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My Love Letter to Invoke

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Blog by Annie Marshall (Author/Cook/Baker/Photographer behind Annie's Eats, Indianapolis Physician, Mom, and Yogi)

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I first came to Invoke and to my practice of yoga over five years ago when I joined the prenatal class while pregnant with my daughter. My wonderful teacher Sage helped me fall in love with yoga. Her calm words, gentle adjustments and always encouraging manner helped me feel welcome in this new-to-me space and were the perfect introduction for an uncertain beginner.

Six months after my daughter was born, my father passed away suddenly of a heart attack on Thanksgiving day. He had been my only living parent since my mom passed away when I was 10 years old. He was my rock, my sense of stability in the world, the best dad I could have ever asked for. In the months and years that have followed since that loss, my time spent on my yoga mat has been some of the best therapy in the world. It has helped and continues to help me navigate the ongoing grieving process. Bar classes with Glenna, Tess, Lindsey and Amy have also been a perfect place to enjoy a fun and challenging workout with friends and focus on something else for a little while.

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In many, many yoga classes over the years I have heard numerous teachers repeatedly remind us that our practice is just that - a practice. It is part of a larger yoga journey, and each class is just one step along the way. Over the past year, these words of wisdom have rung especially true for me as I have deepened and intensified my own personal practice. This was primarily the result of me finding the equivalent of my yoga teacher soulmate in Kara. From the very first class I took with her, I was hooked! Her style is athletic and very challenging, but in the best way. She knows exactly how to push you and encourage you and help you grow stronger. "Find your edge but don't go over it," she says often. The first class I remember laughing out loud a few times at things I thought I would never be able to do (her intense ab series, some arm balances and handstands to be specific) but now with lots more practice and hard work, those formerly laughable things have become a routine part of my practice.

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There are a couple of mantras from Kara's classes that really resonate with me. Her reminders that no feeling is final or permanent, and that we must learn to embrace discomfort because it is in that space of discomfort where growth and change can take place, have helped me immensely in my yoga practice as well as my day to day life. Additionally, they have helped me make great progress in my non-yoga workouts, running in particular. In the past, the ability to run more than a mile generally eluded me but this year, thanks to continually remembering Kara's words, I have been able to push past the discomfort and grow stronger, running farther and faster than I ever thought possible. (And, when all else fails, this little boost from Jim Carrey works wonders.) My physical and mental strength both on and off of my yoga mat have improved by leaps and bounds this year, primarily as a result of Kara's teachings. It may sound dramatic but it is true - her class has literally changed my life! If you have never taken a class with her, I urge you to try one as soon as possible! You will not be disappointed.

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Invoke as a whole has helped me navigate through big life changes, deal with devastating loss, and discover physical and mental strength I didn't know I possessed, all while providing me a community of wonderful people to practice beside. I can hardly find words to articulate the gratitude I feel at being a part of this community but maybe it is best expressed in yoga terms. At the conclusion of each practice when we are often prompted to call to mind three things we are grateful for, Invoke and its incredible teachers are nearly always part of my list. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Kara, Glenna, Cheryl, Erin, Stevie, Annie, Lindsey, Tess, Ahna, Chuck, Laura, Amy, Jillian and anyone else I have had the privilege of learning from. You have enriched my life more than you could ever know!


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Heart to the Queen

Not I, nor any one else can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself. - Whitman

Blog by Olivia Grace Wolfe [Dancer, Do-er, Traveler, Memphian]

Olivia Grace Wolfe

"Push your pennies." "Heart to the queen." "Headlights facing front." "Elbow fairies." "Don't hit the gnome."

