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The path to discovering me.

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glenda, The Wizard of Oz

Blog By Laney [student, teen, future yogi, Amy’s niece]

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My name is Laney, and I am the niece of a yoga teacher ,who just so happens to own Invoke Studio.

I have grown up with yoga in my life and I have always enjoyed practicing, which is why I wanted to be able to share this with my friends. As a 7th grader, it’s hard to balance school work, playing sports while still maintaining straight A’s, and spending time with my family and friends. Yoga has always helped me to relax, and it has taught me how to connect to myself and to the world. So, when I heard that Invoke was having a workshop for teens, I decided to enroll in Discovering Me – Teen Yoga with Robbin Schneider.

During the workshop, we were asked to journal about our experience and emotions. I really enjoyed this process because it allowed me to begin my journey to discovering who I am. Your teenage years can be confusing – and there are a lot of changes going on emotionally and physically. Not to mention the pressure you have from your peers. The journal process helped me to discover who I am right now, in this phase of my life. I have continued to journal even after the workshop ended and I am excited to continue on the path to discovering me. Even though I know I will continue to evolve and grow over the years, journaling is helping me keep balance and awareness in my life. While I did enjoy the journaling process, my favorite part of the workshop was how it created the ability to connect with others and to share my life experiences with my peers. I didn’t realize how yoga was able to create connections not only with myself, but with others as well. This really helped me discover that everyone is truly unique, but that we still can connect in the same way.

After finishing the workshop, I have taken all of the things I learned and have continued to apply them to my daily life. I have changed the way I react to people and situations by simply changing my reaction from positive to negative. While I know this is difficult and that everyone struggles with it, the awareness the workshop brought to this behavior has allowed me to pay closer attention to my reactions to certain situations or challenges I face at school.

For anyone who hasn’t experience Discovering Me – Teen yoga and is facing challenges in their life, just remember to stay strong and try to find the positive in your situation. It gets better, but being positive will make it that much easier along the way.

Before this workshop, I didn’t realize the impact I could have on my peers and myself. After finishing the workshop with Robbin, I am working towards being an inspiring person to others. I know now that I can achieve my dreams, no matter what others say and I know now that I have the tools within myself to continue on my journey – whatever that may be!


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No such thing as failure.

“Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something.” – Frederick Smith

Blog by Candy [Writer, yoga teacher, downtowner, recovering rat racer]

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Failure.  

My shaman said it at the end of our session the other day.  It’s a word that’s been floating around in my head for weeks. Since I started to teach SUP, actually.  I can feel the fear of falling in the water from some of my students.  In others, that same fear of falling off the board feels more like empowerment.  I think the latter is a better perspective to have.

Teaching SUP yoga has allowed me a vantage point that I’ve never been exposed to before. So many of my students come with limited paddle board experience. They’re not only trying yoga on the water (which isn’t easy), but they are trying their luck at paddle boarding too.  The likelihood of not being good at it is high…but I’ve watched every one of them succeed, in one way or another.
For the students that see the board as an added challenge, and the possibility of getting wet an added bonus, they spend their time on the water searching for their edge; That sweet spot where they are pushing themselves to the point of falling out of the pose. I’ve watched so many step right up to the edge and stay just dry of it.
But the ones that step up…and over…they come up out of the water with the biggest smiles on their faces. Some may see that as a failure. That the goal of SUP yoga should be to stay on your board…to stay dry, but if that was the goal, we’d do the practice on land. It’s those folks that confuse the goal (see the possibility of failure) and say they want to try it, but never do. Their egos can’t handle the idea of it because their perception of it is all wrong.
The goal of SUP yoga is to empower yourself.  To take your practice and belief in yourself to the next level.
Yoga on land is hard. Putting all the pieces together…breath…movement…alignment…takes focus and practice. When you add in the instability of a paddle board…the unpredictability of nature…the flow of the water…and then decide to do yoga…well, now that takes your focus and practice to an entirely different level.
Any bad habits a student has developed in the classroom are completely exposed on the water, and their penance is most likely to lose their balance and fall in.  But the forgiveness of the water, the warmth of her hug as you take a plunge, summons a deeper inner strength. A resolve to climb back on the board and try the pose again, this time nailing it, or maybe not.  It doesn’t matter, though because the sense of accomplishment, of being completely focused on your alignment, breath and movement is the reward.
 
