Fear Of Falling

Photo: Geralt/Pixabay.com

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates And Yoga

Winter has only just begun and already I’ve heard about several incidents of injuries from falls, at least one of them serious.  Of course, anyone can fall at any time of the year, but it seems like winter is a particularly dangerous time when ice and snow accumulate all around us. Some falls result from what we call “black ice”.  This is that devilish condition when a thin layer of ice on asphalt is invisible to the eye.  When encountered it can cause supports like feet, bicycle tires or even autos to slide perilously.  Another insidious form of hidden ice occurs frequently in my area where daytime sunshine causes standing snow to melt and then refreeze when the sun goes down and temperatures fall.  This condition can be particularly precarious when another layer of snow falls on top obscuring the ice layer below so you don’t know where it is until you step on it.

Although older adults seem more prone to falls, and many studies show that the consequences of falling for older adults can be particularly dire, no one is immune from falls.  There are many articles featuring suggestions for preventing falls.  All you have to do is Google “Fall Prevention” and you will find examples.  But I would like to focus on the causes that I see most frequently and that I think can be at least partially addressed with training.  First and foremost is failure to pay attention.  Our modern lifestyle seems to encourage hurrying.  We worry about slowing down when there are people behind us.  Or making that car wait for more than a few seconds while we cross a street.  Something distracts us and we forget to pay attention to our surroundings.  Have you ever been looking down at your feet (or your cell phone) and suddenly been hit in the head with a tree branch?  Admittedly I’m guilty of that one.  So the first piece of advice I would give is slow down.  Look around you in all directions.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Make sure your next step is on firm ground.  Sometimes I will take my foot and just slide it back and forth in front of me to make sure my next step is not on ice.  That car that’s waiting for you to pass is most likely not going to run you over.  And no matter where you’re going, the extra few minutes will not make any difference in the long run.  Unless they save you from injury.  Then, in fact, the extra few minutes might make a huge difference!

The second most frequent cause of falls I’ve observed or heard about is not taking proper precautions.  For example, not wearing appropriate shoes.  You think “I’m only going out for a few minutes.  I can make it in my high heels.”  Perhaps that’s a little extreme, but you get the picture.  You get away with it once and think it won’t be a problem the next time.  And maybe it’s not.  Until it is.  Wouldn’t it be better to just take that extra few moments to be safe.  I could go into a big rant here about the footwear industry and how it encourages us (especially women) to wear inappropriate shoes, but I’ll save that for another time.  Suffice it to say that most of you know what works in these situations.  It often comes down to the choices you make.  It’s also important to remember that just because you’ve been careful to clear your own walkways, this may not be the case everywhere you need to go.

There are many reasons why people fall.  Some of them are related to physical conditions or side-effects of medication.  If you have these types of concerns hopefully you will get professional advice on how to deal with them.   But so many falls result from preventable circumstances that it’s worth another reminder.  This provides yet another reason to tout the benefits of movement practices.  Mind-body practices like yoga, Pilates and others can help you to learn to pay more attention to the way you move.  These practices help encourage strength, flexibility and balance.  We think of balance as being able to stand on one foot.  But practicing balance exercises can also be a way to strengthen the muscles that will help you catch yourself and avoid falling.  Or help you get up if you do fall.  Holding onto something because you fear falling might be helpful, but wouldn’t it be better if the muscles that support you were stronger.

Mobility has been described as more than just being able to move, but also maintaining strength through a full range of motion.  Stability is the quality that enables one to retain or regain position when impacted by an external force.  So, for example, if you’re standing and something pushes you, you’re ability to recover your position would be a way to measure stability.  So you can see how mobility and stability go hand in hand.  Then there is flexibility which might be described as the quality of being able to bend without breaking.  Clearly all of these traits are also necessary components for good balance.  If you feel stronger and more stable you will also gain confidence.  Fear can make us tense.  Tension makes us brittle and rigid.  Rigidity is the opposite of flexibility. Tension zaps energy and strength.  So learning to relax can be as important as all the other elements of balance.  Breathing practices, also an important component of mind-body practices such as yoga and Pilates, can help relieve tension and encourage relaxation.  They also help you slow down and recognize that few circumstances merit the hurrying we often feel is so necessary.