For nine straight years, somewhere between 10 and 28 hours of my week was spent hearing (almost) nonsensical phrases such as those. My ballet teacher, Katie Smythe, CEO and Artistic Director of New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, Tennessee, was a mastermind at thinking up creative metaphors to help us connect our minds to our bodies and place our bodies in the perfect positions. An outsider would probably think that we were money-obsessed fantasy characters driving cars, instead of dancers perfecting our ballet technique. But those metaphors became an invaluable teaching tool when I became a Pilates Mat and Bar Effect™ instructor. Nothing gets to students, old or new, like great visuals. My ballet teacher also used to come around, physically moving our bodies into the right positions. Sometimes she would joke about her old teacher who had these horribly long fingernails and used to come around pinching her students glutes to make them squeeze harder. I use this touching technique (not the long fingernail technique haha) when my students become comfortable with my teaching style, and I call it the “Midas Touch” - the results are gold when the student finally accesses the right muscles in the right way! When I stopped dancing full-time and became a full-time undergrad, I decided to get Pilates certified through Invoke Studio’s Peak Pilates certification. It was a perfect fit! Funny thing - I am now even more toned, physically fit, and knowledgeable about my body than I was as a dancer. Oh, and I love my body WAY more. Now, when I take ballet classes back in Memphis, Ms. Katie always comments on my physique and my endurance, noting that I look like I never quit dancing full-time. While I now prefer Pilates and Bar Effect™ to ballet and dance classes, I would not be as strong of a student or a teacher without this background. With my understanding of proper ballet technique and alignment, as well as a large inventory of exercise options, I feel confident leading my class safely through a fun, but challenging class. This past February, I presented a conference session at Mid West Fit Fest, entitled “Pilates Barre Fusion: What is Safe and What is Harmful?” I used my knowledge of ballet technique and alignment to show other instructors how the best barre classes are taught, and how teachers should cue correctly to ensure safe alignment and the proper engagement of specific muscles. I had wonderful feedback from this session, and I love knowing that my ballet past has given me the tools to successfully and safely teach in my present and in my future. I love that Bar Effect™ gets into muscles I never even knew I had, and I love that the format allows you to hit every single part of the body so that you’re balanced. I love taking Bar Effect ™ classes just as much as I love teaching them. Most importantly, I love putting in all the determination to hold a position longer or lengthen a little further. I feel both physically and mentally stronger after class. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s why people love it. It’s a challenge and it moves you forward in life, just as ballet has moved me forward to where I am now.

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What's all this yoga jazz?

What if I fall? Oh my darling, what if you fly? - Unknown

Blog by Stevie [yogi, 4th grade teacher, downtowner, wife, yorkie lover]

“Free Yoga Class every Wednesday” was the sign on the door in the muscle making machine of a large gym corporation I frequented. I grabbed a mat and decided, what the heck. Could Madonna’s arms truly get that sculpted by just yoga? Totally worth a shot. There were floor length mirrors surrounding me, that reflecting back on my inability to make it into any pose, I couldn’t reach further than my knees in forward fold, I couldn’t quite get the difference between my right and left, I would laugh when the teacher would say something about my knee touching my nose, and my wrists hurt something awful. However, there was something about this whole yoga gig, and I found myself continuing to go back to these classes for an entire year.

With a friendly invite, I found my mat in the center of one of Invoke’s classes. What was yoga going to be like in a studio? The beats weren’t some meditation music. They were down right body moving jams. The teacher's words were soothing, the poses just flowed, and I found myself in shavasana with tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I felt relief. I was able to get out of my head for 75 minutes. I knew my moves weren’t perfect, and looking back now, I knew my alignment was something atrocious, but….I found a part of myself there.

Yoga turned into something as natural as breathing to me. I started getting cranky when I skipped a week, my muscles begged to feel THE stretch, and the tension from my workdays crept its way into my shoulders if I didn’t show up to my mat. I hung up my gym membership tag for my mat and it couldn’t have been a better choice for my personal journey.

After around 5 years of classes, I finally got to a place in my own personal practice where I felt that I needed to answer the question again of what yoga was. My physical practice had grown into something beautiful and I could find myself into the most challenging of poses, but I craved the mental part. The Invoke Teacher Training had an inviting sign on the wall.

Did I have the time? Was I ready? Could I even give yoga teacher training justice? I felt like much wiser people than I should be a yoga teacher - I wasn’t unattached from watching bad TV, vegan eating, non-label wearing, all knowing soul that I thought a yoga teacher should be. So after I talked myself totally out of the training, I put a deposit down and started the training a few weeks later.

Self trickery at it’s best.

