Friday, December 27, 2013

Force vs Flow

Force vs Flow

I recently started with a personal trainer, a treat to myself.  I never had one before.  It might seem a little silly to some people; after all, I am a fitness instructor and have trained other people.  But, I've never been able to do a pull-up and I wanted to kick up my strength a notch.  That is my real goal - to be able to crank out some pull-ups on door lintels (top part of the door frame).  
My personal trainer and I play with yoga after our weight lifting session.  He comes to my classes and knows where I want to progress in the poses, so we are good partners.  I was working with him on handstands today. To practice, you place both hands on the floor with your feet down and your body in an upside down V-shape.  Then you lift one left up. Gently bending both knees slightly, the practice work is in kicking the top leg up until the bottom foot starts to lift off the floor. The ultimate handstand is a graceful controlled lift to an upside down vertical position.  My trainer is a very strong guy and tried to muscle it up on the first one, knocking the wall with his feet. We both laughed as he dropped his feet back to the floor.  On his second attempt he let it flow and was able to lift up without torturing the wall.  It looked, and felt (he said), so much better.

Where are you "pushing" when you need to ease up and let things come to you?

Relax, breathe, know that you've taken all the right steps to get to this place and let it flow - onward and upward.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bring It On Back To You

I attended a recent business lunch and presentation for women in the energy industry.  The speaker was a very professional, knowledgeable and personable young lady - probably in her mid thirties if I had to take a guess (which I don't usually do because I am usually wrong).  As I listened to her speak I found myself thinking about myself as a young professional in the power industry.  I thought about the opportunities I had, the people I worked with, and how fun my work was. I would have enjoyed the position and the work the woman was describing.  Then the shoulda, coulda, woulda started to speak within me.  I caught myself and focused back on what I had, where I was and how much I enjoyed what I was currently doing - bringing it on back to me.

The same type of thing happens to people in yoga class.  They are working in class moving through the poses doing perfectly fine and then they start to look at the people around them. There will always be someone who can go a little farther in a pose or flip upside down with the greatest of ease while you struggle to touch your toes.  The best thing to do - and the only thing to do - is bring it on back to you.  Relish in the feeling the yoga is producing in your body, congratulate yourself for coming to class and the progress you are making and know that you are in the right place for you and they are in the right place for them.

Bring It On Back To You.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Squirrel Whisperer

I decided to add an occasional walk (working up to more frequent) in the park to my routine. Working out of the house, there are some days I don't get out of the house until late afternoon to run an errand or teach a fitness class, unless I have a scheduled business event. I figured it would be a good way to get motivated and energized for the day.

I drove over to the park (I suppose I could have run - but I quickly nixed that idea!), closed the top on my convertible since it looked like rain was a possibility and started walking briskly along the one mile path surrounding the main part of the park.  There are some beautiful trails in the woods but those paths are reserved for days when I have a buddy with me for safety reasons.

My focus for my park adventure was to be more present in the moment and to practice that out in nature.  As I walked about the park I noticed the variety of trees, the empty picnic tables, the tennis players, the sounds and the sights. Suddenly there was a shrill voice coming from the middle of the park off the trail.  It was a woman speaking very loudly, like she was calling out to her missing dog.  "Come here fella", I thought she said.  Her monologue was consistent and purposeful, shaking the peacefulness of my mindful walk.  She was carrying a plastic bag that swelled at the bottom. As she came closer I realized she was talking to the squirrels.  She was wishing them a good morning and calling out to them with "hello's" and "come here guys" in a constant chatter.  While she wandered with purpose she intermittently tossed something from her bag toward the animals.  It must have been some kind of squirrel chow that included peanuts in the shell (I noticed some on the ground as I made my rounds on the trail).  I laughed as I looked back at the path behind her and saw a half dozen squirrels munching away at whatever  treat she had tossed. Maybe they were used to that voice calling out good morning to them, or maybe they just smelled food and came running. Whatever it was, she left a bunch of happy squirrels in her path.  Her voice drifted away into the background as we moved farther and farther from each other, heading in opposite directions on different missions.  I did run into her again as we converged near the other end of the park. This time I did not bristle in reaction to the sound of her voice, but was entertained by the squirrel whisperer and her trail of happy new friends.

