As New Years Day draws closer, many of us start putting together our list of resolutions. For runners, the list might start with baby-steps like: warm-up before every run, sleep more and drink less coffee.

A few years ago, Mark decided he’d put yoga on his list.

­yoga-relax-366229-mThe following originally appeared in Mark’s January 2002 “On the Run” column in the Northern Virginia Daily:

I was hoping I wouldn’t get to the “Ah-ummmmmm” but I suppose it was inevitable.

There we were, sitting on the floor in a “Lotus” position, we had our legs crossed and hands, palms up, resting on our knees. This was yoga 101 and I felt slightly out of place. OK, way out of place. Runners are not yoga-types. Well, at least this runner isn’t.

I’m not sure how I ended up there. I think it was last year’s New Years’ resolution. You know, improve flexibility while spending quality time with the missus.

But after six or eight (I can’t remember) weeks (it only seemed like much more), I realized that my flexibility is never going to improve. Although I can’t say I really expect it to.

I mean I haven’t been able to touch my toes since the age of 24 (that’s months, not years). Even as a high school wrestler I never really saw any gains in my own flexibility. And wrestling is a lot like yoga in that you get tied up in knots. Only in wrestling someone else is doing to the tying.

A few years later during a college phys ed class, our teacher asked us to sit with our legs straight out, knees locked and lean forward and touch our toes. Then she added, “see how far you can reach past your toes.”

Ha! What a comedienne! My fingertips were a good six inches away from my toes, just barely making it to my ankles.

Now, with over 75,000 lifetime miles under my belt, I can barely reach my knees.

So, with a new year and all, it seemed like a good time to reverse the trend. Begrudgingly, my wife Beth agreed to join me. She didn’t know if she could handle it either. I didn’t know if she could keep quiet for two hours at a time. But we figured we’d give it a try and sacrifice a couple hours each week to work yoga into our busy schedules.

We found an interesting mix of people in our class. Of course, our teacher fit the part perfectly. She looked like someone who had spent most of her life in meditation and twisted into the shape of a pretzel. There were a couple of what I would call “lifers” who seemed also to have spent most of their lives in meditation. They too fit the stereotypes. You know, the quiet talkers who seem to be in a permanent state of relaxation. Who can wrap their legs around their neck.

There was also a the frantic mother of three, just looking for some time alone to relax. It clearly wasn’t enough, by all appearances. I think she only made it to two classes. And her cell phone interrupted at least one of those…. but most of the others were a lot like us, just curious about yoga.

In our first class, I had to come to grips with the fact that yoga is not a competitive endeavor, much to my chagrin. Then again, I’m never going to beat anybody in a toe reach. And no one likes it when their wife is better than they are in anything.

We twisted, we stretched and we practiced taking deep breaths. We stood on one foot and intertwined our arms in funny directions, all the while staring at a dot on the wall.

But the best part for me was the relaxation technique. Our instructor has us lie flat after she dimmed the lights. Soon after, Beth would give me a nudge when I started snoring. I’d always say I was only resting my eyes.

It was interesting but usually we just ended up feeling more rushed getting to class than relaxed leaving. But at least I learned a few good stretches to add to my repertoire of stretches I do badly.

Maybe, just maybe, if I practiced yoga enough, I could become more flexible. On the other hand, if I ever came home and touched my toes, my wife would probably say something like: “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”

I guess I’m destined to be inflexible forever. So this year I’ve resolved to stick to running.

– Mark

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