MOVEMENT AS GRACE

This week I came across an amazing quote,

Although we are intelligent, sensitive beings, we often think of ourselves as objects that need to be fixed.”

It comes from an article  in Pilates Style by well-known Pilates teacher, Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, who has been an inspiration to me for many years.  The article is on the esoteric side, dealing with an “insider” controversy in Pilates.  But you don’t have to understand that controversy to resonate with some of her quotes.  Here are a few more:

“What ‘conversation’ are you having with your body? Are you ‘partnering with’ or ‘fighting’ gravity? Are you treating yourself as a biointelligent organism who knows how to self-regulate, adapt and self-heal, or a biomechanical machine that needs to be repaired and serviced?”

“we need to remove the mask of the ‘ideal’ body to reveal our ‘real’ body.”

“How can movement be nourishing and enlivening, rather than ‘I should do it this way’ (body schema) or ‘how I should look’ (body image)? This calls for real body awareness, for discovering our true self.”

“What can begin to inform our movement awareness is knowing that we are constantly in a state of flux throughout life, ‘shaping ourselves,’ physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. From this potent place, we have an opportunity to embody ‘core’ as a coordinated relationship with gravity, ourselves, one another and our environment. We develop a way of being in life that is grounded, curious and empathetic—way beyond movement as a ‘thing to do.’ “

There is so much packed in to each of these quotes that I will just let you, dear reader, interpret as you will.  But one thing I would especially like to highlight is the reference to the “state of flux throughout life”.  A recurring theme throughout this blog is that all of life, including we humans, are constantly changing.  Despite the frequency with which I hear the phrase “I hate change”, it cannot be avoided.  It’s happening all the time – like it or not!

Furthermore, everything is always moving forward in time.  We can’t go back.  We might have some misguided thoughts that somehow things were better at some mythical time in the past.  But memory is faulty.  And even if that were true, it doesn’t matter.  What is real is the here and now.  And that includes our bodies.  Even if we don’t notice changes, they are happening within us and all around us.  So we can “‘partner with gravity’ (release tension) or ‘fight gravity’ (create tension)”.  Substitute the word “change” for “gravity” and you can see that there is a broader meaning here.

It seems to me that there is enough tension in the world and in our everyday lives without adding to that by fighting with our bodies.  No matter what your current status, your body is a miraculous manifestation.  You can choose to focus on your limitations, or you can recognize all of the things you are capable of.  If you are reading this, that’s just one of them!  The ability to move and breathe in any capacity is worth celebrating.  And also worth maintaining.  It is now well-known in the medical community that movement is an essential component to good health.  Move what you can move while you can move it.  It’s never too late to start and once you start you can always improve.  Things will change over time, but if you stay in “conversation” with your body, you will learn to adapt.  Here is one final quote:

“[W]hen we learn to listen to and be guided by our body wisdom, in relationship with gravity and spatial orientation, body schema begins to support our body image. We learn to embody our true selves. . . . we discover the inherent wisdom and intelligence within every cell of our body . . . we connect with the natural healing energy of the earth, and realign with our primal nature and relationship with the natural world”.

Move with that in mind and you just might be able to make peace with who you are and what you can do.

EMBRACING CHANGE

 

Embracing Change. Photo: NASA

 

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

We are all temporary residents of Planet Earth and none of us knows when our visa will expire.  Despite the fact that this is the one certain fact of our existence, we spend our lives either resisting or, mostly, ignoring it. Hoping it will just go away.  Or maybe somehow we will miraculously be exempt.  Of course, no one wants to dwell on the fact of his/her own demise even though it is inevitable.  Our society has an uncomfortable relationship with this concept.  Some of us have beliefs about what happens after death that subdue negative thinking on the subject.  But mostly what we think of when we reflect on the impermanence of life is it’s loss.  And it’s not just people but every living thing on the planet that will undergo the transformation from life to not-life, whatever that entails.  Those left behind lose someone or something, creating a void where that living being once was.  Those about to move into the transition will lose everything that is familiar, the perceptions that a lifetime of consciousness has provided.  They think of all the events they will miss.  So it’s not really death that we worry about.  Of course, we may fear the potential pain that might accompany death.  But what we really fear is loss.  And change.

