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Running for the long haul

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How yoga helped me tap into the deeper joy of running

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

I’m getting ready to start training for a few half-marathons this fall, so I’ve begun psyching myself up for going on runs that last more than 45 minutes.

I used to run decent distances — seven to 10 miles on weekends — pretty frequently almost year-round, but since I’ve gotten deeper into my yoga journey, I’ve traded long trips on the Monon for shorter jaunts in my neighborhood to allow myself time to get to my mat.

While I’ve cut the duration of my runs, I’ve grown dramatically in how much I enjoy them. And I have yoga to thank for that.

I’ve always cherished running time. When I’m running with other people, I enjoy great conversations and a sense of bonding over the shared experience and challenge.

On days I run by myself, I relish the opportunity to tune out the stresses of everyday life, the need to be “on” and to converse. I simply let my mind focus on whatever it grasps at the moment – whether that is imagining how the next five years of my life might unfold, contemplating the lyrics of a song on my playlist or just enjoying the feel of the pavement against the soles of my shoes.

It’s not exactly a meditation, but a basking in the state of the moment.

Through yoga I’ve strengthened my ability to tune out unpleasant or stressful thoughts and tune into what my body is feeling. I’ve built the mental discipline to endure physical strain – remembering that it, like most things in life, is only temporary. And I’ve stopped focusing on the end game so much – the muscle toning, calorie burning and other superficial motivations that in the past have driven me to exercise. Instead, I’ve started really enjoying the act of exercising itself.

I incorporated these principals into my training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last fall. When I was doing super-long runs to prepare for the 26.2 miles, I would tell myself that I was really just going on a long road trip and that I should prepare myself to enjoy a great playlist and the scenery along the way (those 20-plus-mile runs, after all, took me about the same amount of time it would take to drive to visit my parents in Springfield, Illinois – more than three hours).

I would not allow myself to anticipate reaching the last mile but kept my mind engaged and focused on the journey as it unfolded. And I when I felt pain, which was frequently, I would remind myself that it would be over soon enough. A few hours, after all, is really a short time span in the scheme of things.

What did bringing these elements into my running do? It enabled me to run 26.2 miles and have a great time doing it.

I’m looking forward to incorporating those principles into training again this fall. And I expect they will be easier to hone now that I have an even stronger passion and appreciation for running – and my yoga practice that enhances it so beautifully.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


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‘Yoga doesn’t care if you fall’

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Kye Hawkins explains how yoga provides her with a rare opportunity to play like a 7-year-old.

Blog by Kye [Yoga junkie, former gymnast, education nonprofit rockstar]

During a recent Vinyasa Flow class, our instructor suggested that we attempt hand stands in the middle of the room. “I love practicing hand stands,” she said. “You know that every time you’re going to fall. Every. Single. Time. But you just keep kicking up and trying again.”

This represents an important aspect of yoga that keeps me coming back to my mat several times a week: the opportunity to playfully challenge myself without judgment or consequence.

I was a gymnast for most of my adolescence, and while the sport taught me many things, one of the most important skills gymnastics taught me is the ability to challenge myself while considering it “play.” To try something I’ve never tried before. To attempt a new skill that might be a little scary. To fall. To disregard that fall. And to get up and give it another go.

Yoga has reunited me with the opportunity to play — and fall — often.

In yoga, you don’t give up on something just because you can’t get it exactly right. As my instructor often says: “Yoga doesn’t care if you fall.” For the record, yoga also doesn’t care if you’re flexible. It doesn’t care if you want to sit in child’s pose the entire class, and it certainly doesn’t care if you can do a headstand.

This practice provides the very rare opportunity for adults to play – something we probably don’t get to do often enough in our grown-up lives. When else are you given space – both mentally and physically – to take your body, turn it upside-down, test your balance on your hands, head, or forearms, and to fall down, without anyone judging you or even thinking twice?

For this reason, when I walk into a yoga studio, I’m giddy with anticipation for the new balances I might attempt, the chances I’ll have to go upside-down, the inversions I might hold for a few more seconds than last time, and the opportunities to twist my body in ways I previously thought impossible.  There’s something extremely special about a tiny room that gives you the courage to play like a seven-year-old amongst a group of adult strangers.

So to anyone who is hesitant to try the “scary” things in yoga (or to try yoga in the first place), stop worrying and play! And completely lose your balance, come right back to your mat and try again. Because that, to me, is what yoga is all about.

Hawkins manages programs, communications and member engagement for the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a network of city-based organizations promoting innovation and reform in K-12 education.


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A reminder to tame the rajas

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As much as I like to avoid cliches, it’s hard resisting this one: tragedy takes us back to our yogic principles.

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

It’s such a trite thing to say after a tragedy.

“This (insert tragic event) really reminds us to treasure every day and enjoy every moment.”