6 months later, 200 hours wiser, I felt like I had more questions about what yoga still was. How could there still be so much more that I needed to know after 200 hours?! Perhaps I would read more books, Pin some more, take more classes….I still felt like I didn’t have all the answers I thought I needed. Until I taught my first class. 

I played the music loud, the heat was cranked, I changed my sequence to go with the beat of the music instead of what I wrote down, and I finally could tell my rights from lefts. I finished the shoulder presses and started to walk towards the front of the room, I took my seat, and looked up at the class that I had just slipped into meditation. I teared up during shavasana. I think this was God’s way of saying to me that I finally understood what yoga is.

Yoga is what you make of it.

Some people get on their mat to work out or to be fit. For some, it’s a meditation throughout the entire practice. Some want to get the poses just right, while others want to just flow. Some love the sweat pouring down them, while others like to practice in a cooler setting.

For me, it was the ability to shut my mind off for a small amount of time. Seeing every person beat to their own drum has been the most rewarding experiencing from taking the seat of teacher. One thing is for sure though - everyone looks much, much happier after shavasana. So to answer the question of "what is yoga?"...there is no right answer.

Yoga is everything, as along as you link the breathe and movement…it’s just perfect.


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The path to discovering me.

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glenda, The Wizard of Oz

Blog By Laney [student, teen, future yogi, Amy's niece]

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My name is Laney, and I am the niece of a yoga teacher ,who just so happens to own Invoke Studio.

I have grown up with yoga in my life and I have always enjoyed practicing, which is why I wanted to be able to share this with my friends. As a 7th grader, it’s hard to balance school work, playing sports while still maintaining straight A’s, and spending time with my family and friends. Yoga has always helped me to relax, and it has taught me how to connect to myself and to the world. So, when I heard that Invoke was having a workshop for teens, I decided to enroll in Discovering Me – Teen Yoga with Robbin Schneider.

During the workshop, we were asked to journal about our experience and emotions. I really enjoyed this process because it allowed me to begin my journey to discovering who I am. Your teenage years can be confusing – and there are a lot of changes going on emotionally and physically. Not to mention the pressure you have from your peers. The journal process helped me to discover who I am right now, in this phase of my life. I have continued to journal even after the workshop ended and I am excited to continue on the path to discovering me. Even though I know I will continue to evolve and grow over the years, journaling is helping me keep balance and awareness in my life. While I did enjoy the journaling process, my favorite part of the workshop was how it created the ability to connect with others and to share my life experiences with my peers. I didn’t realize how yoga was able to create connections not only with myself, but with others as well. This really helped me discover that everyone is truly unique, but that we still can connect in the same way.

After finishing the workshop, I have taken all of the things I learned and have continued to apply them to my daily life. I have changed the way I react to people and situations by simply changing my reaction from positive to negative. While I know this is difficult and that everyone struggles with it, the awareness the workshop brought to this behavior has allowed me to pay closer attention to my reactions to certain situations or challenges I face at school.

For anyone who hasn’t experience Discovering Me – Teen yoga and is facing challenges in their life, just remember to stay strong and try to find the positive in your situation. It gets better, but being positive will make it that much easier along the way.

Before this workshop, I didn’t realize the impact I could have on my peers and myself. After finishing the workshop with Robbin, I am working towards being an inspiring person to others. I know now that I can achieve my dreams, no matter what others say and I know now that I have the tools within myself to continue on my journey – whatever that may be!


Pregnancy.

How it (surprisingly) improved my yoga practice. 

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Blog by Kye [DePauw University fanatic; Northsider; Travel addict; Soon-to-be Mama]

