Inverting in the New Year

My New Year/Birthday resolution is to take the year 2023 and turn it upside down. Well, maybe not the year, but myself! I have been thinking of a new way to bring more inversions into my yoga practice and am now committing to doing some kind of inversion everyday of my 59th year. I am making a list that I will place in a “spin the wheel’ app on my phone and do the pose the wheel lands on each day.

There are many proven benefits to inversions, including; an increase in blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, reduced fatigue, better uptake of oxygen into the bloodstream, reduction of swelling, and lowering of the heart rate. Inversions can also increase alertness, build strength, endurance, flexibility, and confidence, as well as bring a sense of humility, patience and perseverance into your daily life.

Inversions can be done by most people. If you would like to join me in this commitment, I would be happy to suggest inversions that will match where you are in your practice. There are more poses that count as an inversion than you might think. It’s basically any pose where your head is lower than your heart. However, those with high blood pressure or injuries in the low back, neck or lower limbs should probably wait until your symptoms have eased before practicing.

Whatever your intentions and resolutions might be in the new year, know that I support you. Adding something new, or eliminating something old is not easy. I plan to share how it’s going for me throughout the year. True change takes time and patience with yourself. It is my hope that you face the new year with enough resolve that your resolutions become a part of you the whole year through. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Your Gifts

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

I played my best for him and he smiled at me.

The Little Drummer Boy

When one thinks of The Little Drummer Boy under a literal lens, it’s a bit far-fetched to think that a new mother would allow a little boy to play his drum around a new born baby. Mary truly was a saint. It is, however, a great lesson for all of us to remember. Each of us has unique gifts. Do we take the time to truly understand what they are? It’s quite easy to see talent in others. We are quick to compliment someone’s singing voice or their flair for fashion. But when the spotlight is reflected back toward us, it’s often hard to accept those compliments and lean into what truly makes us special.

I was raised to be humble and not a braggart, and I don’t think I really thought about what my gifts were until my forties. I remember during my yoga teacher training, my instructor taught me the valuable, and necessary, lesson of projecting my voice so that all students could hear me. That powerful lesson taught me that I had something valuable to share with others. Kind of my own drummer boy moment.

As this year comes to an end and a fresh new year approaches, think about your own unique talents and gifts. Write them down, say them out loud to a trusted friend and own what makes you, You. Time is too precious to not step into your power. So, to get us started, I will now list what I believe to be my gifts. It still makes me cringe a bit to put it out there like this, but here goes. I would love for this to be the start of a dialogue amongst us, each of us owning who we are.

  • I am a great yoga teacher
  • I am a good writer
  • I am a great listener
  • I am good at finding humor in any given situation
  • I am good at nurturing others
  • I am mindful and organized

You and I are gifts to this weary world. Give of yourself just as you would give a present to a loved one at the holidays. It is with humble gratitude that I thank you for reading this blog and supporting my online teaching. May this special time of year fill your heart with love and joy and sustain you into the new year.

Gratitude for…

Gratitude for...

This physical body that houses my unique spirit.
This life force energy that propels me through the day.
This mind that has thoughts both spacious and focused.
These senses that absorb the world around me.
These hands that work with dexterity.
These feet that feel solid underneath me.
This heart that has felt the spectrum of emotions, from complete desolation to boundless joy.
For this life, I am grateful. I am complete.





A Good Scare

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. ~ Joseph Campbell

Fear was once our primal survival technique. The good news is that we don’t live in a time where our very existence is threatened on a daily basis. I have two older siblings, and I am pretty certain that they helped introduce me to the idea of fear. I can remember stories about the creepy house on our street. The giant bug waiting to bite me in a certain bush. The secret pathway that might have ghosts. All of it childhood play, but also a starting point to fearing the unknown.

This time of year we often explore what it feels like to be afraid. Halloween has become one of our biggest holidays. I think it’s become so popular because it gives us a way of coping with our inner fears in a safe way. We watch scary movies that have us on the edge of our seats, or in my case, pacing the room. We visit haunted houses to allow others to scare and threaten us in a safe way.

What happens when we are in this frightened state? Heart rate increases, there is a sense of heightened awareness, palms sweat, and every nerve seems to tingle. In some ways, we are never more fully alive than when we are in a state of fear. Maybe that’s why so many teens enjoy a scary movie, novel or haunted house.