As I walked, I realized that I had come to the park to be present and had fallen into the habit of looking only at the ground as I contemplated certain issues or situations silently in my head, checking for unevenness in the pavement or staying focused on all things low. Her voice made me look up from the path as I walked around and around the park.  I stood up straighter and returned my focus to all of the beauty around me.  

In yoga, we start our practice frequently in mountain pose - a simple standing pose to ground our feet into the earth, lift our hearts and open our chests.  We can sometimes sink low in a pose, stare at the floor or forget to stand tall and look forward as we struggle in a pose.  It is okay to look back occasionally to see where we have come from, to focus briefly on what we have accomplished (i.e. progress in a pose), but I encourage you to charge forward with conviction like the squirrel whisperer - moving forward and leaving a trail of happy people you have encountered along the way.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Just When You Think You Are Getting Close

There is a park fairly near our house called the Sylvan Rodriguez Park.  It was named after distinguished journalist Sylvan Rodriguez.  The majority of his TV career was spent in Houston at KHOU and KTRK.  It includes a walking/jogging trail, a crescent shaped man-made lake, a playground and lacrosse fields and is always expanding.  I occasionally offer yoga in that park on the hill by the lake.  My favorite part of the park is the labyrinth that overlooks the lake.  It is a brick laden path, winding back and forth within a circle, that ultimately leads to the center. There are no dead ends like a typical maze.  As you walk, you navigate turns that take you in different directions. Once you reach the center, you follow the path back out. 

There is something about the center.  I have walked the labyrinth many times at different speeds.  When I arrive in the center I pause and reflect. Sometimes to enjoy the view of the sun setting over the fields, other times to settle my head from the back and forth motion of traveling if I took the labyrinth at warp speed that day. Sometimes there is a cool lifting feeling, similar to the one you get when you set down your weights after several exerting repetitions at the gym. Sometimes it is just the quiet. It always come with a feeling of accomplishment though the maze is not a competition.  Then I turn and head back out the path.  

Yoga is similar to the labyrinth. Our practice winds back and forth but always make progress. We practice poses in yoga. When we first start yoga we may not be very flexible, strong or able to balance, but as we continue to practice we gain  in each of those areas.  Some days it feels like we have gone completely backwards and lost a lot of what we worked so hard to gain. But remaining steady on the path will ultimately bring us to our reward.  

It is so true in life also. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Setting An Intention

I recently read an article in the paper about a female Chief Financial Officer retiring from a major oil and gas company.  In retirement, she was looking forward to working more with the not-for-profits that were close to her heart, pursuing new corporate board appointments and having more time with her family, her tennis game and books.  She had an impressive resume including being the highest-paid female executive of a Houston based public company. As I read the article I decided I would like to send her a congratulatory cookie bouquet. A cookie bouquet is like a bouquet of flowers - but instead it is made up of decorated cookies on sticks. I imagined one cookie being the bouquet company's signature bear with a tennis racket in its hand for her hobby. I could picture her delight upon receipt of the bouquet from a stranger wishing her well.  

As I wrote my letter to her to accompany the bouquet I asked myself what my intention was for sending this gift to her. What was I really wanting out of the connection?  Was it just to congratulate her? Did I want a business meeting? Advice?  I decided that since I coach young female professionals as part of my business, what I really wanted was an opportunity to meet or speak with her about any tips she might have for young women as they navigated the corporate political jungle.  That was it - the letter was finished, sealed and attached to the bouquet ready for delivery. (I'll let you know what happens later).

I have attended yoga classes in hundreds of different venues with as many instructors.  At yoga studios (as opposed to a gym) the instructor will start the session advising you to set your intention. What is the reason you came to practice yoga today?  To de-stress? To work on a particularly achy part of your body? For general all around health?  To work hard and send your energy to someone that really needs help or healing?  There are many reasons we practice and it is an important part of that practice to set your intention as you begin to maintain your focus and obtain the results you are looking for.

As in cookie bouquets, in yoga and in life - set your intention before you begin a journey - short or long - and note the difference.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Jump Right In!

I was discussing teaching yoga with another instructor at the gym.  We were lamenting our struggles when practicing difficult poses.  She commented that she really needed to work on some poses before she shared them with her yoga class.  She was only going to have them do what she was able to do.  I replied that I have trained for years in a number of yoga styles and have received instruction on many poses I am not yet able to do.  But, I have the knowledge to assist others in practicing the poses.  I know the steps to take, the things to practice and can work with them to help them succeed.  Even though I can't do all of the poses, I usually have someone in the room that can get pretty close or do it - so the members have a visual.  And I practice along with them, letting them know we are on a journey and yoga is a practice, not a performance. 

