“Why are you here today?  Why do you keep coming back?”  Jake.

A couple of weekends ago, I went on a 3 day yoga/meditation retreat with my favorite instructor Jake.  It took some work/family coordination to get away, but I’ve been wanting to go on one of Jake’s retreats for over a year, and so this time when the opportunity came up, I decided to make it happen.  I generally only do yoga about once or twice a week, and I only meditate while on the run, so spending a few days with multiple yoga/meditation sessions per day was definitely a new experience for my body and a marathon for my mind.

The weekend was filled with inspiring moments and quotes…poses and workshops that pushed my body physically, words that made me think differently.  My friend of 30 years Christine flew down to join me, and one of the best quotes came from her.  When we went around in a circle revealing our manifestations for the weekend, she said that recently when she is faced with fear in trying a new activity, she looks at “fear as curiosity” and explores it rather than shy away from it….fear as curiosity….that will be engraved in my memory.

The last day of the retreat was on a Sunday, and my body was incredibly sore by then….I can’t remember the last time that my glutes and hamstrings were on fire like that.  When in LA, I usually go to Jake’s yoga class on Mondays….Mondays are my day off from work to run my errands.  By mid-Saturday, I was already thinking that I will probably skip my usual Monday yoga, and by Sunday, I said that I am definitely skipping it….I’d chaturanga-ed enough to last me a few weeks.

Then Monday rolled around and I was back in LA, and I found myself scrambling and rushing through my morning errands to get to Jake’s class.  I went in and rolled out my mat.  Jake walked into class and had us sit in Sukhasana pose to start and asked “Why are you here today?  Why do you keep coming back?”

He wasn’t directing the question to me….he was directing it to the whole class….he’d had that opener planned from before, yet it felt like I was there that day to hear that question.  Jake continued, “Yes you are all here because physically you feel better after yoga class, but there must be more to it than the physical benefits if you keep coming back.”

You may recall from another early post I wrote that I run in the Nike Free barefoot run shoe.  I have tried many other shoes including Asics, Saucony, New Balance, Brooks…and I keep coming back to the Nike Free.  People who run with me, be it friends or acquaintances in running groups, are always surprised by my choice of shoe.  They tell me that they can’t run in a barefoot shoe…that they need the cushion and support or they’ll have pain.  When I get gait analyzed and fitted at a running store, which I have done multiple times now, I’m always told that I shouldn’t run in a barefoot shoe….I’m sold one of these other cushioned arch support shoes, and every time they don’t work out.  Every other shoe causes pain, the Nike Free does not, and so I go back to it.

After the last time when I spent $180 on a suggested shoe that I wasn’t able to run in without pain, I finally figured it out.  When I run in those other cushioned shoes, I don’t feel as stable…almost as if I’m in a heel.  That feeling of instability makes me run and place my feet differently, with hesitancy…and that ends up causing pain.  When I run in the barefoot shoe, I feel the ground beneath my feet.  Feeling the ground gives me the type of support I need….that gives me a sense of stability…to run free.  At a time in my life when it feels like I am flying, I need to feel the ground beneath me.

That’s why after 3 days of more yoga than I would normally do in over 6 weeks time, I was back in Jake’s class on Monday.  Whether I am sitting in Sukhasana or standing in Mountain pose….laying in Savasana in his class or kneeling in child’s pose with my forehead on the ground…. with my eyes closed and hearing his words….I feel the ground beneath me. I gain perspective.  I leave ready to face the week. Something about his words makes me feel connected…his class literally and figuratively grounds me….so that I can leave and run free.

A couple of months ago, I read a post by Kristin Armstrong on keeping one foot on solid ground when trying to help others, and she said that running is what helps her keep her foot on the ground.  I had forgotten about that post, and while I was running with Jake’s question last week, I remembered her words.

I’ve been thinking about Jake’s question for a week now.  I’ve decided to take it and ask it about everything else that I repeatedly go back to….to make sure that I am going back only to things that in some way serve me….not to go back just because of habit.