It’s trite, but true. And it leads us back to one of the key teachings of yoga – the importance of being present.

This is something I’ve been grappling with over the past two months since I embarked on a journey to complete Invoke’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. The course has challenged me mentally and physically as I’ve learned more about the poses of yoga and worked on executing them with precision. But it’s also stretched me to contemplate the way I live my life and my day-to-day behavior that I’ve come to accept as normal.

The lesson of being in the moment came into play one night as I was preparing to do our written yoga training homework assignment. I had allocated  a window of time for completing it –a precise half-hour in between when I wrapped up my work day and the time I left the office to catch an evening yoga class. As soon as I read the assignment, though, I changed my plans for the night.

Our yoga homework was to learn about the three different states of nature present in humans: one of ambition and constant action (rajas); one of relaxation and inertia (tamas); and one of a harmonious balance of the two (sattva). Then we were to write about the one we most frequently experience.

All I had to do was think about my busy little evening agenda to realize how much I was inclined to let rajas take control. And with a sense of sheepishness, I decided to head home and enjoy the evening, instead of rushing from one thing to another.

When I got home that night, I tried to apply my newfound conceptualization of my rajas to my evening routine. As I made dinner, instead of throwing things in a pan on autopilot while talking on the phone, I took the time to enjoy the process of cooking: the cutting of vegetables, the preparation required to boil water, the smell of ingredients mixing together. I ate more slowly, too, and enjoyed the meal, rather than inhaling dinner and letting my mind rush off to the next thing on my agenda.

This practice – and my subsequent reflection on rajas through my yoga homework that night – illuminated how much I allow myself to zip from one thing to the next in life. I always think five steps ahead. I always try to do too many things. I often push myself beyond my capacity, failing to sleep enough or to take time to slow down and smell the roses.

I’m not alone. Many of us do these things.

And yet, there is so much joy in appreciating each moment for its unique value. As much as life can feel redundant at times, no moment is exactly like another. So why don’t we savor them more?

And why does it take a tragedy like the events in Boston this past week to remind us how precious – and how fragile – those moments truly are?

Life is best when we live in the present. I’m glad for the way that yoga reminds me of that.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


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A surge forward in fitness

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Over the last several years, Scott Baumer has melted off the pounds with a disciplined exercise regimen that includes competitive cycling. Pilates has helped him take his fitness to the next level. 

Blog by Scott [Competitive cyclist, Pilates newcomer, native Hoosier]

In Spring 2004, the end of my first year at the University of Southern Indiana, I weighed 190 pounds at 5’10.” I hardly made an effort to exercise and ate without regard for calories or fat.

When I returned home to Indianapolis that summer, I was frustrated by the way I looked and completely lacked self-confidence. So I decided to lose weight the old-fashioned way: by changing my diet and exercising daily. I had a summer job at a golf course, which helped me to stay active. I also avoided fried foods, focused on portion control and went to the gym for an hour of cardio seven days a week. By the end of the summer, I was down to 165 pounds.

Four summers later — at the urging of my then-girlfriend and her dad — I decided to start cycling. I started riding by myself or with my girlfriend and eventually joined a local cycling group. I ended up riding nearly 2,800 miles in 2009. By 2010, I was riding 5,000 miles per year. Along the way, my weight kept falling, and I settled in around 155 pounds.

By mid-summer 2011, I entered my first race (a criterium in Eagle Creek Park) and was instantly hooked. The following year, I decided to give racing my all. I hired a coach in and began training to improve my fitness and power. By the end of 2012, I had raced 65 times and covered 8,000 miles, upgrading my cycling competitiveness level by several degrees.

While my training regimen was intense, I was focused solely on logging miles on the bicycle and  neglected all other aspects of my body. To further improve, I knew I would have to put more effort into strengthening the rest of my body, especially my core and flexibility. This would help to improve my  position on the bike and give me additional power. With this plan, I decided to try Pilates at Invoke.

My first trip to Pilates was eye-opening — or perhaps demoralizing is a better way to put it. I considered myself to be in great shape, but that perception changed in my first hour of Pilates. I could barely do half of the exercises. Who would have thought lifting 3 pound weights would be so challenging?

But after getting over the initial shock of how tough this workout was, I embraced it as part of my routine. Adding Pilates to my weekly training has strengthened my entire body, and I’m confident it will improve my results this race season. I welcome and hope to learn from the physical challenge.

It’s good for all of us to push beyond our limits and try new things to stay healthy. After almost a decade-long fitness journey, I’m glad to have discovered Pilates to give me the extra push I need to take my cycling — and overall wellness — to the next level.

Baumer is an accountant and new homeowner in Indianapolis.


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A new perspective on New Year’s resolutions

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This year’s resolutions got you down? Erin Gladstone offers some tips on how to conquer negative thinking and reach your goals.

