“It’s not a race”, is what Amanda, my teacher of two years said during a recent workshop. I’m not sure why the phrase stuck with me. I’ve heard it enough times before, yet I have almost always laughed it off. “That’s what you think”, has been my typical response. Becoming an endurance athlete has made me confident that I can do anything I set my mind to. And while I have accepted the idea that I will, most likely, never place first in a marathon, it is still a race. I have my own race day mantras: PR! Short steps quick steps! Stay focused! . It becomes a race against myself. A four plus hour event to prove whether the three months of long runs and early morning were worth it.
So with muscles trembling and sweat pooling down my back, hearing “It’s not a race” heading into yet another chatrunga stopped me in my tracks. Time is not a factor; in fact, my teacher makes sure no one can see the clock. “First one to 108 sun salutations wins!” is something I sure have never heard. So why do I race against myself? Why wasn’t I relishing every bit of my vinyasa knowing I could have strongly benefited from an extra breath in upward dog. As runners, we envision that finish line. But what if you took the finish line out of the picture. What if we took the time to hug a volunteer and thank them for their service? What if we just stopped to celebrate with our loved ones that came out to support us? What if we just stopped and thanked our bodies for the amazing work it can do. And this concept is certainly not just for running. In my own life and practice I find myself becoming so used to routine and repetition that it’s easy to lose touch with my own intention. Why do I have the job I have, what brings me back to the mat? These questions may not have an immediate answer, but taking time in your day, your practice, your run, to slow down may just help make that answer clear.