In 2009 I went for a run in the rain and felt my hip tear as I kicked up clumps of mud in Central Park. I kept going. I saw numerous turnoffs but wanted to be sure to complete ‘the route’ before heading home. I limped into my apartment, flushed with endorphins, and happily popped off my soaked running shoes. An hour passed and I could no longer walk without a noticeable limp and a clenched jaw.
During the week that followed I attempted numerous runs, confident that movement would help lubricate the joint. Each time I limped back with a little more pain and a lot more anxiety. For years, running had been my sanity. I had released excess energy, readied my brain for exams, and pounded out heartbreaks. I had set alarms for 4:45am, outfitted myself with a headlamp late at night, and turned ‘lunch hour’ into ‘running hour’. I worked at a running store, coached cross-country, and was co-President of my University’s running club.
When ‘running hour’ turned into ‘icing hour’, the resulting sensation wasn’t nearly as satisfying. I was, quite literally, numb. My physical therapist suggested yoga and I acquiesced. At my first class, I noted the cruel irony of sukhasana, easy pose. My tightly bound hamstrings left me with a curved spine and a very unhappy face. But I kept going. Soon sitting was no longer cruel; it was a welcome reprieve after a fast-flowing class. Yoga was no longer a box to check off on my physical therapy chore list; it was movement I craved.
It is never easy to notice change when you are living it. I started to notice the difference between ‘stressed breathing’ and ‘happy breathing’. I acknowledged that, sometimes, I needed to sleep in. I stopped wearing heels. And I accepted that, often, a luna bar was not an adequate lunch.
Yoga never replaced running. But it could have. I found that running wasn’t always about distance and yoga wasn’t always about strength. Both were that hour or two of a hectic day where you notice.You notice what you need, what you don’t, and who you are. You feel your heart, your mind, and your body. And you allow yourself to just breathe.
When I started running again I stopped gritting my teeth when I ran up hills. I changed ‘how fast did I run’ into ‘how good did that feel’. And, on many days, I found myself running directly to yoga.