Featured

welcome.

I am so happy you are here!

The list of benefits from a regular yoga practice is indeed long, and a few of these benefits are particularly important for runners, including:

• Increased flexibility
• Increased muscle strength
• Improved respiration, energy and vitality
• Greater protection from injury
• Improved mental acuity and concentration
• Improved balance

Perhaps most importantly, yoga can help improve the mind-body-spirit connection, which is so critical for improving athletic performance.

As the name of this blog indicates, you can start with OM to create the foundation of your practice that will lead you to a better, more peaceful life.

OM is the sound of the universe and represents the union of mind-body-spirit, which is the goal of yoga. (Note that there are as many definitions for OM as there are stars in the sky but this is a basic definition for beginning to understand the concept!)

OM is significant as it is often used as part of a centering technique to focus the mind and move into deep relaxation or prepare us for what we are about to do. Experiencing the openness of the “O” sound and the vibration of the “M” sound can be helpful for drawing inward.

As you make the sound either quietly to yourself or out loud, allow it to increase your awareness and presence in the moment. In the words of Ram Dass – Be Here Now.

Ideas for beginning to practice with OM:

  1. First thing in the morning, sit up tall as you rise from bed and breathe in gently and on the exhale quietly voice the sound OM, repeat three times with the breath
  2. If you feel stressed or upset during the day, take a moment to breathe and repeat OM three times to yourself
  3. If you are getting ready for an important moment – such as a job interview, first date, big work presentation – use your OM practice to center yourself before launching in
  4. Before you go to bed, sit up tall and breathe in gently and on the exhale quietly say OM, then repeat three times
  5. Before you run… before you eat… before you speak… before you shop… before you check your mail… before you say, I love you… you get the picture
  6. As you practice with OM, gradually shift your experience to a heightened sense of relaxation with the goal of fully experiencing the sound

We will explore more meanings of OM and additional practices using the sound, but start with this technique to begin a new journey toward strengthening your mind-body-spirit connection through the power of yoga.

If you are uncomfortable with practicing OM, use your breath and focus on the inhale and the exhale as you slow your thoughts. Chanting OM or another mantra can be helpful to tune into your inner world, so over time you may want to try again and focus on the experience of OM without judgement or expectation.

The sound vibrations can be deeply meaningful and bring you closer to a pure experience state, so it may be worthwhile to try again as your relaxation practice deepens. Or it may just not be for you, which is fine as well. I encourage you to follow my blog as there may be other practices that are relevant and helpful to you.

Start with OM is personally relevant for me as this is the practice that I struggle with the most.

In lay terms, I have often run frantically into burning buildings filled with assumptions, fear and negativity rather than taking a moment to clear my mental slate and breathe through my OM practice. I dive into important conversations and meetings before taking a moment to draw inward and focus and clear my mind so that I am fully present and available to the people who need me the most.

Start with OM is a journey for me as well, to remind me to focus on the simple act of empowering my scared, hurt and frustrated inner child using OM.

I am thrilled to be starting this new journey with you, using OM as the light guiding us forward to greater peace, love and joy.

OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

 

messengers

In yoga class, we often talk about “messengers.” Aches and pains in the body that provide information and call to us – or even scream at us – to pay attention to alleviate the suffering or address a small issue before it becomes a bigger issue.

It’s also called “tuning in.”

But it extends beyond the physical realm, it also applies to the people in our lives who are messengers. We don’t learn and grow solely from healthy, mature, nurturing relationships, and the biggest opportunities for growth and change are in challenges and conflict.

This is what is most exciting about yoga – you can heal the body through the mind, you can heal the mind through the body, you can heal the body through emotions, and you can heal emotions through the mind. And all of it in reverse or vice versa or whatever… you get it. It’s all connected.

And it’s a practice that you can work on and get better at over time.

When you have a niggling ache or pain in the body, don’t take pills or a shot or numb it, lock up and turn away. Ease into it and try to unravel it, figure out the source and solve it for good. Then move on.