Those students that bring that mindset to the water, never consider falling off as a failure.  They know that yoga, like life, is a practice.  That each day our bodies are different. The weather is different. The water is different. Life is different.  And each day they bring an attitude to do their best.  To focus on the task at hand.  To be present in the moment.  To find a new level of peace…calm…accomplishment.  Those students may leave my class wet…soaked to the bone…but they also leave with a smile…with laughter in their hearts…with a sense of evolving their practice.
 
Each time someone falls in the water, I cheer and holler for them.  I tell their fellow students that we need to celebrate the fact that they  fell in the water.  That now that they are wet, their practice will be completely different than it would have been…then it will be for the rest of us that are still dry.  Gone from that student’s mind is the fear of getting wet….the fear of failing…because it happened.  Just like that.  For the rest of their practice, they will be searching for their perfect alignment…and their edge.  When they find their edge, they may willingly step over it…pushing themselves just a little harder to come deeper into a pose…and they may get wet.  But it won’t matter, because they already are. 
 
SUP has taught me that there’s no such thing as failure.  There’s only the mindset that you bring to your practice…to your life.  From there, everything that follows is as simple as taking a little plunge…crawling back onto your board…and trying again.
 
See you on the water.


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Pregnancy.

How it (surprisingly) improved my yoga practice. 

Blog by Kye [DePauw University fanatic; Northsider; Travel addict; Soon-to-be Mama]

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On December 20, 2013, two days after I learned that I was pregnant, I sent a frantic email to Cheryl Milton, my yoga teacher and friend from Invoke with whom I was planning to embark on a 200-hour yoga teacher training journey in January. It said something along the lines of, “Yikes! I’m pregnant. Very excited! I don’t think I’ll have the time, money, emotional stability…and, oh yes, TIME! to focus on yoga teacher training over the next five months. I’m super disappointed, but hope you’ll understand.” I then asked her to give me a run-down of the basic “rules” of practicing yoga while pregnant (i.e. how long can I do a headstand with a baby in my belly?). I honestly thought that it was impossible (or crazy) to attempt a 5-month teacher-training program while being pregnant for the first time.

I’m thankful Cheryl didn’t let me off the hook so easily. After expressing her initial excitement, she made a very compelling case for why the next few months would actually be the perfect time to dive deeper into my yoga practice. In the end, I listened to Cheryl, and she was one million percent right. While I feared that pregnancy would ruin – or at the very least impede – my yoga practice, I can honestly say that it did neither. As surprising as it may sound, I truly feel that pregnancy improved my practice. Here’s how:

It slowed my body – and therefore my mind – way, way down.

Before I was pregnant, I liked heated, hard, and fast classes. I was an upside-down junkie. I liked to find new ways to challenge myself and see how much I could sweat in a yoga class. For me, yoga was about pushing myself to my physical edge as much as possible. I haven’t eliminated this side of my yoga practice entirely, but pregnancy has without a doubt helped me appreciate the more subtle aspects of my practice. I’ve realized that small adjustments can lead to big improvements in a pose. I learned to be more patient with my body. I learned to think about what yoga means to me outside of the sweaty, crazy-hard stuff. I learned to appreciate the simplicity (and difficulty!) of slow-flow. I realized that your mind follows your body, and if you allow your body to slow down every once in a while, your mind will too. And that’s a beautiful thing.

It taught me to say no.

At the beginning of class, yoga teachers often explain that child’s pose is “always available” as a resting pose. Pre-pregnancy, did I ever willingly take child’s pose on my own, without being prompted? Absolutely not. I probably didn’t want to waste precious time in class allowing myself to take a break when I could have been pushing myself. Now, I’ll happily take child’s pose whenever I need it. Now, I can confidently say “no” to a pose, which is a big lesson to learn in meeting yourself where you are each and every time you come to your mat.