No one likes change.  Yet change is as inevitable as death.  Everything is changing all the time, and despite our best efforts, there is nothing we can do to stop it.  Even when we think we’ve managed to head off certain changes, other changes will still occur that may not have been anticipated.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t work to make changes that could improve our lives.  But outcomes will most likely be different from what we expected when we began this work. Unexpected things happen all the time.  This is why many thinkers on these subjects recommend focussing on the process, rather than the outcome.  There’s an old Yiddish saying, “Man plans and God laughs”.  Life is unpredictable.  Pay attention to the journey, but let the chips fall where they may.

Loss comes in many forms, not just the ultimate.  Often we fail to acknowledge the significance of other losses in our lives.  Sometimes we know they are coming, other times we don’t.  Either way, we don’t always have a choice in how things work out.  We lose jobs, homes, money, youth, independence, etc., etc.  Even when we think we’ve chosen well, there are many factors beyond our control.  Sometimes things work out the way we want, sometimes they don’t.   It’s so easy to judge the actions of others.  Or to beat up on ourselves when we think we’ve made some huge blunder.  Hindsight is 20-20.  But most of us do the best we can with what we have to work with at the time.  And time only moves in one direction.  There is no going back.  What exists right now is what we have to work with.  We can’t change other people.  Circumstances beyond our control create situations that can’t be changed.  Sometimes we can change parts and pieces or maybe work toward a change.  But for the most part the only thing we can change is our attitude and perception.

In an article in Yoga Journal author Sally Kempton talks about navigating through change.  She cites “the Buddhist Doctrine of Impermanence, annica, [which] tells us that change is inevitable, continuous, and unavoidable.”  There is also a way of viewing this as the constantly shifting nature of energy:

“the intrinsic, dynamic power at the heart of life. . . . Every moment, every enterprise, every cell, is part of this flow of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. This flow is happening on a macrocosmic level—as the flow of seasons, tides, and cultures—and on a microcosmic level, through the various shifts in your physical states, the ups and downs of your life, and the flow of thoughts and emotions in your mind.”

When seen this way, even the most determined control freak must acknowledge that these changes are happening right before our eyes in every moment of every day.  Like it or not.

Perhaps instead of thinking of “endings” and “beginnings”, we can think of change as heralding transformation.  Part of our fear of loss is fear of the unknown.  What will be on the other side of this loss?  We know what life was like before the change.  How will we deal with what comes next? Even if the current state of affairs is not optimal, at least it’s familiar – the “devil you know “.  In the article cited above, Ms. Kempton also talks about ritual.  She writes, “In traditional societies, every phase of life was regarded as an initiation into a new way of being and was marked with a ceremony. . . Nowadays, we don’t always do a ceremony, but we still undergo initiations.”  All life changes require us to “step outside your habits, test your skills, and, for a time, inhabit the unknown. . . Each of these changes will subtly or even dramatically redefine you. You won’t be quite the same person after you step out of the old situation and into the new.”  Furthermore, “the change itself . . is the doorway into the next stage of growth—one that propels you into a deeper relationship with yourself and the world.”

The article goes on to provide some ideas for moving through change gracefully.  These, of course, require practice. Practice implies that success is not guaranteed, but there will always be another opportunity to try.  There are many articles and numerous suggestions from all kinds of authors on what to include in such a practice.  Everyone needs to find what works for them.  Still when change is sudden and catastrophic, it can be difficult to remember how to practice, let alone recognize that you are embarking on a new way of life.  Mourning is also a ritual.  Recognizing loss and the need to mourn is just as important as accepting change.  But all suggestions seem to boil down to the same concept:  leave the past behind, let the future take care of itself and simply be here now.  In this moment.  Hear your breath.  Count your blessings.  If you’re still a resident on the planet with an unexpired visa there will always be something to be grateful for.  Loss hurts.  It’s OK to hurt.  It’s part of being human.  Allow it.  Be kind to yourself.