Finally, being in good physical condition might not prevent a fall, but it will certainly help you recover from one.  And cultivating more conscious awareness of your mind and your movements can help you in all aspects of your life.   If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s never too late.  If you can move and breathe, there is a practice for you.  Take the time to find one.  You won’t be sorry.  And it just might save you from yourself.

Changing Fast and Slow

Image: Silke Lemcke/Pixabay.com
By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

We know that everything is always changing.  Why is it then that some things seems to change too quickly while other things change way too slowly.  All it takes is a visit from friends or family members who don’t live near you.  It doesn’t matter how many Facebook posts you’ve seen through the years.  Seeing people in person always provides a jolt.  Children show enormous changes over what feels like a relatively short period of time.  Over the same time period the adults around them also change, but those changes seem more slowly paced.  The changes in young people appear dramatic to the observer while changes in adults might be less obvious, more subtle.  Yet we adults still know how much we are changing.  We may not notice it on a daily basis, but eventually change becomes evident.  You can try to stave it off with hair dye and physical fitness, but inevitably we move a bit slower.  Healing takes longer.  Certain actions require more effort or preparation.

Some of us choose to fight with change.  Huge industries have been built around masking change.  There is hair dye and make up and cosmetic surgery.  Once this was primarily the province of women, but increasingly cosmetic counters are appealing to men also.  Our culture values youth.  And not just in terms of years, but also the way we look and behave.  Every day we are presented with images representing ideals.  Although we have learned that those images are rarely real, we can still feel that somehow we have to live up to those standards.

Then there’s the flip side:  recognizing change can feel like a losing battle so we resign ourselves and give up.  We think, “I can’t do ___ anymore (fill in the blank with whatever activity you’ve written off) so I’m just going to stop trying”.  Of course, eliminating or altering certain activities as we age can be a necessity due to our changing bodies.  A wise person learns to back off when expectations of one’s abilities stops matching the reality.  But even then change doesn’t have to mean all or nothing.  Life is rarely that simple.  There are often tweaks and modifications that allow us to continue finding things we can do that still give us pleasure.

In another version of the same problem, a person might recognize and accept change in themselves but then feel frustrated when others around them can’t or won’t do the same.  That person might think, “I keep telling them how much better things would be if they made this or that change, but still they won’t do it.” Unfortunately, none of us has any control over anyone else’s behavior.  Even our children.  Just as we are each different from our parents, are children are also separate individuals.  Of course, we all learn from each other, but each of us has our own way of interpreting and internalizing the inputs we receive. None of us ever really knows what goes on in another person’s mind.  For example, I might be thinking one thing when I say something to you, but you might hear what I say in a completely different way from my intention.  This is why as a teacher I am always looking for different ways of giving the same instruction.  Some people will learn from one method while others need another way to understand.  In my most recent post I talked about perception and how it varies for each of us. This is a prime example.  It does make relationships complicated.  But it’s also a reminder that human behavior is not always easily labeled.

Sometimes what feels like stagnation is really just super slow change.  Things don’t always happen on a time line we would like.  Progress on any front may seem painfully slow.  But frustration with the pace or nature of change usually occurs when making comparisons.  That might mean comparing things to some ideal that may or may not be achievable or comparing the present to a past that no longer exists and is never coming back.  Alternatively, sometimes it can feel like things are moving so fast that your head spins trying to keep up with it all.  You feel like you just want to hold on to something familiar rather than face the uncertainty of change.

