Thursday, December 12, 2013

During the Holidays, Don't Forget to Breathe

 On Caleb's birthday, he found donuts and presents waiting for him at the breakfast table.  

This week, our house is a bit like the Groundhog's Day movie with two sons having birthdays a day apart.  The day after Caleb's birthday, we woke up and celebrated Connor's birthday in an identical manner.   (Don't you love how shirts seem to be optional in this household!)

We basically lived on sugar for two days in a row!!  Connor's cake was worth every single calorie!

My dear friend Ali just started a new gig.  She is no longer just a supermom/supermodel; she's added bar method instructor to her title.  For those unfamiliar, the bar method is an exercise class that uses the ballet bar to define muscles (and inflict torture).  And one needs to look no further than Ali, with her chiseled abs and toned biceps, to be convinced of the results.

I've been meaning to try a class for months, but then life got in the way.  Finally, with a little extra time and a few lingering Thanksgivings lbs., I signed up for a class.

Ali suggested my wardrobe and so I showed up in with a running shirt, yoga pants, and an attitude.  My attitude was, "I am marathon runner, hear me roar."  Translation:  I'll treat this class as a warmup and leave the serious working out for my Garmin, running shoes, and the trails.  Or so I thought.

Ten minutes into the class and I was dying.  Beads of sweat,  flushed face, stinky pits, dying.  I provided comic relief to the entire class as I could barely lift my stiff calves over the bar (years of running will do that to you!).  I had to use two hands (and a forklift) to place my ankle parallel to my hips.

My friend Kelly gazed at my pathetic form and snickered, "I bet you wish you were running right now."

Bingo Kelly.

At that moment, I would have given my right arm to be sprinting along a trail rather than performing my umpteenth dip on quivering toes. It.Was.Hard.  HARD.

After 24 years of pounding the pavement, my body knew how to run.  My muscles were well trained.  But this class woke up sleepy muscles and stretched the seemingly immovable parts of me.  As much as I wanted to hate it, I loved it even more.  

As I continued through the class, I learned that the bar method focuses on the repetition of little movements.  Instructors encourage proper form and, most importantly, posture.

During one particularly laborious pose, the instructor gazed at my crimson cheeks and pleading eyes and uttered, "Don't forget to breathe."

That mantra was said and re-said several times throughout the class especially at points that seemed most intense.

During the final moments of class, when we reclined on a mat and stretched out fatigued muscles, I meditated on that refrain, "Don't forget to breathe."  I thought about how life was pulling me along so quickly I could barely catch my breath.  How the combination of holiday preparations, birthday blowouts, and a heavy workload was leaving me as fatigued as my muscles.  How I walked into class feeling like I was about to explode under a weight of stress.  How what I really needed was an hour to do something new, spend time with dear friends, stretch, workout, and most importantly breathe.  And so I adopted a new holiday mantra, "Just breathe.  Don't forget to breathe."

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