run for your life

andrea_running.jpg
Andrea running at Baker Beach, photo by Sasha, Olympus Epic

I was talking with friends the other day about how certain activities change your body chemistry, how you can jump in water, or simply walk along the ocean and breathe in that air and your body alters with every step. You feel different. Your head clears, your skin glows. You are quite literally a different person than when you started. Putting on the right tunes, getting in your car and screaming (as one of my friends likes to do) or going on a walk can all turn you into a different you.

On the one hand, this is all very basic and intuitive. On the other, we tend to swirl ourselves into a messy head so easily and forget that we have our bodies as our allies and collaborators in climbing out of our heady tangles.

For years I had anxiety attacks that ranged from inconvenient to totally debilitating. I wouldn’t be able to catch a full breath, and of course the harder I tried to breathe, the worse it got. I went to the doctor thinking I had asthma or some other respiratory problem. {He sent me home with no advice.} It took me years (and a xanax one day) to realize that it was anxiety.

When I moved to San Francisco I decided to try yoga, and a mere two weeks into my practice the attacks went away for good. I’ve been practicing now for almost 10 years and probably will never stop. I see it not so much as exercise, but a rearranging of my cells. Like water and food and love, my body seems to need a regular dose of this too.

My friend Sasha said all of this so beautifully, “Often we tie ourselves in knots in our minds. Though frustration comes from the head, often the best way out of it is through the body.”

I have a tendency to try and figure everything out, to try to control my life by processing it all and intellectualizing it. And sometimes that’s appropriate… but I am starting to wonder if a hot shower or a walk around the block or a hit of ocean air could often help even more.

Maybe you need to playfully tackle your dog or sing loudly in your car with the windows rolled up or lay flat on your back on the floor and shout, “I surrender!”

Maybe you just need to dance it off.

Or run until your shorts are all sweaty.

Or sing into your hairbrush for a spell.

My horoscope by Rob Brezsny recently offered up a quote from St. Augustine: “Solvitur ambulando” which is latin for “It is solved by walking.”

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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47 Comments

  1. Heather

    Incredible, I absolutly love this post. I have been thinking lately that I don’t feel right. My body and mind feel off. By the end of the day with my kids I feel rattled and the next morning I wake up feeling unhealthy and cranky. I have been thinking that I need something, running, yoga, walking, something. This post confirms that something is telling me I need to do something. Thanks, sorry for the confessional comment but this post spoke to me.

  2. jennifer

    this was so helpful. i suffer from anxiety attacks and often feel at odds with my body. as if my mind wants one thing and body another. i’ve taken up pottery and find that when i’m at the wheel, i’m so focused on the clay and the moisture and getting it just so, that the anxiety seems to melt away. i need more of that in my life. thanks for this great post.

  3. Meg

    “Though frustration comes from the head, often the best way out of it is through the body.”
    Oh thank you, thank you for this quote. So succinct and so right on.
    From someone who *right now*, *at this very moment* is twisted in a knot not yet seen in any sailing manual.

  4. Lori

    thanks andrea, it’s exactly what I needed today.

  5. Bohemiangirl

    …perhaps that is why we feel so connected to mother~nature. she is so nurturing and knows how to create poetry out of our messy parts. thank you for being you…so aware.

  6. A

    Oh thank you so, so much for this post. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear more than you could ever know. Thank you Andrea!

  7. amandarin

    The best part about “solvitur ambulando” is that it was St. Augustine’s response to the Stadium Paradox – a problem that had been plaguing philosophers and mathematicians alike since Zeno proposed it in the 5th century BC.
    St. Augustine stopped trying to find the intellectual solution and found the most obvious one: The only way for a man to cross a stadium is to walk!
    Thank you for continuing to be a source of inspiration, Andrea. 🙂

  8. Steph

    My anxiety clears away as soon as I catch sight of Point Reyes after that last curve on Sir Francis Drake. I take a deep breath, then clarity and knowledge come back to me, and I live every minute. Back in SF, my body tightens up again. I should give Yoga another try 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. liz elayne

    Andrea – your honesty invites growth in all of us. Yoga as the rearranging of the cells – love this image. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Michelle Ensminger

    Great, great quote. I’ve been trying to learn to listen to my body, to let it teach me and lead me. I’m welcoming its wisdom and it often knows just what I need. Cute pic of you…

  11. kat

    this post rocked my socks off. thank you.

  12. samantha

    i like that. it’s makes sense that sometimes, with all of the confusion going on in our heads, that the best form of meditation is physical meditation. focusing on the physical to relieve the symptoms of the mind. i felt the same way when i was taking yoga, and i feel it in a different way when i work out at curves, and in a different way when i dance around in my bathroom naked. (*very different!) haha! but really, it’s like you need the body to ground the mind. walk barefoot for a while and see if you don’t feel better. i love the post, it makes it more about life than about the stuff we confuse life with.
    kudos to you!

