I am not a competitive person.
So I thought running and yoga would be perfect activities for me. I could push myself to my own limit and participate with other athletes while not having to engage in a battle against them. It started innocently enough in my first Bikram yoga class. The heat in the studio was cranked up to 105 degree and I thought I would have a panic attack. I sat on my mat panting, in a pool of my own sweat, while I watched 40 other yoginis effortlessly bend their bodies in synchronized unison, serene looks on their faces. I thought, I’m going to do this every day and master it. I was starting a competition with my ego.
Some yoginis want to stretch further than the person on the mat next to them. Some runners want to run further and faster than other runners. Some barefoot runners want to be the most extreme. But for what? To satisfy the ego; the inner critic who can make you feel amazing or awful depending on performance. The ego isn’t a bad thing unless you start ignoring your body and obeying your ego at all costs. It might whisper to you, “Ignore the pain in your knee, you have to run that 6 minute mile!” or “The woman in front of you can put her chin on her toes, you can do it too!” This kind of thinking leads to burn-out or injury.
And who wants that?
On day 15 of my yoga class I was feeling pretty good about myself. I could do all 26 poses without taking a break. The adrenaline was flowing. And better yet, there were several new students in class who looked like they were going to die and sending admiring glances my way. Then came day 16. I felt nauseous and sore. My legs were cramping and my hips were too stiff for triangle pose. I sat down on my mat, furious with myself.
What had gone wrong?
I had let my ego take over. Thinking it was more important to impress my classmates and complete all the poses than to realize I was still a beginner and needed to go slow, listening to my breath and my body. Yoga and running are about feeling centered with your body and doing what you can – no matter what level you’re at – beginner, intermediate, or professional. So tell your ego to be quiet when you put on your five fingered shoes.
And just run.
Photo Credit: mikebaird on Flickr