At the beginning of each year, I like to set an intention to carry me with me over the next 12 months. These are usually developed as a way to address some aspect of life I’m wrestling with. For 2017 my intention was “Try harder, calm down.”
Stuffed with anxiety about 2017, I resolved to somehow find a way to calm down. Reading the headlines at regular intervals wasn’t working for me. Wondering whether I would be caught in an impending hiring freeze? Also not working for me. General worry about future unknowns was eating me up inside.
As mentioned in my last post, cycling in 2016 did not bring enjoyment, and other areas of my life felt as though they were stagnating. I determined to push myself in new directions and see what happened. Try harder and try in ways distinct to what I had been doing.
I began new work that made better use of my skills, and started a new commute that included a ride up a big hill every day. The new job combined with that darn hill built strength.
I cut way back on running this year, putting in around 450 miles compared to over 900 in 2016. My body was tight and achey at the beginning of this year; it was hard to get revved up about running.
So I calmed down about my running, even though I managed to squeak in two marathons, both of which were very satisfying – the D.C. Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in subfreezing temperatures in March, and Freedom’s Run Marathon in ideal cool fall conditions at the end of September. Oh, and I ran the Army Ten Miler, too, which was humid, hot, and super fun!
In May I finally said yes to yoga after talking for years about it. Try harder! I began yoga in hopes of addressing the tightness in my body before I broke like a guitar string. Sproing!
Yoga has helped me some in this way, although I’m still amazed by how tight my shoulders and hamstrings continue to be. They are taking the scenic way to increased flexibility. A very scenic way.
A couple of months back I had hoped that I’d be rocking a foward fold and touching my toes thanks to my dedication to yoga, and that my chair pose and yogi squat would be easily settled into.
One day during class I also realized I had been wishing that yoga would roll back time for me – that it could somehow prevent ageing and dying. I can even tell you the floorboards I gazed at as the fault in my thinking dawned on me.
The jolt to reality shook me, although it also released some honesty about yoga and the other activities I pursue and do. Yoga, cycling, running, and whatever do not stop time, but life in the present is made better by them. I simply feel better when I’m active and making somewhat healthy life choices.
Do I prolong life through these pursuits? Who knows. I’m not banking on it, although it’s possible that it makes me better able to withstand some of life’s inevitable blows.
I don’t always feel competent or strong when I’m doing yoga, and I wrote about that earlier this year. People’s comments on that post were very inspiring and also helped me reframe yoga and its place. I resolved to say yes to trying my best every time I go to class. Try harder!
It’s not about success or failure on the mat, but about the committment to do my best, whatever that means on any given day. The key to a meaningful practice is to focus on my own body in its current state, and not giving the side-eye to those who are able to access a particular posture or becoming distracted by how I wish my body could do something it’s not going to do.
This approach also helped me be more aware of myself physically, and I find I’m more respectful of both my body’s limits and also aware of how I might safely challenge myself in class.
I take more notice of the various parts of me. I see which parts are stronger than others, as my physical quirks make themselves known. I try not to judge these differences, rather simply notice.
I also feel my feet rooted more solidly to the ground as a result of regular yoga practice, my body more balanced over my legs and hips. Who knew standing could be such a powerful exercise in awareness? Thanks yoga!
One last thought about yoga. The tenets of yoga – kindness, peace, presence – have been so critical for my state of mind this year. Be kind. Live peacefully and don’t be a jerk if you can help it. Clear the mind so that the only awareness of time is now. Calm down. Calm down.
Are you still there? Did I lose you in the morasse of my yoga musings? Come back, readers!
By the numbers the year shakes out at one new job, 450+ running miles, and over 8,000 cycling miles. Two marathons and a Super Randonneur series. Yoga practice 3 to 4 times per week.
Try harder? Check. Calm down? Mostly check.
My running mojo is currently running loose somewhere beyond my reach, and I hope it returns in 2018. If you see it, please let me know.
I’m intimidated by the winter commute temperatures, but I know I’ll bike up that hill every day somehow. I’m excited about long tandem rides with Felkerino in places we have yet to visit.
Thanks for reading, everybody. I hope the year treated you well, too, and I wish you all peace and kindness in 2018.
Great write up Mary, thanks for perspective and inspiration.
Where do you think you’ll go for your bike vacation in 2018? Also, don’t read or watch the news. We turned our tv off over a year ago. I only look at google news headline and click on those I want to read. It helps. News is nothing but bad these days. News outlets seek only the stories that garner the most click bait. Peace, Mary…
uh……did i read too fast through your post and miss your words of intention for 2018?
your posts always inspire me to be a better person, to calm down, to try harder.
happy end of 2017, gypsybug….and, happy beginning of 2018!!
I’m still working on 2018, but I think kindness will be a primary focus this year.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for your inspiration and insight. Your posts are always a treat, and I find myself eagerly waiting for each new one.
But “try harder” just doesn’t work in yoga. Particularly in the area of flexibility. That just takes time, patience and persistence. Also a daily practice is much more effective than classes a few times each week.
Relax into slow steady stretches. For hamstrings, seated forward fold works well. Relax and let gravity do the work, concentrate on breathing and slowly settle into the posture. Find shoulder stretches that are comfortable for you, and allow gravity to work for you. Doorways and bolsters are great props. Five minutes each day on each area will show real results. But it still takes the scenic path.
You list the attributes of yoga as “kindness, peace and presence.” Patience, concentration and focus are equally important. My wife and my two of my best friends are yoga instructors; I sometimes feel just a little overwhelmed, but have developed my own practice to suit my goals and my limitations. Instructors are useful tools, but the best teacher is your own experience.
Best of luck in 2018,
Thank you so much for your comment, John. I agree that it does not work in the area of flexibility. But it did take me extra effort to start going to class and then to focus on the moment in class. So that was my try harder. And I do need to bolster my home practice… incorporating that into my daily routine will be one of my 2018 goals (now that I wrote it down I’m commited!). Happy New Year and thank you for reading this blog.