No matter what we want, though, change is going to happen in its own time with or without us.  Our lives are brief and finite.  For us as humans time just keeps moving forward.  How much better it would be to simply accept what is and work from there.  Whatever stage your physical body is in at the present moment, it will be different tomorrow.  Not good or bad, better or worse.  Just different.  You might not feel yourself changing in this moment, but you are.  Go with the flow.  Be who you are.  As the song says, ” we are stardust; we are golden”.  Wherever you are right now it is where you are.  Tomorrow may be different.  But today is what it is.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the spectacular reminder this week of how small we really are.  Of course, I am referring to the eclipse. Regardless of our petty concerns, the stars and planets just keep moving.  On my walk today I listened to a podcast from Radiolab about the Voyager probe which has now gone beyond the edge of our solar system and is still moving.  Several years back, before it’s camera was turned off, Carl Sagan convinced NASA to turn the camera around for one final look back at our solar system from it’s vantage point more than 4 billion miles from our earth.  In that photo the earth is a tiny, barely visible blue dot.  Kind of puts everything back into perspective.

Improving Independence

Cave Painting of Lascaux

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

This past week we celebrated Independence Day, a milestone in American history.  On that day we recall our fledgling nation’s successful effort to separate itself from British rule and establish our own local government.  Since that time the concept of independence has become a significant pillar of American culture.  As a society we place a high value on individual independence.  We love the idea of the self-made person who succeeds by using his/her own wits and ingenuity.  A lofty ideal for sure, but a myth nonetheless.

Of course, we can often improve ourselves and sometimes even our circumstances through hard work and determination.  That’s true.  But everyone who does succeed at anything owes that success to external factors as much as internal drive.  Start with the accident of birth.  If you were born here in the U.S. or have had the good fortune to obtain citizenship or permanent resident status, you can thank that one fact alone for many of the opportunities you’ve been able to take advantage of in your life.   You can’t credit your birth to any ability of your own. It just happened that way and you are the unwitting beneficiary.  Maybe you were born into a privileged family, maybe not.  Or you might have had access to great schools and teachers.  Or not.  The amenities in your area – roads and transportation options, clean water, accessible food sources, etc. – may have served to add or detract from your quality of life, but either way they certainly contributed.  Sometimes the ability to change surroundings is available and sometimes not.  So in many ways, we are not as independent as we think.

Even those who are “off the grid” will probably find that they are still dependent on some external sources.  For example, if you grow your own food, you still may need certain weather conditions.  The availability of clean water is always a factor even if you use indoor gardening options.  As human beings we are neither infallible nor immortal.  We need food and water no matter what.  And we are subject to all kinds of illnesses and other physical problems.  At this point you might be wondering if I’ve been reading too many dystopian novels.  In fact, my intention is not to paint a bleak picture of human frailty, but simply to remind us all that we need each other.  We are all interconnected. Like or not.  And when that fact is accepted, the potential exists for all of us to get along with each other much better that we do.

A recent article in Yoga Journal reminds us that we are “supported in countless ways through each moment of your life”.  The article is about gratitude, but it is also about independence and interdependence.  The 17th-century author and pamphleteer, Roger L’Estrange, is quoted as saying that we often “mistake the gratuitous blessings of heaven for the fruits of our own industry.”  Thus not only do we need each other, but we are dependent on everything on the planet and even the universe to support us.  Without all of it, we could not exist.

Having said all of that, one of the most common refrains I hear among older people is that they (or should I say “we”) want to maintain their independence for as long as possible.  Becoming completely dependent upon others for daily needs is something many of us dread.  We want to keep driving our cars, walking on the trails, choosing our own food, living in our own homes, seeing other people when we want to or being alone when we prefer.  We don’t want to be a “burden” on our families, or on society.  And yet most of us will at some point lose at least some of our ability to take care of ourselves.

Still medical research suggests that this doesn’t always just happen simply due to aging.  Sometimes it is a result of inactivity.  As I’ve often said, the less you move, the harder it is to get moving again.  Another of my mantras is that we all need to move while we can move because one never knows when their ability to move will be altered.  Illness or accident can immobilize any of us at any time.  When people tell me they are afraid of flying, for example, I often respond that they could get hit by a car tomorrow.  Or trip getting out of bed.  Anything can happen.  These are just more ways in which that illusion of control over our own lives can go awry.  Sometimes a post-traumatic stress reaction can set in.  Once you experience pain from any source, it is easy to become fearful that the same pain will return.