On December 20, 2013, two days after I learned that I was pregnant, I sent a frantic email to Cheryl Milton, my yoga teacher and friend from Invoke with whom I was planning to embark on a 200-hour yoga teacher training journey in January. It said something along the lines of, “Yikes! I’m pregnant. Very excited! I don’t think I’ll have the time, money, emotional stability...and, oh yes, TIME! to focus on yoga teacher training over the next five months. I’m super disappointed, but hope you’ll understand.” I then asked her to give me a run-down of the basic “rules” of practicing yoga while pregnant (i.e. how long can I do a headstand with a baby in my belly?). I honestly thought that it was impossible (or crazy) to attempt a 5-month teacher-training program while being pregnant for the first time. I’m thankful Cheryl didn’t let me off the hook so easily. After expressing her initial excitement, she made a very compelling case for why the next few months would actually be the perfect time to dive deeper into my yoga practice. In the end, I listened to Cheryl, and she was one million percent right. While I feared that pregnancy would ruin - or at the very least impede - my yoga practice, I can honestly say that it did neither. As surprising as it may sound, I truly feel that pregnancy improved my practice. Here’s how: It slowed my body - and therefore my mind - way, way down. Before I was pregnant, I liked heated, hard, and fast classes. I was an upside-down junkie. I liked to find new ways to challenge myself and see how much I could sweat in a yoga class. For me, yoga was about pushing myself to my physical edge as much as possible. I haven’t eliminated this side of my yoga practice entirely, but pregnancy has without a doubt helped me appreciate the more subtle aspects of my practice. I’ve realized that small adjustments can lead to big improvements in a pose. I learned to be more patient with my body. I learned to think about what yoga means to me outside of the sweaty, crazy-hard stuff. I learned to appreciate the simplicity (and difficulty!) of slow-flow. I realized that your mind follows your body, and if you allow your body to slow down every once in a while, your mind will too. And that’s a beautiful thing. It taught me to say no. At the beginning of class, yoga teachers often explain that child’s pose is “always available” as a resting pose. Pre-pregnancy, did I ever willingly take child’s pose on my own, without being prompted? Absolutely not. I probably didn’t want to waste precious time in class allowing myself to take a break when I could have been pushing myself. Now, I’ll happily take child’s pose whenever I need it. Now, I can confidently say “no” to a pose, which is a big lesson to learn in meeting yourself where you are each and every time you come to your mat. It helped me appreciate my body. Though it should have been the case prior to pregnancy, I never really took the time to be grateful to my body for all of the things it allows me to do. After completing a five-month teacher training program and teaching my very first yoga classes -- all while growing a tiny human -- I’ve finally learned to pat myself on the back every once in a while and thank my body for being amazing. In my opinion, everyone should do this more often. And finally, a quick note of advice: There’s a great deal of “noise” out there about what you can and cannot (or should and should not) include in your yoga practice while you’re pregnant. I read everything from “Completely eliminate downward facing dog after 20 weeks,” to “Handstands are fine well into your third trimester.” Now that I’m just a few weeks away from delivery and have practiced regularly throughout my pregnancy, I can say with certainty that there are no hard-and-fast rules and that every yogini must determine what’s best for her own body. I chose to stop doing inversions after ~20 weeks; though it wasn’t always easy to resist headstands and handstands (I’m having a nerdy-yoga craving for Pincha Mayurasana as I’m typing this), it sure taught me a lot about yoga and myself to slow down for a few months of non-upside-down time on my mat.


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Practice.

Leaving the things you love; someday coming back.

Blog by Cole [Writer; Teacher; Downtowner; Ice cream enthusiast]

Cole Farrell

------ My name is Cole, and I am an expert in not practicing yoga.

I am not awful at practicing, but I am an outright expert in not doing it altogether. In fact, I’ve been not-doing yoga for about 6 months now, and for about 4 years before that. All told, I’ve probably not-done yoga for about 85% of my life.

Early last winter, I had established a fairly consistent yoga practice. I could feel myself getting stronger every day. Time on my mat helped me feel like I could beat back the winter blues, and I quickly became a regular. One night, late last December, I even got into crow pose and—at the risk of sounding braggy—I was able to hold it for almost one full round of breath.

Then I just stopped attending class. Fully stopped. I guess I got too busy, or it was too cold outside, or there was some other excuse I don’t quite remember. Whatever the reasoning, my fancy mat stayed rolled up and tucked in a corner of my closet for the remainder of winter. And all of spring. And the early part of summer.

Away from my mat, life kept happening, and fast. I traveled through Europe for a week with my boyfriend, and on our last night there, he proposed. Not long after our return, I changed careers. There have been other transitions, too: evolving out of certain friendships and into others, letting go of old projects, taking on new ones.