With people, it can be more complicated.

Messengers are not intentionally trying to be helpful to us, rather they are usually attacking us or tearing us down in some way because that is their path and often has very little to do with the person they are undermining.

But they offer a valuable message. The reaction we have is filled with treasures. If we are annoyed, irritated and have a flight or fight response, we miss out on the opportunity.

Sitting with the feeling and recognizing what is really happening, these are the treasures. Recognizing that the attack may have nothing at all to do with us, and instead feeling compassion because the person is suffering. Then having compassion for ourselves by staying strong, voicing true feelings and beliefs, and understanding the dynamic is the gift we give ourselves.

Unwrapping our reaction to better understand what is inside, why we are triggered in certain ways and why someone else’s opinion may have a negative impact is the practice.

As I tell my students, negative people and bullies don’t come after you because of who you are – they go after you because of who they are. There is only one person who gets to decide who you are – YOU!

Once you know who you are, their efforts to make you feel horrible are stripped away and with practice, their efforts are futile.

I love my family and friends, but I also love the people who have kicked sand in my face and left me lying in a gutter because these people gave me messages that changed my life. These messengers led me to magnificent lessons and gifts that I now treasure.

OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

 

 

 

race report: Yeti 100

yeti 100 finish.jpg
Not only did I (finally!) finish a 100-miler, I fell in love with a race. Falling in love can’t be entered into lightly, which is why it took me more than 300k steps to decide that this was really it – the real thing.

Is there such a thing as a “perfect race”?? Especially one that is run from the back-of-the-pack? If there is, then I definitely ran it and will recommend this race to first-timers every chance that I get.

Race registration was smooth and seamless, and Wolf Hills Brewery captures the spirit of the race – country with a little bit of rock-n-roll and a healthy dash of old school punk rock mixed in for good measure.

We stayed at a house that was a few hundred steps from the start line. The 7am start time was so ideal, particularly since there was no drive time or confusing directions (or confused GPS) to stress me out.

The race briefing from Jason Green was seriously the best that I’ve ever heard. He put the “brief” in briefing, no messing around. It set the standard for the day – no messing around. His rallying cries for never giving up had me tearing up. I knew it was going to be a great race.

The first 15 miles or so were all downhill, even though it was very subtle compared to what I’m used to, I forced myself to maintain an 11-minute pace through Damascus.

I saw my crew for the first time in Damascus. One of the great features of this race is that the aid stations are easy to access, so easy to get some ample crew time in. I felt extremely fortunate that I had personalized service at nearly every aid station.

There were a couple of long sections (between white top and Taylor Valley and Alvarado and Abingdon) that I was expecting to get water but read the AS chart wrong, these are crossings not aid stations. So heads up, carry enough water for about 10 miles. The Alvarado to Abingdon section was a bit more exposed than the rest of the course.

AS volunteers were truly incredible, and the ASs had everything I could possibly want. The Damascus AS was a party, push yourself to keep moving and refrain from partying too hard. Couldn’t help but dance with the unicorn each time that I ran through Damascus.

By the time that I got to mile 70 or so at White Top, I told a volunteer that my right hip was no longer working and asked for advice. She looked at me and offered a hug, and when I accepted she gave me a real hug! Then she spun me around and told me to look at the sky, which was full of stars, and told me that they were all in the sky for me.

She was right – there was not much I could do about the hip – finding the magic inside would be my only hope.

I flew out of that AS but then started struggling about 10 miles down the trail. I had to stop for stretch breaks and (twice!) I had to curl up on the side of the trail in a fetal position. My pacer did a great job of keeping me distracted, but by the time I got into Damascus I felt completely mentally and physically spent.

I was convinced that I would drop at mile 84/Damascus because I had tried so hard to turn it around with no success. An angel of a volunteer met me as I walked toward the AS and asked me my name. He told me that he went through exactly what I was going through the week before. I started listening to him.