I see this reluctance to move forward in many areas of people's lives.  From a yoga pose in class, simply speaking up in a meeting, to avoiding taking on a major project at work because we aren't sure of everything.  If we wait until we are completely sure or know everything - we will never move forward.  

Like the Zac Brown Band says "Jump right in!" - There are numerous resources and support all around just waiting to help you be successful.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ESC - Extreme Self Care

As the gym members gather in the group exercise room and start to set out their yoga mats a few minutes before class, I converse with them about their day.  I also ask them what they need from class.  Everyone comes to class for a different reason. Some are there to relax. Some to work on a pose that has challenged them for a long time. Others just want to keep their bodies in motion so that as they age they will be still be able to move about.  I organize the class in my head to address their needs.  Their attendance is part of their personal self care program though many of them may not consciously think about it in that way. 

It's true that most people are always taking care of a lot of things and people and some take pride in their "extremely busy" life.  We give and we run and we check things off the list and then we make another list, flopping down in exhaustion on the couch at the end of the day.

When is the last time you truly took care of you?  When is the last time you took the time for a luxurious bubble bath? When did you last sit down at a table to enjoy your favorite meal, savoring every bite instead of a rushed meal standing over the counter?  When have you treated yourself to a glass of champagne at a fancy restaurant toasting all the goodness in your life with every sip just because?  A walk, a new outfit, quiet time to read - the list is endless of all of the ways you could take care of you.

It is important to take care of yourself so that you can really be there for others and be able to take care of the things you need to do.  A coaching instructor pointed out the ESC key on our keyboard and told us to think of it as standing for Extreme Self Care
- and to remind ourselves every time we glanced at the key to really embrace that phrase.

What will you do to really take care of yourself?   I invite you to turn off your computer and take care of yourself now.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Breathing Easy

Have you ever put too much into an activity or your work and ended up exhausted? I am sure it has happened to most of us at one time or another.  I used to work in the power industry.  When it was regulated we would have to reconcile our costs yearly with the Public Utility Commission.  As I was the coordinator, it required very late nights for several weeks to provide all of the required information within the deadlines.  It was always an adrenaline rush that I enjoyed, then a crash.  I would end up exhausted.  I am sure if I could have stepped back and looked at the situation from the outside looking in, I would have seen alternatives.  But it is difficult when you are in the middle of the excitement.

In yoga, the most important part of the practice is your breath.  You breathe in and out of your nose.  I remind everyone that if you start breathing through your mouth - (I imitate gasping and heavy breathing) - you are working too hard.  They laugh but inevitably they end up making the sounds I just gently warned them to avoid.  Sometimes we finish a challenging pose and I hear their breath release at the end .  Busted!  "You were holding your breath - weren't you?!", I exclaim.  And they laugh as they admit it.

Pay attention to your situation.  Assess what is happening within your body as well as around you. Adjust as needed.

Here's to breathing easy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Upside Down Is Right Side Up

Ah! The sweet sounds of summer and packed classes at the gym with all the students out of school heading to the gym for fun, fitness and socializing.  The energy in the room is exciting. As we wait outside the group exercise room for the class before us to end, people are lined up along the ramp and railing for yoga.  There are some timid people trying class for the first time and I approach them, offer them a yoga mat, answer any questions they have and encourage them to be easy on themselves and enjoy the experience.  Others are energized and excitedly talking to their friends (must have been a great day!).  When the doors finally open and we are allowed inside for our class, long time members make their way to their favorite usual spots while the student groups huddle in various areas of the room. 

They look and feel like a frisky bunch so I challenge them with extra push-ups and flowing sequences.  I decide that upside down poses will be the best way to go with this group and we work with handstands, and headstands. Some of the acrobatic yogis are upside down in the middle of the room while others are timidly trying to balance up against the wall. All is good.

A few days later it was a quieter crowd. There is usually quite a difference between the night crowd and the Saturday morning group.  They've just woken up and crawled to class or had time for coffee and the paper - but are still not at their peak.  So we move slowly through some warm-ups but I decide things need to change.  I have them partnering with other people in the room and show them how they can do a handstand on top of another person. I move about the room helping partners who are working with the challenge. One woman was up for trying but seemed a bit nervous.  I gave her some simple instructions and stayed right next to her, helping her get her feet on the upside down person that would serve as the base.  She made it and squealed with delight as her feet went up in the air. When she came down she was almost jumping up and down with excitement. She had never tried anything like that in her life.  That is why I love my job.  You could hear the energy level in the room rising as more and more people enjoyed our adult playground.  The energy was definitely up as they left to go about their day. 

