Saturday, October 15, 2016


"Move from your shoulder blade..."  What?  Nothing's happening!  Focus.

"Don't move from the shoulder joint; don't move the arm or wrist.  Just concentrate on making tiny micro-movements of the shoulder blade."  How is that even possible???

Well, it is.  Because about every fourth time I do it, I am able to isolate the movement and feel the subtlety of moving ever so slightly and can almost "see" the shoulder blade sliding around, the skeleton adjusting, the muscles loosening.  I trust that the more I do these little moves, the more adept I will become.

Some days I leave yoga class feeling like I've barely moved at all, but my body is "floating" as if I'm walking on air, as my joints and muscles have loosened enough to allow a feeling of freedom that is so often locked tight with old body habits taking over without my noticing.  My scoliosis fools me into thinking I'm standing or sitting straight when I'm actually jutting out one hip and lifting one shoulder.  To become aware of that is to shift what feels "natural", but one look in the mirror proves I'm not "tipping" with the adjustment; I'm actually now standing straight!

I'm so loving finding therapeutic benefit to yoga.  Elizabeth's interest and expertise in this area is motivating me as she has helped me make tiny adjustments that wake up my body awareness and move me out of living in my body in a habitual (and not always beneficial) way.

I wrote recently also about Karen's approach to using restorative slow poses to bring us into a place of peaceful often neglected in our hustle, bustle lives.

I was thinking of this on Friday afternoon at my strength class.  I mentioned in a previous post that I've started a Stretch and Strength class for older adults.  After a few weeks the instructor must have identified me as an advanced student (ha), because she asked if I'd like to join her "semi-private lessons" with 4 other students.  Sure!  I was eager, since the class I was taking was starting to feel way too easy.  I wanted a bit more challenge.  Be careful what you ask for.  I'm challenged PLENTY in the new class.  It's a circuit training course; the activities change each week and target different muscle groups.  She has us rotate through the stations for 40 minutes of almost non-stop resistance training and aerobics.  I actually love it, but what a contrast to the slow, subtle yoga movements I'm also appreciating.

Last Friday, as the music blasted and I tossed a 6 pound medicine ball in the air simultaneously leaning back on the bench in a "boat pose" for ab work, I looked longingly 4 stations ahead at the mat on the floor where I'd get to "rest" in a Spinal Balance pose for one minute -- holding 30 seconds on each side.  I love when she throws in some familiar yoga asanas!

When I got there I settled in, tuned out the pounding beat, and let my breath carry my mind to Yoga Circle, where the soft sounds of Jami Sieber's cello music, the swirl of flowing fabric and circle mandalas surround us and the mat is my whole world.   I held my pose easily and with gratitude for my body and all it can do, whether it's gripping an 8 pound dumbbell for a bicep curl or a lying on the mat almost imperceptibly moving my shoulder blade.

So grateful for all my teachers, for the opportunity to practice, for the health and vitality I work to maintain, for the weights and the mat and the peaceful, easy feeling of walking on air. ©


Thursday, September 29, 2016


Slow way down.

Often when fewer students show up, Karen will ask if it's OK to do a gentle class, a class where poses are restorative rather than uber challenging.  Rarely is there a protest or complaint in response to this suggestion.  It's easy to understand why.

Our lives are chock full of "doing".  We have homes, families, gardens, careers, volunteer commitments; we shop, we drive, we cook and clean up, we pay bills, and chauffeur children.  We plan and organize and keep all the balls in the air every single day from the time we get out of bed in the morning until we fall back into it at night.  I've found retirement makes some difference in the content of my schedule, but often the schedule is just as full.

A yoga class that allows us to put down the burden of doing and just "be" is a welcome respite.  I find every yoga class, gentle or challenging, lets me quiet my mind as I focus on the poses and my breath, but a gentle, restorative class also lets me quiet my body.

Karen often admonishes us to "slow way down" in moving through our poses.  This is good advice about life too.  The rush of busyness becomes the norm and we forget how to relax.  Going slowly feels antithetical to getting everything done we have to do!  Hurry, hurry, hurry is usually our inner mantra.

My husband and I had a conversation just this week about the trickiness of finding balance in our lives -- time alone, time for fitness, time for family, time for meditation, yoga, for yard work and housework and friends and ... well, you know.  I find most days fly by, whether they are "busy" or whether I've been able to take time for quiet.  But I know that slowing down at least puts me in a place of mindfulness so that balance is easier to recognize.

Today I was up at 6:00 a.m. to greet my 18 month granddaughter who is spending the day with us.  I went to Yoga and then to a strength training class while "grandpa" hung out with our girl.  Then I was home to some housework, more childcare while my husband ran his errands, took a few moments for this blog post, and soon will gear up for our other granddaughter to arrive after school and both will spend the night.  The balance between child-centered energy, sometimes joyful and sometimes chaotic, hopefully will be struck by my yoga and fitness classes and trying to keep a lid on the entropy all around us that little ones can create.  Tomorrow afternoon I imagine more balance will come when I spend a quiet few hours reading!  Through it all my goal is to slow way down, to stop  anticipating what will come next and just be in the moment of what is.