Pretty soon, there were several volunteers trying to convince me to keep going. I had learned my lesson from previous races, I stopped the head chatter and looked deeply into their eyes, trying to take in every word.

Meanwhile, my pacer went to the car to get my second pacer and told her that I was about to drop. Second pacer was not having it, I knew I was in for it. I turned my head off, as the volunteers suggested, and only listened to my pacer.

She got me back on the trail and told me what to do. Pretty soon, we were both shouting and charging forward. We made it to Alvarado and (mistakenly) were told that I’d missed the cutoff. As I was crawling into the back of the car, someone realized that it was a mistake and race organizers gave me the green light.

I jumped back on the trail and fought my way through the next few miles. The sweeper came to meet us and told me that I was in jeopardy of missing the mile 96 cutoff and spent several miles pushing me harder. I did everything he said.

When we finally approached the finish line, volunteers had formed a human bridge for me to run under and I got a big hug from Jason Green, who handed me my very first 100-mile buckle.

This race has it all – beautiful trail and countryside, amazing volunteers and race organizers, incredible aid stations, and magic, magic, magic. If you are a first-timer, believe in the magic and go get after some big miles. In the right environment with the right support, everything is possible.

#yetiarmy

September: Uptight

If I had to pick one word for the city that I live in, it would be uptight. Yet this isn’t my word, I met an elderly man from India (guru/wise sage?) outside of a coffee shop a few weeks ago and this was his assessment.

He had only been living in my city for a few days, and he shared that this was his instinctual reaction to the people in the area. He had transplanted from India, and he approached me because he saw me playing with my dog and not being uptight.

I got the sense that he really wanted to share his feelings with someone. I understand what he meant as I’ve had hundreds of encounters with uptight strangers. I try to remind myself that perhaps they’re not uptight, but rather distracted or confused or daydreaming.

But if you look more closely and keep looking, it’s hard not to use the word uptight.

We are all guilty of taking ourselves way too seriously, and being distracted, confused and daydreaming are all totally normal. But if uptight-ness is underlying all of it, we all need to get to a yoga studio STAT.

Life is too short to spend it tied up in knots inside. One of the saddest realities that I learned in yoga class (actually getting certified class, not typical yoga class) is that some people can’t relax or meditate. It makes them uncomfortable and stressed because they’ve spent so much time in a heightened state of emotion and repression that relaxation is next to impossible, and actually produces the opposite effect of stress.

While there could be other dynamics at play, most yoginis believe that this is great information and a great opportunity. Going deeper and moving into it and toward it can be truly transformative.

Accessible yoga has always been compelling to me. Accessible anything has always been compelling to me. People who say it’s not for them, they don’t fit in, they could never be successful at it. These are all messages that it may be exactly what they need (perhaps not always, but it is a clue that should be explored). Typically, the term “accessible” is applied to people who have a physical limitation, but from my perspective any other type of block – emotional, spiritual, psychological – can be applicable.

This is one of the many beauties of yoga. I view my studio as an oasis of peace and clarity in an otherwise chaotic and uptight city.

So if this is you, go forward and be so fruitful in your endeavors. Untie the knots and know that we all have our knots to untie. Explore the unknown and know that we all have our unknowns.

We are all terrified of what is just beyond us that is so scary yet so fascinating and offers us pure, unadulterated, liberating freedom, freedom, freedom.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

July: The end of the world

One of my favorite movies is Until the End of the World, partially because the soundtrack is amazing but partially because of the prophetic message.

In one scene of the movie, people are given devices to sleep with that can record their dreams and they become obsessed with watching the recordings. In fact, they become so obsessed that they only can focus on sleeping and then watching their dreams.

It may sound crazy but if you have been on a city bus or subway lately and looked around you, you would have probably noticed everyone is on their devices these days.

While our phones don’t record our dreams, they do lead us on believing that all of our dreams are stored in our devices. Life is better on social media. Everyone is beautiful and happy. Ads promise bigger, better, fancier. It is all available to us all the time, we can dream all day and all night and it never has to end.

