I knew that Living Chapters would turn my life upside down, but I had no idea that I would be swinging so soon into such new heights, new hurts, and new habits in just two weeks.
Along with the request to add activity in my life, I have also been asked to become more aware of my senses and the affects they have on my body. Doing both of these things seems to be providing a nice balance. With all of this running around (literally), I first found it difficult to tune into my senses. I thought the “awareness of the senses activity” could only be accomplished outside of, or separate from the physical activity in my life. I thought, I needed to stop moving, block out external distractions and focus directly on being aware to engage with my senses. However I realized very quickly that physicality was about to throw some not so subtle sensations at me in an obvious and brutal way.
About three days into the new running and jumping routine, I became aware of some pretty intense feelings immediately. First there was the huffing, puffing, and gasping for air that accompanied the first minutes of running. That was followed by the occasional side ache in the gut or the prickly pin-points up and down my shins. And then came the thudding of my heart racing into my temples and pounding throughout my head. The sound reminded me that, yes there is a massive muscle within me working really hard to keep me alive and moving. And let’s not leave out my favorite new sensations since starting this chapter, soreness, stiffness and shin splints…. Yes! I must be doing something right. …Right?
So while my body is communicating to me in all these fun new ways, I am listening as closely as possible trying to decode them in order to keep some kind of balance. How do you not over do it while still pushing hard enough to become healthier? I think somehow tuning into these sensations may be the only way to answer that question. That along with doing what feels right to you.
What does feel right to me? Stretching! Stretching before activity, stretching after activity, stretching while driving, while working, during conversations. I love it, can’t get enough. (I have been doing backstage ballerina-moves when no one is looking. ) Because I love this so much, I have tried to integrate this into my day as much as possible. In addition to the in-between activity stretching, I committed to at least 15 minutes of yoga before bed each night. I have always loved practicing yoga, but have relied in the past on attending occasional organized classes to do it. Now I have realized I can do this independently, taking the poses that I remember from my lessons and putting them into practice before sleeping. It helps me to relax and calms my mind at the end of the day.
Now, the current challenge to my “yoga before bed” new habit, is that I literally do not have enough room on the sail boat I live on to even lay out a yoga mat. I decided that outside on the dock next to the passing water taxis and kayakers was not going to work for my personal relaxation stretch time. I did however luckily find a near by space. I will say, without revealing too much, that the space is not technically open to the public but is empty and not being used currently. I decided that stretching silently there for 15 – 30 minutes an evening wouldn’t harm anyone.
Desiring discreteness, I sneak into the space at night. I lay the yoga mat down in the dark and although I can’t see, my feet easily find the edge of the mat and make their way into a downward dog pose. In silence and darkness, all my awareness directly goes to each and every response that my body gives me through the stretches. “Oh that feels good, push that pose a bit longer…” or “actually that cramp in my side says that trying to turn into a pretzel tonight isn’t going to happen”. Deprived of light and external distraction I am left to focus on my muscles, my breathing and my thoughts. After the first 5 minutes, my muscles relax and my thoughts dissipate, leaving me with only the act of motion and breathing, which is really the essence of yoga isn’t it? I may not be practicing all poses “correctly” (or necessarily “legally” in my secret studio) but it has been the best combination of physical and sensory exercises that I have experienced yet this month. It has led me to learn and listen a bit more intently to what my body is trying to communicate.
Another sensation that has newly arrived, is restlessness. I have started to feel antsy after sitting too long. Only after a few hours of sedentary work, I want to get up and do something. I’ve been combatting this by breaking up the day with quick active things (jump rope journal! or short jogs). I have also been motivated and inspired to try out new things. Heck, if I am somehow running now (which I never thought possible) I could also pick up a few new skills like being a trapeze artist? It’s not that far fetched right? Well, I compromised and found something a little less extreme and much more suited to me…
Aerial yoga! Seriously, who wouldn’t want to feel like they were flying while getting a workout at the same time? I learned, just this week, that there is nothing quite like hanging upside down suspended by your muscles and silk fabric to cure a bout of restlessness….. I dare you to try it!
Post script: I want to give a big thank you and shout out to Chapter One writer Joe Gall, who I visited in Boston this past weekend. He is taking on this new running routine with dedication and has inspired me to work harder at it! I also got to visit Chapter Three writer Andy Cook, who gave me guitar lessons and support with my beginner musical abilities. The city of Boston itself simply gave me a great large landscape in which to walk for miles in keeping me active the whole weekend!
Speaking of the Senses… Living Chapter’s Maestro selected the song below to accompany me throughout Chapter one. I have used it to guide me through some of my new activities:
Want to check in to see if I am keeping up my promises? Check out the Living Chapters Facebook page for updates on the jump rope journal, exercise documentation and my food photo gallery.
Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.