So it all comes back to letting the lure of potential benefits overcome the siren song of fear.  In “Exercise:  A Guide From the National Institute on Aging” the authors state that “just about every older adult can safely do some form of physical activity” and, in fact, “studies suggest that not exercising is risky behavior.”  If motivation is a drawback, dangle that carrot of independence right in front of your nose every time you try to erect barriers.  Too hot or too cold outside?  Set a timer and walk around your house for 20 minutes.  Better yet, walk up and down some stairs.  You don’t have to go fast.  Just move continuously at whatever pace is available to you.  Or take a class!  Most classes are indoors and some are even air conditioned.  Afraid to go by yourself?  Call a friend or relative to go with you.  Remember that a class can be a source of support and strength.  These are two of the many qualities that help us to maintain independence while still recognizing our interconnectedness.  Leave your fear of looking funny at the door.  There was a wonderful article in this week’s “On Being” blog called “Perfection Will Do You In“, by columnist Parker Palmer.   In it, there is a poem by a 94-year-old Benedictine monk named Kilian McDonnell which is a must read.  Here is my favorite part:

“the Venus de Milo
has no arms,
the Liberty Bell is
cracked.”

Bottom line:  nobody is perfect and we all need each other.  And remember – the independence you may save or extend could be your own.

Coming Back

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

At some point we all find ourselves in a place that forces us to change our perspectives and view life through a new lens.  Sometimes this transformation is sudden, as in the case of an accident, illness or loss of something or someone important to us.  In other examples the change is more gradual, such as the process of aging or accepting chronic conditions that may never completely disappear.  We find ourselves faced with “the new normal”.  Despite the fact that everything in life is always changing, most of us are wary or even downright afraid of what is unknown.  This causes us to cling to the familiar even if we are not completely happy with it.  We’ve all heard the expression, “the devil you know . . .” which is often used as a rationale for avoiding change.

We each have different ways of handling change.  Some of us resist the reality of change by resorting to denial.  We might think, “This isn’t really happening.  I will just keep on moving through life in the same way that I always have.” Others get angry and look for someone or something external to blame, as in “if it wasn’t for _____  (fill in the blank) everything would still be the same as it used to be.”  That may or may not be true, but unfortunately, it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.  Others despair, focusing on the loss rather than anything positive that remains and sometimes find themselves dissolving into depression.  Some consider themselves victims and wonder “why me?” Still others will accept the new normal and try to make the best of it.

It has long been a question among social scientists as to why some people can move through changes with relative equanimity, while others resist sometimes to the point of sacrificing their own health and well-being.  Most agree that the quality that sets the victims apart from the survivors is resilience.  The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.  .  . It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”  Furthermore, “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” So this is not some innate quality that is part of our DNA, it is something that we can all develop.  It just takes practice.

No one escapes hardship in life.  We may think there are people who have it all together.  But deeper inspection often reveals hidden truths. Many years ago when I was dealing with a  particular set of changes in my life I met a woman who captured my admiration.  I thought, “If I could only be like her all my problems would be solved.”  Later I learned that beneath the appearance of perfection there was a deeply troubled soul who had a host of characteristics I was so grateful I didn’t have.  It was a simple but major lesson for me – nobody’s perfect.   Whatever someone else has that you think you want often accompanies many things that you’re better off without.

Getting back to resilience, I used to teach a class to prospective entrepreneurs about how to build a viable business.  It turns out resilience is also a key to successful entrepreneurship.  One might think that having lots of money is an important factor.  And, yes, having sufficient resources to survive good and bad times is necessary, especially during the start-up phase which often lasts several years.  Also important is a complete understanding of market conditions.  But being able make it through tough times and respond to changes as they become evident without clinging to some ideal image of the way things “should” be is right up there at the top of the list.  Followers of this blog might recognize this characteristic as something we cultivate in yoga and Pilates – namely, flexibility – being able to go with the flow without breaking.

