Hubby and I usually take turns being the first to shower after running for a very good reason.
Both of us hate wiping down the glass walls that enclose our shower. The last one to shower gets stuck with that chore.
Lately, I have voluntarily gone last in the shower every day. Not because I am a good or generous person, but because I have started doing a short yoga practice after each run.
I have an on-again-off-again relationship with yoga. Right now it’s on.
It’s kind of like my relationship with spinach. I know it’s good for me. When I am on a spinach kick, I really love all things spinach – spinach salads, spinach quesadillas, flounder florentine, spinach cheese omelets.
When I am over spinach, however, I am really over it, if you know what I mean. It may be months until I eat spinach again.
As a runner with very tight hamstrings, I understand well the benefits of stretching and strengthening. As an older runner, I appreciate the need to improve balance.
The best things about yoga for me, however, are the pithy sayings casually thrown out by the yoga instructors. It’s like they are tossing diamonds onto our yoga mats.
I wind up pondering these gems dispensed with such abandon that I miss the next three poses.
A few days ago, as I wobbled and sweated in star pose, the instructor encouraged us to “take up space“.
I was so blown away by that thought, I immediately fell out of the pose.
OK, maybe that’s not the reason I fell, but I have been thinking about the concept ever since.
On my long run this week, a run that has been full of emotional minefields for me lately, I could feel my distress level rising. Rather than giving in to the hopelessness which has plagued me for months, I did a body check.
My shoulders were hunched, I was bending forward at the waist, even my toes were scrunched up inside my running shoes.
I was making myself smaller.
Stress and anxiety can do that to you.
When I was a teacher, I can vividly remember students (often girls) trying to disappear as they sat in the classroom.
They would sit with their legs crossed at the ankles, and their arms crossed across their chests, looking down at their desks, trying to vanish. If I called on them, they answered in a voice so quiet and small, I could barely hear it.
Those were the students I worked with all year, both in class and one-on-one.
“You have a lot of worthwhile things to say,” I would tell them. “Speak up,” I would declare, looking into their eyes and smiling.
At the end of the year, they would ask me to sign their yearbooks. I always wrote about a personal story we had shared, then added some version of this quote by Marianne Williamson: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
And now I needed to give myself that same advice.
There are many reasons we attempt to shrink. We believe others will like us more if we are not perceived as threatening. We want to portray ourselves as respectable. We lack self-confidence. We don’t want to be judged for being ourselves.
We are afraid that if we speak our minds, others will reject us. We may apologize for things that are not our fault, “Sorry-ing” all over ourselves. We may even dress in a manner we believe will be acceptable to others.
Here is the ironic thing about that philosophy: it doesn’t work.
Oh, there may be some people who would be put off by hearing you speak what you really believe or dressing in a way they disapprove of, but do we honestly care what those people think?
If someone doesn’t like who you really are, do you really want to contort yourself into a tiny box in order to fit into their mold?
In this post-social media world, we must get used to the fact that we are going to be judged, sometimes unfavorably. If we can become comfortable with our true being and have the self-esteem to accept ourselves as we are, maybe we wouldn’t feel the need to make ourselves smaller to fit someone else’s ideal.
We must learn to take up space – our own space.
As I ran, I uncurled my toes, squared my shoulders, and stood up tall, chest out.
The feeling of anxiety passed.
I am learning to take up space.
Maybe in a Standing Star Pose this time.
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