Sunday, January 27, 2013

where zone 5 and yoga meet

zone 5 is where your heart is beating as quickly as you'd ever want it to, or possibly more quickly than that.  it's where you're dripping sweat and struggling to keep breathing well, searching for every possible distraction to stop you from thinking about how much you want to just stop.  you count things, you count how long you've been there or how much longer there is until it's over.  you take a drink from your water bottle, you wipe your forehead, you stretch your back.  you tell yourself you can do that again in fifteen seconds.  you tell yourself you can make it until the end of the song, or until the next chorus.  you play mind games, you convince yourself you're fine, you tell yourself anyone can do anything for two minutes, ninety seconds, one more minute.
it's a time of giving everything you think you have, a time of depletion.

and when you work in zone 5, you teach your body just how tough it is.  you learn you're capable of more than you thought.  you learn that when you work to depletion, then recover, you become stronger than you were before.

an oft-repeated tenet of a healthy yoga practice is control of your breath.  slow, measured, thoughtful, deep.  the breath is brought in, then it is fully released--pulling it from every cell of your being--before the next deep inhalation.  you completely empty out before refilling.  not exactly what takes place when you're in zone 5, though it's certainly a goal.

however, where you can find a meeting between zone 5 and yoga is in the cyclical nature of a zone 5 workout.
you work to capacity, then you recover.
you deplete, then refill.

and then there's life.  there are times when you feel you've given your all, that there's nothing left.  and then somehow--often miraculously--you are refilled and can move forward again.  as sometimes you have to reach rock bottom before you can begin your ascent, there is something magical about emptying yourself completely before beginning to breathe again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

moose and hawk

we have been hit by a snowstorm.
not just any snowstorm, but one of the largest to hit our city in years.
temperatures plummeted to single digits and below, and icy snow now coats trees, yards, cars, streets, and--sigh--yes, bike lanes.  daytime temps are hovering in the mid-teens this week, and it's hard to imagine ever riding a bike outside again.

the storm moved in last thursday afternoon, dumping snowflakes by the billions (or possibly gazillions) throughout the next day and a half.  by midday saturday the clouds parted and the sun's rays dazzled us once again.  wrapped in more layers than I could count, I drove to spin class that afternoon, my eyes drawn to the northeastern foothills which were thickly white and bisected again and again by slender tracks made by people who braved the cold to make first tracks.  I felt pangs of envy.

so on sunday I placed my snowshoes in the mini's boot and headed up the canyon to little dell reservoir, where I parked my car (no, not actually in the reservoir), strapped on my showshoes, and headed up the road toward big mountain.  I needed air.  I needed blue skies.  I needed to reconnect with the place I've spent so very many hours pedaling up and down the road, the place of solitude and peace and serenity.
it was nine degrees but I was soon sweating as I plodded up the road, smiling at the decorative patterns  miniature snowballs had left as they tumbled down the hillsides.  I passed the occasional skier, exchanging hellos and wondering if my cheeks and nose were as red as theirs.  I kept to the thicker snow at the edges of the road, crossing over from side to side to avoid trampling on ski tracks.

almost two miles up I paused to inspect a set of delicate tracks in the otherwise untouched snow to the left of the road.  rabbit, I decided, the front two larger, the rear two smaller and almost atop one another.    smiling, I lifted a foot to begin again my trek, and made eye contact with the moose standing ten yards away, munching on the tops of slender deciduous shrubs, now winter bare.  she looked at me; I looked at her.  she ate; I smiled.  she chomped and chewed, she moved to another bush, she looked at me again.  a pounding sound echoed from above on the hill---a woodpecker?  a snowshoer or skier building some kind of resting spot?---and neither the moose nor I cared.  she gave me one last look then turned away, lifting each leg high to clear the snow, lowering her head to search for the next mouthful, and I started back up the road.

not too much further I decided I'd better turn around, and as I neared the spot where we'd exchanged looks I searched for my moose.  no longer eating, she was lying on the snow in the hollow, her dark body blending with the naked scrub oak and aspen, the red twigs of dogwood, the deep brown shoots she'd been munching.  she looked out upon the road, and steadily gazed as I plowed back down the road.  fifteen minutes of steady plodding later, a hawk flew above my head, its regal wings spread wide and alternating between gentle flaps and moments of pure soaring.

I got my fix.
although I miss the cycling, I appreciate the enforced change, the message from the universe to explore the world differently for a little while.  to see things from a different---and slower---perspective, to be open to another experience.  to see rabbit tracks and dining moose and winter hawks.  to let things be dormant, to let other things hibernate, to let nature's cycles do their work.  and to know that eventually the snow will melt its way off my road and let me once again visit the world I love in the way I love to do it.