Blog by Erin [Invoke yogini, Pilates student, all-around fitness lover]

While in downward-facing dog pose toward the front of a packed yoga class, it struck me how amazing the arms of every single person in the room looked from that upside-down perspective. This got me thinking about how it is so easy to be critical of ourselves, particularly around this time of the year, while others see our beauty.

We’re now almost a full month into the New Year, and many of us have made resolutions to make improvements in our lives. Some of us may have vowed to reduce the velocity of our butt jiggle by 15 percent in 2013, or eat only celery, ginger root, and drink apple cider vinegar until we shed that final ten pounds (ideally by the end of January, right?). Perhaps we will do 500 crunches every night, run seven miles a day, or complete two-a-days at the gym, just to get back into the swing of things.

Many resolutions cause us to be harsh, and often downright cruel, to our bodies. They lend themselves to behavior that contradicts the yogic principles we practice on the mat: patience, acceptance, and persistence. We set ourselves up for failure by focusing on the outcome, rather than the process. We become unrealistic, and by mid-February, many resolutions return to being pipe dreams as the daily grind regains control.

Don’t let this happen. As you work toward your resolutions of 2013,  commit to developing or rekindling healthy habits that are sustainable, and treat your body kindly. So you consumed more than 37 dozen cookies over the holiday season (I know I did, and they were totally delicious) and got a little too festive in lieu of your regular workout routine. Accept it, but don’t overcompensate via a workout so intense you are 30 minutes late to work the following day because your legs are so sore it took you that long to walk from the parking lot to your office. Instead, treat yourself to a workout that will make you feel amazing and cause you to keep coming back for more (yoga and Pilates are both excellent options if you aren’t sure where to start).

And look at yourself through a different perspective. Don’t hone in on what you want to change, but focus on your strengths that you want to build upon. If you need to, bust out downward-facing dog in front of a mirror and check out those guns. I can assure you they look fabulous.

Gladstone practices yoga & Pilates at Invoke, where you’ll find her working the desk on Sunday nights. She’s also a program manager at IU School of Medicine.


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Finding a new yoga home

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Kye Hawkins, a newcomer to Indianapolis, writes about her journey to find a new yoga studio and her first time at Invoke.

Blog by Kye [Yoga junkie, Indy newcomer, education reform rockstar]

I’m fairly new to yoga, and I’m even newer to Indianapolis.  I began practicing yoga almost exactly a year ago while in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The studio, Amara Yoga & Arts, was a welcoming place that I grew to love during my time in Urbana-Champaign. With their welcoming attitude and challenging classes, the instructors and yoga community at Amara fueled my obsession with yoga.

So I was a bit nervous about how my yoga practice would fare in my transition to Indianapolis.  When I moved here in October, I quickly began researching yoga studios in hopes of finding a place similar to Amara.  It didn’t take long for me to learn that things are a bit different in Indianapolis — in particular, there is an abundance of hot yoga classes.  Despite my initial discomfort with heated classes, I decided to give them a chance.

When a friend invited me to join her in taking Cheryl Milton’s Saturday Vinyasa 1.5-hour Intensive class at Invoke, I was excited (read: giddy) to try out a new studio.  It was a rainy, dreary Saturday and as I sloshed in the door, rain boots squeaking, Cheryl greeted me with a smile and a cheerful hello.  She welcomed me to Invoke, asked if it was my first time there, and handed over some forms for me to fill out.  She gave me a quick tour of the spacious studio, equipped with two yoga rooms, cubbies for coats and shoes, and (very clean!) bathrooms. I felt immediately comfortable in Invoke’s light-filled space.

The class was aptly named – quite intense indeed.  But not too intense. Honestly, it was just perfect. There were people of all ages and various levels in the room, but I’m convinced that everyone was able to find the right level of challenge throughout the flow.  It had been a long time since I had taken a 1.5-hour class, and it felt good to have plenty of time to experiment with new positions and push myself.

We began with various sun salutations, and then moved through lots of positions with long holds.  We often started with the basics, but Cheryl always offered instruction on ways to further challenge ourselves. She gave hands-on adjustments at appropriate times  (For example, I needed to get deeper in a runner’s lunge at one point and was rightfully corrected).  And we even got to do some partner handstand work, which was a fun way to engage with a yogi-neighbor. I surprisingly enjoyed the heat; it was warm, but not overwhelmingly hot.

Overall, Invoke delivered everything I hoped for and more on my first-time visit.  I left feeling even more excited to settle into my new home in Indianapolis, having found such an inspiring place to be my yoga-loving self.

Hawkins manages programs, communications and member engagement for the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a network of city-based organizations promoting innovation and reform in K-12 education.