Teens love to push the boundaries of what it feels like to be fully alive. As we get older, we often let go of this need. Life itself can often become scary enough. Deep fears can manifest into anxiety and phobias, which can lead to the need for professional help. But for less serious fears it can actually be fun to visit this dark side. To visit that heightened sense, in a safe way, can often give us a boost in confidence once we are on the other side. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ” Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Let Go

“Holding on is believing that there’s only a past, letting go is knowing there’s a future.”
~ Daphne Rise Kingma

This simple phrase is loaded with meaning. I am of a certain age, with an empty nest, and I have done quite a bit of letting go. I have written before about selling most of our household items and moving to an apartment in a new state. I continue to enjoy my minimalist lifestyle, and letting go of those items helps me feel light and unencumbered.

As we get older, I realize how much of life involves letting go. As we watch our daughter’s new family grow, I am reminded of our time as new parents. Infants are completely dependent on their caretakers. Yet with each new milestone, that baby is making his way to independence, and so begins the process of letting them go. The reward is seeing our children become independent adults. Now our role is supporter and cheerleader. We do our best to only offer advice when asked (easier said than done).

I have also been thinking lately about being too emotionally attached to “things.” For example, when we lose someone close to us, it’s obviously heartbreaking. But as the grieving eases, we sometimes find ourselves clinging to items they have left behind. There is true comfort in treasures from a loved one. They can be touchstones in the grieving process. But clinging to them can be unhealthy. I have small remembrances from my great grandmother, my grandparents, my dad, my brother, and my mother. These tokens do not bring back their love for me. That is stored in my heart and never, ever leaves me. Do I need every sweater, every piece of jewelry, every item that reminds me of them? No. I choose to let go instead.

So let’s let go:

  • Let go of the story of your past. Let the present moment define who you are.
  • Let go of material items that no longer serve you. Less clutter, less to dust.
  • Let go of people that are too much work. You will know who they are if they deplete your energy rather than bring you joy.
  • Let go of habits that have become ingrained simply because of repetition, not because they actually make you better.
  • Let go of lingering hurt and hostilities. Holding on to these feelings only causes you harm.
  • Let go of long held grief. Some losses are too big to ever get over, but consider trying to pivot to a place of gratitude for what that person brought to your life.
  • Let go of the idea that you can control your future. Worrying about the future is the root cause of anxiety. When has worry every changed an outcome? Life does not happen in a predictable way. Never has and never will.

The heart yearns to feel light. Let go to make room for whatever is coming next. Most likely it is bigger and better than you can even imagine.

“You can’t reach what’s in from of you until you let go of what’s behind you.” ~Unknown

MOVE!

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

Our five-month-old grandson is in constant motion. Kicking his legs and waving his arms, all the while babbling like he has a very important story to tell us. In other words, doing the developmental things he is supposed to be doing. All of his movement is building neurological pathways that will eventually bring him to crawling, walking, and not long from now, running. Say a prayer for his parents.

I have just finished reading “Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind” by Caroline Williams. It was recommended to me by my friend and yoga teacher, Lori Gaspar. This book is about correlations between movement and the health of the mind, and how scientists have mapped the areas of the brain that benefit from different forms of movement.

For example, we have all taken a walk to clear our head at some point in our lives. Now there is science to back it up. Walking is said to be linked to activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is where our thoughts occur. The movement of walking has been shown to bring more clarity to thoughts. A literal clearing of the cobwebs that enables us to have more of those “aha” moments.

Dance and free form movement have been shown to be a mood enhancer. The inner ear, where our sense of balance is, is tied directly to the limbic system. This is the place that signals the sensations of pleasure. When we dance, we are taking ourselves slightly out of balance and each time we right ourselves the body comes back to a place of stability. Repeating this action over and over brings a sense of pleasure. No wonder so many of us love swings, rollercoasters, skiing, biking and any other activity that shifts us from standing on two feet.

A strong core from exercises like pilates, yoga and tai chi not only enhances good posture, but also helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Scientists now believe a strong core also helps our minds. As we age, our chances of falling increases. This is often due to a change in posture, perhaps because our core weakens and we become more stooped over. While scientists have not yet found the direct link between an upright posture and having positive feelings, it makes sense that when we stand tall there is a sense of confidence. This then leads to a sense of well-being.