It helped me appreciate my body.

Though it should have been the case prior to pregnancy, I never really took the time to be grateful to my body for all of the things it allows me to do. After completing a five-month teacher training program and teaching my very first yoga classes — all while growing a tiny human — I’ve finally learned to pat myself on the back every once in a while and thank my body for being amazing. In my opinion, everyone should do this more often.


And finally, a quick note of advice:

There’s a great deal of “noise” out there about what you can and cannot (or should and should not) include in your yoga practice while you’re pregnant. I read everything from “Completely eliminate downward facing dog after 20 weeks,” to “Handstands are fine well into your third trimester.” Now that I’m just a few weeks away from delivery and have practiced regularly throughout my pregnancy, I can say with certainty that there are no hard-and-fast rules and that every yogini must determine what’s best for her own body. I chose to stop doing inversions after ~20 weeks; though it wasn’t always easy to resist headstands and handstands (I’m having a nerdy-yoga craving for Pincha Mayurasana as I’m typing this), it sure taught me a lot about yoga and myself to slow down for a few months of non-upside-down time on my mat.


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When I See You Smile.

Fulfilling a dream.

Blog by Candy [Writer, yoga teacher, downtowner, recovering rat racer]

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Yesterday SUP classes kicked off.  It’s something I’ve wanted to teach for a couple years but until now, didn’t have the time…nor a place to teach.  Thanks to Invoke Studio, I’m able to turn a dream…a hope…a wish…into a reality.  I’m a stand up paddle board (SUP) and SUP yoga teacher.

I had so much fun teaching my first SUP intro class and my first SUP yoga class!  I’m sure it was a little exceptional because Princess Grace, Kilo, and Man of the Year were three of my first students.  What could be better than to see their smiling faces looking back at me…nothing.  The best part, they actually said I was a good teacher.

I’ve written about my struggle with teaching and whether it’s something I want to do or not.  I’ve been told I’m good at it, but it’s not about being good at something.  I was good at my old job, too.  I want to do something that I love…that makes me light up…that I want to be good at.  So to hear their feedback warmed my heart.  I’m slowly realizing that the key for me is being able to have fun…to be light-hearted…to be silly.

Sure, there’s a time and place for serious instruction and intention setting.  I absolutely agree and take those aspects of teaching to heart.  But there’s also a time and place for relaxing…letting down your guard…tapping into that inner child…and simply having some fun.  That’s what I’m good at.  I’m good at finding that balance.  I’m good at coaxing that balance out in others.

Maybe that’s why Corporate America never felt like the right fit.  People didn’t laugh enough…often enough.  We took ourselves too seriously.  The work we did may have been serious at times but that doesn’t prohibit us from bringing a light-hearted spirit…or a smile to the table.  I’m sure some would argue that point — and probably will — but that’s why I didn’t belong.

It took me a while to learn that people respond better to leaders…to teachers…that can laugh at themselves.  That smile…and genuinely care about the type of day their students (or employees) are having.  People spend so much time at work that it really should be more fun than it is.  I think if it was, the world might be a little gentler place…at least my world would have been.

But until it is, I get the privilege of helping those that do work blow off some steam…to enjoy themselves…to take a breathe…smile…relax.  I get to help them hit the reset button.  And maybe eventually, I’ll get to influence how they show up in life….maybe they — like me — will see that the world doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.  That we can still work hard with a smile.  Since I’m currently fulfilling a dream teaching SUP/SUP yoga, I’m going to make this my new dream….that we learn to smile more…in everything we do.

Read more from Candy on her person blog: 365go.me.

Also, be sure to check out her Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) classes this summer. Register at invokestudio.com/schedule!


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Practice.

Leaving the things you love; someday coming back.

Blog by Cole [Writer; Teacher; Downtowner; Ice cream enthusiast]

Cole Farrell

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My name is Cole, and I am an expert in not practicing yoga.

I am not awful at practicing, but I am an outright expert in not doing it altogether. In fact, I’ve been not-doing yoga for about 6 months now, and for about 4 years before that. All told, I’ve probably not-done yoga for about 85% of my life.