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Loveinvoke: A forum for fitness conversations

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Blog by Francesca [New Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

When I first started taking classes at Invoke in September 2010, it was with an air of skepticism and without the intention to make yoga or Pilates a regular part of my workout routine. At the time, I was an unabashed cardio junkie. Running marathons. Cycling. Taking an intense spin on the elliptical. These were my definitions of exercise.

But then I got hooked — at first by the blissful rigor of Nicole Schoville’s Pilates classes, then by the joy of heated Vinyasa yoga. Not only did I enjoy these workouts immensely, I saw the transformative effect they were having on my other athletic pursuits, as well as my ability to handle stress and my overall life outlook.

Two and half years later, I’m fully a yoga and Pilates convert. And now I feel like there’s a huge void in my week if I don’t make it to Invoke at least a couple of times.

Perhaps some of you have similar journeys — or more interesting stories. Certainly many of you share a love for being well and staying fit and active and have incredible insights to share. This Loveinvoke blog is an outlet for all of that — a venue where those of us who love wellness can exchange ideas, inspire one another and perhaps light a spark in others to try a new fitness endeavor.

I’m excited to be taking over as Loveinvoke’s blogger in chief. You’ll find updates from me regularly, but, more importantly, I want to hear from you. If you’re interested in sharing your stories or have ideas you’d like this blog to explore, please email me at jarosz.f@gmail.com. To stay tuned into the latest on the blog, you can also follow Invoke on Twitter or Facebook. And I’ll be posting about the blog from my personal Twitter account.

Thanks for taking the time to check out Loveinvoke.com. I look forward to sharing our fitness journeys in 2013.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, run, practice yoga and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


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Blog by Francesca [Loves Yoga, Invoke Yoga & Pilates student, Communications]

I, like many people, have a tendency to speed from task to task through life – always trying to maximize efficiency so I can check everything off my to-do list. When that to-do list in complete, I think, I finally can relax.

On the Friday morning before I departed for Invoke’s yoga retreat in New Harmony, my Type A orientation felt like it was hyped up on steroids. I had experienced a week of hectic frenzy at work and an overbooked social calendar. I was leaving Indianapolis for the retreat with a few unchecked items on the to-do list, a groggy head from insufficient sleep and a painful stress knot in my shoulder that was producing a dull headache. I shouldn’t be going on this retreat, I thought. I could really use the weekend to be productive.

But shortly after I got outside the city limits, my attitude began to soften. That was helped in part by the good company of my car companion, Lisa, and the charm of the small Indiana towns we drove through on our southward journey. When we arrived in New Harmony, we found an idyllic Main Street and a friendly recovering hippie whom we asked for directions to the Barn Abbey, our home base for the weekend. Rather than point us there, he got in his beater truck with a “Buy Local” bumper sticker and drove us to our destination.

My warmth toward the experience grew that afternoon as mom, who practices yoga in Springfield, Illinois, arrived and we started the first yoga session. During that session, instructor Ahna Hoke delivered a message that felt as if it was directed right at me: Life is always stressful. There are always multiple tasks you’ll have to accomplish and a myriad of obstacles to overcome. The secret, she said, is being able to find peace in the midst of all of that – and to use that peace to propel yourself forward.

She may as well have said, “Francesca, put your to-do list on a shelf and make some time to be in the moment.” So I did.

I fully embraced that mindset for the weekend. I stayed away from my cell phone (the few Instagram photo updates aside). I had authentic and engaging conversations with brand-new acquaintances. And I took time to notice the beauty of the art, nature and people surrounding me. All of this was propelled by my yoga practice, which trained me to be in tune with the movement of my body and the activity of my mind. I also find this to be true in my regular practice, but on this retreat – surrounded by this group of kind people in a place 200 miles away from distractions – I was able to hone it more intensely.

I left New Harmony on Sunday with a tinge of sadness about parting from the special time, place and community we had formed in our few days together there. But I also felt a new sense of empowerment about the things I’d learned to embrace on the retreat – the sense of calmness and serenity I’d found was possible. My challenge, then, was to take that back to the real world and find it, as Ahna instructed, in the middle of chaos.

It is, in fact, a big challenge, but one that I progress towards conquering daily, with each unexpected life event and every work-related conundrum. My sense of urgency has not changed; I still work to be efficient and fill my days with productivity. But I do so with a new sense of appreciation and an intention to find joy – not just after the work is complete, but in the midst of it.

Jarosz is a former journalist who now leads communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit.


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A Collection of Stories and Inspirations…Written by You.

Invoke Yoga & Pilates Studio is dedicated to inspiring and contributing the community in which we work and play. This blog is a collection of stories, inspirations, thoughts and teachings written by those that love yoga. From yoga teachers to students, from newbies to seasoned veterans, there is a place for everyone in the world of yoga. This blog is dedicated to all those that love the practice.

 

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