TIME FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY TO WAKE UP – AN OPINION

 

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to a capacity crowd at Pine Ridge School on the Pine Ridge Reservation Thursday, May 12, 2016. Standing next to Sanders is Tatewin Means, Lakota Sioux Tribe Attorney General. Archive Photo/Custer Free Press

By Herb Ryan
December 26, 2017

Custer, SD – In 2020, Bernie Sanders will be 79, a prime example of an “old white guy” that needs to take the hint and get off center stage while he can still remember what he had for  breakfast. Other possible democratic candidates that are in the same category include former vice-president Joe Biden currently 75 and  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren 68.

The average age of all 44 U.S. presidents when taking office is just over 54 years. The youngest was Theodore Roosevelt at 42 – that’s when he succeeded William McKinley after his assassination in 1901. John F. Kennedy was 43 when elected. President Barack Obama was 47. The current president Donald Trump is 71. It’s a difficult concept to accept that there are no qualified candidates to meet the minimum age of thirty-five to be eligible to run for the presidency and the average age of fifty-four anywhere in the nation.

The democratic control of both the house and the senate in 2018 as well as the 2020 presidential election is in the hands of the voters. Any protest votes or voter apathy just throws the election to the other party. Unlike the presidential election, state and local elections are won by popular vote, every single vote counts. You get the representation you vote for if enough people agree with you. The former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill is most closely associated with the phrase, “All politics is local”, and so it is. The groundswell for change needs to happen now.

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.

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

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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.

Am I Making Progress ?

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Am I Making Progress ?

Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

Custer, SD – A friend and I were talking as we walked this morning about some of the ongoing controversies within the health and wellness communities.  One example: how do cholesterol levels really impact our health and what are optimum levels?  For many years this seemed to be settled science.  High cholesterol was linked to “bad” fat in the diet.  Everyone jumped on a reduced fat or fat-free diet.  Then research began to show that heredity and genetics also play a part.  Dietary cholesterol intake might not be such a significant factor after all.  Further research began to distinguish between types of cholesterol and also types of fat.   The subtleties of determining optimum levels in diverse individuals began to present additional complications in diagnosis and treatment.  There was a time when some doctors were advocating putting cholesterol-lowering medications in the water supply.  Fortunately, subsequent research has begun to question whether or not previously established optimum cholesterol levels are really applicable to all people.  So even when we think modern methods have settled certain questions, inevitably more questions tend to surface.

To complicate matters even more, increasing interest in holistic approaches to health care recommend taking the whole person into consideration instead of just isolated symptoms or systems.  This means recognizing that our internal mechanisms are not only interconnected but also impacted by our minds and emotions. Add to this the fact that each of us has our own individual responses to various medical interventions, none of which is always true for every person, regardless of the statistical results of clinical trials.  As human beings we have much in common, but we each have unique characteristics that make generalizations difficult if not downright dangerous at times.  My feeling is that we are all an experiment of one.  Getting to know our own bodies is just one step in the direction of learning what is right for each of us as individuals, regardless of what the latest study seems to show.

For many years there has been an ongoing discussion in the fitness industry.  It goes something like this:  is it healthier to be a thin couch potato or an overweight exerciser?  There are, of course, advocates and plausible arguments on both sides.   But in my opinion, all of this points to the many questions that still exist in our knowledge of how human beings work.  We are just beginning to learn about nutrition, what a body actually requires and the best way to provide it. This is no small task since each of us has different needs. This subject is still not well-taught in our medical schools and or even well understood by researchers. We get sound bites of research, most of which is flawed, that the media jumps on as the next magic solution. People hop on the bandwagon only to find that what worked for their neighbor simply doesn’t work for them. Then the next study comes down the pike which contradicts the one before it.  “Coffee is good for your heart!” shout the headlines only to be followed a few months later by, “Don’t drink coffee, it’s bad for you” or “Drink 3 cups of coffee, but not 4”.   It seems that each time some question finds what looks like an answer, a whole new set of questions arises.

