Saying thank you (with slightly clenched teeth) for crow pose


If all I had to do was stand there for crow pose, I'd be quite content. Image download from

If all I had to do was stand there for crow pose, I’d be quite content.
Image download from

I am not what one might call adroit in any yoga pose other than shavasana, a.k.a. corpse pose, where the only requirement is to lie still on your back. I have finally come to look forward to downward dog, have reached an agreeable truce with chair pose, and do OK with balance poses like tree and airplane. Of course, I can say that unequivocally because I don’t have to watch myself stumble through these.

But the one pose we try in class that I cannot, simply cannot get any close to mastering is crow. If yoga instructors everywhere will pardon my saying, I do not like crow, not one little bit. I will channel my father here (who, by the way, could get into lotus pose as easily as he could make enchiladas), and phrase my thoughts like this: “Crow pose rubs me the wrong way.”

At this point, you might be asking, “If The Grateful Runner doesn’t like crow pose, why is she saying thank you for it?”

Fair question, which I will answer, as I tend to do, by backing into it. On Saturday, for the second Saturday in a row, class was almost over when my beloved instructor announced we were going to work on crow. The first week, I focused on arranging my blocks (to help steady myself) and blanket (to catch me when I would no doubt fall) and then on cheering forĀ Chrissy Cortez-Mathis, an every-other-Tuesday instructor who made the pose look so easy. (So does my friend Karol, who wasn’t there on Saturday, but who I know practiced at home every night till she got it).

This past Saturday though, I just felt sort of paralyzed. And then — this is embarrassing to admit, but whatever — I felt like I was going to cry. The week hadn’t been the best (save for an evening with my sisters and my mom), and my immature and petty self thought (which I could demonstrate right now with melodramatic facial expressions and maybe make both of us laugh) “I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!”

But I breathed into my frustration, admiringly ogled aloud those who could do the pose, and settled onto my mat for Shavasana. After class, my dear yoga pal Cindy and I went to Starbucks, where she bought my coffee, shared her croissant and lifted my spirits.

The world has its share of anguish; it has plenty of sorrow. But crow pose? C’mon, Leslie. Not being able to do it ranks about 9,857 on that serious-life-issues list. And the good parts of this life I’m blessed to lead trump crow shortcomings over and over and over again.

That morning, lying on my mat; feeling the energy of everyone around me (which isn’t just yoga-speak; it really does happen); and, finally, walking into the sunshine after spending a where-did-that-hour-go? with Cindy, I felt lucky. And I felt grateful.

So for situations that make us doubt ourselves, and for the perspective they show us, and, yes, for crow pose, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

new crow


Saying thank you for connections


This slogan, stenciled on the wall of Fit Yoga serves as a reminder that we’re all here together…where we need to be.

When I arrived on my yoga studio on Saturday and reached for my mat to carry inside, it wasn’t in the back seat. Then I remembered I’d left it on the floor the last time I went to class, which was um…before Christmas. So I dashed inside, and there it was…along with beloved instructor Jill Murawski and 14 other women — most of whom I knew, something that makes me exceptionally happy.

When I first started practicing (emphasis on that word) with Jill almost three (surely not four!) years ago, I knew no one in class. Now I feel this connection on varying levels to all of them. Some are just hello-insert-name-here. Cindy and I go to coffee with almost every Saturday, often joined by Karol and Brian. The four of us went to a play in December, which was oh-so-much fun.

When I needed a jacket to wear to a wedding last weekend, Cindy and Karol immediately offered several choices. A month or so ago, I had an 8:50 a.m. flight to Arkansas to visit my son; Karol and Brian both offered to give me a ride.

Twice now, Jill and I have run the Dallas Half Marathon together, which is such a wonderful memory (and now official tradition) to share.

Even if no one whose name I know is in class any given day, there’s still that connection thing. Be it with our mats, with the floor, with the air, with thatĀ  peace of being — as the sign on Jill’s wall attests — where we need to be…it’s there, and it matters.

So for branching out, for every breath, and for the connections created when the two of those combine…The Grateful Runner (who one day dreams of yoga-loosened hamstrings) says thank you.

Saying thank you for walking

In that leg somewhere is an ailment that's leading me to a new view of the world.

In that leg somewhere is an ailment that’s leading me to a new view of the world.

The last week or so — OK, two weeks (three?) — my leg has been hurting. I can’t quite describe where, other than it’s my left leg, below the knee. But it’s not my knee. Not my shin either. Not exactly. It doesn’t always hurt and when it does, the pain isn’t always in the same place.

When I described all this to the nurse at the orthopedist’s office, I suspect she was either rolling her eyes or holding her hand over the receiver, pretending her snort-laugh was a cough. The first open appointment isn’t for another week or so. Meanwhile, of course, I’m hoping I’m fine by the time it rolls around.