Early last winter, I had established a fairly consistent yoga practice. I could feel myself getting stronger every day. Time on my mat helped me feel like I could beat back the winter blues, and I quickly became a regular. One night, late last December, I even got into crow pose and—at the risk of sounding braggy—I was able to hold it for almost one full round of breath.

Then I just stopped attending class. Fully stopped. I guess I got too busy, or it was too cold outside, or there was some other excuse I don’t quite remember. Whatever the reasoning, my fancy mat stayed rolled up and tucked in a corner of my closet for the remainder of winter. And all of spring. And the early part of summer.

Away from my mat, life kept happening, and fast. I traveled through Europe for a week with my boyfriend, and on our last night there, he proposed. Not long after our return, I changed careers. There have been other transitions, too: evolving out of certain friendships and into others, letting go of old projects, taking on new ones.

All the while, I would walk or bike past the yoga studio and think man, I should get back in there.

I’m a person who is always halfway trying to change something about my life. Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify and stop handing all the best hours of my day over to some kind of digital screen.

I think this is called mindfulness, though I never really seem to get it right. For the last week, I’ve been doing everything veeeeeeeery slooooooooowly, as if slowness and mindfulness are the same thing. Maybe right now they are. Maybe, I tell myself, slowness is what I need right now, and the pace will help me become more present.

For now I am slow, then one day I will suddenly be mindful. That’s the plan.

Last week, I finally got back in the yoga studio. I flopped my way through a Wednesday night class. Then I came back on Thursday, and flopped a little less, maybe by a fraction of a percent. My downward facing dog is still lousy, my hips are still remarkably unopenable, but I was there, trying. Practicing instead of not-practicing.

After Thursday’s class, I got a phone call from my friend in Seattle. She rarely ever spends a full day away from her yoga mat. I told her about my floppy practice and its two-day streak.

“Why do we ever quit doing the things that make us feel so much better?” I asked her. She’s great at answering big-life questions like this.

“Sometimes we just need a break,” she responded. “Don’t sweat it, it took me a full year of practice to feel good in down dog.”

A year! A full year. That seems like an impossibly long time to work for something you want, something that should be so simple.

A year is a long time to practice. It’s also a long time to not-practice. So there I was on Saturday morning, back in class for a third day, between sun salute and shavasana, present, slowly.


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Learning balance on the mat

Molly Chavers

Your practice isn’t one more obligation; it’s essential for sanity.

Blog by Molly  [Nonprofit ED; Pilates guru; Meridian Kessler-ite; Mama]

I like to wear lots of hats: mom, nonprofit executive director, wife, pet owner, volunteer, friend, daughter. And sometimes I get asked how I make time for one that is particularly meaningful to me — Pilates teacher.

I’ve been teaching Pilates at Invoke since 2007. In my time in the role, life has gotten more complicated (in a good way).

I’ve become a mom, and three years into this incredible job, I’m still trying to figure out where the hours go in the day. My child is exploring daily with her classmates, taking dance, and singing up a storm on her karaoke machine at home. For her, the days are long and full of fun to be had.

I work full time outside of the home, too. I haven’t mastered the leave-it-at-the-office style of work. We are a small staff. Work must be completed.

So why try to squeeze one more thing in the day?

For me, heading to my mat isn’t a luxury. It has become a necessity. On my best days, I can make it there. I count my lucky stars, too, because the end result is magical:

Clearer head. Sharper mind.

Taking time to make it to my mat – whether I’m at the front of the room instructing among my fellow students, or at home – helps me learn. Practicing reminds me of my strong, imperfect body. I am more aware of both the things that come easily and those poses that might need a little extra attention. A lot like real life, played out on a 24-by-72-inch space.

Like so many others, I’ve struggled with the way I’ve looked over the years. Yoga and Pilates has taught me that the way I feel about myself on the outside affects all other parts of me. When I feel strong and healthy, I exude strong and healthy. When I feel crummy…well, you get the picture.

We are constantly growing; each of us is striving to reach our full potential. For me, the journey begins on the mat but is often realized out in the real world. That is true in some way for everyone: making time to do things we love makes us better.

