Thursday, July 7, 2011

Do your best - forget the rest

Happy July, blogverse!  This summer is absolutely flying by, and it's been really wonderful so far.  I completed the 30 Day Yoga Challenge at The Giving Tree, and one of the many things it taught me was that I need to build up more strength in certain areas of my body that are overly flexible.  Now that we're in a new month, my next self-imposed 30 (or 31) Day Challenge is to focus more on weight training and cardio...more traditional gym exercises than my yoga practice.

When I graduated from college, I joined Gold's Gym and started running.  I was working temp office jobs during the day, and every single day after work I'd run, take a yoga or pilates class, or take BodyPump, a weightlifting class I sorely miss (no pun intended).  It was the beginning of my deeper passion for yoga, of placing more importance on the food I was putting in my body, and of my basic physical fitness.

Since moving to New York, running has taken a definite backseat.  It's made me a little sad, but I've had to make space for all the yoga, both personal and professional, and something had to give.  As for weight training - forget it!  I function best in a classroom setting, and I haven't found a class or the personal discipline to keep it up on my own.  And truthfully, yoga keeps me healthy and in shape, and gave me more definition in my arms than weightlifting did (hence my deep abiding love for Chaturanga Dandasana).  More than that, I know with yoga I'm getting a spiritual experience and will be leaving feeling relaxed and more clearheaded in a different way than finishing up a good run.

Coming back to the present - I'm finished with my 30 Day Challenge, so at the moment I'm not practicing at any yoga studios.  Marc, however, is 5 weeks into P90X, and I did my first P90X workout with him last week.  WOW.  I absolutely love Tony, the creator and trainer.  It's real butt-kicking stuff, but very inspirational as well. (Marc and I can't stop doing impressions of his signature phrase - "Do your best and forget the rest" - applied to every single aspect of our lives)  I've also gone back to running when I've gotten the chance, which I didn't realize how much I've missed.

What I keep thinking about when comparing weight training/cardio vs. yoga is where your mind is in all of these activities.  I was listening to Jillian Michaels's Podcast (love that woman) and she started talking about yoga in relation to the mind-body connection as well as building self discipline.  In yoga, she says, you "cannot allow yourself to be distracted."  The practice demands that you be aware of where each and every part of your body is in space so you can get the most out of the pose, protect yourself against injury, fluidly transition to the next pose, and most importantly, so you can focus on your steady breath.  Although some folks keep their mind locked on their intention or a mantra, that's still giving the mind as much importance as it is the body in your practice.

With running, on the other hand, there's more leeway.  A lot of people (myself included) daydream, think about their day, think about to-do lists, think about goals, focus on the music they may be listening to, any number of these things while running (or biking, or on the cardio machine of your choice) rather than focus on the insane amount of effort it takes to keep going.  While it's true that some people remain focused on their breath or their heart rate, there's less of a requirement to do so.  Your mind has more free reign - it's more a matter of preference than necessity.

This doesn't make one practice better than the other.  It does make some people prefer yoga to running or vice versa.  I've noticed since my asana practice has taken a major backseat to cardio and P90X that my meditation practice tends to feel more rushed.  I've started a 40 day japa mala practice (a practice I explained here) and I tend to catch myself speeding through or that while part of my brain is repeating the mantra, a larger part is completely on vacation thinking about something else.  Now, I wasn't like a gold medalist meditation expert before or anything, but it's just interesting to note.  It's become more challenging as my physical activities have become more aggressive and less mindful.

Any thoughts, readers?  If you run, are you a daydreaming runner or a present-in-the-moment runner?  What differences do you notice in your life when you take a yoga class versus not?  Do you agree or disagree with anything I've written?


  1. Tony just had the P90X delivered to the office today. He and his wife, Danielle are going to get started on it. There's a whole nutrition routine with it,too, correct?
    Glad you are doing this blog! Love you!

  2. I love running; you know this. When I run I usually think about my day, and often my frustrations. When I'm done, I definitely feel less stressed, much happier and clear-headed.

    However, when I yoga (yes, I used it as a verb), I feel at peace. It's like a cleanse, mentally, physically and spiritually. When we're in twisting poses, they tell us to twist out our day. That's the only time during my practice when I'm taken out of the moment and think about things other than my breathing and the pain I'm experiencing. I think when I yoga, it's the only time I am capable of completly freeing my mind.

    While I love yoga and love the tone that comes with it, running is my first love. I think I'm in a love triangle of sorts because the more I yoga, the more flexible and less stiff I become. The more I run, my muscles become really tight and destroy what my yoga has built. Especially my hips. Some poses I've come to accept never being able to do unless I quit running. What's the happy medium, Annie?!

  3. Mom - yes, there's a nutrition component, and he also recommends getting the P90X "recovery drink" (to drink after the workout - it's basically just a ton of sugar and protein) and they also make bars. It's really, really awesome though...let me know how he does! Have they installed a pull-up bar for it? Marc installed one in our doorframe and it's my new life goal to be able to do a pull-up!

    Kendra - I love this response! And I totally know what you mean. When I was running and yoga-ing at the same time, I didn't feel like I was in a love triangle so much as just a perfect complementary relationship with two different people (or something. the metaphor's getting hard to stretch. ha!) I loved them both equally, but I got different things out of them.

    Now that I'm returning to running after a long hiatus, I'm reminded of all that I loved but coming at it with a totally different body and mind. It's so weird! And I have no freaking idea what the happy medium is...I think that's kind of why I wrote this post. I'm curious about other people's experiences with one or both. I think most people identify more with one than the other.

    We should go for a run in Astoria Park when you get here and immediately follow it with a yoga class and then figure out what on earth is going on with our bodies and minds. Maybe the answer will reveal itself then!


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