So what does all this have to do with coming back?   That title could refer to many things, but, as you might have guessed, I am referring in particular to coming back from illness, injury or other forms of loss.  By loss I mean those related to changes in our ability to do the same things we’ve always done in the way we used to do them.  It also might mean loss of the illusion that we will ever be able to be like that other person who looks a certain way or who can do certain things that are unavailable to us in this moment.  In particular, each physical set-back I have reminds me of my limitations.  Regardless of how I feel or how I view myself, I am not the same person physically that I was 20 years ago.  This is not bad or good.  It just is what it is.  Knowing that, I can choose to lament the fact that I will probably never again run a marathon, or I can find joy in the fact that I can still hike in our beautiful outdoors on legs that not only work but are mostly pain-free.  So certain human frailties may be revealed, but also amazing strength.  I’ve had set-backs, but I’m still here and still moving.  How incredible is that!  Some days may be slower than others but that’s OK.  It is wonderfully liberating not to have to live up to anyone else’s standards.  Also I can still practice yoga and Pilates, both of which have contributed greatly to my physical capacity.  These are all disciplines that can be modified to meet my needs.  Some days I can do poses that are difficult on other days.  There is no rule that says I have to power through the difficult moves when they are not working for me.  I can modify or even skip them altogether and try again tomorrow.

Change may be constant, but sometimes it can’t be forced.  When you can’t change a situation, you can always change your attitude.  Here is a link to another article on “How to Build Resilience”.  The suggestion is given to “Reframe Your Interpretation”.  This is another way of saying find a different point of view.  Remember the old song that advised “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”?  You could almost use that for a mantra.  No matter how bad things seem, there is always something positive that is still available if you look for it. Even if it’s something really small, it’s worth focusing on until something better becomes visible. This isn’t necessarily easy and it won’t change reality, but it might help you get through it.  You may be losing something precious, but I would venture a guess that meaningful things in your life still exist.  Just like physical activity, this requires practice.  It may take many reminders throughout the day, but as neuroscientists are increasingly learning, we can create new pathways in our brains at any age.

So even if you think you have always been a certain way and can’t possibly change, train yourself to think as my favorite astrologer/philosopher Caroline Casey advises and add the words “until now!”.  You can change.  You just need to practice.  Accept what is and focus on what you can do right now. If it gets better, great!  If not, it’s still worthy of celebration.

6th Annual LUNAFEST® Film Festival Spotlights Advocacy For Indigenous Women

6th Annual LUNAFEST® Film Festival Spotlights Advocacy For Indigenous Women

 The 20-minute film, “Chosen,” is a true story about Brianna, a star student, cheerleader and waitress, who is lured into the world of sex trafficking when she moves to a big city to attend college.
The 20-minute film, “Chosen,” is a true story about Brianna, a star student, cheerleader and waitress, who is lured into the world of sex trafficking when she moves to a big city to attend college.

CUSTER, SD – Lunafest, an annual traveling international festival that features women filmmakers, this year highlights a showing of “Chosen”, a short film made to help stop human trafficking. It will be followed by a discussion, and a presentation on “Service and Advocacy of Indigenous Women.”

The festival of “Short Films By, For, About Women” is hosted by Zonta Club of the Southern Black Hills at Custer High School Saturday, April 1, 2017 beginning at 10 a.m. The club is part of a worldwide organization of executives in business and the professions working together to advance the status of women.

“Chosen” is a true story of two teens tricked by traffickers. Brianna, 18, was a star student, cheerleader and waitress eager to break out of her small town to attend college in the big city. Lacy, 13, enjoyed church and school but struggled to help care for her siblings while her stepfather was deployed and mother worked to support the family. Brianna and Lacy relate how traffickers used manipulation to lure them into the world of sex trafficking.