We feel more balanced. We tap into our true potential. We find clarity and presence.

Life is busy for everyone. There is never really a good time to make time for us.

But making time is essential if we are to be the best version of ourselves.  

Molly Chavers teaches Pilates at Invoke Studio and is Executive Director of IndyHub, a resource and place to learn and connect for Indy’s twenty- and thirty-somethings. She lives in Meridian Kessler with her husband, daughter and cat.


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Healing full circle

Hope Neely

Yoga  helped Hope Neely make sense of life through her battle with kidney disease. Now she teaches so that others can appreciate yoga’s restorative power.

Blog by Hope  [Yogini, Eastsider, winning the battle]

I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 as a 23-year-old kidney transplant patient in a city where I didn’t know a soul. The stress associated with my illness exacerbated personal and professional challenges that made my first few years in the city seem like an uphill battle.

I couldn’t drink, which made it tough to go bars, and that made it tough to meet people. On the rare occasions I did go out, someone would inevitably ask why I wasn’t drinking. The real answer was enough to kill any festive mood: My kidney function was not great, and the thought of needing another transplant scared me.

This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about while trying to relax and meet people after work. I started to feel isolated even when I was surrounded by people.

At the same time, I was working a high-pressure job in financial services in the midst of the global economic downturn. Our clients were worried about their retirement money, their jobs, and their children finding jobs in the tough economic environment. This nervous energy stoked my own fears about my kidney function. How could I pay for a kidney transplant on my own? What if I needed dialysis treatments? What if I got too sick to work? My mind started to associate money with survival.

The constant anxiety soon started to wear on me; I needed to do something to cope. My primary doctor suggested I take a yoga class.

Though initially hesitant, I eventually took her advice and tried a class at my gym. I liked it and went back again. Soon yoga started to grow on me, and  I rarely missed the Sunday class, which left me renewed each week.

Then at 25 my big fear materialized: I needed a second kidney transplant. I undertook the procedure — not without complications — and though I handled each issue that arose, the experience left me jittery and fearful. It was as if my mind was now trained to worry about health problems that might arise in the future.

So I turned back to the thing that helped me in my pre-transplant struggle: yoga. I started taking yoga classes at Invoke Studio regularly. Week by week and class by class, my fears of health problems started to dissipate. The energy I used to spend worrying about future shifted back to action in the present moment.

Last year I participated in Invoke Studio’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We read about yogic philosophy, worked on breathing techniques that train the mind to focus on the present moment, and did lots and lots of yoga. It was a wonderful experience and truly solidified the role that yoga has played in my journey through kidney disease.

Most importantly, it helped me realize that my organ donors didn’t donate so that I could live in fear. They did it so that I could live life fully, and that can only happen if I start from a steady foundation.

Today I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with others. Last month I began working with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana to offer a weekly yoga class open to the public, with a special focus on those who have been affected by chronic kidney disease.

The stress of living with chronic kidney disease threw me off my foundation. I’m just grateful that yoga brought me back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hope’s classes are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana’s offices at 911 E. 86th St., Suite 100. Suggested donations are $5

Neely is a regular yogini and instructor who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside with her boyfriend, Alex.

 


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Tuning in to the “other side” of yoga

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Yin offers a way to loosen the oft-neglected connective tissues

Blog by Laura  [Yogini, Spanish-language guru, lover of Yin]

In addition to the mental health benefits, many of us come to yoga class to reap the physical reward of working our muscles. We do this through what are known as Yang styles of yoga — Ashtanga and Vinyasa, for example.

But, as in other aspects of life, there’s always a Yin to complement the Yang. Yin yoga, which is growing in popularity in the U.S., allows us to work the deeper or yin connective tissues of our ligaments, joins, fascia and even our bones.

If you have never been to a Yin class before, you have practiced Yin poses in a Vinyasa class.  Child’s pose and Savasana, or final resting pose, are both yin-style poses.  You are also doing Yin yoga in that final juicy twist at the end of class.

