A few months ago, I wrote about the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset, as I find it pretty interesting. So I felt I should share tidbits of that information with you. I feel like we should always be learning, testing our limits of how much we tolerate, delving into how we feel and how we thing, and most of all, how all of this ties in to how we move and how our bodies feel. It's a holistic and wholistic approach, right?
This past weekend I was in Portland Oregon, training with Kevin Moore. He has an approach called Reembody that ties movement into mental and emotional states. It looks at how the human body has evolved to move, and how we can subtly change those tendencies to explore more of our potential. I won't lie, it's intense! It's brilliant at the same time. It has prompted me to film some YouTube videos about simple movements we can do to ease back tension, hip tension, knee pain and more. I'm pretty excited about it, actually. I'm also looking forward to adding a bit of these principles into this month's Aerial Yoga workshop, my weekly yoga classes and this month's Self Care Saturday. There's something else Kevin talks about that I find unique in his program, it's social harmony. He ties our feelings of safety, security and belonging into how connected we feel in our social circles. He also discusses how important good friends are in regard to our growth, maturity and health. Remember the fixed versus growth mindset from before? I bet we all can remember situations where stressful family or relationship stuff brought up physical pain, or how much more we hurt internally when life around us was more stressful.
If you've ever worked with me in sessions, you know how important this is to me, even if we don't directly discuss it. Take a quick look at your calendar, your job, your family and your circle of friends and notice how you feel about them all. This is your external support system, which is just as important as your internal support system. Sometimes our physical discomfort increases as our stress load increases. They're very much intertwined.
So I set myself an intention for this workshop to explore more internal stability. I don't normally set intentions like this, and it was a surprising experience. I wanted to build more core stability, and I thought I knew where I needed to focus. If only I could feel myself easily contract my deep core muscles, life would be so much steadier... I love when I get here, where I think I know exactly what I need to do to make the next step.
Needless to say, I found out there are so many ways to build core stability, and by only focusing on one, I was missing the bigger picture. I could have more stable ankles and that would help. I could trust my knees more. I could soften my hips and spine more. I could relax my shoulders. I could mellow my jaw and tongue. I could also work on internal stability by looking at how stable I am for my family and friends, and mostly for myself.
Each person I worked with over the training helped me see more, and laugh at myself more. I'm good right here, right where I am, and I can also make changes. I seem to enjoy making things really hard for myself. Have you felt similarly? I was sort of stuck in a fixed mindset.
So try something out for me. Tell yourself that you're good where you are right now. Tell yourself that you can take some baby steps from here. Go out and make a friend to see how that feels inside. I know it surprised me how easy it was.
At the end of the training, as I was packing my luggage, it felt like I had a lot more space in my bags. I thought I must be missing something, I must have left something behind. My friend Dawn asked me if this was a metaphor for the training. I laughed a little bit, and mostly agreed with her. I feel like I'd left behind some weight that had prevented me from feeling my own inner resources. Maybe it wasn't something I needed to do. Maybe I needed to laugh with people a bit and connect with like-minded people. Maybe I just needed to remember I can't do everything on my own. I'd love to hear if you've noticed anything similar. Let me know what you think, will you?
No Pain, No Gain?
I love the New Year Resolution fitness craze, especially as it's been shifting over the past few years. We had that lovely "No Pain, No Gain" philosophy last century, and it's still lingering around a bit. We all set goals about losing the holiday weight, or we're getting back into it because we know how good it felt the last time we did it. Or we have those last few pesky pounds to lose, or it's even doctor's orders that we get something under control. So we dust off the fitness gear that's been packed away and trudge our way to the gym or the personal trainer or the fitness class.
I'd like to suggest a new (yet not new at all) trend that has to do with stability, flexibility and strength. It's about training based on what you want to improve, through intention, mindfulness and awareness. Yeah, it takes more time and energy, for sure. It's also effective and has a ton of history and science behind it.
Flexibility and strength training usually uses big muscles of the body, so training them requires big movements. Think yoga, Pilates, weight training and cardio. In order to train the big muscles of the body, we generally need to do big movements. Makes sense, right?
So what happens if we don’t have the stability to do those big movements, to move the bones with those big muscles?
