Ultimately, though, I silently, happily giggled with uncontrollable excitement at the purpose of the trip - a three-week yoga teacher training immersion with the Asheville Yoga Center, qualifying me as a 200-hour registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. Through hours of research, I found the Asheville program to be a perfect fit, and with the help of Eric's parents, my mom and my aunt Shelly, plans were quickly underway to make this dream possible. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, oh eternally supportive family!
Pursuing yoga teaching became a no-brainer about a year ago when my endearing, always-means-well, tell-it-like-it is cousin Laura, a yoga teacher herself, said to me, 'Brynn! You need to go to f#@king yoga teacher training!' during a conversation about, well, I forget exactly, but probably something to do with a yoga book I was reading or a cool new class I had recently tried. Additionally, when I mentioned the idea to my good friend, Mandy, also a yoga teacher, she responded with equally supportive urging.
Both Laura and Mandy might have known, but definitely had some idea, that yoga had became an essential and pervading part of my daily life about seven years ago and that I had spent extended periods and/or short but intense chunks of time learning from the Anusara lineage, practicing Bikram, studying Ashtanga and exploring hot power vinyasa classes in various cities throughout the country, from southern California to southwestern Pennsylvania to the mountainous regions of South Carolina and Georgia.
Maybe Mandy and Laura, mother to a son only seven months older than mine, even knew that since Avie's birth, I, despite desperately needing sleep, began spending the wee hours of the morning practicing asana, pranayama, kundalini and hatha, flow and yin, studying yoga books and ancient texts, watching DVD's by John Friend, Kino McGregor and Paul Grilley, listening to podcasts ranging from the Bhagavad Gita to the yoga sutras to meditation and relaxation exercises, and even planning and creating 90-minute hot power flow classes which I taught occasionally as a substitute for my primary yoga teacher, Wade. All this yoga action became my passion, not to mention an effort to fortify myself for the ever-fluctuating yet beautiful challenges of parenthood, a role requiring a sense of humor, mental clarity, emotional equanimity and physical stamina.
With all that said, from the moment these seeds of encouragement were planted, I began considering life as a yoga teacher and came to one final conclusion: that yoga, with it's many facets and aspects, was already so deeply integrated in my life that sharing this love with others through teaching would be a natural and fulfilling path for myself and for the benefit of my family.
Hence, as motherly preoccupations and yoga reflections circulated through my head during the drive south to Asheville, I knew that Avie and I would be better as individuals and as a pair after it was all said and done. With that settled, thoughts of a different kind began to emerge that had little to do with motherhood or yoga and everything to do with another passion of mine - running. The one big question that continued to resurface was this: how will running fit into the full schedule of 'yoga school,' as Avie called it?
Following was the basic yoga school time frame: Classroom time 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday plus 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; two required 60 to 90-minute yoga classes outside of classroom time per each week of training plus two observations of 60 to 90-minute yoga classes during the three-week period to be completed in the evenings or on one of our two Saturdays off; five days per week of at-home asana practice ranging from 30 to 120 minutes on top of five at-home meditation practices of the same duration that were to be logged, outlined and described in a journal (to total 15 each by the end of training); and homework and reading assignments most evenings.
Among the heavy workload and limited free time plus caring for Avie as best I could (with huge help from my family - did I mention that?) in the evenings, a window of opportunity existed - we were given one full hour for lunch, noon to one o'clock each day.
I went into the program, lasting from November 2 to 21, with the goal of logging three solid runs, which some experts say is all one needs to not only stay on top of his or her game but to actually excel, with the notion that quality always trumps quantity. Regardless, I discovered that running at lunch offered a sweet reprieve from so much indoor time and gave me the heart-pumping, rhythmic, mind-clearing, sweat-inducing feeling that I love.
So, throwing my goal of only running three days a week out the door, at most lunch breaks, and on Saturdays or Sunday mornings off, I happily ran five days each week. The moment we were dismissed, I bounded to my cubby in the hallway, changed clothes at breakneck speed, dashed out the door of the new Asheville Yoga Boutique, which houses the brand new yoga teacher training rooms (we were the first immersion group to use them!), and ran anywhere from 25 to 32 minutes, two and three quarters to four and one quarter miles.