In Yin, exercise is not multiple repetitions, but rather a long, steady and safe stress placed on the connective tissues to encourage them to release.  We stay in Yin poses for three to five minutes to exercise the connective tissue.  Yin poses target the hips, back and knees primarily.  We practice most Yin poses on the ground, allowing  gravity to take part in the practice.

What I love about Yin yoga is the space and freedom I feel in my body after a practice.  A regular yin practice has helped me find greater ease and deeper access to the poses of my vinyasa practice.  And I have found the stillness of the class to be challenging. Over time, it has taught me the value of sitting still and being mindful of my thoughts and the sensations in my body.

Many of the benefits of a yin practice are similar to the ones found in the more Yang styles of yoga.  Yin yoga is closely tied to the Chinese medicine system.  All poses affect different meridian lines, the energy lines in which needles are placed during acupuncture.  This pressure helps to nourish the organs associated with those lines.

Yin yoga also helps retrain the body.  If you sit for long periods of time during the day, your hip flexors engage and the lumbar curve in your low back usually bends opposite to its natural position.  In Yin yoga, we spend time in poses that open the front of the hips or allow the lumbar curve to stay in its natural position for extended periods.  In essence, we are retraining our body to do the opposite of what it experiences throughout the day.

Other Yin benefits include:

  • Increased mobility in the body, especially in the hips and joints

  • More ease and flexibility in the connective tissues

  • Improved health and responses in the cells of the body

  • Improved blood pressure and lower heart rate

  • Reduced fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system)

  • Improved digestion and immune system

  • Lessened inflammation

I teach a weekly Yin Yoga class at Invoke on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at the 86th & Ditch location and a monthly Yin + Yoga Nidra workshop.  February’s workshop is Sunday the 23rd at 6:30p.m. and will focus on the chakras.  You can get an early bird discount for $15 up through the 16th.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please be aware that Yin Yoga is different from a restorative yoga practice.  Just like with your more active styles of yoga, if you have an injury, you should allow that to heal before putting more stress on it in a yin practice.

Haehl is a yoga instructor who teaches at Invoke Studio. While she’s great at breaking down the basics, she’s also known to teach some challenging flows. 


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A time for reinvention

imm-blake-boldon

Use the new year as a way to reach your deeper potential.

Blog by Blake [Race guru, runner, motivator, coach]

Over the next few days, many of us will go through a familiar ritual: making a list of resolutions for the upcoming year.

While it might seem cliched, it’s also exciting. Every new year offers the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

In the fitness sense, the possibilities for reinvention are endless. You can become a seasoned triathlete or a long-distance cyclist. You can evolve from a first-time yogi into a seasoned practitioner or become a certified yoga or Pilates instructor. You can hike a mountain or trail or lose that extra 15 pounds.

And you can run a race — like a marathon, half-marathon or 5K. In my role with the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many people through this kind of new year reinvention.

For the first time last year, the Monumental offered a discount for people who signed up for the race on January 1 and 2. I remember checking a few minutes into the new year to make sure the registration process was proceeding smoothly and feeling my heart beat a little faster when I saw people signing up at midnight. It inspired me even more to watch them prepare for the race in the year that ensued.

Hundreds of participants shared about their training journeys on the Monumental’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and through their personal blogs. Our staff received emails from people participating in the race for the first time. And I had the opportunity to meet some of the thousands of finishers as they crossed the finish line.

To me running is a particularly special way to remake yourself in the new year, partly because it’s possible to achieve something remarkable in a relatively short period of time. I’ve met Monumental participants who have lumbered through their first 5K one year and a mere two years later have completed the full 26.2 miles.

Even for seasoned racers, there’s always the possibility to push yourself a little harder, to shave seconds off your time, and to experience the joy of running a race in a new way.

I’ve made it my own personal goal to finish the Boston Marathon in 2014. I’m already excited to think about the experience of participating, but I’m also invigorated by the process of self-improvement that it takes to prepare for the event.

So for anyone considering a fitness goal for 2014, make it your mission to find something that challenges and stretches you to become a better version of yourself — and to see yourself through to completing that goal.

