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Joy, Why You Need It!

Check out this photo of Gary surfing. Look at the size of that wave!

This is January in New England folks! Cape Cod to be exact.

There is no stopping him!

Surfers are a rare breed.

Living in a town that is considered a surfer’s paradise, I have worked with many over the years.

No matter what the weather, when the waves are big they surf.

They surf when the air is frigid. They surf when the winds are howling.

They surf when the rain is lashing.

On days when you or I wouldn’t dream of venturing outside, they surf.

And here’s the thing: they relish the wild weather that creates their waves!

From a surfer’s perspective the bigger the waves the better, and the storms that deliver those waves are celebrated.

I know Gary- he loves to surf. He might even say there is nothing on earth he loves more. He finds joy in surfing.

You can see the joy in this photo. Look at how light and open he is on his surfboard. Look how balanced he is on that wave! He is one with himself, his surfboard, the wave and the universe! He has found joy!

Joy is a motivator. Finding joy makes the impossible possible. Joy can be a new point of view!

In Born to Run author Christopher McDougall introduces us to the Taramahura tribe. These people can run barefoot 100 miles a day in the soaring heat of Mexico’s Copper Canyon.

McDougall determines that this feat (no pun intended) is due to joy!

Yes! To them running 100 miles is an act of joy.

“Glee and determination are usually antagonistic emotions, yet the Tarahumara were brimming with both at once as if running to the death made them feel more alive”1

Gary surfing off the New England coast in January, people running barefoot for 100 miles in the sweltering heat, these feats could never be accomplished if they were considered a drudge.

The one element is joy!

But you need to find joy. You need to be open to it. You need to welcome it! You need to cultivate it!

For the past decade, I have taught an exercise and movement class to the same group of people. We meet twice a week. We are committed to each other as much as we are committed to taking care of ourselves. We find joy in the movement. We find joy in the music and we find profound joy in our friendships with each other. For us exercise is not a drudge. It’s a laugh and a smile!

Like Gary, like the Tarahumara we too find joy!

You are welcome to join us!

 

  1. Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) p.91

 

 

How a Tree Changed My Life

I am often asked how I came to the Alexander Technique.

Here is my story.

When I was 20 years old I had the amazing opportunity to go to London, England for one year to study acting.
It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The course was taught by teachers from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and the Guildhall School of Music. We had instruction in acting, Shakespeare, playwriting, voice, improvisation, movement, fencing and stage combat. (Fencing and stage combat were my favorite.)
The Alexander Technique was also part of our curriculum.
Turns out that in England practically every stage actor worth their salt took lessons: Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, John Cleese, Benedict Cumberbatch (to name a few).
And hey – if it was good enough for them- it was good enough for me- right?
Actors and performers such as singers and musicians study the technique because it teaches them how to move better, breathe better, speak better and perform better.
Better sounded good to me- so off I went to my lessons.
Once a week I would meet with my teacher Duncan Woodcock. He would put his hands on my neck and head and gently guide me through the motion of sitting and standing at a chair.
At first, it all seemed very bizarre and not relevant at all.
I always felt better after a lesson but I could never explain why. Because I couldn’t put the experience into words I started to dismiss the value of the work. I let my skepticism kick in and I began to think that this Alexander Technique was for the birds.
Then this happened.
One day I walked out of my lesson and I noticed a tree near the sidewalk.
This tree looked more vivid, greener and more intense than any tree I could ever remember seeing.
I knew that what I was seeing and experiencing was the result of what happened in my lesson. I was changed! The world had changed! Everything about me seemed more alive!
The long walk home to my student housing was unlike any other. I felt buoyant. I was floating. I felt expansive and present.
Who knew that releasing unnecessary muscular tension could transform me in such a profound way!
I wanted more of this. Over the next several years I took as many lessons as I could afford.
I became an actress and worked in the hot off-loop theater scene in Chicago. But I kept coming back to the technique.
One day I went to a new AT teacher for instruction and he suggested that since I was so passionate about the work- perhaps I should become a teacher. This would be a great way for me to support my acting habit.
So I did. I embarked on my 3 year 1600 hour training course to become a teacher.
Once I started teaching I realized that I had wanted to become an actress because I really wanted to teach.
The Alexander Technique became my expression.
That was nearly 25 years ago.
The Alexander Technique has become a template for my life. It is an inspiration.
I would love to teach you the Technique. I would love to teach you how to move better, feel better and be better. The wonderful thing about the technique is that you learn it. It is not a therapy like a massage. It is a learned skill that you can practice, explore and hone. When practiced it becomes you.
Contact me for a lesson or download the Free 1st chapter of my book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence at www.mderbyshire.com. I will notify you when the book is available on Amazon for purchase and when my video course is online!

