About Changing Your Habits

If you are like me, you resist change.   

So do my ponies, Mo and Pip.  

Mo and Pip happy with their hay!

This is what happened to me over the weekend.

One morning I decided not to put the ponies’ breakfast hay near their gate, where I normally leave it.  Instead, I put it closer to the fence that runs between their paddock and my mare, Asherah.

Asherah has been feeling a little needy these cold winter days and I thought that she would appreciate the ponies’ company.

But I didn’t expect this.

When I went to bring the ponies in for the night, they were not standing near the gate where they normally wait when it is time to come in. They were standing where I had left their breakfast hay.

When I clipped on their lead ropes to take them toward the gate, they refused to budge and even tried to go straight through the fence.  It finally dawned on me that they were associating the location of their breakfast hay with the gate and the way out of the pasture.

What happened next floored me.

When I was finally able to lead them to the gate, Pip started bucking and ran through the open gate, dragging me behind him. Mo got in on the action and suddenly 500 pounds of angry miniature horses were dragging me up to the barn. They were furious that I had changed their routine.

This episode reminded me of Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese? but in this case, it was Who Moved My Hay?

It got me thinking about habit and change.

Why do we resist change so much?

Change is hard and it is scary.

When we change, we go from the known to the unknown.

We creatures, horses as well as humans, like to know where we are and what we are about.

We don’t like to swim in unchartered waters. It scares us. It unsettles us and it makes us feel not like ourselves.

This is where the power of habit comes in.

Your habits are who you are. I’m not only talking about habits such as brushing your teeth or nodding your head when you speak. I’m talking about a much broader interpretation of habit.

Habit covers a very wide range of behavior, including things like your tempo. For instance, do you rush or do you saunter when you move? Do you have the habit of taking a long stride when you walk or a shorter stride? Perhaps you have the habit of speaking very fast and loud?  Habit is pretty much everything about you, but it is often almost impossible to see how large a role it plays in your life.

The amazing thing is that once you recognize a habit with attention and thought, you can stop the old habit and decide to proceed in a different way.

This process of managing change is a cornerstone of the Alexander Technique.

Developed by FM Alexander, the Alexander Technique is a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move, think, and “be” better. You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here and here.

FM Alexander said, “ Change involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life.”

This little exercise illustrates a lot about habit and change.

Where you are now, lace your fingers like you would if you were going to pray or clasp your hands. Unlace them and then lace them again the exact same way.

Now re-lace them but move your fingers one finger over.

Your fingers are still laced but in a different way.

How does this feel?

For most, it will feel strange and different and maybe even wrong.

But look at your clasped hands or laced fingers.  They aren’t “wrong,” they are just different.

You would probably never lace your fingers the second way because the first way is your habit and we almost always default to our habit.

Your habit felt right.

Any other way felt wrong.

We like to feel right.

What this means is that we do the same thing over and over again because it feels “right” without ever stopping to ask ourselves if it is right.

So back to Mo and Pip and the Who Moved My Hay episode.

What felt right to them was to the habit of eating their hay by the gate. What was out of their habit and what felt wrong and what ultimately made them very angry and upset was to eat their hay away from the gate. They were so habituated that they got confused and they mistook the fence for the gate.

Their reaction to the moved hay reminded me of the old saying ( attributed to Alexander Graham Bell) “When one door closes another door opens.” 

But did you know that there is more to that quote? 

The whole quote says “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Our habits keep us looking “long and regretfully” at the closed door. We are so habituated to our past experiences that we are blind to new opportunities.

One ubiquitous habit is clenching or holding ourselves when we sit, stand or move.

Most of us use way too much muscular tension to get through the day. We may clench our jaw, hold our stomach in, and/ or brace our knees. Holding and bracing ourselves only makes our movement more difficult and can lead to pain and stiffness.

To change a habit you must first notice the habit. You must make it a priority to be aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it.

So, what are the habits that are preventing you from embracing change? Can you identify them? What if you were to ask yourself to stop and let go of the tension or intention around that habit? What happens next? Do you want to do something else? Do you want to choose something new?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


You can purchase it here. 