And so I ask you the reader, why are you here reading my posts week after week?  If you are reading just because you are my friend and not because you gain anything from the content, I release you of any sense of obligation you may have to read.  Spend that time on something that serves you.  In this crazy world, whether through our personal tragedies or the ones just this last week in Beirut, Paris, and Baghdad, we are constantly reminded that there is not enough time to spend even 3 minutes on something that doesn’t in some way benefit us.  This Monday in Jake’s class, he played the song by Trevor Hall with the lyrics “you can’t rush your healing, darkness has its teachings” while I was planting my feet in bridge pose with tears filling my eyes as a negative experience earlier that day took me back to a dark time….

I don’t expect all of my friends to be interested in what I am interested in….how boring would it be if I had such a non-diverse group of friends.  If you are coming back each week because something in my journey connects with you, whether or not your journey involves running, then I’ll meet you here next week….on the mat.

**To my husband, mom, and dad:  you three are not released….you are obligated to continue reading every week.  The post by Kristin Armstrong on keeping one foot on solid ground can be read here:  Mile Markers:  One Foot.  If you are new to the blog and you don’t know about the amazing Jake Ferree, then start with my first post about him here:  Come Undone and if in LA, check out his website here:  JakeYoga.  If you haven’t read my post on how trying out a new running shoe is like breaking up with a boyfriend, you can read that here:  Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.


The dome in which we practiced on our retreat weekend in Palm Desert


My friend Christine and I snuck into the dome and had some fun in between classes…she is the one who is doing every pose much better than I am…..


Take a few minutes this week to re-ground yourself….my heart aches for everyone affected by these tragedies….which is really every single one of us.


About Paria

Runner, mother, pediatrician, blogger

12 comments on “Ground

  1. Sounds like a wonderful weekend. I’ve never gone on a yoga retreat.

    Like you, I meditate on the road. I don’t know that I could just meditate–my mind tends to wander. I think that meditation is a skill, and since I am always multi-tasking, thinking about the next things I have to do, I don’t know that I can shut it off.

    Why am I here? Because I love your beautiful prose and the way you make me think about things.

  2. Another beautiful piece, Paria – thank you. I struggle with yoga and this post reminds me that struggling is often part of the process. I love the “fear as curiosity” sentiment.

  3. Nice try, trying to get rid of me! No way sister. I keep coming back because I get something from your words, your experiences and from YOU. I’m sorry but, you’re stuck with me 🙂
    It is an excellent question posed by Jake. It’s one I will be asking myself not just with exercise (running, biking, swimming, etc.) but people and other tasks. See? You’ve done it again.

  4. This reminds me of something I wrote in Hindi in Aug on my Facebook page: “”sir chaahe aasmaan ki or badhe, pair hamesha zameen per hone chaahiye”, which means (sort-of) “Even though/if the head grows towards the sky, the feet should always be firmly planted on the ground” 🙂
    I relate to all your blog articles! My coach often asks me…why do you run? I look for the answer often. Believe me, I get different answers on different days!
    I too practice yoga twice a week at home. Am planning to meet a yoga teacher soon for corrections!
    Keep writing; will keep coming back!

  5. You’re quoting ME?? On that note, I’ll see you next week… and for however long you continue to blog. I guess you can say I’m a fangirl 🙂

    Here’s why I keep coming back – although there’s always a running analogy, metaphor, theme, the under-current I get is life lessons. I could always use more of those as a student in life. There are nuggets of wisdom or validation that speak to me every week. Also, your journey this year for your first full marathon is similar to mine in getting certified to teach yoga. Maybe because some of these posts are inspired by Jake? Now that I’ve met Jake in person, I see the warmth and attraction and why you stalk him.

    Thank you for a beautiful weekend together. Let’s do it again!

    • If the under-current is life lessons, then that is a huge compliment….but I do know that you are biased. Happy that you got to meet Jake, and that we got to spend much needed time together…maybe we can try to make this a yearly thing….or at least every other year.

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