Obstacles

Obstacles give us an opportunity to grow.

Often the poses we dislike the most are the very ones we need the most. It’s easy to motivate yourself to do something you’re good at, harder to enjoy that which can be a challenge.

But, it’s only by doing the difficult things — both on and off the mat — that we get  better at them.

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Magic Number

As most of you already know, I love basketball and am passionate about my San Antonio Spurs. I love having us all stretch Tim Duncan Tall. Just as on and off the yoga mat, there’s lots of life to be learned on and off the basketball court.

A spectacular slamdunk and an ordinary tip-in both score the same 2 points. Sportsmanship counts, reflected not only in final scores, but also in humility during and after the game. A Hall of Fame player often never wears a Finals ring.

One of the 4 Spurs Championship Rings

As playoff time nears there’s a lot of talk about a team’s Magic Number. This is a combination of wins and losses that determines a team’s ranking in the playoffs. You can advance by winning, but you can also advance by someone else winning over your close competition.

It all sounds more mathematical than it really is, but it got me to thinking — what if in life we all had a Magic Number? So many good deeds, so many acts of kindness and we’d go to the championship round. Do something not so good — and we all do — no worries, our friends will help us out and push us ahead.

I like thinking our Life Magic Number is infinite in scope. That in our lifetime we all will have enough opportunity to do good to make us champions, even if there’s no ring at the end of the season.

GO SPURS GO!

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39 Years of Yoga

39 years ago today I became a mother for the first time. It also marks the beginning of my yoga practice. In 1972 I had never even heard of yoga, but there it was, offered as a part of the YMCA’s Mother’s Day Out program in Charleston, WVA.


Home from the hospital. Happy Birthday Nathan!

I instantly fell in love with yoga. Young, trim even after having a baby, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do on the mat. Stand on my head — did it while listening to Johnny Carson’s monologue. Plow pose — could bring my shins to the floor and cover my ears with my knees.

Now older, heavier and much wiser, I know so much more about what being on the mat is all about. It’s never about the poses — it’s all about where they lead you. Success can be measured not by how triumphant you look on the mat, but just by showing up and doing your best for that day.

I wish I could tell you for these 39 years I’ve been on the mat everyday, but there’s always been gaps and misses. Perhaps more mat time is the gift I’ll give myself for the next 39 years. Hope you’ll give yourself more mat time too — if only sitting quietly and doing some deep breathing.

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Expectations

In this season of gifts — given and received — a lot of expectations swirl around the exchange. That perfect gift you bought turns out not to be so perfectly received. You don’t see the look of surprise and excitement just as you envisioned. The box you knew had to contain what you always wanted turns out to be not so much. Wrong size, wrong color, wrong in so many ways it can’t be explained.

But, really, what makes a gift “wrong” has more to do with our expectations on both sides of the giving process rather than the gift itself. Many Christmases ago I asked Ron for a simple gold bangle — not really a bracelet even, just a thread of gold for my wrist would have been perfect. The box under the tree was the right size and shape — I just knew my new husband had bought me the perfect piece of jewelry for our first Christmas together.

Imagine my surprise when I opened that box to discover a wide silver cuff, more befitting Wonder Woman’s wrist than my own! The holiday quickly turned into a therapy session in my head. Was I not clear? Was he not listening? Was he sending me a message I needed to decode? Or, was it was just a girl/guy thing like the folks on Mars and Venus talking?

Our expectations get in our way all the time, not just around the holidays. An email message we think is going to be a confirmation turns out to be a cancellation. We look down on the scale expecting to see a loss, but instead see no change or even worse a gain.

What it comes down to is our reaction to not having our expectations met that’s really important. It’s how we handle the disappointment of missed expectations that will turn out to be the real gift.

(PS If you have ever noticed the gold bracelet I always wear, it is a gift from Ron. We found it together in Missoula, MT of all places. I picked it out and waited in the coffee shop while he went back and bought it. Given at a time of uncertainty, it’s become a symbol for us that everything will be okay.)

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Expect the Unexpected

Before we left Austin for our Second Honeymoon trip to California we made plans. Not only where we were staying, but also where we were eating.

  • Breakfast at MaMa’s — a café that was on everyone’s top 5 list.
  • Fancy dinner at the Grand View Hyatt — boasting to be the last sky-view restaurant in San Francisco.
  • The Sunday Grand Brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel — our reservation timed to be at the cross over from breakfast to lunch so we could sample everything they had to offer.

So imagine our surprise after driving across Yosemite to Mono Lake to be treated to a 5-star meal at the Tioga Gas Mart. Fish tacos with fresh mango salsa and Buffalo meatloaf with seasoned steamed julienne vegetables all served on real plates with real silverware to be eaten outside on a weathered, well used picnic table. Gas pumps out front, the inside surrounded by refrigerator cases filled with the usual soft drinks and beer. The register decorated with last minute auto items hanging in their bubble packs. There was no hint of the delicious food we were about to savor.

In life there’s only so much we can plan. Out of that, there’s only so much that goes the way we hoped it would. After all Robert Burn’s poem written To a Mouse in 1785 is now a proverb:

The best laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry.

So it seems for generations we have been planning for things to not work out.  So what would happen if we also planned for the unexpected to be good? Things we don’t see coming that add to our day in a positive way.

The trick to this, I think, is letting those pleasant things be small. Receiving a smile from a stranger. Noticing how good our body feels after a little stretch. Hearing the birds in our front yard serenade us while sipping our morning coffee. Once expecting the best becomes a habit it’ll be easy to have little good things pool into a pond of joy you can soak in.

Be open to receive all that comes your way, let yourself exhale all that negative junk you might be carrying as you prepare for the worst to happen. Instead open yourself to receive the inhale breath and all the joy that it can bring.