It’s amazing how often I flash back to my favorite movie of zombie characters obsessed with making all their secret fantasies come true through dreams. The line between reality and fantasy blurs and life becomes unclear, clouded, diffuse.

Yoga offers the opportunity to put down the device. We can practice anytime, anywhere. Silence, stillness, peace. Until the end of the world.

July: Go In

When I was going through teacher training, we often talked about yoga newbies or the uninitiated. Yoga can be intimidating, but I never fully considered how off-putting meditation and silence can be to people who are unfamiliar.

In my own experience, I’ve talked to several friends that had the wrong idea about meditation, which was based on their misunderstanding that it is about inhibiting thoughts to create a sense of silence or stillness.

As yoginis know, Meditation is the practice of non-attachment to thoughts. Throughout our lives, we attach to most everything that comes up and we become a feather in the wind being thrown about by the gesticulations of the day. Not only do our experiences throw us about, but our thoughts throw us about… until we begin to practice non-attachment through meditation.

I had never thought I was particularly good at meditation, then I realized that it didn’t matter. When you really think about, what does it mean to be good at something? Aren’t the benefits we receive the most important factor in comparison to our effort expended?

I was receiving benefits and I was going in deeper. My lucid dream showed me that it was worth my time because I was making progress. I was dreaming while awake, watching my thoughts as though they were a movie. Since the experience was unlike any I have ever had, I began to realize that meditation was much more profound then I initially considered. I decided to Go IN… or go through the door that was opened.

Whether it is a daily practice or courage to go deeper, going in the openings presented is the practice. The discipline is beyond most other activities that fill my life. It isn’t something that I have to get done in any given day (these things are so much easier to accomplish).

It is rather about stopping doing anything and going in. It gives everything and requires only the act of genuine discipline and commitment to something greater than our small minds that provide.

When in doubt, when frustrated, when confused, when overwhelmed… Go IN.

August: Life Lessons from the Woodstock Guru

woodstock GuruAs runners we understand the importance of a strong mind-body connection.

Many runners can find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances simply through the power of the mind to overcome feelings in the body, which can lead to bliss… sometimes when we least expect it and not necessarily when it is most needed!

Fifty years ago, Swami Satchidananda – the Woodstock Guru – opened the Woodstock Music Festival with a message of peace and love, encouraging everyone to ‘always choose peace by seeking the kingdom within.’ This August is the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.

Races and runs can present so many challenges that truly the only peace available is deep within, and this calling is the highly-sought after magical trail that many of us seek.

In March, I ran a self-supported 108k trail “moving meditation” at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville to honor Swami Satchidananda—the Woodstock Guru. During the run, I focused on the hallowed ground beneath my feet; the majesty of Mother Nature that held me and comforted me every step.

I reminded myself of the purpose of the practice of running long distances with every mile. It is not about torture or pain or exhaustion. Rather, it is about finding peace and freedom within the challenge. It is about breathing into the tightness until there is a release. It is about creating a mental and physical habit of always maintaining stillness and ease despite any obstacles. For many truly dedicated runners (myself included), the meaning of life can be found in the experience of running.

Swami Satchidananda’s opening remarks and prayer set the tone for a historic three days of peace and music that the world came to know and remember as Woodstock.

The values of Woodstock—peace, love, harmony—are as important today as they were 50 years ago, yet they have gotten lost in the cacophony of a society that may be in as much turmoil today as it was then.

Swami Satchidananda’s message focused on uniting body, mind, and spirit in a state of equanimity is the pathway to peace, harmony, and love. His teachings offer guidance on how to achieve this connection, and as trail runners we can learn from his wisdom, specifically:

Find Your Inner Ease

Swami Satchidananda recommended finding the ease that each of us is born with and recognizing that disease is essentially dis-ease: disturbed ease. We can use the power of the mind to find the disturbance and remove it and to take care not to disturb our ease, once restored.

