I need to just come out and recommend the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall.  It is a lot about running and a lot about so much more than that.  I put it on my list of recommended reading for yoga.  While running is the obvious topic, the subtle strength of the book is of yoga; connecting mind, body, spirit.  McDougall makes clear that the best runners in the world have figured out that running expands their spirit, and their expansive spirits deepen their running.  Running becomes a practice of yoga; going through the body to settle the mind, and rest in the spirit.

One small section has especially inspired my practice this week.  McDougall writes about Scott Jurek, an incredibly successful ultra runner, whose mother was very sick when he was growing up and just starting to run.  He always had her on his mind when he ran, pushing him on; dedicating the run to her.  Now a successful runner, he will win the race and then cheer on every last runner, giving each of them his full, passionate, heartfelt support and encouragement.  McDougall thinks this compassion for others is part of his secret for being such a great runner.  I love what he writes (on page 253);

“other runners try to disassociate from fatigue by blasting ipods or imagining the roar of the crowd in the stadium, but Scott had a simpler method; it’s easy to get outside yourself when you’re thinking about someone else.”

I think we all know that strong, empowering feeling when we are helping someone and really making a difference.   How can we intentionally remember that in our practice, whether it’s running, yoga, swimming, whatever?  Dedicating a practice to someone or a situation fits so sweetly with a yoga practice.  Your practice is transformed and empowered into an active prayer that you feel in your breath, your muscles, and your energy.  We are in-spiring…filling up with the spirit!

My friend Julia recently ran a half-marathon in honor of a dear friend of hers who is going through cancer treatment.  Julia not only raised much needed funds for her friend but dedicated the run and the months of training to her friend.  This is such a power-full gift of prayer, hope, and love.  Julia especially can testify to how the dedication of her run empowered her training and inspired her on race day.

We all have lots of people and situations on our prayer lists or on our minds that, speaking for myself, I usually forget.  I want to use those prayers to inspire me.  So, here is my intention: place a sticky note on my mat with a name or a word that focuses my monkey brain mind on my dedication or intention for the practice.  Maybe you might try it too.

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