Fitness, Personal

What Balpreet Kaur Taught Me About My “Bum” Knee

I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, commonly known as runner’s knee.

It began, of course, with running.  Last fall, I took a 10-week running class with Jack Rabbit Sports which met twice a week in Central Park. The instructor’s goal was to get us all running a 5k comfortably by the end of the term.  I had run before– back in my gym-rat law school student days, I ran three to four miles, at least three times a week.  But after law school, I stopped running and gained weight, lots of it. At least 18 pounds.  With the extra weight, my 10-minute-mile became 13 minutes of torture. I signed up for the running class hoping that I would just be able to run again; my pace was irrelevant.  And by the last class in December, I could run, comfortably, for three miles.

I ran a 4-mile race in February after a month-long break from running.  Not too long after that, my right knee began to feel…funny.

I noticed it first one night in a hot Vinyasa class. We were in pigeon.  I couldn’t feel my toes.  My knee was tight, uncomfortable. Something wasn’t right.

It didn’t necessarily hurt, however, so I ignored it.  I signed up for a 10k and began my training. I joined Black Girls Run! and ran  3.2 miles around the Central Park Reservoir once a week.  I ran with women who were much faster than I was, and so I pushed myself, sometimes running an 11 minute mile that left me gasping for air.

After weeks of those runs, I could no longer ignore what had become straight up pain.  I felt it walking up and down the stairs at work. My knee buckled when I got out of bed first thing in the morning. It throbbed after vigorous Vinyasa classes. It was visibly swollen, and warm to the touch. Some days I had difficulty walking.  I felt like a prisoner, like my body was falling apart.

My sister dragged me to Downstate, where I saw a great sports medicine physician.  He asked me a ton of questions, tested my physical strength and flexibility, took X-rays, then diagnosed me with patellofemoral pain syndrome.  No more running, he said.  Try the elliptical. Or swimming.  And physical therapy three times a week for twelve weeks. Come back and see me in seven.  But remember: nothing high-impact.  I asked him about my 10k, and I think he saw the look on my face. It’ll hurt, he said. A lot. But it’s up to you.

I was upset. The day of the 10k that I was supposed to run, I slept until noon, which is unusual for me.  I moped and cried for days.  Why me? I thought.  I was just trying to take care of myself. I’m overweight, I know this.  It was serious cardio, kept those winter pounds away.  I hate the elliptical.  Swimming is not practical. Guess I’m just supposed to be fat then.

I blamed the PFPS on myself.  I had allowed myself get fat.  Then I ran like this frame is supposed to carry 140+ pounds.  I’m knock-kneed. Flat-footed.  This body was not made for athleticism, obviously. Why even bother?

I finally got around to physical therapy after sulking for a while.   My therapist asked me if I was new to running. I told him no, not really.  I explained that I’d run quite a bit for years, but stopped running regularly until last year. He asked if I had experienced any pain in the past.  The answer was no.  He asked if I’d gained weight since then. I told him I was 20 lbs heavier now.  He nodded.  I wanted to cry. I was right.  My knee hurt due to the extra weight. It was my fault, just as I’d suspected.

After one PT appointment, I came home and loafed, feeling powerless and annoyed my body and its failings.  Then I happened upon  this article on Jezebel. And Ms. Kaur’s words stirred something in me:

“However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us.”

This body is a gift.

This body is a gift.

This is an idea that I’d previously discussed with one of my favorite yoginis on Twitter, Jessica Lesley.  Her “come to yoga” moment stemmed from, among other things, a childhood plagued by severe asthma.  After years of being unable to keep up physically with her peers, she pushed herself as an adult,  ultimately suffering anxiety attacks. Those anxiety attacks lead her to her first yoga class.  She said, “…I now see movement and exercise as a privilege – not a chore, not something to do just so I can look good in a bikini.”

To have this body, and to be able to move it– no matter how painful those movements may be– is a privilege.  My knee hurts sometimes. Like now. On a Friday night, when I want to be out celebrating my friend’s birthday.  Instead I’m at home writing this post, with  my laptop on my thighs and a bag of frozen mango on my knee.  Instead of berating myself for  my body’s shortcomings, I should marvel at its ability to heal.  My body allows me to move freely every day.  I can’t run, for now, but I can do what I need to do to take care of myself.

I now see my negative self-talk for what it was– disrespectful to me, and to my Creator.

There is nothing wrong with my knee. There is nothing wrong with me.

Thank you, Balpreet.

Personal, Yoga

Autumnal Equinox

Yesterday was the official first day of Autumn.

I wish I could say I was happy about that, but I’m not. I’m a fall baby, born right smack in the middle of November, but I hate the cold weather that fall ushers in.  Early autumn days are lovely.  Today it’s just under 70 degrees, crisp and sunny. Perfect running weather, if my knee would allow me to run without crippling pain.  I love wearing boots and scarves and chunky sweaters almost as much as I love July’s sundresses and maxi skirts. If the temperatures could stay above 60, I think I’d cherish this time of year. But I don’t, because it gets progressively colder and colder, giving away to winter’s frigid temperatures that leave me feeling dead inside.

I’m trying to enjoy this season for now. It just began, after all. And I must say, some part of me still feels like a student, excited for the start of the new school year.

In reality, I am a new student, albeit not a traditional one. Yesterday was also the first day of my yoga teacher training. Come March 2013, I will be certified by the Yoga Alliance as a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher.  How cool is that?  I was e-mailing with my yoga buddy earlier and she said, ” One day you will have people saying, have you taken Keisha’s class?  She is so good!”  It’s so weird to think of that day, but it puts a smile on my face.

One day, I will be able to say I’m working, and I’m doing something that I love.

