Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.
Did you catch the quickie little article in the Times over the weekend about running and dissociation? As in, what do you do to still your mind and power through that last two mile stretch when you want to throw in the towel and stroll into that coffee shop for a croissant instead?
And - surprise! - the whole thing sounds suspiciously like meditation to me. Chanting mantras, stepping back and focusing on the breath, refusing to look past this step, then that step, drawing ourselves right back to this stride and this inhale and that exhale - well, my friends, that is Buddhist meditation 101. And exactly the sort of thing yoga is useful for, too. The whole forcing yourself to stay in a painful and awkward and infuriating position and keep breathing and keep your mind still when you really want to fall out and splay yourself all over the floor and scream and massage that leg cramp and hit the dumbass in the Speedo flinging sweat all over you next door. Yeah, that's yoga. Meditation. Mindfulness.
Be it in running or yoga or swimming or some other pursuit, dissociation it is. What do you do to get through, to center, to swindle yourself into finishing the race or the class or the lap? In yoga, ideally you want to have this blank slate of a mind that thoughts can kind of blow through like tumbleweeds, but when I'm struggling through a run or in a really tough pretzel and can't bear the pain, I spell: my own name, my siblings' names (middle names too, guys), the names of dudes I want to, um, "get to know," the names of pop culture icons I want to be, the names of people I went to junior high with.
Yup, pretty pathetic. But it sure as hell works. And suddenly, three names in, trikonasana is over and I can breathe again and I can finally turn and smack Speedo dude like he deserves.
"I'm Not Really Running, I'm Not Really Running..."