  13. tali

    I often come here, read an entry you’ve written, and just think, “Wow…that makes so much sense…so insightful.” You really help me think…thank you for that.

  14. penelope

    I really needed to hear that. Thanks, Andrea!
    I’ve just started yoga and find it difficult…but rewarding. 🙂

  15. jules

    hello! interesting idea, but what if your body is the main thing causing your anxiety? how do you escape a damaged body? i do agree with the “messy head” statement. thanks for the food for thought.

  16. kristen

    so true andrea! it is amazing how so many sights, smells, postures can transport and alter us.
    (side note)I used to do yoga to sarah brightman’s la luna cd all the time, and now no matter where i am if i hear that cd now, i breath deeper and sit up straighter.
    (side note 2)living so far from the ocean, i can’t imagine everyday not feeling in perfect peace if i was able to walk along it everyday!! you are very lucky!

  17. jackie

    Wow, it’s funny how people seem to stumble across similar ideas at the same time. Just last night I was walking somewhere to meet a friend, and the air was crisp and cool, and there was the perfect song in my IPOD and I just started singing. Singing and walking. I felt fantastic. I was in such a good mood when I reached my friend. I didn’t even care who heard me singing and thought I was crazy. But I realized how much walking with my IPOD relaxed me and made me feel so much better about life in general. Maybe walking won’t do it for everyone, we are all different. But I’m sure there is SOMETHING out there for everyone.

  18. espana

    I was going to drive to work today. After reading this, I hopped on my yellow bike and pedaled there instead. Thank you 🙂 .

  19. Kelsie

    Thank you! I needed this today!

  20. Leonie

    Abso-freaking-lutely.
    Because I like making lists:
    1.) You look RADIANT in that picture.
    And your bright skirt/rolled jeans combo is amazingly groovylicious.
    2.) I began bellydancing last week. I see how my body opens and responds and becomes enlivened. My new motto is: “Get out. Then go in”
    {http://www.leonielife.com/journal/2005/09/n-r-g.html}
    deep blessings to ya!
    leonie

  21. Kate

    Oh, Andrea, I’ve missed you! I’ve been away from my computer and out n’ about in nyc, trying to take it all in and realize that I have got myself where I wanted to be. I fulfilled my summer!
    Something struck me today. I couldn’t catch a breath and I’ve found that, even tho I am enjoying my new life here, I can’t catch a breath. I often wondered if maybe my bra is too tight or my backpack too heavy. But I think you are right – it is anxiety. I think I am anxious about not living everything I can. Maybe I am shoving myself too hard into this new life and not giving myself time (it could also be those 70 papers I have to grade ASAP – for students who believe that they ALL deserve an A). I need to start up my yoga practice again (I realized that that is the one thing I truly miss about Austin – my YogaYoga center).
    Thank you (so many times over) for your words – they almost always result in a realization for me. Like a “oh, duh, Kate.”

  22. Tracy

    Love love love this photo – it just inspires me. To do what, I’m unclear. I do know that it has stirred something up! I am a big energy person, always absorbing when in need of inspiration or a lift, or spreading it around when I’ve got some to offer…a never ending exchange…and this photo had something I needed. So again Andrea, thanks…You really are making a lovely difference in the world!

  23. Leslie

    Sometimes I just need to see/hear/read something beautiful. The mountains, art, a live performance, or a poem. I am amazed at how it affects me.

  24. jack

    thanks for inspiring me to want to get out more, with or without my camera. brisk walks around the golf course near my house always help, even when there’s nothing to solve. from now on i will have rosey cheeks more often. 🙂

  25. Julia

    AMEN SISTER!!! I myself, find that playing a little “air guitar” along to classic rocks tunes, or taking an early AM run and breathing deeply, does more for me that any therapist’s couch or magic pill ever could. There’s just something about letting it all go and being silly, or pushing my physical body to it’s limits that clears the mind and refreshes the soul like nothing else. I absolutely adored this post today. You so rock! 🙂

  26. G-Man

    Wow wow wow. Great post. I need to do the same thing..for me, i always say its time to decompress…as if i just need to air out my cells and soul. Beautiful picture too..you look absoloutely stunning in that pict! Good to see a bloggers pict actually in their blog!

  27. beckka

    Wow, you sound kind of like me in this post. I definitely try to fix everything in my head rather than being a part of what I’m actually trying to get done.
    I’ve been battling anxiety attacks for a few years now (I guess I always had anxiety, the attacks just got more pronounced) and a few months ago I started going for long walks. I’d take an hour. And then I started running. That and an effort towards better nutrition have really helped with my anxiety and I haven’t had a prolonged bout of depression since, either. It helps me solve the things in my head that I can fix, feel capable of doing the things I want to, and let go of the things that aren’t going to be solved in my head.
    Anyways, you’re so right. We all need some healthy activity. How can our brains make the right chemicals if we aren’t feeding them the the right ingredients?

