Elise Joan Fitness

Raise the Barre!

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Posted on 04-25-2012 by Elise Joan

5 Things I’m grateful for today: 1) my breath 2) my Black Cherry “Manduka Pro” Yoga Mat 3) my Rip Curl summer wetsuit 4) my friend Justin for detailing my pink beach cruiser 5) chocolate chip pancakes, from Blue Plate on Montana

This morning I woke up and practically BOUNDED out of bed. Now, on a normal day, I would attribute this to the very bold French Roast I typically enjoy first thing in the morning, but today, there was another reason. This morning I was headed to Venice Beach for a Yoga + Surfing workshop! Now, ordinarily I would not choose a “blissful” activity that began at the ungodly hour of 6:45am, but this endeavor seemed well worth bypassing the (very tempting) snooze button. SO… sans coffee, I rode down to the shore on my pink beach cruiser & met my friend Cristi for our sunrise yoga practice on the beach. The flow focused on heart opening & core strength. I felt invigorated by my own breath, & the haze of the rising sun as it struggled through the sticky marine layer. After almost 90 minutes of practice, and what seemed like approximately 7, 685 chaturanga pushups, I felt ready to pop up on my board and face the ocean head on. That is….. until I physically approached the ocean head on, and found the surf wild, gray, dangerous…… and actually BEATING the shore as if in retribution for some unforgiven offense. Ummmm…. This did not look at ALL like the flyer with the picture of the cute, bikini-clad cartoon surfer girl smiling and happy on her pretty pink surfboard, and drinking what I could only imagine was an organic mimosa. No…. this was more like a scene from The Perfect Storm. Only…. minus George Clooney. (Or even Mark Wahlberg). As I stood there in my wetsuit, watching my fellow yogis (all of whom suddenly seemed to be seasoned surfers) dive headfirst into the ocean, only to get immediately pummeled by bone crushing waves, I seriously contemplated bailing altogether and trading in my surfboard for chocolate chip pancakes, the New York Times, and the safety of shore.

But I didn’t. Instead, I channeled my inner yogi, and took a breath….. deep & calming….. and then dove in after my companions, who by now were out past the white water. After all, someone once said: “The brave do not live forever, but the timid do not live at all”. Was it Twain? Franklin? Maybe it was Dumbledore…. In any case, it seemed applicable. And, in this moment…. I wanted to Live! And, miraculously…. despite my limited experience and a raging tide, I did. (barely)

In the very midst of the challenge, and the fear, (and the several gallons of salt water I inhaled), I managed to completely give over to the experience. I felt a truly heart-opening life shift out there in the pacific. 2 hours of breathlessly tackling insane winds and herculean inside breakers. Paddling with everything in my being just to barely tread water. Getting pummeled... over, and over, and over again. Crushed, breathless, & beaten, I’d get right back up, and go right back out. Now, SOME might call this obstinance, but I prefer to think of it as HEART. I summoned all my strength, endurance, determination & fearlessness…. until finally... JUST when I thought I’d never get there, I pushed past the breakers to the awe inspiring tranquility of the quiet, rolling water beyond. I sat on my board and surrendered to the beauty of this stillness. A stillness I had not experienced in a VERY long while. Simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated, I smiled and cried at the awesome power of the ocean, and the astonishing majesty of life.

After a few moments reveling in this languid bliss… I found my balance, and rode the most perfect, most frightening wave all the way to the shore. And then another. And another. Each time I paddled out, I found myself tackling the breakers with more and more confidence…. in awe that surfing is such a prodigious metaphor for life: Sometimes… just when we reach our breaking point, and feel as though everything is over…… The greatest ride of our life BEGINS.

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