Teaching people how to move well is my passion. Sign up for posts that teach you how to be more comfortable in your body! Click here to sign up or use the form to the right of this post!

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

5 Reasons Good Posture Is Important!  

 

What if I told you that improving your posture will improve your life?

If good posture isn’t important to you, it should be.

There are many reasons why your mother or teacher nagged you to sit up straight and it has nothing to do with looking good (although looking good could be a reason unto itself J)

Sitting, standing and moving well is incredibly important because doing these things incorrectly can result in discomfort, stiffness, and pain.

  • Sitting or standing with poor posture can impede healthy breathing. Slouching puts pressure on the ribs, lungs, diaphragm and the other muscles associated with breathing. Try this little experiment: where you are right now, slouch or slump, then take a breath. See how shallow your breathing is? When you slouch or slump you cannot breathe deeply and easily.
  • Slumping can cause pain. Poor posture bypasses your postural muscles and puts undue stress on your ancillary muscular system.  This causes pain.  To understand why let’s talk a little bit about anatomy. You have two types of muscles used to support and move your skeleton: postural muscles and phasic muscles. Your postural muscles include spinal muscles, some of your abdominal muscles, hip flexors, calf muscles, and so on. These muscles are designed to work all day long, maintaining your posture. Your phasic muscles are your biceps, trapezius, triceps, etc. They are designed to perform short sprints of work such as carrying the groceries or washing a window. When your posture is poor you rely less on your postural muscles and more on your phasic muscles to maintain your posture. The phasic muscles don’t like to work long hours. Remember, they only like to do short stints of work. That’s why when you carry a gallon of milk for 20 blocks and don’t change arms your arm aches! Poor posture shortens postural muscles and limits their mobility, and this affects strength and can also cause pain and stiffness. Good posture does the opposite and lengthens postural muscles. 
  •  Slouching impedes digestion. According to an article in the Harvard Health Letter, poor posture can lead to incontinence. “Slouching increases abdominal pressure, which puts pressure on the bladder. ” Poor posture can also lead to heartburn and slowed digestion, according to Dr. Kyle Staller. “Slouching puts pressure on the abdomen, which can force stomach acid in the wrong direction. And some evidence suggests that transit in the intestines slows down when you slouch.” It just makes sense that standing up taller makes digestion easier.
  • Better posture means better balance. Think about it. Your head weighs anywhere from 10-15 pounds. Essentially you have a bowling ball sitting on the top of your spine. If your head isn’t beautifully poised on top of the spine then you will be off balance.  Your body will contort itself in every conceivable way to maintain balance so that your head doesn’t hit the ground. 

  •  Better posture translates into dynamic movement. When you have poor posture, your body has to work overtime to maintain balance. This causes excessive muscular tension throughout the body. Tense muscles don’t move easily. It is that simple. Try this. Tense your toes either by lifting them up or scrunching them. Now try to walk. What happens? You can’t walk freely or easily. Or try this. Clench your jaw. Now turn your head. Same thing! Right? You cannot move your head as easily. This is a basic tenet of the Alexander Technique: letting go of unnecessary muscular tension frees up your movement and makes moving easier. Moving more easily makes your movement more dynamic and coordinated.

So why not make this year the year to improve the way that you sit, stand, walk, and even run? Your health depends on it. 

Teaching people how to move well is my passion. Sign up for posts that teach you how to be more comfortable in your body! Click here to sign up or use the form to the right of this post!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here.

How You Move Matters!

I want to show you a really cool video of pedestrians in New York City which was taken in the early part of the last century.

Watch the first video below.

Look how well these people walk!

See how upright they are.

Notice how their heads relate to their spines.

Check out how easily they walk.

Can you see how well they move through space?

Now check out below a recent video shot in NYC!

What do you notice?

The differences between the 2 videos are quite astonishing.

I’m sure that someone could write a thesis about the two.

The people in the first video just look calmer to me.

They look more self-contained and better organized.

Of course, this was taken before the 2 world wars, the flu epidemic of 1918, the phenomenal mechanization of the world with cars and TVs and telephones. Obviously, they had other monumental problems. For instance, Penicillin hadn’t been invented yet.