All the while, I would walk or bike past the yoga studio and think man, I should get back in there.

I’m a person who is always halfway trying to change something about my life. Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify and stop handing all the best hours of my day over to some kind of digital screen.

I think this is called mindfulness, though I never really seem to get it right. For the last week, I’ve been doing everything veeeeeeeery slooooooooowly, as if slowness and mindfulness are the same thing. Maybe right now they are. Maybe, I tell myself, slowness is what I need right now, and the pace will help me become more present.

For now I am slow, then one day I will suddenly be mindful. That’s the plan.

Last week, I finally got back in the yoga studio. I flopped my way through a Wednesday night class. Then I came back on Thursday, and flopped a little less, maybe by a fraction of a percent. My downward facing dog is still lousy, my hips are still remarkably unopenable, but I was there, trying. Practicing instead of not-practicing.

After Thursday’s class, I got a phone call from my friend in Seattle. She rarely ever spends a full day away from her yoga mat. I told her about my floppy practice and its two-day streak.

“Why do we ever quit doing the things that make us feel so much better?” I asked her. She’s great at answering big-life questions like this.

“Sometimes we just need a break,” she responded. “Don’t sweat it, it took me a full year of practice to feel good in down dog.”

A year! A full year. That seems like an impossibly long time to work for something you want, something that should be so simple.

A year is a long time to practice. It’s also a long time to not-practice. So there I was on Saturday morning, back in class for a third day, between sun salute and shavasana, present, slowly.



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Learning balance on the mat

Molly Chavers

Your practice isn't one more obligation; it's essential for sanity.

Blog by Molly  [Nonprofit ED; Pilates guru; Meridian Kessler-ite; Mama]

I like to wear lots of hats: mom, nonprofit executive director, wife, pet owner, volunteer, friend, daughter. And sometimes I get asked how I make time for one that is particularly meaningful to me -- Pilates teacher. I’ve been teaching Pilates at Invoke since 2007. In my time in the role, life has gotten more complicated (in a good way). I’ve become a mom, and three years into this incredible job, I’m still trying to figure out where the hours go in the day. My child is exploring daily with her classmates, taking dance, and singing up a storm on her karaoke machine at home. For her, the days are long and full of fun to be had.

I work full time outside of the home, too. I haven’t mastered the leave-it-at-the-office style of work. We are a small staff. Work must be completed.

So why try to squeeze one more thing in the day? For me, heading to my mat isn’t a luxury. It has become a necessity. On my best days, I can make it there. I count my lucky stars, too, because the end result is magical:

Clearer head. Sharper mind.

Taking time to make it to my mat – whether I’m at the front of the room instructing among my fellow students, or at home – helps me learn. Practicing reminds me of my strong, imperfect body. I am more aware of both the things that come easily and those poses that might need a little extra attention. A lot like real life, played out on a 24-by-72-inch space. Like so many others, I’ve struggled with the way I’ve looked over the years. Yoga and Pilates has taught me that the way I feel about myself on the outside affects all other parts of me. When I feel strong and healthy, I exude strong and healthy. When I feel crummy…well, you get the picture. We are constantly growing; each of us is striving to reach our full potential. For me, the journey begins on the mat but is often realized out in the real world. That is true in some way for everyone: making time to do things we love makes us better. We feel more balanced. We tap into our true potential. We find clarity and presence.

Life is busy for everyone. There is never really a good time to make time for us.

But making time is essential if we are to be the best version of ourselves.  

Molly Chavers teaches Pilates at Invoke Studio and is Executive Director of IndyHub, a resource and place to learn and connect for Indy’s twenty- and thirty-somethings. She lives in Meridian Kessler with her husband, daughter and cat.


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Healing full circle

Hope Neely

Yoga  helped Hope Neely make sense of life through her battle with kidney disease. Now she teaches so that others can appreciate yoga’s restorative power.

Blog by Hope  [Yogini, Eastsider, winning the battle]

I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 as a 23-year-old kidney transplant patient in a city where I didn’t know a soul. The stress associated with my illness exacerbated personal and professional challenges that made my first few years in the city seem like an uphill battle.

