Just minutes into our first asana practice of the teacher training, and about 1 hour into the day, I found myself on my tiptoes in tadasana with arms raised. It was our first pose of the day and already my body was protesting. We held this pose for about 5 minutes (or so it seemed) before moving to the next pose, which was held equally as long. Each of the poses, which are normally easy (rest-like) poses in my routine practice, grew more and more difficult by the combined effect of simple variations (holding the arms outstretched, raising onto toe-tip, or other) and the excruciatingly long time periods each was to be held.
Meanwhile, the instructor walked around the room while posing questions for us to ponder from our position of discomfort. “What do you do when life becomes difficult?,” she asked. “How do you cope in order to move past the discomfort in order to find ease?” She went on and on, posing these questions while each of us searched for the answers within ourselves.
For me, the answers stemmed from my fight to survive and move on after the loss of a husband. Memories of wanting to do nothing more than curl up in the fetal position came rushing back.
Thankfully, my children’s need for me to support their grieving and perform the parenting for both mother and father prevailed. I could not just curl up and die; I had to believe that I had everything needed to go on.
On a different level of personal toughness was my 9 year quest to meet qualification standards to run in the Boston Marathon. I can remember so many times where I found my BQ goal slipping out of reach, with 6+ miles yet to run. I remember wanting to plop myself down on the side of the road and call for someone to pick my sorry ass up. But I didn’t do that.
I finished each of these races, often crossing the finish line filled with disappointment instead of pride for the amazing achievement that running 26.2 miles is. Even then, I didn’t give up on my goal. Days later, I was planning the next attack, determined to train harder in order to achieve that sought after BQ.
All of those failed attempts set the stage for that day in 2010, when I finally did earn my BQ. On that day, I bumped up against so many difficult moments where things got painfully hard and it was all I could do not to admit defeat yet again. I had to persist, continue my fight, and believe in myself — more so than I ever had before.
These were my thoughts during my struggles on the mat that day in India.
Today, when running the half marathon became tough, I struggled to find ease amid the increased back pain that persisted throughout the 13.1 mile run. Not surprisingly, I found strength in reflecting on that day in India on the mat, the pain, and the persistence I found during my practice.
Additionally, I thought of the yoga instructor, firing off her questions and, in my efforts to keep going, imagined her attention on me running the race. “This is what I do!,” I answered. “THIS is how I persist when the things get tough.”
I kept on, pushing harder up the hills and trying to find the ease (amid the back pain) as I rolled down the other side of the hill. Determined to prove to her just how tough I was, I ran with my heart set on showing her how I show up, don’t give up, and get even tougher when the going gets tough. In doing so I proved something, to not only the yoga instructor, but also myself. I proved that — in spite of not being quite where I’d like to be in my running fitness — I am still just as tough as ever — both on and off the mat.
And I have the medal to prove it.