That’s the power of reinvention — and the beauty of a New Year’s resolution.

Blake Boldon is the executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and a former competitive runner and collegiate running coach.  He lives in Downtown Indianapolis.  


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My journey toward self-acceptance

Glenna Nall

I used to overexercise to feel in control. Now I use exercise to tap into my deepest self.

Blog by Glenna [Invoke Pilates/yoga instructor, runner, swimmer, rockstar]

Life is a journey, not a destination.

I’ve seen and heard this phrase many times. I never really paid attention to what it means until the last three years, when a transition from a traditional career to a full-time pursuit of my passion for Pilates and yoga led to a major identity struggle at has helped me tap into my true self.

In 2010, I got married, changed my last name and left my full-time job. I was working to finish my masters degree in Public Health while starting Pilates teacher training.  I thought I had everything under control.   I never knew how much all of those changes would shake my identity to the core.

All the change at once made me feel I needed to clamp down on one thing I thought I could control: my weight. I became obsessed with my physical appearance, my weight and diet restrictions.  In preparation for our wedding, I dropped nearly 30 pounds and several dress sizes. And as I shrank in size, I began to withdraw from friends and family situations — often cancelling plans with friends if it meant I would miss a workout or be in a situation with tempting food.  I thought of my day only in terms of when and how I was going to exercise and when and what I was going to eat.  What had been a desire to lose weight for our wedding had turned into a full-blown obsession.

After two years of this struggle, I accepted that I was losing the battle with control of my weight.  I credit regular attendance to yoga classes with initiating my desire to change.  One of the main tenants of a yogic life is ahimsa, or non-harming.  I knew that with my extreme exercise habits and bulimia, I was harming my body.

I began to research signs and symptoms of eating disorders and found myself calling a treatment center in Indianapolis.  I made an appointment with a counselor and my primary care doctor.  I decided I wanted to be happy, and my current methods were failing.  I decided to tell my family and friends about my struggle.  I remember the tearful conversation with my husband — the first honest conversation I had with someone in months.

My journey toward self-acceptance hasn’t been easy. I am still sometimes embarrassed to see friends and relatives, especially those who have not seen me in several months or years.   I know there are some people who doubt my ability to be a good pilates or yoga teacher because I am overweight. But I know that my issues have made me a more compassionate teacher, a trait that cannot be taught. That doesn’t mean I won’t challenge my clients to push to the limit, but it means I know when to push and when to let go.

Taking away the shroud of my eating disorder has made me rethink friendships, reset priorities, and change my relationship with the external world.  There are relationships that have been strained a little because I recognize trigger behaviors in some of my close friends, who are as competitive as I am.   I also still struggle with perfectionism, a common trait among people with eating disorders.  For example, I recently came home after a yoga class that left me feeling frustrated with my inability to do a certain pose.  Intellectually I recognize that being able to get into side crow or transition from crow to headstand has absolutely no bearing on my self-worth,  but I still felt like a failure.  The difference is that now I can reflect on those feelings rather than turning to food.

As I work through challenges, breakthroughs happen. I feel like I am able to be myself around more people and am finding new friendships that honor me.  I still love to exercise, but it doesn’t control or define me.

Making exercise part of my job has allowed me to to appreciate its power for good — rather than the control it previously exerted over my life. Through my job teaching yoga and Pilates, I help people find a deeper connection to their body and mind.  I know I make them smile.

It has been a winding path so far, and I expect things will continue to change as I continue the journey through life. Now I know I can handle those changes — and thrive.

Glenna Nall is a yoga (RYT-200) and comprehensively certified Pilates instructor who coordinates Invoke’s Pilates program. She also coaches swimming and is an avid runner and swimmer.  She lives in Downtown Indianapolis with her husband, Alex.  

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post was originally proposed as a piece to describe how I changed careers, but  it became much more. I did not intend for this to be a story about my eating disorder, but without inclusion of that angle, this piece would have been a half truth.  If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, I encourage you to contact a professional for help.  Resources can be found at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. Locally, I recommend contacting the The Charis Center for Eating Disorders at 317.295.0608.