I couldn’t drink, which made it tough to go bars, and that made it tough to meet people. On the rare occasions I did go out, someone would inevitably ask why I wasn’t drinking. The real answer was enough to kill any festive mood: My kidney function was not great, and the thought of needing another transplant scared me.

This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about while trying to relax and meet people after work. I started to feel isolated even when I was surrounded by people.

At the same time, I was working a high-pressure job in financial services in the midst of the global economic downturn. Our clients were worried about their retirement money, their jobs, and their children finding jobs in the tough economic environment. This nervous energy stoked my own fears about my kidney function. How could I pay for a kidney transplant on my own? What if I needed dialysis treatments? What if I got too sick to work? My mind started to associate money with survival.

The constant anxiety soon started to wear on me; I needed to do something to cope. My primary doctor suggested I take a yoga class.

Though initially hesitant, I eventually took her advice and tried a class at my gym. I liked it and went back again. Soon yoga started to grow on me, and  I rarely missed the Sunday class, which left me renewed each week.

Then at 25 my big fear materialized: I needed a second kidney transplant. I undertook the procedure -- not without complications -- and though I handled each issue that arose, the experience left me jittery and fearful. It was as if my mind was now trained to worry about health problems that might arise in the future.

So I turned back to the thing that helped me in my pre-transplant struggle: yoga. I started taking yoga classes at Invoke Studio regularly. Week by week and class by class, my fears of health problems started to dissipate. The energy I used to spend worrying about future shifted back to action in the present moment.

Last year I participated in Invoke Studio’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We read about yogic philosophy, worked on breathing techniques that train the mind to focus on the present moment, and did lots and lots of yoga. It was a wonderful experience and truly solidified the role that yoga has played in my journey through kidney disease.

Most importantly, it helped me realize that my organ donors didn’t donate so that I could live in fear. They did it so that I could live life fully, and that can only happen if I start from a steady foundation.

Today I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with others. Last month I began working with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana to offer a weekly yoga class open to the public, with a special focus on those who have been affected by chronic kidney disease.

The stress of living with chronic kidney disease threw me off my foundation. I’m just grateful that yoga brought me back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hope's classes are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana’s offices at 911 E. 86th St., Suite 100. Suggested donations are $5

Neely is a regular yogini and instructor who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside with her boyfriend, Alex.

 


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A time for reinvention

imm-blake-boldon

Use the new year as a way to reach your deeper potential.

Blog by Blake [Race guru, runner, motivator, coach]

Over the next few days, many of us will go through a familiar ritual: making a list of resolutions for the upcoming year.

While it might seem cliched, it’s also exciting. Every new year offers the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

In the fitness sense, the possibilities for reinvention are endless. You can become a seasoned triathlete or a long-distance cyclist. You can evolve from a first-time yogi into a seasoned practitioner or become a certified yoga or Pilates instructor. You can hike a mountain or trail or lose that extra 15 pounds.

And you can run a race -- like a marathon, half-marathon or 5K. In my role with the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many people through this kind of new year reinvention.

For the first time last year, the Monumental offered a discount for people who signed up for the race on January 1 and 2. I remember checking a few minutes into the new year to make sure the registration process was proceeding smoothly and feeling my heart beat a little faster when I saw people signing up at midnight. It inspired me even more to watch them prepare for the race in the year that ensued.

Hundreds of participants shared about their training journeys on the Monumental’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and through their personal blogs. Our staff received emails from people participating in the race for the first time. And I had the opportunity to meet some of the thousands of finishers as they crossed the finish line.

To me running is a particularly special way to remake yourself in the new year, partly because it’s possible to achieve something remarkable in a relatively short period of time. I’ve met Monumental participants who have lumbered through their first 5K one year and a mere two years later have completed the full 26.2 miles.

Even for seasoned racers, there’s always the possibility to push yourself a little harder, to shave seconds off your time, and to experience the joy of running a race in a new way.

I’ve made it my own personal goal to finish the Boston Marathon in 2014. I’m already excited to think about the experience of participating, but I’m also invigorated by the process of self-improvement that it takes to prepare for the event.

So for anyone considering a fitness goal for 2014, make it your mission to find something that challenges and stretches you to become a better version of yourself -- and to see yourself through to completing that goal.