I smiled a lot yesterday. I felt like I had finally turned the page, like I was starting a brand new chapter in my life. And I am. I don’t have to be who I was on Thursday (which just happened to be one of the the worst days at my current job, ever).  I don’t even have to be who I was yesterday morning.

Today I am a yoga teacher trainee. I’m learning and growing.

Beginning anew.


Weekly Goals

Goals for this week:

  • practice 4 times (three classes + one at-home practice).
  • GO TO THE GYM! (I went on Tuesday and did an hour of cardio before heading to my regular hot Vinyasa flow class.)
  • Wake up at least once this week and workout before work. (As Jay-Z said, “Not for nothing, never happen…” I get up at 6:20 am every morning and if my alarm goes of before that, I laugh at it and roll over.)
  • Take the stairs up to the 7th floor every day. (I did this for four days straight, then on Thursday my body was weary.)
  • Increase water intake. I currently drink a half gallon of water every day.  I’m starting to feel like that’s not enough.  For this week, I’ll just add another 4 cups of water.  (this wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve found that it’s really easy for me to drink the 8 cups before 3 pm.  Since I’m usually awake for another 8 hours,  I definitely require more water after I leave work, especially if I work out or go to yoga.
  • Finish first assignment for YTT. (Procrastinated out of nervousness.)
  • Buy 2 new yoga towels and yoga pants.
  • Ask 3 people to write letters of recommendation. (Re-thinking applying to graduate school this year.)
  • Practice some of the exercises in “Ask and It is Given.” (I practiced the Wallet Exercise.  It’s interesting. I’m going to keep doing it.)
  • Put away summer clothes and shoes. (Doing that this Friday.)
  • Finally, finally, FINALLY finish reading “Wishcraft.” (No excuse.)
  • Do just one exercise from A Writer’s Workbook. (No excuse for this either.)
  • Get a library card. (Definitely just didn’t have time.)
  • Sign up for Mint.  (scary, scary, scary. I was in a state last night. I knew that I wasn’t bringing in as much money because I joined the pension at my job. I didn’t realize it would have such a huge effect. I’m gonna have to do some serious scrimping and saving to get back to a comfortable financial position.)

Notes on Nesting

I have this habit of buying things for my home.  Over the last year, I’ve bought: an antique vanity mirror (it was only $10 from One Kings Lane); a turquoise elephant statue and a sunburst mirror from Joss & Main; beautiful glass and clay coasters, a bottle opener shaped like a skeleton key, and a zinc letter “K”  from Anthropologie; several vases and a Thai mango wood statue of a man playing a flute from the Foundary; and a recycled glass mannequin head from Pier 1.

This list does not include the items I’ve purchased for myself while abroad.  In the Dominican Republic, I bought a carved wood tea kettle with the matching tray and tea cups from an old Haitian woman in Higuey.  Last summer when I went to Italy, I bought a pink, blue, and gold baroque tray and chunks of pyrite and amethyst in San Gimignano, and a lace peacock in a pretty gilt frame from Burano.  In Franschhoek, South Africa this past March, I purchased a 4-foot-long carved wooden crocodile.  It took three months to arrive, but it was so worth the wait.

My lace peacock inspired me to collect prints of peacocks for a gallery wall in my bedroom. I have about eight prints now, most of which I purchased from or Etsy.  I’ve got watercolors and block prints, pencil drawings and oil paintings. I plan to buy mismatched frames for them and hang them all together above my bed.

Most recently, I’ve purchased this cute copper piggy bank

and these colorful Moroccan tea glasses


from Open Sky.  The tea glasses will look beautiful on my grandmother’s old-school bar cart.

Oh, and I can’t forget this set of rhinoceros bookends from Urban Outfitters:

I’ve noticed that these purchases tend to happen in spurts.  I’ll go a really long time without buying anything for my house at all. Then one week, something happens and I’ll buy seven items in one day.  I mentioned this to my therapist– I will call her Dubs here– and she said, “You’re nesting.”

Prior to this, I’d only heard the term “nesting” used to refer to pregnant women on cleaning and organizing frenzies in the weeks before their babies arrive.    When I told Dubs this, she replied, “They’re preparing their homes for the arrival of their children. You’re preparing your home for your arrival.” She asked me why I purchase these things when I still live in my mother’s house and everything ends up in the basement.  I had to think about it for a minute.  But I realized:  buying all these things makes the idea of moving out seem real.  I can touch them and stare at them and envision them in the spaces I’ve created.  This is also the reason why I’ve pinned over 500 pictures to my Interiors board on Pinterest.  It functions as a vision board. I look at the things I’ve purchased, I look at my pins, and I can picture myself in that space. In my own home.

If I’m honest with myself, my compulsive decor-shopping usually occurs when I am feeling the most trapped, the most hopeless.  Like I will never have a job that I love doing– that isn’t just a job, but a career. Like I will never get out of the tiny 10×10 room that I grew up in, like the walls are closing in on me.  I buy a piggy bank and see myself placing it atop a stack of books on an Ikea Rast  3-drawer nightstand that I’ve hacked and painted to be an emerald green campaign chest.  I see myself dropping my extra change in it when I walk into my house at night.  I see the glasses glittering in the late afternoon sunlight, and I smile.

It’s real to me. Because one day I will move out, and I will have space for all of my lovely things.

p.s.  My sun sign is Scorpio, but my moon sign is Libra, which explains my obsession with making my surroundings as beautiful and as comfortable as possible.



in my dream we are sharing a mango. it is ripe and sweet and soft. juice from its pulp drips down my chin. you lick it away and smile at me.  we are laughing, and eating, and kissing.  i taste mango on your tongue.  i suck on the seed  and then on your bottom lip. i feel your smile in my heart.