Sunday, February 17, 2008


Running is not viewed by most people as an artistic form of expression, like ballet or figure skating. But I contend that running is a graceful form of movement, and when you see it in this new light, running can be experienced very differently.

This is something that I have been thinking about lately. Once more, I am influenced by my yoga teacher. She tells us to practice with gracefulness, not with "power." We are so used to "powering" through things in our life, using "brute force" to get it done (whatever "it" is). But when we concentrate on gracefulness, when we focus on executing a task as beautifully as we can, we live in the moment, and we usually perform much better.

I know this sounds very abstract, but let me give you an example. I used to approach my yoga practice in the same way I used to approach my running. With a watch on my wrist, and with the intention of getting a good workout. I would lift my leg as high as I could, I would force my body to do the splits, and my arms would tremble when doing sun salutations.

I noticed that I was one of two or three people who were sweating profusely in the room (this is not hot-yoga by the way). I could not understand why the more experienced practitioners (who are hard-core yogis) looked so fresh and calm. My teacher kept telling me to be graceful, and to not force it.

Little by little I started understanding what she meant. I started focusing on the movements of my hands and my fingers as we flowed from one position to the next. Instead of lifting my leg with a fast and powerful jerk, I would take my time, almost in slow motion, to get my leg high behind me. And I took off my watch.

I stopped sweating, and, I got much better. I started getting into positions I never thought I would be able to get into. And the best part of this new approach was that my focus of attention shifted to another place inside myself. Sometimes I feel like I am in that room by myself, time does not exist anymore, and my mind quiets down. I have never practiced meditation, but this sure feels like it.

So I thought of applying this new approach to my running. I started thinking of how my limbs moved with respect to one another, how straight my spine was, how relaxed my shoulders and neck were, how effortlessly I stepped. I tried to "float." I tried to quiet my mind, and feel how my body in movement integrated to my surroundings.

All I have to say is that it takes practice, but sometimes, some very precious times, early in the morning, I look at the salmon colored sky, I can see my own breath, and I listen to the birds' chirp, and I know this is how life is meant to be lived. Gracefully.

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