Can we see the influence of modernization in our posture and the way that we move?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book  Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Techniquea mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

You can learn more about the Alexander Technique here.

 

Creating A Mindful Day With a Peaceful Morning

Would you like to be more mindful during your day?

How you start your day has a lot to do with how well your day goes.

Do you get up late every morning, swill down a cup of coffee and dash out the door or are you the person who gets up early and spends some time reflecting before the day?

I’m a firm believer in the latter. I wake up at 5:30 or so meditate, write, read, and then go feed my ponies.

Try it! Wake up an hour earlier than usual. At first, it may seem hard but once you have reset your internal clock it will become easier and you will relish this time of contemplation.

During this time you could start a meditation practice, do an Alexander Technique Lie Down, read something inspirational, write in a journal or spend some quiet time with yourself.

Perhaps this is the time you would like to go for a walk or a peaceful stroll. I wrote about strolling earlier. You can check out that article here.

This time you dedicate to yourself is self-care and guess what? Self-care is health care.

Not one person on this planet can take care of you as well as you can take care of yourself.

Now is the time to take care of yourself by building in time during the day when you can recharge and rest.

Creating an early morning practice of meditation and journaling, reading and reflection is a great way to start off the day.

I’ve created a little video or VLOG to spur you along! (No pun intended!) Click on the ponies below to see the video.

 

How do you start your day? Let me know how it goes for you- I love hearing from you!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

If you would like more information about the Alexander Technique then click here.

Walk This Way! Why Your Big Toe Is Important.

When you walk or stroll well, your head leads the movement and your foot comes forward to prevent you from falling on the ground.

Have you ever heard that walking is “controlled falling”?

Toddler walking
Walking is controlled falling. Photo: Unsplash, Joao Alves

Imagine a child first learning how to walk.

Most adults shift their weight from side to side when they walk. If you were to exaggerate this movement, it would look like a waddle, but if you watch a child walk, they walk forward and straight.

Children don’t waddle when they walk.

One problem with the waddle is that you lose the momentum that each step generates. It’s as if you are applying a brake with each step. Instead, if you think of yourself walking forward and not side to side, you will discover that your legs and feet will dynamically flow underneath you. Walking dynamically with forward intention will make walking easier and more efficient.

Another problem with the waddle is that the foot doesn’t articulate with the ground in a dynamic way, thus having an undesirable effect on balance and stride. When your foot works well, it strikes the ground slightly to the outside and to the front of the heel. Your weight then crosses the large arch, the medial-longitudinal arch, over to the big toe.

Your big toe has two very important jobs. It helps you balance, and it propels you forward. Many adults do not engage the big toe at all. Instead, they hold the toe up and only walk on the soles of their feet. This inevitably results in the side-to-side waddle. People who do this to an extreme will create holes with their big toes on the tops of their sneakers and slippers.

If you were to exaggerate this movement, you would eventually shuffle.

The good news is that if you are shuffling now, with a little conscious thought, you can stop shuffling and move into a dynamic walk.

Shoes that fit well with a pliable and thin sole are essential for happy feet and dynamic walking. Here is a Keen sandal at Amazon. I absolutely love, love, love this shoe

Stay away from bulky, padded sneakers that, although comfortable, are not flexible.

Your toes need to be able to splay as you move. Your feet need to flex and adjust in order to keep you balanced.

Make sure that your shoes are large enough to accommodate this movement. Also, overly tight socks can impede movement and diminish balance.

If you are unsteady on your feet or you fear falling, hiking poles are a great way to ensure balance and gain confidence.

Whether you use one or two poles is up to you, but the added point of contact is a huge benefit. Used by hikers and climbers worldwide, the hiking pole is lightweight yet sturdy.

The pole height is adjustable, and it comes with a strap that goes around your wrist. To customize the height, hold your forearms at a right angle from your upper arm.

You can purchase hiking poles at many sporting-goods stores or at Amazon here.

Last week I talked about the benefits of turning your power walk into a stroll. You can see that article here.

Next week I will give  more instruction on how to improve your balance while walking.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

Walk? How To Turn That Power Walk Into A Mindful Stroll!

