Fitness · running · yoga

Zen and the art of exercising

I was in a vinyasa yoga class, couple of years back. I had woken up at 6 am on a snowy sunday and dragged myself to the class in utter determination. My body had creaked and loathed as it began, but somewhere, it had given in. The teacher had a lovely mellow tone to her instructions and I had swayed into the warrior, suryanamaskarams, dog, half dog poses like a dream. Now that I think back, I must have hit the loosely termed ‘runner’s high’ with an endorphin-hit. For this is what happened at the end of the class – after the shavasanam pose, she asked if any of us was willing to try the salamba-sirasana. In the dimly lit atmosphere and in a trans-meditative state I had agreed without a second thought. And unbelievably so, for a whole 5 seconds, I actually stood on my head, with her initial help to prop my body up. I think the endorphin must have drained that very moment, for after that, I started to feel the soreness and reasons i don’t recall, never returned to that class!

And after over twenty odd months of running, I seem to experience something close, but not to the levels of that floating feeling I had in that class. I have heard crazy stories, first-hand and read about marathoners hitting the runner’s high and continuing to run through dislocations and fractures, not out of determination, but the endorphin morphing the pain for pleasure. Inspiring as it sounds, it is probably a dangerous addiction to have; imagine exercising your way to hit the high everytime (almost an alcoholic’s tale) !

But not everything has to be experienced in extremes. Exercise is a great anti-depressant. I can vouch for that, way better than chocolate, for it teaches you patience too 🙂 It keeps your other addictions on check, but make sure not to let it addict you towards injury! I have often heard people talk about swimming in reference to zen. I can understand why, although I may never experience it after a swim, anything that brings you close to nature is the pinnacle of bliss, indeed!

So every morning, when I reset that clock, breathe in the first burst of fresh chill, ease into a little tinge that pulls at my ankles and knees, which eventually oil in, I forget everything else and set pace with my music – breathing, racing, peaking, cresting and slumping. And then when I hit the close, life is a slow-motion picture – as I watch my postbox come into sight, I am relieved, exultant and at peace, in that order. Just another day of running pleasure. Another day closer to zen!

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3 thoughts on “Zen and the art of exercising

  1. As a kid and i mean a really tiny kid(many eons ago) i remember i used to do this(salamba-sirasana) in fun and to throw tantrums and Mom used to say its great for blood circulation for the head(read hair).
    I tried Yoga in 2006 and this pose was the most difficult and I think i managed to get it right once(with a ton of help!)
    Your posts on fitness inspire me every(single)time! (i havent eaten any of the goodies I’ve baked and i love the walks i’m taking)

  2. Lovely DD!Very very well written. I didn’t hit the runner’s peak ever, and never learnt to enjoy running but can totally relate to this zen experience from my own in Yoga class. Btw you should read Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running” if you haven’t already.

    1. I have only read wind-up bird chronicles of marukami and loved it. Added this book to my reading list! thanks for suggesting 🙂

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