Having said all of that, there is one thing that all of us have been hearing for many years and that a mounting body of evidence from many different sources continues to support.  We all need to move more for better health.  Many years of sedentary lifestyles have affected our health in negative ways.  This is just one factor in modern life that affects our health, but this is one we can choose to change.  But how to move, when to move, how often, how fast – all of these still remain questions that each of us as individuals need to answer for ourselves.

So what happens when you finally take that big step forward and make that change?  You’ve made the decision, committed yourself and incorporated a regular movement practice into your life. How do you know if you’re making progress toward better health?  Maybe despite attention your diet and consistent exercise you just don’t seem to be seeing results.  You were expecting to feel stronger, have better balance, ease some of your pain, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.  This can be discouraging.  You may even begin to doubt your own capacity for feeling better.  Thoughts like “I’m no good at this” or “I will never get any better” may begin to creep into your consciousness further sabotaging your efforts.

In the fitness industry we often speak of “exercise plateaus”.  Many people make noticeable gains in the early days of an exercise program.  Of course, this is not true for everyone.  In some cases the very act of beginning a movement practice is so stressful that it can take time for the practitioner to begin to feel better.  In all cases the body gradually adapts to the changing demands on its systems.  Sometimes this results in what looks like a levelling off of change.  But the changes that are continuing – and it is my opinion that they are, in fact, continuing – to take place may simply have moved into a more subtle realm.  This is the time when it becomes more important than ever to focus on continuing your practice and going deeper into the subtle aspects of mind-body connection to find the changes.  Here are some questions you might want to consider:  How do you feel?  If your goal when you began your practice was pain relief, perhaps your pain is still there.  But are you better able to live with it since beginning your practice?  Can you move more easily?  Are you better able to do at least some of the things that were beyond your ability when you started?  Do you have more stamina?  Try focussing on the improvement instead of the lingering limitations.

If your goal was weight loss, but you can’t seem to get there from here, ask yourself:  Do my clothes fit better?  Do I have more color in my cheeks?  How are my energy levels?  Do I fatigue less easily?  Am I sleeping better?  Am I standing taller?  Posture improvement is an important result of many mind-body movement systems including yoga and Pilates.  Another consequence of our sedentary lifestyle is erosion of good posture and resulting back, neck and shoulder problems.  In a recent article in Yoga Journal, Dr. Ray Long speaks of the immediate difference in his patients’ moods when he gives them a simple exercise that allows them to sit upright in a chair.  They change from describing themselves as being “tired” or “sad” to being “alert” and “bright”.  Which brings up another question:  Has your mood improved?  Remember, your emotions, mind and body are all interconnected.  Has working your body helped you to better respond to situations in your life?  Are you better able to relax and find stress-free moments? Maybe you don’t get irritated as easily by little things.  Perhaps you are more in touch with the present moment rather than regretting the past or fearing the future.  There is every reason to believe that your movement practice has contributed to these changes as well.

Going back to the concept that we are each an experiment of one, each of us will respond differently to whatever interventions we adopt to address our health needs.  As you begin to examine the more subtle changes in your mind and body, you will no doubt think of other ways to note your progress.  What works for the person next to you in class may not work for you and vice versa.  We each have to find our own way.  But it helps if you gear your measurements to your own needs rather than the needs of others or anything you read about in the popular press. Develop your own yardsticks of progress and if one ceases to work, find another.  There is no one perfect measurement.  After all what is progress?  Make your own definition.  But if it means positive change then I am confident that you will find it if you take the time to look.

The important thing is to stick with your practice no matter what.  Don’t give up. Change it if you need to reignite your enthusiasm or cut back if your body demands it.  But don’t stop moving. Whatever your definition of progress, it will certainly stop if you do.  And it is much more difficult to re-start after stopping than it is to just keep moving at whatever level you can.   Even if you think you aren’t getting anywhere, you are exactly where you need to be.  Be kind to yourself, practice patience, be grateful for your ability to move and breathe and honor your body’s desire to maintain that ability.

