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

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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.





HOME

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale

I have spent some time recently in my home town of Wichita, KS. I have not actually resided there since 1996, yet it still gives me a sense of home when I am there. I never had aspirations of leaving Kansas. Life was easy there and I had close friends and family around me. As new job opportunities came up, we took them and that took us away from home. We have moved more than we planned to over the years…that’s how life goes. But I have loved each new town we have spent time in. We have made many lifelong friends and had so many wonderful experiences because of those opportunities.

But there is just something about going home. There is a feeling of belonging. No matter how long I am away, I am welcomed back. The multiple homes I lived in over the years all belong to others now. Both of my parents and other family members are gone now too. But I still have my beloved in-laws, my brother and his family, and several cousins to connect with when I’m there.

I have spent time in my in-laws home for forty years now. When I think of home, that is where my mind immediately goes. So many memories come to mind when I pull into their driveway. I see reflections of the early years of visiting my boyfriend’s house, to a few years later bringing my babies over to see Grammy and Papa Buzz, to just recently introducing them to their great-grandchild. No matter the occasion, I’m always met at the door with love and acceptance. Which is usually followed by a cold drink and an amazing meal.

Home isn’t necessarily a place. It’s more of a feeling in your heart. Certain people and places give this to us. It’s an interesting meditation to ponder what home means to you. For me, home will always mean Kansas.

Some things that make me a Kansan:

  • I have a fascination with big thunderstorms that might produce tornados.
  • I start to feel claustrophobic if I can’t see the horizon.
  • It still feels strange to buy liquor at a grocery store, especially on a Sunday.
  • I have never lost the feeling of needing to use hairspray thanks to the ever present Kansas wind.
  • I say “hi” to everyone. Midwesterners are a friendly bunch.
  • Yes, I have attempted to tip a cow. I was unsuccessful.
  • I call them lightening bugs.
  • I say ar-KAN-sas River, not AR-kan-saw River.
  • I have come to the conclusion that mosquitos and humidity seem to work in tandem during Kansas summers.
  • I have a deep understanding of farm-to-table. The life of a farmer is not an easy one.
  • I feel a lot pride that the University of Kansas is the birthplace of basketball.
  • I hold close the memory of fried chicken dinner at Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon.

A Good Scare

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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.”

MOVE!

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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.

Dear Human

Our lives are built on myths and wounds
But we are not our lives
We are made of sun and moon
Wave and particle and desire.
Bound up in silver thread
Each disabled heart
Winds back to its original spool
Where love becomes unfurled.
~Kay Eck

My dear friend, Kay Eck, has written a beautiful love letter to humanity. When I read this book it felt as if she was telling my heart everything it had always wanted to hear. Or rather, what my heart knew at some point but had forgotten. It’s a reminder to all humans that we are all born of love and can tap into that universal love at anytime.

Eck says this book was inspired by the lessons she learned while writing her first book entitled, “Divorce: a love story.” She took the context out of divorce and into her broader life so that more people could be supported by it. She found the same universal truths hold for both.

While “Divorce: a love story” was founded in self-exploration, she believes the topics in “dear human” will speak to not only those starting out on their spiritual path, but also those who might be feeling a bit lost or “pulled toward the idea that there must be something more.”

“If there were only one way to be winning as a human, it would be through the love you lavish upon yourself. The difficulty of that task will teach you everything you came to learn. Mastering it will take you everywhere you want to go,” she writes in the book.

Eck is a great cheerleader of humanity. We first met during yoga teacher training at Prairie Yoga in Lisle, Illinois. A few years later, I worked for her when she opened her own yoga studio called Shine, in nearby Batavia. She is someone who has a gift for nurturing other humans. Her podcast, “Alive and Kicking with Kay Eck” is a great support to those who are in a time of breakdown/breakthrough. Her guests are ordinary people who are leading extraordinary lives. As Eck so eloquently says in her book, “We are human – a little ho-hum and profoundly marvelous.”

“Dear Human” will rest on my bedside table to be read and reread as an amazing reminder to myself to “let life love me back.”