Self-Care


I like to think that most times I am a pretty easygoing person.
Certainly I am easy going with the exercise classes I teach.
I call them ExTension Classes! Get it?
I let people come and go as they please and only pay for the classes they attend. I never raise an eyebrow when someone hasn’t shown up in ages. I smile and nod and warmly great them.
Well the other day that all changed! I was like the lion in the photo!
I went on a rant and I roared and I became very pointed and direct and said to the group “It is the New Year and it is time for you to resolve to yourself that you will attend class on a regular basis! This is your resolution. Exercise does not work unless you do it consistently! You need to make a commitment to yourself to attend class regularly. That means put it in your calendar so that when the Dr.’s office, or a friend, or anybody says “Can you make it at 9 Monday?” you say “No, I cannot make it at 9 I have my exercise class!”
Done! Easy! You put yourself first!
I think that my rant was well received and gave my class a bit more direction. My rant prompted a wonderful conversation that ensued the following week.
The topic was self-care.
We know to eat well. We know to catch 8 hours of shuteye. We know that we need to exercise.
But do you know this?
No one can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself. Not one person.
You have to be your own caretaker.
Self -care is health care.
Taking care of your self means moving more. Not just exercise. You need to move all day!
The human body was designed to move and our culture is way too sedentary. We are sitting ourselves to death.
So make a resolution to move more.
I will make a resolution to go on more rants and teach you more ways to improve your self- care. Deal?
Let me know how you are brining more movement into your life!

Photo: Lemuel Butler

Here’s a Quick Way to Stop the Rushing Around

Many years ago I was at a crafts fair and a woman was escorting her elderly mother. The mother was very old and frail and muttering something to herself over and over again. I asked the daughter what her mother was repeating and she replied “It will never work.”

I asked the daughter what her mother meant and she said that back in the day there was enormous opposition to the proposal of erecting traffic lights. Those who opposed the traffic lights said that they would never work and it was a waste of money and that no one would stop at the stoplights!uhjlmaa6s_q-julie-macey
Can you imagine what our world would be like without traffic lights and stop signs?

This little vignette has stayed with me for nearly 20 years. Its message resonates with me on many levels.

The ability to stop- to really, really stop is essential and provides the opportunity to regroup, reorganize, and decide.

Isn’t that what happens at a stoplight or stop sign? We stop. We wait our turn. And then we go.

 

Maybe we stay on the same track and go straight. Maybe we take a left hand turn or a right hand turn.

The skill of stopping gives us the opportunity to reorder ourselves, reorganize and within that framework –decide. Stopping allows us to decide to stay on the same path or turn down another path.

But unless we are driving down the street most of us don’t have stoplights or stop signs.

We live in a go-go, do-do world. We rush, we speed we can barely catch our breaths. We never stop until something forces us to stop like an illness or an accident.

But you can change that. You can stop. You can stop right here and right now.

Stop and wait and notice where you are. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you smell? If you are sitting then notice how you are sitting. If you are standing then notice that.

Stop and be still. Now notice the world around you and how you are in this world. Take in your senses. Experience this beautiful world.

At this point you may be asking “But how can I remember to stop? I get going and then I forget to stop.”

The answer is easy! Post it Notes! Place Post it Notes in places of transition. Place a Post it Note by the coffee maker, the refrigerator, the bath room mirror, the front door, any doorway, the dash in your car- any place that you make a transition. Just write STOP!

Let the Post it Note be your stop sign. Trust me this works and it is practically free!

Does this resonate with you? Please share your thoughts.

 

Photo: Julie Macey

3 Easy Steps to Change Your Habits and Change Your Life

Photo Massimo Mancini
Photo Massimo Mancini

Habits! You have habits. I have habits. We all have habits.

We have good habits such as looking both ways before we cross the street. We have bad habits such as gritting our teeth.

Some are good. Some are bad. Most we aren’t even aware of.

For instance when you sit in a chair do you cross your legs? And if you cross your legs do you cross with your left leg or your right leg? When you sit down do you habitually cross your legs?

The thing is that we don’t have any idea what our habits are. Perhaps you see a photograph of your self and you think “Wow do I really stand like that” or you see your reflection in a mirror or a window and you say “Yikes is that me? Could my posture really be so bad?”

But habit is more than if you tilt your head to the left when you laugh or slouch when you sit. Habit is most everything about you; your energy, your intention, your timing, your sense of humor, how you sit, how you stand, how you walk how you move, how you think, how you react…

Habits are hard wired into your neuromuscular system. We do them automatically and habitually.

They resonate on a subconscious level and because they exist below our consciousness they are hard to identify and hard to change.

So then how do we change habit? Is it even possible?

Yes, it is possible.