The 20-minute movie will be shown at 12 and 2 p.m. The film discussion group will be at 12:30 p.m. and the presentation on Service and Advocacy of Indigenous Women is from 1 to 2 p.m.

In addition to this and other documentary shorts, Lunafest includes films in the genres of art, animation, and fictional drama. Nine movies on the program cover topics such as health, leadership, motherhood, body image, aging, cultural diversity and breaking barriers.

All proceeds from Lunafest benefit the Breast Cancer Fund and Zonta Club of the Southern Black Hills.

The movies will be screened in connection with a trade show of exhibitors representing local businesses and services. Trade show hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Refreshments will be available for purchase during that time.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Trade Show featuring Business and Service Exhibitors

10:00 a.m. Continuous showing of Lunafest films begins; final showing at 3:00 PM

12:00 Noon Film “Chosen”

12:30 p.m. Film Discussion group

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Presentation on Service and Advocacy of Indigenous Women

2:00 p.m. Film “Chosen”

TICKETS: Admission to Films: $10.00 Suggested Donation

No Charge for Trade Show or Presentation Service and Advocacy of Indigenous Women

Custer JR/SR High School  Google Map.
1645 Wildcat Ln, Custer, SD 57730

SPONSORS: Edward Jones, Black Hills Energy, Carson Drugs, State Farm Insurance, Women Escaping a Violent Environment (W.E.A.V.E.), South Dakota Coalition Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence, Custer Real Estate

 

6TH ANNUAL LUNAFEST® FILM FESTIVAL – APRIL 1st 2017 – Custer, South Dakota

 

6TH ANNUAL LUNAFEST® FILM FESTIVAL – APRIL 1st, 2017 – Custer, South Dakota

Curbing Judgment – By Peg Ryan – Mile High Pilates and Yoga

growthopti21417

Curbing Judgment
By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga
February 13, 2017

CUSTER, SD – One advantage to getting older – at least for me – is that experiences accumulate.  Through the years, just like all of you who are reading this, I’ve encountered many challenges.  Recently it has occurred to me that there is at least one positive result of living through difficult circumstances.  Each of them helps me to become less judgmental of others and of myself.  The word “never”, as in “I would never respond that way”, is gradually disappearing from my vocabulary as I loosen my grip on fixed ideas coming from years of conditioning. Increasingly the truth of constant change becomes more evident as well as how little in life is really under our control.

Even though we have similarities as human beings, we are all also uniquely different.  Each of us has our own individual characteristics as well as our own gifts.  There is really no “one size fits all”.   That also means there is sometimes no universal notion of right and wrong or good and bad.

Still we all want to do the “right” thing, even when we’re not really sure what that is.  And we are often quick to berate ourselves (or others) when we think we (or they) have gotten it “wrong”.   We often hold ourselves to impossible standards.  Some of this comes from all the things we’ve been told by others throughout our lives. Experiences of praise or punishment, consequences of actions we’ve taken or witnessed – all of these things contribute to the person we are today and the ideas we’ve formed.  We may no longer even know where those ideas originated, but they are part of us nonetheless.

Changing these ideas, or just finding ways to be open to new ones, can be really difficult.  Maybe, though, instead of being daunted by that prospect and giving up before even trying, we can learn to recognize this challenge as an opportunity for practice.  An article in Yoga Journal by meditation teacher Sally Kempton titled “Make Peace with Perfectionism and Make Mistakes” provides an example of one idea for this type of practice – retraining your inner critic.  The article cites Patanjali‘s advice to “Practice the Opposite” from Sutra 11.33.  The Yoga Sutras are a collection of verses describing yogic philosophy.  This practice suggests that you talk back to your inner critic.  So, for example, when you find yourself saying “I shouldn’t be doing this because I can’t do it right” counter this with “I can do lots of things right and my way of doing this is just as good as anyone else’s.”  Similarly, if you start to think “I can’t possibly survive this crisis” remind yourself that you’ve survived numerous crises in the past and you can survive this one also.  I’m sure you can all think of many other ways to try this out.  You might even find it interesting to come up with a counterstatement for every negative thought about yourself (or someone else!) that comes to mind.  Here’s another example:  “I keep forgetting to do this practice so I might as well give up”.  You can counter that with “I’ve remembered before and I can remember again.”  Each new moment is a new opportunity to try again.  Just recognizing that you forgot is a huge step in the right direction.  Give yourself a big pat on the back for that.