Whether we are walking, dancing, or working out, movement is good! Our lack of movement, according to scientists, directly correlates with a rise in mental health issues like anxiety, stress and depression. It’s time for everyone to get moving again. Our grandson does it on instinct. The rest of us need to make it an important part of our daily or weekly routine.

It’s often said that sitting is now the new smoking. I believe it, and scientists are proving that movement is vital to our well-being not only physically but mentally and particularly as we age. The saying “Use it or Lose it” is actually the truth. So let’s get up and move. I’m getting up now to go dance around my kitchen.

Mother Love

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head 
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread 
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe 
me, when you tire on the long thrash 
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you 
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you up.
~Phillip Booth

My mother has been gone for almost ten years now. In some ways, the loss is as fresh as if it were yesterday. In other ways, it feels like an ache that has been there even longer. The spectrum of grief is like that. It comes in waves. Some days are high tide, other days low.

One of the first jobs a mother has is to comfort her child. A baby responds to soothing from its mother like no other. As an adult, she is often the first person we call to get that sense of comfort when things aren’t going well. I had the feeling of being orphaned when my mother was gone. Who will I call? Who will love me as only she could?

Just as a child is taught to self-soothe with a security blanket or stuffed animal, motherless adults learn to do the same. If you find yourself in this orphan club, know that you are not alone in your pain. Remind yourself that however much time you had with your mother, you were absorbing her love and wisdom into every fiber of your being. She is as much a part of you as the air you breathe. On those low tide days, or when holidays like Mother’s Day come around where her absence is felt even more, remind yourself that she lives on in your heart. You embody her joy and delight. Her love for you could never die. So lie back and let the sea of maternal love hold you up.

"We are born of love, Love is our mother." Rumi

Vast and Singular

"Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it's the ocean."
                       ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I have just returned from a trip to Mexico. It was lovely in so many ways. Time near the ocean feeds my soul. My eyes are constantly drawn to it. I sleep to the sound of it. I walk along it and feel its immense power. Each night I watch the sun fall over the edge of it and am reminded of its vastness.

I am but one person, at this one spot, singular and unique. I am amazed by the contrast. The two words, vast and singular, kept coming to my mind all week.

Our lives can feel this very same way. We all see what transpires in front of us in our own unique way and yet we are all a part of something much bigger than ourselves. I think we forget that perspective sometimes. We are all part of something so vast we can’t even comprehend it and at the same time each of us is the only version of a human being to look, feel and live this unique, singular way.

I think we can all gain this perspective when needed. Some days the world can feel as if it’s closing in on us. That is the time to take a moment and look to the ocean or find the horizon, the night sky, or some other focal point that feeds your soul. Take a moment to remind yourself that you are both vast and singular.

Welcome to the Strong Women Club

I am late to the celebration of International Women’s Day. But the idea of strong women has been on my mind a lot lately. The above photo is a picture of my mother on her wedding day to my dad. She is surrounded by my grandmothers, aunts, cousin and my sister. There are not many photos to commemorate this day as the photographer forgot to put film in the camera. This is what happens when you try to cut costs and hire a friend. So the fact that this particular photo exists makes it all the more special. And while not every female I admire in my family is in this photo, I am blessed to be surrounded not only in my family but also my husband’s family with courageous, strong, selfless women.

Our daughter, Caroline, gave birth to our first grandson, Jaxon Richard Gaspari, in February. Needless to say, we are over the moon in love. This past month has been eventful for Caroline and her husband, Jordan. While I won’t go into detail here, it’s become clear to me that we have added a new member to the strong women club. I already knew that Caroline could be a member. In the past, she has faced some tough situations in her life with poise and strength.

This past month has solidified her membership. Becoming a mother takes a woman to a whole new place that requires more patience, more fortitude and more love. I have been proud to watch her rise to the occasion. While no parent wants to see their child go through struggles, I know moving forward she will be the better for it. Each new challenge will only make her stronger. Plus, she has a heavenly chorus of strong women backing her up, and quite a few in this realm to lend a hand.

And yes, I still have my mother’s pillbox wedding hat.