To that end, I have avoided child’s pose in yoga, as well as some balance poses that I probably couldn’t have done even without a bum leg. On days when slowing my run hasn’t eased the discomfort enough, I’ve done a walk/run (emphasis on the walk).

On Saturday and again today, I thought I was ready for an all-jog attempt. But I could tell before I reached the sidewalk this wasn’t the day. So I walked.

Quite honestly, going slowly — whether walking, jogging or both — hasn’t bothered me at all. In fact, I’m rather enjoying it, a reaction that surprises me. But truly, this is where my body is, and I just need to accept it. So (knock wood) I am. And the results have been more than physical.

I became especially aware of that on Saturday morning. While crossing a street near my house, I saw a man and his dog I tend to see only in a blur as I whoosh past.

“You’re going a lot slower than usual,” he called out.

I hardly (as in never) stop on runs. I rarely say anything other than “Good morning,” or make a comment about a particularly beautiful sky. But what was MY rush today? So I stopped and told him about my leg.

“You need to listen to you body,” he said. I agreed.

Then he asked how far I usually run. I told him about my longer Sunday runs and the shorter ones during the week.

“You must have a lot of miles built up,” he said. “You take it easy. Besides, it’s a holiday weekend.”

“You’re right,” I said. I asked him his dog’s name (“Oh, this is Tucker”) and whether they go the same route every day.

“A different one. Today we’re going to check out the bridgework that’s been going on.”

We waved and continued on our separate ways. A half-hour or so later, I saw another familiar man, this one walking two beautiful collies. One was limping; I stopped to ask about her and the man told me the dog has hip issues.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “How old is she?”

“Twelve,” he said.

“They are so beautiful,” I said.

“Thank you,” he replied. I uttered a little prayer for them both as they deal with the inevitable sadness of aging, and kept going.

This morning, walking along a sidewalk lined with trees, I happened to glance up into the branches just after saying hello to a woman walking her dog. I saw — not just a bird’s nest, but an occupied bird’s nest. I was so excited that I hollered at the dog walker.

“Did you see this?” I asked. She walked back and peeked up.

“Will you look at that?!” she said. “Well, no wonder she (her dog) was so excited when we walked by there.”

I also had quick visits with a Texas Rangers fan who was hurrying home with a bag of groceries, plus a recent law school grad, who was waiting for his friends to meet him to study for the bar exam.

I saw a red-breasted robin, watched the clouds move, smelled the rain before I felt it. At some point on my way home, I decided to skip even the slowest of jogs in favor of walks until my doctor’s appointment next week.

So for slowing down, for the heightening of senses, for learning a little about people you see every day — and for walking, which makes this all possible — The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for (under & over) finishing

I seem to have lost my tape measure

I seem to have lost my tape measure

I have been working on this hat for — well, quite awhile. Confession: I am not the crafty type. I do like to knit, but am not known for finishing projects. Case in point: A blanket I started knitting long before our knitting group at work, which has long since unraveled (so to speak), even began. I still have not finished the blanket.

The unfinished version of this hat has been in my little green canvas knitting bag since last winter. I’d knit a little…then put it aside. Well, today, spurred on by a jaunt to the knit store with my mother, who is starting an Easter vest for her adorable great-grandchild, I thought I’d go ahead and finish my cap.

So I did. Doubly so, it seems. I could have skipped the last — oh, what, five inches of knitting?!

On the opposite extreme is my swim today. I swam yesterday, so today only wanted to go — oh, maybe 54 lengths, which is three-quarters of a mile. When I started, I thought, “Maybe I’ll go 60,” which is 1,500 yards.

But about five minutes into my laps, my new goggles started providing vacuum cleaner-like suction. My eyeballs were being slurped into my skull, or so it felt.

I tried to adjust them once, but the effort was rather fruitless. So after 40 lengths, I stopped. Hey, that’s 1,000 yards more than I would have done had I skipped the whole thing altogether.

As my yoga instructor stresses, you just gotta go with how your body is today, and that is just how my body was. ‘Tis nothing to be ashamed of (really, Leslie, really!). I’m happy to have done something (including having a really good yoga class this morning).

So for finishing at all — overkill in one case, under in another — The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for a gentle shove outside my comfort zone

I make my living as a writer for many reasons; among them, that I don’t have to talk. In other words, I avoid public speaking like the proverbial plague. Or, to be more accurate, I limit my public speaking audiences to two age categories: 10 and under; 70 and older.

Back in November, I agreed to speak to an audience somewhere between, but because I surmised (correctly) that the group would have at least one person in the latter category, I said yes. Today was the day agreed upon. I had been thinking about what I would say and had written down several pages of thoughts.