Recently when I mentioned to a woman that I am a yoga teacher, she said “I can’t do yoga because I can’t relax”.  All of you, myself included, can probably relate to that statement.  We all felt that way at some point when we were new to yoga.  Some of us may still feel that way. In fact, sometimes yoga itself can be stressful if we put too many expectations on ourselves.  Also I know many “Type A’s” who don’t like yoga because it’s “too slow”.  My response is “it’s a practice thing”.  The more you do it, the easier it becomes.  However, I also know that I didn’t always feel that way.  Finding it difficult to relax could be one more reason to keep trying.  But it could also be another example of how we are each different from each other.  We all need to find our own way to what will best serve us.

As I get older I’ve noticed that I’ve become more open-minded and less likely to automatically dismiss or condemn another point of view. That also has made me less likely to try to impose my opinions on anyone else.  My classes are a judgment-free zone.  Come as you are and do what works for you.  And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s OK, too.  Maybe the timing is not right or perhaps there is a different type of practice waiting for you down the road.  Just try to keep an open mind and remember that everything is always changing.  What you feel today may be different from what you feel tomorrow.

Small Change

smallchangesopti
Photo: Pixabay

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga
November 6, 2016

Change is all around us all the time.  Whether we like it or not, everything is in a constant state of change.  All you have to do is look at a photo of yourself when you were a toddler and then look in the mirror.  Clearly you have not stayed the same.  Then look around you.  Look at the town you grew up in.  Even young people will undoubtedly see changes in their surroundings. I have lived in my current location for just under 9 years.  Not a very long period of time.  Yet during that time I have seen numerous changes in my town and surrounding towns.  People and businesses have come and gone. New homes have been built where fields or forests once thrived.  Smart phones are now ubiquitous. It doesn’t take very long for change to be noticeable.  Pay attention and you will see changes around you every day.  And despite resistance, going back to the way things used to be is not only unlikely but probably unwise.  Hindsight is 20-20 but our memories are selective and faulty.  Nothing was really ever as great as we think we remember it to be.

Yet despite the overwhelming evidence that nothing stays the same, we often cling to the hope that somehow we can hold on to the way things are right now.  Especially if right now seems like a particularly soothing or, at least, non-threatening place.

Change over time can be subtle, like the changes involved in the aging process.  For young children, change occurs at a rapid rate.  The difference between a 6-month old child and a 1-year old child is dramatic.  But through the years, change seems to slow to the point where we may not even pay attention until something forces us out of our complacency. Similarly, a seedling might grow really quickly once it pokes through the soil.  But large trees grow more slowly.  Seasonal changes are observable, but incremental growth patterns may be less obvious.

It is common to recognize the passage of time at certain milestones – the beginning of a new decade, a child or grandchild’s graduation or marriage.  Yet even as these things happen we often don’t see ourselves as changing.  After all, the “internal me” is the same “internal me” that has been there all my life. Sure, I’ve accumulated knowledge and experience over time that has enhanced the way “internal me” views the world, but in my own head I seem the same as I was 20 years ago.  So why is it that my body sometimes refuses to acknowledge the sameness of “internal me”?  It is not uncommon to continue to try doing things the way we’ve always done them because inside we feel the same as we always did. Unfortunately, though, forcing the status quo as our bodies are changing can be frustrating and even dangerous.