  28. LB

    Isn’t it empowering to think that calming down and settling in could be as simple as a shower or a scream? The power is in us, perhaps, but we have to be silent enough to activate it, to trigger it.
    Thanks for another thought-provoking post, as always.

  29. jus

    I give great advice just like this to my friends, but it seems like I never follow it myself.
    I think I tend to put too much pressure on myself to “relax” and though I am pretty random, I try to make it a perfect situation. Thanks for making a girl feel less alone…
    byebye

  30. Katherine

    Beautiful.
    That is exactly how I survive college – long walks in the city, photo adventures, exploring places I’ve never been, laying on my back in the wet grass in the middle of the quad.
    Attitude is so much and it’s incredible how if we just allow our environment to take care of us, it can.

  31. m

    ok i now feel guilty about not signing up for a yoga class (I decided going out 4 nights a week too much!)
    I find walking at my local beach centres me, calms me and connects me.

  32. katherine

    oh yes . . . long walks when it’s raining and the only ones out are you and the birds and squirrels and snakes and deer . . . and yoga, oh thank goddess for the yoga . . . I was just talking the other night to my yoga teacher about how I arrive to class feeling fractured and leaving literally feeling whole, put back together, healed . . . lovely . . . 🙂

  33. Carrie

    When I first started reading your post (before I got to the part about you practicing yoga), I thought, “Yoga is that thing for me. The thing that transforms me.” And I love that shot of you running on the beach! 🙂

  34. Pamela

    As you can see by the resounding response, you have reached so many of us with your uninhibited smile and transcendent energy!
    I’ve been “stuck” for the last few days, feelng agoraphobic and out of tune with my body. It’s been weeks since I’ve practiced yoga, and Portland has begun its decent into gothic late-fall days. Is that any excuse not to grab my two dogs and enjoy nature with them? Is that some reason not to stop web-surfing and pop in a yoga video?
    I love the poster who said get up and get out, and once your out, go in! I’m going to do it!

  35. Genevieve

    Andrea, that is a beautiful picture and if i close my eyes, i can picture myself in that moment- the girl at the far end of the beach with a book in her lap, her eyes drinking in the sunset and her body aching for a swim in the cool water; her heart wide open to changes and possibilities and love. What a joy it is for me to be ble to come to your site and be completely taken by a moment that has not happened. Yet.

  36. kristen

    love this pic of you. so glad you’re free from anxiety!

  37. Vivienne

    You just made me want to do yoga, now! Thanks for the inspiration. You are amazing! I love that pic of you!

  38. mademoiselle a.

    That’s nice — the Bronte sisters had this habit of walking around the salon table when they were thinking up chapters of their works.

  39. sheila

    my friend recently told me about your journal. i just emailed her the other day saying, “i think superhero is saving my life right now.” i just moved from az to so. cal for grad school and the change is surprisingly difficult for me. but just reading your words makes me calm and hopeful.

  40. jenn

    Andrea,
    I love this photo. You look so happy and free. It’s great.
    Tonight I am going to dance my ass off, no matter what I think anyone is thinking of me. I’ll think of you while I’m doing it.
    Jenn

  41. wendy

    hi andrea. i just wanted to say that i think so many of suffer anxiety attacks from time to time, but none of us speak of it. so glad you did. i get them sometimes, but not where i can’t breathe…it’s more like all of a sudden i become afraid that i might flip out. of course i never do. it’s sort of like i become hyper aware. do you know what i mean? thanks for being so real, andrea!

  42. andrea lewis

    disco dancing is my yoga. school dominates my life to the point of neglecting the dancefloor.
    going out this past week, painting the dance floor awakened my spirit.
    i know who i am in the midst of that activity (and others like walking). the next day at school was so new and full of wonder.
    someday i shall audition yoga.
    have a beautiful.

  43. sarah

    you have such a beeeeuuuuteeeful smile!!!!

  44. victoria winters

    I’ve only done Yoga once and though it hurt my back and made my feet numb (clearly I didn’t know what I was doing), I can home earily relaxed and chilled. It’s as if anything could have happened and I would have just laughed it off. I really should try it again – I love the “child” position. I used to sleep like that when I was a “child.” 🙂

  45. Birdie

    May I ask who your Yoga instructor is? I know SF is full of yoga studios, but I have a friend who has been teaching for 10 years or so, and what a small world it would be if there was a connection.

  46. Silvia:)

    Wow! I am so very glad that I was directed to your post. I have been feeling quite low lately, thinking too much about all kinds of things, worrying myself sick, and I believe, driving my husband insane because of my inecurities. I beleive I have not allowed myself the time or opportunity to surrender…Thank you for sharing your insights. I will try to let myself surrender to life and not analixe things too much.

  47. Silvia:)

    Wow! I am so very glad that I was directed to your post. I have been feeling quite low lately, thinking too much about all kinds of things, worrying myself sick, and I believe, driving my husband insane because of my inecurities. I beleive I have not allowed myself the time or opportunity to surrender…Thank you for sharing your insights. I will try to let myself surrender to life and not analize things too much.

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