Home is not a place. It’s a feeling. It’s greeting the morning by lacing my out-worn running shoes and gliding out the door in a half-sleep daze. It’s the rhythmic motion of my feet as they lightly pound upon the pavement. It’s the sweet simplicity of subconscious action, prancing one foot in front of the other. It’s the deepening of my inhalations and exhalations of fresh oxygen life force as my breathing forms a comfortable cadence. It’s the light perspiration that layers my skin after my sheath of bedsheet has been removed. It’s the firm foundation upon which each day lies. If I am challenged by monsoons, cranky tourist customers, and cheating taxi drivers during my waking hours, I do not worry. I have already accomplished the obstacle of rising from the comfort of my sleep and out to the streets. If I do nothing else of value throughout the day, I have at least had my morning run.
Yet in Myanmar, my sense of home was shaken. The unfamiliarity of my surroundings in this foreign land did not phase me – that constant undeniable feast of vivid sensations shining bright into my infant eyes. However, the loss of my short but sacred morning running routine slightly shattered my sanity. With a fractured rib, I knew best to baby my body. Running is a selfish act anyways, I thought upon my arrival. If I’m only running for the thrill of it rather than training, I should instead spend my mornings sequencing for yoga. I did not realize the fallacy of my thought process until I rose pain free one morning and spontaneously ran for joy down my six flights of stairs and onto the overcrowded streets.
I immediately felt the hot stares upon my being, a funny-looking snow-skinned blonde girl with a face of elation, prancing about the streets of busy Burmese locals. I felt the jagged sidewalk cracks, the swimming pool humidity in the air, the car exhaust in my eyes, the rainy season sun that momentarily shone hot and full, the confused gaze of sleeping dogs that lifted as I trotted by, but I did not feel the twinge of my rib. I heard the cajoles of taunting teens shouting “Hey you!” (a local pun – ‘you’ means crazy in Burmese), the pleading honks of taxis tempting me for a ride, the “Mango?!” cries of street vendors teasing me for a taste, but I did not hear the scream of pressure from my ribs. No matter my foreign picture unperfect image, or my cautious snail pace in the sweltering sun. No matter the sorry side stitch that laced itself into my pathetic two-mile run or the humorous reminder that I had once flown through 26 with ease. No matter the fact that I aimlessly lost my ultimate running route destination, stumbling upon locked gates instead of a postcard lake. I ran, floating on glee through each Bambi step of the imperfect journey.
Two miles down, I danced up my six flights of stairs. Swimming pool skin and all, I jumped onto my yoga mat and lay cradling my ribs with the glory of their precious non-feeling. As unimpressive as my personal victory may have been perceived to outside eyes, this run was my shining glory, my pent-up physical release, my bridge to consistency. Running is the stability that has the true intimacy of its daily presence throughout the most formative years of my life. It was both an ignitor and a healer of my greatest challenges with perfection, with anxiety, with body image, with energy balance. It is the glue of my family legacy that threads us together through common experience. It is my natural addiction, my rock of endorphins fix. It is the ideal complement to my focused yoga practice and teaching. It is an unparalleled selfless act that enables me to put for the best version of myself in this world. That day, my mundane act would become the secret smile that bubbled to my upturned lips. It was the reassurance that within this strange, beautiful land where everything is unfamiliar and at times incomprehensible, I was forever home.