"Thank you for letting me play with you", I said as I ended class.

How is your energy?  What does it need?

First - we need to be present and aware of how we are feeling. Then we need to decide what kind of change we would like to make - where do we want to go and how are we going to get there? Are we tired and need perking up or are we stressed and need calming down?  Be your own observer and make the energy change to get yourself in the place you want to be in.  You may find that turning yourself upside down is just the thing to make things right side up!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Community of Yogis

I attended an awesome rocking yoga class when I was in San Francisco for a conference a few years back.  There was live music, high positive energy, a heated room and a challenging workout.  I enjoyed it so much I make it a point to attend the owner's class whenever I am in San Francisco. It is called Urban Flow. 

The first night I attended I didn't know a single soul in the room.  I am a friendly person and started to chat with those on the mats around me as we awaited the start of class.  But, I really appreciated it when the instructor put a "shout out" to get up and move about the room and get to know someone you haven't met before.  I got up and started walking about three rows back - catching the smile of a lovely young lady and sat down to get to know here. She ended up walking to and riding the train partway back home with me.  We were in a part of town that one doesn't typically want to walk around in by yourself late at night so it was comforting to have someone that knew the area to travel with for the journey back to my hotel.  I keep in touch with her and let her know whenever I return to the Bay Area.

That simple encouragement to get to know someone new can create a lifelong friend or a moment of brightness in a lonely day for someone.

I want my yoga classes to continue to grow as a community.  Members generally talk freely with those around them and their friends - but I want to encourage them to reach out even more - especially to those that might be trying yoga for the first time and may need some encouragement.  I think I will try the Urban Flow request tomorrow in class.

Where can you create greater community in your work or personal life?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Isn't Life Grand?!

“Isn’t Life Grand?” – my dear friend I've buddied up with since meeting in first grade exclaimed in her latest e-mail response to my birthday celebrations.  I was spoiled with a trip to the Grand Cayman Islands and still had five days at a beach house to look forward to after I returned from my tropical paradise.  Work in between was crazy but the escapes were worth every late night at the computer.  Yes, that month, life definitely was grand but sometimes it is harder to think that way. 

Such a positive attitude she exemplifies. In spite of all the common struggles we encounter with work and life, she chooses to respond to it with “isn’t life grand?!”  Her life has not been without troubles, true for all of us, but her attitude remains one of “isn’t life grand?” 

I was visiting my father at his assisted living facility in Michigan a few years back.  We were playing a game in the common area and a gentleman came dancing down the hall.  He was greeting everyone he came across with a cheerful attitude as he walked the halls without a cane or any type of assistance.  He was such a charming man and I am sure his attitude positively affected his health all these years.  It is amazing what perspective can do for you physically and mentally. 

A new member joined my yoga class recently.  I was talking with her after class the other morning and she commented about how hard some of the poses were for her.  "But," she said - "no matter how much I struggle in class when I get home it feels so wonderful - like I just got a total body massage".  "And that is a good thing".  Isn't yoga grand?!

I would like to suggest we try to adopt my dear friend's outlook.  When we think positively we focus on the positive and things turn out positive - it's just how it works.  Isn't Life Grand?!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Balancing Your Life - Yin-Yang

Yin-Yang - an ancient concept and symbol referring to complementary opposites, such as light/dark.

I am planning my next yoga class and have decided to do a little more Yin-Yang than usual. Some people like yoga slow and enjoying struggling to hang out in a pose for five or more breaths.  Other people like to speed flow through warm-up poses like a rock star on "Red Bull" (i.e. Mick Jagger comes to mind jumping all over the stage!). Some people like all instrumental music while many enjoy my classes because of the occasional rocking songs that flow with the moves like "Get Down On It" for squats.  We actually Yin-Yang through every class - whatever goes forward must go backward, whatever goes up must go down. I think I will just make it a little more obvious in the next session. Here's to five breath or more poses - we'll see how it goes tomorrow.