Here it comes. Are you ready? We have to train our small stabilizer muscles to coordinate our bone movements better. Well, how do we train our small stabilizers? With very small, specific, subtle movements, is how. We have to slow down enough to really feel what it is we want to move. We have to feel subtly enough to differentiate what’s actually moving. It takes mindfulness to do this as well.
The result? Our bones and joints become so much more stable, so then we free up the larger muscles to be able to do those big, powerful, calorie-burning moves that we love so much.
So if you’re feeling like you’re stuck in your routine, that you’re not getting the results you want, then check out someone who can help you train your stabilizers really well. Look for a personal trainer who does stabilizing functional movement. Talk to a Pilates instructor who focuses on small core work for maximum results. Chat with me about yoga therapy, as that’s what it’s all about.
I won’t lie. Stabilization work can be frustrating as it’s so specific, so subtle, and even so simple that you don’t think it’s doing anything. Trust me though, the results can be pretty amazing. So give it a try. Slow down enough to really feel your skeleton move. Is it the movement you want? If you’re not sure, then get some help. Talk to someone who you trust knows how the body moves. Then it’ll be no pain and tremendous gain. The more stable your bones and joints are, the stronger and more flexible your muscles can be because they're supported! It's simple and profound at the same time.
Let me know how this goes for you.
“Right Now”, “This Time” and “Yet” mantras
I’ve been listening to a lot of material on learning lately. Why? Well, because I’m a teacher, I’m curious about how we as humans learn, and I find I push myself to learn a lot. If you’ve seen the number of certificates I’ve collected over the past few years, this is no surprise to you at all.
I came across Professor Carol Dweck’s research presentation about growth mindset versus fixed mindset and I thought it was pretty fantastic. Yes, she’s talking about learning in elementary through high school, yet I think her principles could be applied to any age. Check out the links I’ve added for more information. One is to an animation that discusses the differences between the two mindsets. The other is Professor Dweck talking about her research and how it has changed students’ lives. I’m pretty certain we can and do shift back and forth between growth and fixed thinking. I teach people new skills all the time, and I know we have the ability to learn throughout our lives. I hear clients and students say stuff like, “I have bad knees. I can’t do triangle pose. I’m terrible at balance” all the time. Can you see and hear that they’re in a fixed mindset? Weirdly, our internal language may be undermining us.
It may come as a shock that our brain is connected to our bodies through our spine and nervous system. Have you ever tried a new exercise, language, or recipe? Then when it didn’t go perfectly, you told yourself that you’re just not good at it, you weren’t a pro, you failed, and you just gave it up? Yep, I’ve totally been there. I compared myself to the professional who looked exceptional at whatever it was they were doing. I assumed my first attempt should be at their level. So when it wasn’t, I fell into a fixed mindset, that I just don’t have the talent necessary to do whatever it was. It’s a pretty easy and comfortable victim mentality for me. I know it really well.
Now, let’s try an experiment in words. Let’s shift those phrases, “I’m not good at it. I’m not a pro. I failed” with the mantras listed at the introduction. “I’m not good at it yet. I’m not a pro right now. I failed this time”. Hey, they sound and feel quite different, don’t they. Say them out loud. The first phrases are a competition against the mysterious “they”. The second phrases are more a competition with ourselves, knowing we’re in a big learning process. Try it with what some of my clients and students have said. “I have bad knees right now, I can’t do triangle pose yet. I’m terrible at balance this time”. Say them out loud. Can you see and feel how this is different? This is working within a growth mentality? There’s room to grow by just adding a few simple words.
Give it a try this week and month then. When you find yourself stuck in the fixed mindset at work, at home, at the gym, shift your thinking and your vocabulary a bit. Try one or all of the above mantras, and let me know what happens. It’s kind of addicting.
Your knees may not magically heal. Your hand might not instantaneously drop lower in triangle pose. Your balance won’t miraculously steady itself. But I bet there will be a subtle internal change that gives you a new direction. It might sound suspiciously like hope, like contentment, and like progress.
Let me know, won’t you?
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
― Carl Gustav Jung
Goals, Aspirations, Dreams, Love Letters to Yourself
Nov 7th 2018
A few weeks ago, I posted on social media all the certificates I’ve collected over the past twenty years of being a massage therapist, a fitness instructor, a yoga instructor, a yoga trainer, and a yoga therapist. I was reminded that I enjoy collecting certificates and letters after my name.