I ran intervals, found hills and attempted tempos while always arriving back to the studio in time for a quick post-run asana cool down, de-robing from sweaty running clothes back into yoga attire and as mindfully and quickly as possible, eating a tasty vegan lunch consisting of some combination of fresh sourdough bread, couscous, arugula, hummus, olives, avocado, sea salt and olive oil. As a result, I came out of yoga teacher training feeling solidly prepared to crush my 5K personal record in the Town Bank Turkey Trot, held in Burlington, Wi., on Thanksgiving Day.
The day of my graduation, Friday, November 21, Eric and Avie flew from Pittsburgh to Chicago O'Hare, where Eric's parents, Marge and Fenton, picked them up. I arrived two days later by plane from Asheville after several flight delays and cancellations that not only derailed my and Eric's plans to attend a wedding together in Milwaukee but also threw a wrench in my typically vigilant pre-race tapering plans, diet and sleep habits. Nonetheless, because of my consistent effort the previous weeks, I remained optimistic about my goals for the Town Bank Turkey Trot, the nearest race to Marge and Fenton's house, where we would be spending a week over Thanksgiving.
My primary goal was to chase down a 5K personal record on the day that studies show to be the most popular racing day in the country. My previous best 5K time was in the Oceanside Turkey Trot in 2008 in California with a time of 22:19, earning me a place as third female in my age category out of about 100 other runners. That being said, my next goal was to place in the top three overall females, bypassing the age group category altogether. Lastly, I wanted to run it in 20 minutes or less and made a 19-minute playlist on my iPod shuffle to motivate me to do so.
Why music? if you read my last blog post, Running My Fastest 10K in the Wisconsin North Face Endurance Challenge Trail Race, you can see that listening to music proved fruitful as I secured a new 10K personal record of 49:06, placing me as fourth overall female out of 169 others, first in my age category out of 31 runners and 17th overall out of 301 men and women competitors. So, yes, music was a definite this time, despite my past hesitancies toward it. Here is the playlist I compiled:
- Stand By Me by Pennywise (in honor of our yoga teacher training graduation celebration when all 13 of us stood in a circle and swayed along, perhaps crying but definitely smiling, to the non-punk version of this song!)
- Make You Feel Better by Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Sing the Song by Trevor Hall
- Lose Yourself by Eminem
- Amazing Grace by Dropkick Murphys
For now, though, I will tell you that nothing miraculous in regards to my father occurred this time on race day. In spite of this, I raced well! I placed second overall female with a time of 20:12.72 out of 328 other ladies and 25th overall out of 528 participants. My pace was 6:31 minutes per mile.
Best of all, the winning female and I ran next to each other for the final mile, pushing one another to run faster and faster until the very final yards when she sped by me and cinched first. Yet, in the moment after I crossed the finish, an overwhelming sense of gratitude (and perhaps the feeling of needing to hurl!) rushed over me.
For one, I felt blessed for the ability to push my limits in such a way and for that giddy, childlike feeling fueled by good ole competition. I felt grateful for the silence from my dad during this race and saw it as a message that, despite riding off the courage and confidence that he has given me in racing since my first track meet at age 11, I actually hold that light deep within myself and have the ability to shine it brighter (and faster, hehe!) at any moment.
Further, I became excited to see Eric, who finished the race in 21:41.42. With that in mind, I thanked the high heavens for Avie having enjoyed such quality time with his grandparents and great-aunt and making it easy on them through his easy demeanor over the past several weeks and for his, and subsequently my, new found independence.
Lastly, I felt grateful for having honest, uplifting friends like Mandy and Laura; for my best friend Kathryn, who lives in Asheville and whose company I enjoyed over the past month as we celebrated Halloween, her new engagement and life in general over red wine, sweet potato porters, seasonal ales, yoga classes and even a parade; for the new friends I made (and now miss dearly!) at yoga teacher training; and, finally for what the future beholds as I embark upon my journey as a new yoga teacher, one who hopes to meld my passions of running, motherhood, writing and yoga as I find ways to share them with you.
Most importantly and above all, thank you, Asheville Yoga Center, especially our genuine, profoundly real, loving 'mom,' Kimberley Puryear and the rest of the yoga instructor training staff for helping me cultivate my own courage and confidence in order to share it with the world - I hope to see you all sometime soon! Until then, run strong, commune with your deceased loved ones, shine your own light, and, as Kimberley would say, Namaste, b$@#hes!