That’s the power of reinvention -- and the beauty of a New Year’s resolution.

Blake Boldon is the executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and a former competitive runner and collegiate running coach.  He lives in Downtown Indianapolis.  


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My journey toward self-acceptance

Glenna Nall

I used to overexercise to feel in control. Now I use exercise to tap into my deepest self.

Blog by Glenna [Invoke Pilates/yoga instructor, runner, swimmer, rockstar]

Life is a journey, not a destination.

I’ve seen and heard this phrase many times. I never really paid attention to what it means until the last three years, when a transition from a traditional career to a full-time pursuit of my passion for Pilates and yoga led to a major identity struggle at has helped me tap into my true self.

In 2010, I got married, changed my last name and left my full-time job. I was working to finish my masters degree in Public Health while starting Pilates teacher training.  I thought I had everything under control.   I never knew how much all of those changes would shake my identity to the core.

All the change at once made me feel I needed to clamp down on one thing I thought I could control: my weight. I became obsessed with my physical appearance, my weight and diet restrictions.  In preparation for our wedding, I dropped nearly 30 pounds and several dress sizes. And as I shrank in size, I began to withdraw from friends and family situations -- often cancelling plans with friends if it meant I would miss a workout or be in a situation with tempting food.  I thought of my day only in terms of when and how I was going to exercise and when and what I was going to eat.  What had been a desire to lose weight for our wedding had turned into a full-blown obsession.

After two years of this struggle, I accepted that I was losing the battle with control of my weight.  I credit regular attendance to yoga classes with initiating my desire to change.  One of the main tenants of a yogic life is ahimsa, or non-harming.  I knew that with my extreme exercise habits and bulimia, I was harming my body.

I began to research signs and symptoms of eating disorders and found myself calling a treatment center in Indianapolis.  I made an appointment with a counselor and my primary care doctor.  I decided I wanted to be happy, and my current methods were failing.  I decided to tell my family and friends about my struggle.  I remember the tearful conversation with my husband -- the first honest conversation I had with someone in months.

My journey toward self-acceptance hasn’t been easy. I am still sometimes embarrassed to see friends and relatives, especially those who have not seen me in several months or years.   I know there are some people who doubt my ability to be a good pilates or yoga teacher because I am overweight. But I know that my issues have made me a more compassionate teacher, a trait that cannot be taught. That doesn’t mean I won’t challenge my clients to push to the limit, but it means I know when to push and when to let go.

Taking away the shroud of my eating disorder has made me rethink friendships, reset priorities, and change my relationship with the external world.  There are relationships that have been strained a little because I recognize trigger behaviors in some of my close friends, who are as competitive as I am.   I also still struggle with perfectionism, a common trait among people with eating disorders.  For example, I recently came home after a yoga class that left me feeling frustrated with my inability to do a certain pose.  Intellectually I recognize that being able to get into side crow or transition from crow to headstand has absolutely no bearing on my self-worth,  but I still felt like a failure.  The difference is that now I can reflect on those feelings rather than turning to food.

As I work through challenges, breakthroughs happen. I feel like I am able to be myself around more people and am finding new friendships that honor me.  I still love to exercise, but it doesn’t control or define me.

Making exercise part of my job has allowed me to to appreciate its power for good -- rather than the control it previously exerted over my life. Through my job teaching yoga and Pilates, I help people find a deeper connection to their body and mind.  I know I make them smile.

It has been a winding path so far, and I expect things will continue to change as I continue the journey through life. Now I know I can handle those changes -- and thrive.

Glenna Nall is a yoga (RYT-200) and comprehensively certified Pilates instructor who coordinates Invoke’s Pilates program. She also coaches swimming and is an avid runner and swimmer.  She lives in Downtown Indianapolis with her husband, Alex.  

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post was originally proposed as a piece to describe how I changed careers, but  it became much more. I did not intend for this to be a story about my eating disorder, but without inclusion of that angle, this piece would have been a half truth.  If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, I encourage you to contact a professional for help.  Resources can be found at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. Locally, I recommend contacting the The Charis Center for Eating Disorders at 317.295.0608.

 


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