I also ran across two letters I wrote to my future self. They were intended to set myself some goals for a year or two. Funnily enough, everything I wrote down had come to pass in one way or another. Not exactly as I’d planned, of course, but these letters moved me in a direction that I needed to go.
Looking back on the years when I wrote the letters, the future certainly seemed cloudy, even bleak at times. I was in a lot of debt, and couldn’t seem to get out of it no matter how hard I tried. I also couldn’t live up to my own expectations of myself.
These letters certainly didn’t pay off my debt or magically boost my self-confidence. I most definitely had to do the tough work to make better financial decisions and to actually start trusting that very quiet voice inside that said I am enough.
The letters did give me direction though. They helped me organize my thoughts, set some values, some goals and really express some wishes that I’d smashed down quite firmly. Ultimately, they let me dream, sort of like I did as a kid. I used to be really good at imagining and daydreaming.
To read these words I’d written to myself almost twenty years ago did my heart and psyche good. I challenged myself to sit down and write four more letters to myself, which proved much harder than I expected. What do I want to happen in the next year, five years, twenty years and further down the road? Yes, of course I talked about financial goals, and I also wrote about my close relationships, my travel dreams, and most importantly, I chatted with myself about how I wanted to feel in my own skin.
Were they all SMART goals? You know, the specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant and time-bound ideas? Nope, not really. But they were and are a starting point, they’re my first step on the journey of my life. They get me thinking, dreaming, creating, and making changes.
How does this relate to my work? Why would I be telling you this at all? Well, because this is what I do in sessions as well. Someone comes in talking about how their bodies hurt. We set goals, and use massage, yoga moves, breathing, stillness, aerial yoga moves, workshops, and more to meet those goals. Then I ask, what next? Where do you want to go from here?
Here’s the challenge then. Where do you want to go now? Are you feeling lost? Not sure what to do next? Well then, perhaps write a letter to your future self and let me know how it goes. I asked Russell to do it, and I can guarantee he didn’t like the idea at all. But he did it! I’m really excited to see what happens over this next year then, when he gets to read that letter to his future self.
This might be the one simple step you need to start the journey of your life. That Lao Tzu guy really knew what he was talking about, didn’t he.
Strong upper body and headstand
AKA approaching fear
This month's Self Care Saturday class was about building competence around the upper body. I started class with a demonstration of inverting with a headstander, and the five folks in class sort of freaked out that I expected them to all do headstand at some point during class.
We delved into the movements that our arms can do, like front to back, side to side, around in circles and rotating out and in. What we found collectively as a group was pretty awesome.
When we slowed down enough to feel the difference between shoulder blade and shoulder joint movement, we all noticed how tight our shoulder blades are. This ties into neck and upper back tension and pain. So as we worked on moving our shoulder blades better, we also noticed the spine moved and felt better.
About halfway through class, I walked over to the headstander and invited each person in class to join me. With a little coaching, each and every student in class got into headstand. They marveled at how good it felt, and how much easier it was than they ever expected. They stood taller afterwards, like they’d conquered a fear they didn’t even know was there under the surface.
I was suddenly reminded of a meeting I’d had earlier in the week. My financial planner Wendi and I had been having a discussion about possible projects that could move my business forward, and I noticed a very similar fear. She suggested a book called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Now, I haven’t even started reading it, but I did buy the Kindle version that same day, which is a big step for me. I get to see this gentle reminder each time I want to read a book, which is pretty frequently.
Now, headstand doesn’t have exactly the same fear for me as marketing myself does, yet I could see the parallels. Sometimes all it takes is acknowledging the feelings of fear and taking that first necessary step. Once I noticed this, I could remember all sorts of similar messages about not having to get it exactly right the first time, and still doing whatever it is. Our perfectionism sometimes gets directly in the way of doing what it is that we need to do.
So whatever your fear is, whatever the perfectionism seems to be stopping or stalling, there’s some comfort in knowing there are people out there, six to be exact, who survived turning their worlds metaphorically and physically upside down. Well then, I say give it a try, and let me know how it goes. I’d really love to hear from you.
