Daily Practice – Nia, Running and the Feldenkrais Method

Running Woman 1

I like to run. I don’t run far and I’m not terribly fast.

I don’t run to go far and I don’t run to go fast. I run because my body asks me to.

I don’t think of myself as a dedicated runner. Sometimes 6 months will go by before I run again – though regularity does help to make it fun and pleasurable.

I started running to lose weight when I was a teenager. It was awful. I hated it but I did it anyway – it worked and it was cheap.

I ran on and off like this for years. Until 2010 when my daughter joined her high school cross country team and didn’t want to run alone over the summer. She had never run distance before so she began slowly. So I ran slowly too. My years of teaching Nia reminded me to run in my body’s way; to choose the speed and distance that allowed me to breathe without gasping and not want to burn my running shoes!

In running with her, I discovered my own pace and that I didn’t have to hate running. All those years I had been running too fast.

Over the past 18 months I have allowed hip pain and distraction to keep me from running.

A few weeks ago, with happy hips, I put the distractions where they belonged and I went for a run. It wasn’t bad for a “first”. I changed my gait and how my feet hit the treadmill belt. It was as fun as running on a treadmill could be. I wasn’t stiff after, however, my left hip did have some choice words for me 12 or so hours later. For 2 days my back hurt.

Yesterday, my body was asking to run again, so onto the treadmill I hopped. Before I started I thought about what I’d felt the last time I ran and I thought about what I had learned about my movement and my body since my last Feldenkrais Method training session.

I started to run paying attention to my low back (usually the biggest complainer if my hips are quiet). I know how much tension I hold in my low back just being awake. I also know that I expect it to compensate for movement that doesn’t come freely from my thoracic spine (the part of my spine the rib cage is associated with).

I couldn’t re-create the gait I’d used before or the foot fall.

What I could do, though was open a conversation with my spine that allowed change to occur.

I could let go of the excessive habitual swivel I demand from my lower spine. I could imagine the muscles softening enough to allow my leg bones to move more freely in my hip joints. Then, an interesting thing happened:

my arms began to swing more easily – not just because I told them they should

my rib cage became light and I felt my shoulders and arms doing their “part”, rather than leaving it all up to my lumbar spine.

As though the middle of me had been liberated.

It felt lovely – almost as lovely as dancing.

When I was done, my back moved easily and 24 hours later, I’m only a little bit sore.

Awareness gives us wings.

Running Kitten 1

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