But this morning, 30 minutes before I needed to leave, my sister Susan called to wish me luck and ask about what I would say. I surprised us both (and my son, who happened to be standing nearby) by bursting into tears.

“I can’t do this!” I cried. “I am awful at this! I am going to make a fool of myself!”

She helped me; gave me ideas I wasn’t sure I could pull off. SHE is the speaker; her timing and her delivery are impeccable. She’s FUNNY. I only am when I am around certain people — maybe a half dozen or a few more in my entire lifetime.

Well, her suggestions worked. I had a wonderful time with this delightful and welcoming group of women. The venue and the people were perfect: They met at someone’s house, in a living room, with everyone (including me!) sitting down…well, initially. I had them stand to start with yoga breathing (which helped me too!).

Then I just talked — about my dad’s influence on my writing, about feature stories, about fitness. Heck, I even showed them how to do a push-up leaning against the heavy wooden table on which they’d piled plates of healthy foods (in my honor).

I arrived at 10:15; it was almost noon before I left. I even all but agreed to speak to another group that a woman there belongs to. I walked out into the sunshine with the sweet woman who had invited me there. We hugged, I said thank you, and my day continued in an upward direction.

So for a shot of self confidence, administered by a sister who shoved me outside my comfort zone, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for passions shared

Sept '13 running

My son Charlie and I don’t often get a chance to exercise together. For one reason, he’s in college five hours away. For another, our sports don’t really coincide. Yes, he’s on the track team, but as a jumper, not a runner — though periodically we do run together.

(Here’s what I wrote last September, after the race during Parents’ Weekend when we took this photo. I wrote this post when we ran Race for the Cure the following month).

All this to say is that I love we share a passion for working out. He’s majoring in kinesiology and has hardly missed a day at the gym since he’s been home for Christmas break. I’m there at the same time periodically, but I’m swimming laps while he’s lifting weights and often going for AN HOUR ON THE ELLIPTICAL (which blows me away, but I digress).

Since he’s been home though, we have gone to yoga together — four? five? — maybe a half-dozen times. My wonderful instructor, Jill Murawski, offered a 30-day pass for kids home from college, and I happily bought one for Charlie.

We went last Wednesday to a foam-roll yoga class with his friend Lee, which was ever so much fun. Then last night, when I asked Charlie if he’d go with me this morning, he said yes.

We unrolled our mats, positioning them, our blocks and our blankets next to each other. And while Jill stresses the importance of being mindful only of ourselves and not our neighbor, I admit to stealing a glance or two (no more, really!) at that kid — young man; excuse me — a flung arm away; he with his mother’s flexibility (sorry, Charlie) and, most importantly, his own poise and determination.

For that, for those sideways glances, for who I saw, and for what we share, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for (finally) laughing at myself

I had a beautiful run today. Yesterday’s wind was gone, leaving stillness and silence in its stead on this crisp and calm morning. After feeding the dogs and eating breakfast, I went to yoga.

I love yoga; specifically, Fit Yoga with Jill Murawski, which I discovered last February. Though I am well aware of my limitations, they’re not as blatant as I used to think they were. Yes, I periodically lose my focus and thus my footing, but I seem to have achieved (or be en route to) a relatively decent sense of balance.

Downward dog no longer mortifies me either. Plus, I’m hardly embarrassed at all at my (waning?!) clumsiness or lack of flexibility. That realization hit me during class today, starting with crow pose, at which point I said (to no one in particular), “I don’t think I can even visualize myself doing that!”

I did a very modified pose, which suited me just fine. Then Jill said since there weren’t very many of us — five, I think — we would go to the wall to do the waterfall pose. In this one, you lie on your back, your bottom against the wall and legs pressed against it.

My bottom was five inches away. I shimmied it as close as I could, and then — I’m trying to remember this exactly — Jill had us reach our hands for our legs. Mine were flailing somewhere midair.

At this point, I broke yoga-etiquette rules (which stress you need to focus only on yourself, not your neighbor) by glancing at Angie, the woman on my right (who moments earlier had made crow pose look so easy). Her hands were quite comfortably touching her legs.

My admiration “Wow!” just popped out. And then, “Look at how her arms can reach.”

I could all but hear Jill smiling. She then said offered an explanation on why Angie’s outstretched hands met their goal — one that had nothing to do with the length of her arms.

“Angie’s arms aren’t longer?” I asked. “Are you sure?”

I started laughing, and heard the other women in class laughing, too. That was fun, and now, a dozen hours later, I’m smiling all over again — tickled at our shared amusement, but also at myself for being able to do what has stymied me in the past:

Laugh at myself.

And for that, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

(For more about The Grateful Runner, click here)