Better Days

 

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Better Days

Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

Every day is different. Even people living a completely ritualized existence will need to acknowledge this fact.  If nothing else, think about weather.  There may be places on earth where the weather is the same every day, but I doubt it.  Even if you live alone in the woods you are still part of an ecosystem that is in a constant state of flux. None of us is exempt from external influences.  We are all interconnected in this way.  Each of us is just a small part of a larger whole where we frequently find ourselves being impacted by circumstances beyond our control. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view.

Some of us welcome change.  These folks are constantly seeking something different and may even get bored or restless when things seem to stay the same for too long.  Others (and this is most of us) hate change, resisting even the smallest manifestations.  We like consistency because it gives us a sense of predictability reinforcing our illusion of control.  If we believe we can rely on things as they are, we don’t have to fear the unknown.  This fear is really just anxiety that we won’t be able to handle whatever changes occur in the future.

Despite this sense of anxiety there is not a single person among us who can look back through their lives and not see evidence of an ability to handle change.  We’ve all faced changes at some point in our lives regardless of our age.  In fact, small children change on a daily basis and usually manage to adapt.  As we age, we may become more invested in the status quo.  Yet we can still find even more examples of accepting change.  We may have been dragged kicking and screaming into a different scenario from the one we were used to, but still most of us find a way eventually to see things as they are and adjust.  Sometimes change brings hidden blessings which may not be recognized immediately but might become evident in hindsight.  Looking back can sometimes help us move forward when change is required.

Sometimes change is forced on us for one reason or another.  At other times the status quo itself is causing our suffering and we need to create our own change.  This can be difficult.  Inertia is a powerful force.  Also, just as changes in the world impact our own personal lives, so changes we make to our personal lives can impact the lives of others.  This doesn’t make those changes good or bad, right or wrong.  But it does help to remember that all decisions have consequences, some unexpected and unanticipated.  Being willing to accept and deal with the consequences whatever they are is one of the characteristics of resilience.  This is a quality defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”  You may have heard the saying “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Resilience is one of the traits that help us deal with the pain without buying into the suffering.

So what does all of this have to do with yoga, Pilates or exercise in general, my usual themes?  Basically it’s this – since each day is different and change is all around us all of the time, our practice can be impacted.  One of the many benefits of practice is that it helps us to deal with stress.  Practice can be an anchor in a raging sea of change.  There can be a comfort in the experience of simple breath and movement.  One of the things I often tell students is that if you really focus on connecting breath and movement there is usually no room in your head for anything else.  This can provide a brief respite from the ills of the world.  In fact, practice might help you to remember that in this moment right now there is still a lot that is OK.  We as humans seem to naturally gravitate to noticing what’s wrong more often than what is right. Those of you who take my classes know that at the end of each class I always offer gratitude for being able to move and breathe.  This is something I learned from yoga teacher Seane Corn and I am grateful to her for passing on that tip.  It has served me well.

Another consequence of daily changes is that some days are better than others physically as well as mentally.  As we get older, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of these feelings, but they are not limited to older people.  Everyone has days when they feel like they could conquer the world and other days when staying in bed seems like the only option.  On days like that it helps to remember that practice can be a source of comfort.  If you take classes regular, the group can also be a support.  Just like you feel differently on some days, your practice can be different, too.  If you’re not feeling terribly energetic or if you are bogged down by some difficulty, don’t blow off your practice. Instead allow it to change just as you are changing.  Be gentle.  Take it slow.  Don’t work so hard.  Bend your knees more.  Try using an extra blanket or other prop to make it less stressful.  Or just take Child’s Pose and breathe whenever you feel like it. You can also just completely avoid poses that are painful or difficult.  Or use modifications even if that’s something you rarely do.  There are no expectations you need to live up to. Your practice is for you alone.  There may be a benefit to others due to the effects of your practice on you, but that’s not the point.  The ultimate goal is for you to take care of yourself.  So just for today whatever will help you do that is the right thing to do.  Tomorrow will be different.