Then there are times when change is forced on us.  There might be an accident, illness, loss or other circumstance that forces us to confront the reality of change.  This type of sudden change can be very difficult to accept and absorb. Sometimes it’s appropriate and even necessary to simply put our lives on hold temporarily until a way forward becomes clear.  Certainly recovery from a trauma – physical and/or emotional – may require this approach.  Stop.  Breathe.  Assess the situation as it really is (not as we might like it to be) and then take the next step.  Blaming oneself or some external person or circumstance is rarely helpful.  Also wishing that things were different than what they are won’t make it so.  Looking back into some rosy ideal of the past also just keeps you trapped in thinking like a victim instead of the strong, confident and capable individual that you are.

But just how does one move forward when every new step leads to unknown territory?  The world can seem like a scary place when the comfortable rug of familiarity is pulled out from under your feet.  Curling up into a little ball and opting not to move may seem like an option, but it is unlikely to be a viable solution.  At least not for long, anyway.  So what is the best way to overcome the pain of those first steps into a new world?  One suggestion is to keep those steps small. This is true of any change to your life – whether it is a change you decide to make or one that was not your choice.

Any change in your life – even positive change – involves some type of loss.  In the simplest of terms, it is loss of the way things were.  Perhaps it is the loss of a comfortable routine.  Bringing this discussion to my favorite topic – physical movement – suppose you’ve been told by a medical professional that you need to move more.  Maybe you used to be an avid exerciser, but you’ve gotten away from it through the years.  Or perhaps you’ve suffered from an illness or accident that has caused you to limit or alter your mobility for a period of time.  In this blog I have often spoken of the difficulty of getting back into movement after a hiatus.  Continuous movement is the optimal option, but what happens when something gets in the way?

One idea is to take baby steps.  Once a decision to make a change is made, many of us want to have it all instantly.  That’s the way of life we are fed.  Immediate solutions.  Why wait, the ads scream?  Get what you want NOW!

But there are some potential problems with that kind of thinking.  If you’ve been away from moving for a while, it may be painful to start again.  Your muscles may have lost some of their strength and resilience.  It will take some time to build them back up again. Rather than eliminating your pain, re-building your strength may bring some additional pain initially. This can be discouraging.  If not moving seems to keep the pain at bay while moving brings it on again, why would you want to subject yourself to that?  The answer goes back to the theme of this blog – change.  It has been famously said that if you want things to change, you can’t keep doing the same thing.  Staying still might seem like it will keep you pain-free, but it won’t change anything.  And the longer you stay still, the harder it is to make that change.  By contrast the pain that comes when you move may not subside right away, but if you continue with small incremental steps, your body will get stronger.  Just like the subtle changes described above, you may not recognize the changes in your body, but eventually you may realize that today you were able to do more than you could yesterday.  That’s change in a positive direction.  You may find that you have to move differently from what you’ve been used to.  But if you continue with the practice of small changes, you will probably find a way that will work in your new reality whatever that may be.

Making changes in this way still takes a decision and a commitment.   This is true for any change you need to make in your life whether it is a job change, a geographical move or adapting to a loss.  Taking the first scary step toward a new reality is the hard part.  Once you know that first step is possible, taking the next one might create a bit less anxiety. The world didn’t end when you took the first step, so it probably will still be there after the second step. There is also another advantage to small steps.  You can evaluate as you go along.  Maybe your goals will change as you get stronger.  If you’ve waded into your new reality slowly and avoided diving into the deep end right away, adjusting your course might seem more possible.  Since change is all around us, it is also possible to create some of those changes for yourself. You may not be able to change everything, but your attitude is always within your control.

Finally, it may help to remember all of the obstacles you’ve overcome in your life.  No matter who you are or what you’ve done I am certain you can look back through your life and recognize instances when you adapted to change despite misgivings or odds that seemed stacked against you.  We’ve all had those experiences.  Maybe you made a false start and had to re-think and try again.  If you did it once, you can do it again.  Chances are you have already done it many times. We all have our own individual inner strengths.  Find yours.  It will help you to make the best choices as you move through change.