 


Do you walk or do you stroll?

One of the best ways to savor summer is to take a stroll.

Don't walk instead stroll and slow down to admire the beautiful hummingbird.
Slow down, take a stroll, and cultivate mindfulness.
Photo: Andrea Reiman

You may be wondering why I use the word stroll instead of walk.

Taking a stroll is much different than taking a walk. A walk implies purpose, a stroll implies less intent.

A stroll allows for wandering. Just the sound of the word “stroll” is easier on the ear.

Walking has a job to do. Strolling is like going on vacation.

The Merriam Webster dictionary lists stroll’s synonyms as to saunter, to amble, and to ramble.

Oh, I like the sound of those words!

To take a walk means something else. It has a goal.

One walks for fitness. One walks to lose weight. You take a walk to clear your head. Some people take walks to elevate their heart rate or to increase bone density. Others take their dogs out for a walk. And still, there are those who walk to “get their steps in!”

 

But what if you changed your mindset about walking and instead took a stroll?

Instead of walking briskly to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular system, what if you intentionally slowed down to a stroll and noticed the birds singing in the trees or your neighbor’s blooming sunflowers?

On your next stroll, you may notice that you are breathing more deeply, that you feel calmer or that perhaps those negative anxiety-creating thoughts have calmed down. Your stroll has turned into an expression of mindfulness.

Are we losing sight of the value of slowing down so that we can relish our world…stopping to smell the roses?

 

 

Don't walk instead take a stroll and smell the beautiful roses.
Stop and smell the roses! Photo: Unsplash, Osman Rana

 

According to the Positive Psychology Program, among other benefits, a mindful stroll can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase immune function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increase awareness
  • Increase attention and focus
  • Increase clarity in thinking and perception
  • Lower anxiety levels
  • Increase experience of being calm and internally still
  • Increase experience of feeling connected

Doesn’t that sound great! Who doesn’t want REDUCED STRESS!!!

I say let’s change the emphasis and take a stroll. Let me know how it goes. What do you notice about yourself and the world around you?

My next article will teach you how to stroll and walk better.

Here is another article on savoring summer!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone!


 You can purchase it here. 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

26 Ways To Savor Summer

Sunset in summer
Savor summer’s sunsets

Do you want to savor summer?

If you are like me you absolutely love summer. The long hours of daylight, the balmy air, flip flops, iced coffee, fireflies- to name just some of my favorite things. There are many reasons why I want to savor summer.

But before you know it summer is gone and the calendar says September and I am replacing the shorts in my closet with long pants and sweaters.

So often summer escapes me. Not this year!

This year, by being more intentional and mindful, I plan to make summer linger.

By bringing mindfulness into my life I will slow down summertime and relish in every moment possible.

Here is my list of intentions to help me savor summer! What are yours?

  1. Go for a daily walk.
  2. Drink my morning coffee in my garden.
  3. Shop at my local farmer’s market once a week.
  4. Prepare at least 2 meals a week solely from our local farmer’s market.
  5. Garden 3x’s a week.
  6. Always have a book going.
  7. Dine outside as often as possible.
  8. Drink iced coffee in the afternoons.
  9. Wear sandals.
  10. Meditate daily.
  11. Knit.
  12. Go out for ice cream. Try different ice cream stands each week.
  13. Wear sun hats.
  14. Feed the hummingbirds.
  15. Wake up early for the sunrise as often as possible.
  16. Go to a 4th of July parade.
  17. Have friends over for a BBQ.
  18. Go to an outdoor concert.
  19. Stargaze at night and watch for falling stars.
  20. Watch each full moon rise.
  21. Wear sundresses.
  22. Make ice cream with my ice cream maker.
  23. Watch the bats at twilight.
  24. Grow tomatoes and basil.
  25. Celebrate veggies and fruits in season. For instance, strawberries are in season here now!
  26. Write in my journal daily.

Mindfulness matters. Bringing mindfulness to how you move is a powerful way improve your life.

Move every day with ease and joy. You will be amazed how it will change your life in many wonderful ways!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

The author Mary Derbyshire savors summerMy name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!