Through increased awareness, we can identify muscle tightness, imbalances and weaknesses that could impede our performance or lead to injuries. Identifying how to alleviate these issues can serve as the path toward greater well-being, improved performance and a stronger mind-body connection. Rather than trying to find solutions through the latest tools, tricks or trends… tune inward and listen.

In his words: “Actually you don’t have to do anything to heal the body and mind. If you don’t interfere, the body and mind heals itself. There is a healer within everyone. We don’t have to do anything to put health into the body. We have to stop doing the negative things that disturb the body and mind and then the good happens by itself.”

See the Same Spirit in Others

When we identify with our physical bodies and our minds, we see the differences that make us feel separate from one another rather than experiencing all that unites us. Once we realize that behind these superficial differences there is something that unites us all, we can then realize that everyone else is equally a spark of the same light.

We are all united. Our global community is our collective strength.

Recognizing the similarities in our goals and our individual journeys toward achieving these goals is powerful and uplifting. Celebrating our victories and the victories of everyone in their search for peace and harmony… and of course, more miles.

In his words: “If we want to be happy, we should work for the happiness of all people everywhere. In order to have a better world, a more peaceful world, we must have a universal approach. It’s time to know each other and to live as one global family. With that kind of feeling the whole world will be a haven and a heaven.”

Seek Inner Peace and Joy

There are constantly waves in our otherwise peaceful mind caused by selfish desires. If we realize that these desires will only lead to more disturbance in the mind, we can choose more positive thoughts that will not disturb the mind. By letting go of attachments and self-centered thoughts and replacing them with more selflessness, we can find greater tranquility.

As runners, we have a profound opportunity to disentangle the grasping of the mind to hold onto what isn’t needed. Unraveling this tightness to find greater freedom, can change the running experience from a physical activity to personal transformation.

Central to this journey toward greater peace is setting an intention that will serve what we most need. Identifying the reasoning behind goals can serve as a guiding force for not only achieving the goal, but ensuring that the achievement leads to personal growth and satisfaction. Set your intention on having a great adventure that expands your horizons and the experience will take on new and special meaning.

In his words: “Happiness does not come from outside you. No one ever gives you happiness, but only reflects your own inner happiness. You have the strength, courage, and capacity to experience the peace and joy within and to share it with everyone. If you want to be happy, work for the happiness of all people everywhere.”

Since Woodstock, the message of the Age of Aquarius has gotten drowned out by a loud and busy world. Remembering the message of Woodstock is a gift that we can give ourselves of greater peace, health and happiness.

May: where do we go

All week I have been thinking about running off to the mountains with my furry friend for a jaunt in the woods. But when I get there, I know that I’ll still be searching because what I am looking for is not anywhere, any place to be found.

I’m continuing this thread of without and within. With out, or outside of ourselves, there is great promise for everything we desire… and yet it never fulfills. It only leads to more emptiness. Within is where all the treasures can be found… it is where peace resides.

But I know that in nature there is a crying and an aching for stillness and silence. It is a reminder to draw inward while looking outward. Exploring all the things by reaching for an end that will only lead back to the beginning.

This week is filled with distraction because I am in avoidance mode. Avoidance of reality. The mountains provide a good daydream because the distractions will be diminished. I won’t be able to grasp. There will only be me, my furry friend and the mountains, which is so similar to right now and this moment with my girl curled up at my feet dreaming of the mountains.

But peace isn’t out there. It can’t be bought. No one can give it to us. No place can make us feel finally at home within ourselves. Only we can do that, and only here and now. There won’t be a magical time or a magical place or a magical person that can change everything.

It is so easy and yet so hard to accept.

It is easier to grasp and hold on and avoid. I’ve lived a lifetime doing it. Yet the only way out is steadiness and ease – sthira and sukha (in Sanskrit).

Today’s yoga class delivered on my dream of the mountains and brought me the peace that I’ve been craving for days because I found a few moments of presence.

The mat is always a magical carpet ride because it is only me and my awareness, which can take me anywhere I want to go. And the only place I truly want to go is home to the peace within.

OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.