise instructor and write a guest blog for a running coach. I said no to one of those things and yes to the other.

At some point Weight Watchers no longer worked for me. I would totally recommend the program (if Oprah’s endorsement isn’t enough for you), but it’s just not for me. The thing about WW is, you’re supposed to think about food A LOT. Tracking, tabulating, looking up menus in advance. After a few years, I really just wanted to break free from thinking about food all of the time. But I stuck with it until I got pregnant. They don’t allow you to be on the program when you’re pregnant. Post-partum was a tough time for me, as it is for most, and I felt like eating was the only thing keeping me sane. But I wanted to keep trying to break free from always thinking about food.

I made an attempt at Overeaters Anonymous. In case you don’t know, it’s like Alcoholics Anonymous, or any of the other anonymous groups that help with addiction. I was really nervous and had to summon a lot of courage to go. It turns out they don’t keep their website updated well, and I was searching in vain for a meeting that wasn’t being held. I did stumble into a Sexual Addicts Anonymous meeting. Those poor men had the same reaction as someone who’s having the door opened on them in a public restroom: occupied, don’t come in! Was I like a bottle of whiskey waltzing into AA for those poor guys? Probably not, but I like to think I was just too tempting.

I decided to see a hypnotherapist. Turns out there’s one walking distance from my office in Oakland. I was rooting for this therapist, but at no point did I feel hypnotized. Instead I noticed she seemed to be falling asleep. She created an audio file for me to use at home, and I can find the exact moment when she was, in fact, drifting off.

Since I’m listing all this fun stuff, I should also say that I tried a traditional therapist through my HMO. My personal experience was that they would only see me once a month, and medication and group meetings seemed to be the only course they offered. I’m also not sure the essential oil kit I bought is effective, but I roll on that stress relieving blend and diffuse lavender like a pro! My meditation practice has completely stalled out and I haven’t even tried it for months.

I try to get good exercise as part of my fitness journey, and for a couple years now I’ve been a regular member of the local Jazzercise. I love it! I like the music and the sociability, and I think the dance moves are fun. But even loving it I barely make it there twice a week. I try not to fall for fitness fads. Though I do wonder where my fitbit is. And I’m admiring the purple Simply Fit Board I recently bought. Much cooler than that vulgar shake weight that’s collecting dust.

So there you have it, my messy, mixed up fitness story. There’s no end because the journey isn’t over. I didn’t realize, until I was writing this, how many things I’ve tried to get my food issues under control. Is there something else you think I should try? Something you’ve heard of but never had the nerve? Let me know what it is, because it sounds like there isn’t much I won’t attempt at least once. Even writing for a fitness blog!

Tommie Jean Valmassy is a writer, consultant, mom, and Managing Editor for a new website that so far is just a time-consuming hobby. Check it out at: http://hulafrog.com/benicia-vallejo-ca
Photo Credit: a healthy afternoon snack by Blake Patterson is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Original cropped
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Reflections on the Breath

Dad-Big-Girl-Car-Breath

An observation of the breath as the vital life force.

Bring your awareness to the breath. Without judgement and without attempting to change it in any way, simply notice the breath.

I have a confession. I often find myself thinking, “Enough about the breath already. What’s the big deal?” My yoga teachers explain that the breath, prana, is the vital life force. We can survive for a short time without food or even water, but without the breath we die. I understand the importance of the breath on a theoretical level, but I can’t seem to summon the kind of passion my teachers possess.

I complete the exercise anyway. There is tension in my jaw. The breath catches in my throat. My Adam’s apple feels like a boulder obstructing my airway. Small, shallow breaths fill my lungs, high up in my chest. My stomach is in knots. I feel sick. Nothing is happening down there.

I watch Paul Kalanithi walk into the room. Of course it’s not actually Paul, the author of When Breath Becomes AirBut I think of Paul. I think of all the schooling this man has been through, all the hours he’s spent training, practicing, tuning his skills on the job. I wonder how long he’s been working since his last break and how much sleep he got last night. He looks tired.

I listen carefully to the words he chooses. He has trouble maintaining eye contact. I can’t help but think Paul would do a better job with this.

“Out with it!” I want to say.

And then he says it.

“Of course we could operate. But there’s always the question of should we.” There’s character in these words. Like they were strung together with care and consideration. Clear, yet gentle enough. They are the right words to say in a situation like this. This isn’t the first time this man has said these words and he will use them again. Surely Paul wrote them down as well, blessing them with ink.

A blast of oxygen fills the bag attached to the mask that covers my father’s nose and mouth. It sounds like he’s snoring, and I wonder if his tongue is getting in the way. He’s working hard to breathe.

I try to relax my jaw. I tell myself to breathe deeply. I make an effort to fill my belly. I notice that I am alive and breathing.

Over the next several hours they will gradually reduce the amount of oxygen feeding my father’s mask. Soon he will die.

*     *     *

With love to my father, who passed away last Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

May his breath become the air that fills us with life.