As you consider Yin-Yang - think about your life.  When you are running at top speed to get a million and one things done on your to-do list, do you also take time later that day or week to relish in your accomplishments and just sit back and relax?  Know that when you are down you will come back up, and when you are up - relish the experience. 

Relative levels of Yin-Yang are continuously changing. Normally this is a harmonious change.  Here's to keeping the sweet balance of Yin-Yang in our life!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Skipping Stones

I've always had Alaska on my bucket list and was fortunate enough to end up with a recent business trip to the state.  My husband and I were able to stay over after my work was done and participate in many adventures including bike riding, mountain and glacier hiking, a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier with a dog sled camp and a day long cruise.  The cruise was on a boat that held about 150 people and allowed us to see wildlife up close. We encountered killer and humpback whales, sea otters and sea lions, Dall's porpoise, and a variety of birds. We were also able to get up close and personal with a tidewater glacier as the glacier ice in the water clunked up and under the boat. We could hear the thunder and see the splash as part of the glacier slid into the water - "calving".  The scenic views were magnificent.  The tour ended on a private island called Fox Island for an all you can eat Alaskan salmon and prime rib meal. 

The beach near the shore was covered with millions of flat rocks perfect for skipping.  My husband was able to skip them like an expert getting a dozen or more skips per stone. Mine were a little less impressive.  A few managed four or five skips while the most of them just made a loud kerplunk as they hit the water and then sank.  I loved to watch not just the skipping (of my husband's work) but the reverberating waves that resulted from each skip.  They headed out to open water and toward the shore affecting more than the small spot where they initially hit. 

Just like the skipping stones, we affect those around us and that energy spreads like wildfire. 

In yoga class I try to spread peacefulness, fun, positive energy and delight in the moment. 

What are you spreading?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Passion Wins Over Living in the Past

Houston gets Super Bowl LI in 2017! 
Ric Campo, chairman of the Houston Super Bowl bid committee, and David Crane, another member of the committee, made a presentation to the Super Bowl committee that included a video with this theme: Texans love their football, and they love the NFL.  Houston won out over South Florida's focus on the past - the 10 Superbowls Miami has hosted.   I love that focusing on the people and our passion for the sport won over bragging about past efforts. 
I remember interviewing for a job several years back (which I was offered), and almost everyone I spoke with that day kept bringing up the awards the company had won over ten years back.  I was impressed with one executive that was real and down to earth and into the present moment of where the company was and where I could help take them into the future.
In yoga we work together to be present in the moment of class, to remove all distractions (cell phones, worry), and focus on our breath and the flow of poses.  The passion of every individual in the room shines through as they work hard and focus on every move.  There isn't any bragging about past accomplishments, or worry about not getting a pose - just enjoyment of where we are and where we are going.
Herein lies a great lesson for life and business proposals.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Talk Yourself Into It

We can talk ourselves into a lot of things and talk ourselves out of them just as quickly. 

I am intrigued by the difference between the person that comes to yoga class for the first time and not only stays for the entire class but returns another day in spite of the fact they were obviously struggling a bit during the session - and another person that comes to class once but never steps over the yoga class threshold again.

If you can catch them at the right time you are able to turn the "once in class and running as fast as they can away from the door" person into a regular attendee.  It involves bringing that internal voice outside for a discussion. 

A few years ago a girlfriend joined me for a flying trapeze adventure in a city a few hours away.  We were both terrified of jumping off the platform as we stood on the ground watching the other flyers, but when I reached the top and it was time to go - I listened carefully to the trainer's instructions and jumped - screaming all the way.  When it came to my friend's turn, she seemed paralyzed.  Each time after several minutes of building anxiety, she would finally exit the platform. But since she hesitated, she missed the opportunity to fly through the air with the greatest of ease. She would swing back and forth through half swings and drop to the net below.  When we were discussing the adventure over a margarita later that evening - she was agonizing over the conversations she had with herself at the top of the platform. Why was she telling herself negative things? -
that she hated it, that she wouldn't be able to do it, that it wasn't fun. She admitted that if she had a different discussion with herself before climbing up the narrow ladder to the platform the first time the outcome would have been so much more successful and fun.  Ah - next time...

I believe the people that enter the yoga room and return have already had a few conversations with themselves. Maybe they said - this is good for you, you always wanted to try something new, this will be fun, I will take it one day at a time. Whatever they said, it keeps them coming back again and again. I believe those that run are saying - "I can't do this so I am never coming back" - instead of "I can't do this so I need to come back".