Slowing down is a restorative practice no matter what's going on in our lives.   And that's a good thing.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016


It's no fun to be sick.  Over Labor Day we took a trip to Idaho where we planned to meet up with friends for a few days of outdoor adventuring and lots of food and laughter.  My husband and I got there a couple of days ahead of our friends and prepared the space to welcome them.  But the night before they arrived, out of the blue, I was struck by a wicked intestinal virus.  The details are not pleasant so I won't recount them.  I trust you've likely had some similar experience with this scrounge in your lifetime.

Unable to sleep a wink, up all night, I sat in the living room bundled in a blanket noticing in my best "mindfulness" manner my sore back, headache, chills, and cramps.  I talked to my body and reassured it all was well; I breathed deeply; I closed my eyes; I opened my eyes; I took some medicine; I drank lots of water to stay hydrated.  Nothing seemed to help.  I was miserable and it seemed the whole ordeal would go on forever.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I decided to do some yoga.  Seriously.  I Googled "Yoga for Diarrhea" and stunningly there are actually several sites that address this situation.    Here's one:  Yoga to Cure Diarrhea

I've never done a full headstand in my life, so the beginning of this video was of little use to me.  I was able to do the shoulder stand for a bit and I'd already tried the pranayama breathing thing; it's my go-to for anxiety.  None of this helped.

I decided to focus on my headache.  But what I found were poses purported to work great for headache, (Yoga Poses for Headache) but were to be avoided if one had diarrhea. AND the site for what NOT to do if you have the tummy yuk  (Yoga Poses to Avoid for Diarrhea) said NOT to do Shoulder Stand, which the other guy in the video recommend you DO do.   This type of conflicting advice might be commonplace in western medicine, but in yoga?  Oh no!

I felt Yoga was starting to fail me in my hour of need.   But it did distract me and by dawn I was feeling a smidge better.  I went to bed and slept most of the day, missing a lot of the socializing with our friends, but I was in no mood for that anyway.  Not my best weekend, all in all, and it took several days for me to regain my usual vim and vigor.

I have not, however, completely lost faith in yoga as a curative because I also discovered this guy and have found laughter to be the very best medicine: Ultra Spiritual Yoga Tips  ("advocate yoga as a cure for everything"... LOL!  That's me!) ©


Saturday, September 10, 2016


I don't think I've become insufferable now that I'm famous.  But I guess you'd have to be the judge of that.  I find myself to be, you know, charming and very welcoming of my public.  If anyone ever asked for my autograph, say, or a selfie with me, well, I'd be most accommodating.  I think neither has happened yet because people can be so intimidated by famous people.  Hey, we're just like you!  Don't be scared!  Come on over and say hello!  Introduce your grandchildren to me.  I'm happy to pat them on their little heads and give them a moment to remember.

OK.  You may be wondering if I've totally gone bonkers.  Maybe somehow you were so absorbed in your own pedestrian life that you missed my big videographic debut.  Well, lookie here:  (Who Does Yoga?)

Yes.  That little ditty has been up on the Yoga Circle website for over a week now and I'm sure the post office is storing the fan mail until they can find a truck large enough to deliver it.   I will, of course, answer each letter personally and include an autographed photo (framable).

When Karen asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed, I said yes, because promoting this blog and the studio are two things I love to do.  Besides, it had been years and years since my glory days of being hounded by the press when I headed up a local activist group and found myself being interviewed on the TV news dozens of times.  The issues were important; the TV stuff was fun!  I am one of those introverts who can perform.  Put a mic in my face and some "other" me jumps  into action.  You always hear about performers who say they are introverts and you want not to believe it, but it can be true.  I've emceed, done performance poetry, led services at a church I used to attend, made speeches.  Very little stage fright.  It's weird.

The experience with this interview was fun too.   The studio was empty.  The director tested for where to set up, what the background would look like, got the shot framed, the sound checked and then "action!"  He asked me a series of questions (none known to me previously) and I answered with animation and articulateness.  I was in the flow!  I could tell I was hitting it out of the park!  When we finished I was sort of euphoric.  Then he said, "I'd like to do it again while other students are coming in."

"WHAT?  I nailed my first take!  I can't duplicate that brilliant performance!", I thought.  I might have mumbled a less startled protest that I thought maybe perhaps we had the footage we needed.  But nope.  A director has his vision.  So I went all Meryl Streep inside and told myself, "You can do this.  Multiple takes?  Sure.  Be a professional and do it again."

So we did.  Some of the questions were the same.  Some different.  Editing cut the whole interview down to just over 3 minutes (the time span of the average viewer, I guess) and I'm sure some of my best work ended up on the cutting room floor (or wherever digital editing goes), which is the lament of every performer.  But I'm pleased with the end result, with one exception:

When I was asked what posts I like best, I went on and on about the ones where I am klutzy.  I do like those, for the reasons stated, but I wish I'd also mentioned the ones where I get a big "a-ha" on the mat.  Some learning happens that moves me emotionally.  I've actually written about those moments far more often than the klutzy moves I do.  And for me, they are the reason I want everyone to practice yoga.  Yes, for all the physical benefits, but also (and perhaps more) for the benefit to our spirits.

Maybe I can work this teaching into my NEXT interview, because, "Mr. DeMille...I'm ready for my close-up."


P.S.  "I'd like to thank my producer, Karen Guzak, and my director, Warner Blake, without whom I never would have won this award.  I'd also like to thank everyone who has ever read this blog.  You are the wings beneath my Pigeon Pose."  (Just practicing my speech.) ©