04/20/2013 09:13 am ET Updated Jun 20, 2013

My Downward Lifestyle Week: 5


Tight hamstrings have been a problem for me since I started running in college. I loved the endorphin rush I got from running around my hilly California campus, but my legs became less bendy with each jog I took. Just when I would think I was loosening my hamstrings up a bit, I would go for a long run and find that no amount of pushing or forcing would bring my fingertips to my toes.

Enter yoga. When I found out how much forward folding happened in class, I was thrilled. This was answer to my perpetually tight hamstrings! So at any opportunity to reach for my toes, I would go all out. My hamstrings screamed at me to stop, but I ignored them. I was in a battle with my muscles, and I was determined to win.

Guess what happened? I started hurting myself. I never tore anything, but my hamstrings got worn out and tired. When yoga started to become a horribly painful hour of my day, I decided it was time to listen.

My yoga guides had always told me not to push or force anything, but I always tuned their words out. Even worse, I had been tuning myself out. Deep down I knew the pain I was experiencing wasn't a good thing, but I was letting what I thought to be right override what I felt to be true.

Slowly, I began to accept that on some days my hands would rest on my shins instead of on the floor. What did my body really need that day? What could it handle? Whatever that was, I would listen to my body and breathe. Within a few weeks, my happy hamstrings began to open on their own. I didn't have to do anything but breathe and bend, and all it took was a little listening.

Recently, a good friend of mine has been going through a hard time. She's a first-year law student, and a series of traumatic events have left her completely unable to concentrate on her schoolwork. This friend and I have been huge support systems for each other since we were 16, and although I was physically able to be there for those tearful phone calls throughout college and our early 20s, more often than not I would let my mind drift as she vented about classes, jobs, roommates and bad boyfriends.

"Leigh, are you on Facebook?!" she would say as I guiltily closed my browser and said "No!" before doling out half-baked advice and telling her I would always be there for her.

Technically I was always there. I was a great friend on paper, and she never complained. But my recent ability to listen to my hamstrings -- and my entire body, for that matter -- have made me a much better listener. When I talk to her, I'm no longer clicking through cat memes on Buzzfeed. I'm hanging on to her every word and evaluating exactly how I can help in the best way possible.

After all, she -- and my body -- both deserve to be listened to. They've both been with me for a long time!

Until next week. Namaste!

For more by Leigh Weingus, click here.

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