How do we change?

We stop.

We stop what we are doing.

Stopping gives us the opportunity to notice the habit.

Stopping gives us the space to decide what comes next.

Maybe we decide to still cross our legs? Or perhaps we decide to do something differently.

We need to stop, really stop.

By stopping I mean let go of our intention and all the muscular tension that surrounds it.

Stop and wait and let go of muscular tension. Wait. Really wait and let your self be here and now and still.

Give yourself the permission to really, really stop.

Notice where you are and allow yourself to be in the present moment.

Now decide when you sit down. Do you choose to cross one leg over the other leg?

Stopping, really, really stopping gives you choice. Now you can choose not to respond habitually. Stopping frees us from habit.

It can be this simple.

Let me know what you think! Does this resonate with you?

What’s Stopping You?

“Certainty is a cruel mindset”

      Ellen Langer, Counterclockwise      

Photo:Uthala Shyamendra

           

 

Want to know what really gets in the way of aging gracefully?

Preconceived ideas. 

Let me give you an example.

The other day a woman came to me for a session. She is in her 80’s and has been working with me for a while. She has some balance issues due to arthritis but all things considered she does incredibly well.

However this week she came in with a very painful hip and was having trouble sitting, standing and walking.

When she got to the chair and sat down she was feeling so defeated that she felt like she could not get up from the chair. In fact she tried to stand but could not.

She believed that it was her age that was preventing her from getting out of the chair and that perhaps she would never be able to get up unassisted again.

I knew that it was her self-limiting belief that was preventing her from standing and not her ability nor her age.

I could feel the defeat and frustration build in her to the point of tears. She was so focused on her hip and her failure to stand up that indeed she could not get out of the chair.

So I changed her focus. I asked her to sing a song with me. We started singing “Hello Dolly.” And you know what? She got out of the chair like a 10 year old. She popped in and out of the chair 3 or 4 more times.

Because she was moving better she no longer had the pain in her hip. We walked around the room. At this point we had sung snippets of a half dozen songs and she was laughing.

We had interrupted her self-limiting preconceived idea that her hip was failing her and that she would never be able to sit and stand easily again.

Self-limiting preconceived ideas and beliefs– we all have them.

They influence our expectations of ourselves and of others but most often, these preconceptions are self-limiting beliefs.

More often than not, our expectations of ourselves are limiting, not encouraging.

They are based on old tapes that are going around and around in your head. Preconceived ideas are not based on what is actually taking place here and now.

They are based on the past and are not relevant for today.

These self-limiting beliefs become a mindset and this mindset eventually becomes a reality.

I call this place of limiting self-belief the Rat Hole.

The Rat Hole becomes a vicious circle.

Round and round you go focusing and obsessing about your limitations and what you can’t do.

You become disengaged from your active life and retreat to a place of discouragement and self -doubt.

And then you start to believe in the stereotypes about aging and what it means to get older. You invest yourself in these stereotypes and cannot imagine yourself any other way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

You do not have to do a 180 degree turn to change. All you have to do is shift your position or attitude a few degrees to set off on a different course.

What are your preconceived ideas about aging that could be limiting you?

Here are some that I have heard:

  1. Pain and stiffness are an integral part of getting older.

This is false. Pain and stiffness are often the result of how you do what you do. Pain and stiffness are not an inevitable part of getting older. If sitting is painful for you then chances are it is the way that you are sitting that is causing the pain. You can learn how to sit differently. In my next video “Slouch No More” you will learn simple ways to improve your sitting.

  1. I am too old to change the way I do things.

This is false. Change occurs by bringing attention or mindfulness to your activities. We can learn at any age. You are never too old to change.

  1. My balance will inevitably become compromised.

Ok so it is true that your balance decreases as you age but by challenging your sense of balance that decline can be reversed and drastically improved. There are some very simple ways that you can challenge and improve your balance. Very soon I will be completing my 3rd video “Balance and Confidence Everyday”- look for it here.

  1. I’m a failure. I try hard to do X but I can’t do it no matter how hard I try.

Guess what: it’s not you. It is the trying that is getting in your way. Don’t try. Stop trying. Think of allowing yourself to do the activity. To allow is a much more constructive way to approach a task.

  1. I’m in pain now and thus I will never be able to go back to doing the things I love the most. My pain has put me in a place of inevitable decline.

The truth is that many of the aches and pains that we experience are caused by how we do things. You can learn how to move with less pain and stiffness. Pain and stiffness do not have to be an inevitable down ward spiral. You can regain those activities that you thought you would never be able to do again. I can teach you how.

 

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter for more tips on how to get out of the rat hole of self- limiting preconceived ideas…

 

Book your session with me today and learn how to move with better balance, agility and ease!