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!

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.

Fear

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We are living in fear filled days. Fires, violence, sickness and death seem to dominate our news and our conversations. And even if we try and filter our news and conversations, fear finds other ways to manifest itself. Fear can come from the idea of being separated from something or someone that we think we need in order to feel secure or happy. Fear can come from being threatened by others. Fear can come from ignorance or self grasping. Fear can come from a past traumatic event that leaves a lasting influence. And, of course, fear of death can also have a very powerful effect.

When we let our fear or anger based emotions take up residence, it gives those emotions more power than they deserve. In yoga, we call these impressions Samaskaras. They are often compared to grooves in the road that get driven over again and again. Over time, these imprints begin to contribute to behavior patterns that can then lead to the forming of habits. Then that fear takes hold and feeds upon itself. One way to combat this negative cycle is to acknowledge the source of the fear and ask yourself why you feel this way.

  1. Do you have a fear of losing someone or something?
  2. Do you have a fear based on a threat from an outside force?
  3. Do you have a fear based on grasping or ignorance?
  4. Do you have a fear based on a traumatic event in the past?
  5. Do you have a fear of death?

Once you ask yourself these questions and acknowledge their presence, say to yourself “I am feeling this way because of my fear of ______ and I am not going to allow these feelings to create a Samaskara.”

Let that fearful thought move through you and don’t allow it to stick or create a rut or groove. It’s as if your mind/body is a filter and you let the worst of it pass through, not allowing it to take up residence. Then see if there is something positive or loving to focus on in its place.

In the wisdom of Buddha:

The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love.
Born out of concern for all beings..

As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.

Buddha

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.”

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

Breath by James Nestor

I recently finished listening to the audio version of the NY Times bestselling book called “Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art,” by James Nestor. It is one of the most interesting, informative books I have read (listened to) in a long time. As one reviewer said, “If you breathe, you need this book.”

I have always loved the sister practice to yoga called Pranayama. It is the study and practice of harnessing the breath to create more vitality in the body. I enjoy the effects that thoughtful breathing has for my well-being. This book includes the wisdom and practice of pranayama and then adds in modern science.

James Nestor does a 10-year deep dive into all aspects of how we breathe and how this breathing has changed and evolved or, more accurately, devolved over the centuries. He bravely uses his body as a guinea pig to learn more about his sleep apnea and other breathing related problems, which also affects so many of us. Hypertension, depression, anxiety, sleep apnea, snoring, stress and auto-immune diseases are all problems that could be helped by breathing better.

“The ability to breathe so efficiently in a wide variety of ways-consciously and unconsciously; fast, slow, and not at all-allowed our mammal ancestors to catch prey, escape predators, and adapt to different environments. It was all going so well until about 1.5 million years ago, when the pathways through which we took in and exhaled air began to shift and fissure. It was a shift that, much later in history, would affect the breathing of every person on Earth, ” says Nestor.

Nestor includes practical breathing advice for everyone, no yoga practice required. How we breathe day in and day out truly does matter. Simple changes can be made to great effect. If I could, I would make this book required reading for everyone.

That Spark

I met my husband, Rob, on an ordinary summer night in Wichita, Kansas in 1982. The same year as the invention of the internet, the arrival of the McNugget, ET, the moonwalk, Risky Business, the minivan and AOL. I was out with girlfriends at the local college bar. I noticed him across the room and I think he noticed me at the same time. Our eyes kept meeting and each time we locked eyes, I felt an electric current run through me. It felt like lightening striking. When he finally approached me, I felt lit up by that invisible current. I marvel at that random meeting now.

That spark, that current, and that invisible lightening strike was enough to begin a life-long romance. We had known of each other before this encounter. Wichita is a very “small” large town, yet I had no clue about his personality, his preferences or his morals. He is two years older than me and the big brother to a lovely girl in my high school class named Anna. I knew a few of his friends from working at the same pizza place one summer. And that was it. Yet here he was, and I knew meeting him was going to be big. The match had been lit and while we couldn’t predict what would come next, I felt a deep sense of knowing. My soul’s recognition of his soul.

We married on June 7th, 1986. That year was a sad one in many ways…the Chernobyl disaster, the Challenger crash and the beginning of a recession to name a few events. Yet that 105-degree day could not have been a happier one for us. In front of a large group of family and friends, we committed ourselves to each other. It’s a commitment that has survived the test of births, deaths and all the joys and sorrow of life in-between.

It is our 35th wedding anniversary this year, and we have fanned and coddled and protected that spark as if it were the olympic torch. I feel fortunate that he is as deeply invested in our marriage as I am. It takes two as the saying goes. I wish I could understand what causes that spark to happen. I think it’s the same spark that inspires art and novels and great sports moments. I like to think of it as a wink from the divine or a nudge from the universe to go in this direction. Whatever it is, I feel so happy we both felt it and continue to nurture it this many years later. Happy Anniversary to my Rob. Let’s keep it lit for another 35 years.

Happy Memorial Day and New Day for Public Class

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Happy Memorial Day from the Yoga Goat. I take my freedom for granted most days. Today my heart is with those who serve now and those that paid the ultimate price for this beautiful country.

As we turn the page to summer, there is a new schedule beginning at Prairie Yoga. This week the studio is opening back up to in person classes while maintaining online offerings. My Zoom Gentle Yoga class will now take place Wednesdays at 5:00pm CST. This is a nice time of day to unwind from your day and reset for your evening. I hope to “see” you in class! To find out more and to sign up please visit: https://prairieyoga.org

I continue to offer private yoga classes on zoom and in person classes in the Phoenix area. Feel free to message me privately for the details and to set up a time: amyluwho2@att.net