Be the Change
October 3 2018
Russell and I are back from a long Europe trip, which was really nice, quite a luxury in fact. We planned it over two years ago, as a graduation gift for me finishing my yoga therapy program. Little did we know at the time that would involve selling High St Healing House, which allowed us to pay for the entire trip. There were definitely some bittersweet feelings during our vacation, especially as we talked to my friends about all that has changed for us over the past few years.
At the same time, I had some intense nostalgic moments, seeing familiar places from about twenty years ago, chatting with familiar faces, and getting a great gift in the form of a time capsule. My friends Patrick and Helga had saved some postcards, letters and concert blurbs from 1994/1995 for me, and Sabine had some pictures of a ski trip we went on. Talk about blasts from the past!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but talking to people about what I was going through in selling the healing house ended up motivating some of my clients and friends to look at what really makes them happy and to start making changes of their own.
Examples are always good, aren’t they? A few weeks ago, a long-term client and I were chatting during a session about her back and neck pain that have been chronic. She’s also noticing how a rental property of hers can tend to be a pain in the neck and can feel like a really heavy load. For her, these two things may be connected, and as she looks at the possibility of selling the rental property, there’s more excitement, ease and support in her face and body. She could even start planning a trip to the east coast for herself that she’s been talking about for a long time. She said she was motivated to start thinking of this as possible because of what I went through.
I have another client who has recently been seeing me in collaboration with her psychotherapist because she’s feeling a lot of pain and disconnected from her body. As we work through some small movements of her legs and arms, she is able to connect her movements to her feelings and make some really tremendous gains. She says she is moving better, she feels stronger, and she feels lighter. The two modalities actually have helped out synergistically, which she never expected. She also mentioned that she started toying with the idea of seeing me because of the emails I sent out talking about what I was going through. They motivated her to take the first step to change her circumstances.
It’s spilled over into my family as well as my sister is starting some big change in her life. She and I have been talking about what it would take for her to live her life more authentically, in a way that really makes her happy. It’s frightening, don’t get me wrong, to take that first step toward what you feel is your right direction. I so get this! She’s realized how much she has been tolerating, and once the current situation became intolerable, she made the decision she’s been considering for a number of years. She already feels better, just in making her decision and taking a baby step toward it.
It’s really cool to see how all of this is unfolding.
How does this relate to you though? Maybe it’s about sharing your story with others about how you’ve made changes, or it’s about sending a note out to the person whose story helped you make that little direction shift in your life. Whatever it is, I’m excited we’re doing it, being the change we wish to see in the world. Thanks for that quote, Gandhi.
Becoming Unconsciously Competent
September 19 2018
Remember this image from a few months ago?
We definitely want to work toward being unconsciously competent in our lives, for sure. From my recent trip to Europe, I noticed that I really want to be competent in language, and already have a pretty good proficiency in French. I have less competency in Spanish and German, and practically none at all in Italian. We were on a cruise ship for eight days, and every announcement was made in five languages. It was awesome, and I loved hearing so many different languages in one place!
When we stopped in three different Italian ports (Cagliari, Roma and Savona), I noticed how I use my French like a battering ram for the other romance languages. Instead of listening and learning the rules for Italian, I just pulled out my French and English rule books. I realized I was super uncomfortable with how incompetent I was with Italian, so I started over-compensating with the other language skills I had.
Now don't get me wrong, this served me pretty well. I could converse with shop keepers, get a fantastic espresso, and ask for directions, sort of. Yet I remember from past language courses that we need to just learn the new language rules from a child's point of view. It's like the Buddhists' Beginner Mind, especially if we really want to learn and be proficient.
So this got me thinking about massage and yoga therapy. I have a client who came in with back pain and she wanted to really build a strong core, as she had heard that this was the best way to relieve back pain. We discovered pretty quickly on that she washing her neck, chest, ribs and arms for all sorts of movement. She realized she was unconsciously very competent in using her upper body. She had to step back and explore a little bit of the beginner's mind to learn how to not use that skill set. Once she learned this, it was pretty amazing how quickly she gained core strength and reduced her back pain (in two weeks between our sessions). Then she started to notice how she was overusing her upper body in so many other parts of her life. She's gotten stronger in squats, lunges, pushups and more. It's equally awesome!
So, my question to you is, where are you overusing a competency, because it's uncomfortable to explore beginner's mind? I so look forward to hearing about it. We can commiserate!