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Everyone Can Dance

I fell in love with this video immediately, although I must admit, I have no idea what’s being sung about!

The important thing for me is that the left foot never moves — why you may ask, is this important?

Thanks to Ginger's Brother!

Well, if you can’t stand and dance with this Cat, the anchored left foot is the key to knowing that dancing is still possible for you. Even if you’re in the office or bed bound.

Push yourself away from your desk — move out so you’re sitting on the front half of your chair, being sure your weight is still well supported. Plant that left foot and move everything else, the arms the head, lift that right foot.  Switching your feet from right to left as needed — just be sure one foot is always on the floor for stability. Can’t lift a foot yet? Then lift your heels or just move the arms, body and head. Try to get the arms higher than the heart as much as possible.

Find the beat, find the fun in moving. Add some of your own moves too, but don’t forget to breathe. If you’re bed-bound, just pulse your legs and feet bringing the arms up as high as you can, moving the head with an attitude.

See how long you can dance. Each time, try to dance just a little longer until you can do the song all the way through. Don’t like this song? Do the movements to one of your own favorites.

This is especially fun if like me your chair is a ball and adds extra bounce to the tune.

After you’re finished your dancing, place both feet on the floor, rest your arms in your lap and close your eyes. Take a few integration breaths and notice your body. Your heart beat, the moisture on your skin, your muscles’ reaction to moving in so many different new ways — the smile that’s now found its way onto your face.

I hope you’ll be dancing with the Cat today and many other days!

As always, let me know how this works for you or if you have any questions / suggestions. It’s good to share, because none of us are in this alone.

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Iodine and Baby Oil

If you’re of the generation that remembers when an elixir of iodine and baby oil was your suntan lotion — then you should be thinking about skin cancer today.

Before Coppertone labels had the letters SPF printed on them, before people thought about being out in the sun as something dangerous, mothers would send their kids outside to play all day. I always felt fortunate to have grown up on the banks of the Potomac River where as kids we swam until the jellyfish came in then kicked around in the sand collecting shells.

Not so lucky today at 62, as I’ve  just had my 5th skin cancer sighting. Four have only been basal cells, one a more serious melanoma. In over a year I’ve yet to go 180 days without finding a piece of me to snip off and study.

If you haven’t been giving skin cancer a thought — please do. Go for an annual check-up and keep going as directed. I go every 90 days and will celebrate when I get a clean report twice in a row.

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Hitting the Reset Button

Got an email this morning. Someone wanting yoga back into her life, but with a note of regret over having yoga out of her life and needing to start yet AGAIN.

I had to share with her, and you, my favorite poem by Rumi. The first time I heard it, I just broke out in tears because I too had put my yoga practice on the back burner. The shame and sadness I had been feeling just lifted with these words. What I’ve learned over time is while you may not always find the time for your mat practice, yoga never really leaves you — it’s always there for you when you need some balance or a deep belly breath or just some gentle time of stillness to collect and find yourself.

This poem reminds me that there’s always time to push the reset button, regardless of how short you think your runway may be. Restarting is just a part of life to be embraced — a new beginning to be grateful for.

Come, Come, Come —
Whoever you are.
Wanderer, Worshiper
Lover of Leaving.
This is not
A caravan of despair.
It doesn’t matter
If you’ve broken
Your Vow
A thousand times,
Still and yet again,
Come.

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Bodies Like Rings on a Tree

A woman in Dallas shared with me how her weight gain just seemed to “happen.” Towards the end of her email she wrote:

I think there is a very real possibility that I might break down crying if I become more in touch with it.  So.  I’ll be needing a yoga mat and some Kleenex…

Crying is often a part of the yoga experience. Sometimes it’s the very first part as people start to sob with their first deep belly breath. Sometimes people cry all through Savasana without ever knowing why. Sometimes, we know exactly why, but find being on the mat the only safe place for our tears. (I had a student tell me her husband had cancer and that yoga was the only place she could let go. Off the mat she was now the rock for her ailing husband and fearful children.)

I believe that our bodies store everything that happens to us — like rings on a tree. Some rings, we don’t even know why they are there. Yoga opens up our bodies and peels back even ancient layers, which once acknowledged can rest. They never go away, but they can find some peace in their place in our history. Yoga never changes circumstances, but it can change how we react to what’s going on around us.

You might first come to yoga wanting more flexibility, a stronger core — physical changes. But you’ll keep coming back to yoga because it gives you a feeling of well-being. A feeling of peace.

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Life by the Numbers

Often when I talk about the work that I do — teaching obese and overweight people yoga —  I use the phrase that doing yoga can help you reclaim your health. I believe that yoga as a tool for health is overlooked by most people of size because the general concept and current images of yoga seem to be for the already thin and fit. I know everyone can do yoga, regardless of size or circumstance. Yoga is a doable and sustainable launching point for a healthier body and lifestyle.

I talk about reclaiming your health on Better TV (click to watch)

However, I always leave the other steps to reclaiming your health up to you. Following your own path — doing what works for you. But as the Universe would have it, I decided to share what reclaiming  health looks like for me.

I had wanted this first blog entry to be a dancing cat video, to be light and cheerful, but my own recent circumstances have pointed me in a different direction of a more serious nature. So for this first entry, I want to share about my life as I’ve been living it by the numbers.

Those numbers being my weight, the 3 little digits that add up to be what I’ve used in the past to measure so much of who I am.

I’m a avid journal writer. I started writing about what’s up in my life in 1975, before I moved to Austin as a young wife and mother. Because of that, I can tell you what I’ve weighed at any time in the past 35 years. Moving to Austin, March 1976: 153. Read More »

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