In the last 4 years, running has been more than a form of exercise for me – it became part of my identity. I was a runner, in a community of other runners, focused on self-improvement and physical challenge. And I loved it.
But unfortunately, running didn’t always love me back. The first two years were great – I wasn’t fast but I was happy and making progress. Then the injuries began. First it was achilles tendonitis, and I had to back out of one half marathon and limp through another. That injury finally healed to be replaced by plantar fasciitis in the other foot, and I haven’t managed to shake it yet.
I’ve done three half-marathons on a bum foot, along with several shorter races, and they were not fun. They hurt, and on top of that, there wasn’t the usual euphoria I feel after pushing myself and testing my limits. During previous races, I used to mentally cheer myself on with mantras like, “You can do this! Just a little bit farther! Don’t give up! Stay strong!” But in my last several races, the mantras sounded more like this: “Don’t push too hard. Don’t hurt yourself. Maybe you should walk. Back off a bit. You’re going to regret this. You shouldn’t be in this race.”
Those were hard words to hear from myself.
So this trip to Costa Rica seemed like a good time to make a change. To break up with running for a little bit. I was sad to think about not running here, because it’s such a great way to acquaint myself with a new place and connect with my natural environment. But Nosara is known as a yoga paradise, so I decided to stop running for a bit and give yoga a try.
The first class I attended was at the Nosara Retreat. It’s not far from home, but the road to get there is steep and treacherous, with ditches and ravines ready to grab your tire and hold you there. If you didn’t need some zen in your life before class, you would after driving that road.
I managed to top the hill, and followed the wooden, hand-painted signs until I found one that said Nosara Retreat – Event Parking. This event parking “lot” was really just a patch of grass where you could pull off the side of the road, so I did.
There was a gravel path that meandered back into the jungle, and I walked it until I came to a small, open air studio surrounded by lush vegetation, squawking birds, and even a sweat lodge (as though I need help sweating in this tropical climate). All my previous yoga classes at home – and there had only been a handful – had been in indoor studios. But this lovely, rustic spot beckoned me to connect with nature. Commanded me to do so.
The class was challenging but fun, and 90 minutes later I felt well exercised, well stretched, and frankly, well-loved.
I’ve done many more yoga classes in Nosara since then, at the retreat and other places, and that “self-appreciation” is one of the things I love best about it. Yoga feels like a kindness. Yoga and running can both be about pushing yourself to be stronger. I can exert myself in a yoga class so that my muscles are shaking as the sweat rolls off my arms onto the mat. But the spiritual and restorative aspects of yoga leave me feeling calmer and more centered. I love ending each class with the savasana, sinking deep into relaxation as a reward for all that hard work. Running had begun to feel like working against my body, whereas yoga feels like working with it.
Yoga also feels playful at times, and I find that some of my favorite poses are the inversions, like the tripod headstand. When was the last time you stood on your head? For me, probably not since I was kid. But I found out it’s still fun to do.
I’ve even done a few yoga sessions by myself at home, and look forward to growing my repertoire of poses so that I can do more of this. Running is such a cheap and portable sport, and I want to have enough yoga experience that I can also do it anywhere, anytime the mood strikes.
And while I was never particularly good at running, I liked the sport because no one else cared if I was good at it and supported me anyway. Same with yoga – I may not ever be able to master a certain pose or take a certain bind, but no one cares. We support each other.
Now that’s not to say I don’t miss running – I do. Sometimes nothing beats a good hard run for clearing the head and energizing the body. I think running and yoga would be great complements to each other. A yin and yang perhaps. But until my body is ready to run again, I’m so glad to have discovered this new way to challenge myself.