Catching them outside the room later allows for a conversation to turn those inner thoughts around.  Encouraging them at the beginning of class and throughout (reminding them everyone is struggling and if they want - they are welcome to "become one with their mat") helps too. 

What are you talking yourself out of?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Stop Making It So Hard Because ISS - It's So Simple

I show my yoga students ways to modify poses so they will work more effectively for them. They are also very creative and find ways to change the poses knowing their own limitations. They don't typically try to find a way to make things harder to do - but sometimes they manage to.  In one pose where we balance on our forearms with our legs up in the air, the yoga practitioner can make it harder by pushing their shoulders forward.  Then they really have to use their strength to hold the pose and many of them can.  But they are making it so much harder than it would be if they lined their shoulders up with their elbows.  I don't think they are consciously trying to make it harder, it just happens as they work the pose, but sometimes they can really complicate the simplest of positions.  They do adjust when I show them the alternative way - unlike some corporations.

When a high performing employee suddenly starts performing at a less than stellar level the discipline process typically kicks in.  Why don't we just talk to them and see what is going on in their life that might have caused a change and offer to help? 

When employees are overwhelmed with work and bosses don't have time to sort through the urgent and non-urgent tasks when delegating - they get pushed harder to work longer hours and get more done in less time. Why don't we take a step back and evaluate what we are asking people to do - to see if it is necessary, important, needs to be done at all or could be accomplished in a more productive way?

When the business is experiencing a dip in sales, we jump to see what our competitors are doing and try to follow along. Why don't we pay better attention to our customers and give them valuable products and services?

A tragic event results in government intervention and more cumbersome rules and regulations that don't really address the problem, but look great politically.  Why don't we pause and examine the root of the problem and make changes that will be lasting and effective?

ISS - It's So Simple - stop trying to make things so difficult. Relax your thinking and look for the real cause behind the situation.  Then make a plan to move forward. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Feet Planted Firmly In the Air

I loved to watch them as they squealed, shouted, clapped, flipped, jumped and made it all look so easy.  When I was a young girl I shied away from trying out for cheerleading.  The cartwheels and splits eluded me and those were two defining talents cheerleaders were required to perform. I did end up on the modern dance squad and performed at football and basketball games, but those splits and cartwheels remained on my bucket list.  (Maybe if I had practiced them they would have eventually come to me!)

A few years ago, while teaching a yoga class, I was able to make it completely to the floor in the splits for the first time in my life. I squealed with delight and shouted that "now, I could try out for cheerleading!".  A joke transformed into a reality and the next year I found myself in line at tryouts with a young waitress friend less than half my age trying out for the Houston Texan cheerleaders. I was able to make it through the second round while my young friend had to drop out because of neck and back problems. All of that day long hair flippin' and hip shakin' had taken a toll.  I really think the yoga kept me free from injury.  The second round was my last round but the memories of a day filled with excitement and dancing dreams was sure to last forever.

I still struggle with the cartwheel half of the bucket dream. I have been able to fly up into a handstand but rounding it out as a cartwheel will take some time.  I recently showed my yoga class my cartwheel for entertainment purposes only - and it was entertaining in its feebleness!  Why are my feet planted so firmly on the ground - afraid to fly freely in the air?

What are we really afraid of?  The worst thing that could happen is a little butt bounce on the floor.  I'm going to keep practicing until my feet are planted firmly in the air.  Join me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Try It! - You'll Like Mine

My husband plays poker once a month with buddies from work.  I think it is great for guys to get together and when they do - the girls get together too.  This time he was hosting it at our house and it is customary for the host to feed the crowd.  Now, my husband is a great cook and I don't even bother to cook very much any more because everything he makes is so good.  But there are a few things that I make that he just cannot compete with me on - or doesn't dare try.  I cannot share my recipes with him because if I did, he wouldn't need me for anything anymore.  He asked if I would be able to make lasagna for the guys and I agreed.  After all - he is always treating me with delicious meals off the smoker/grill and the fluffiest omelets ever every Sunday.  It was the least I could do. 

Lasagna is a process.  It is best done with a glass (bottle?) of wine in one hand and a giant spoon in the other.  I enjoy making it but it can take a half of a day the way I perform this operation.  With each new batch, I buy more ingredients than I did the last time and definitely more than I need.  I end up making more lasagna than a family could possibly eat in a week.  I figure if I am going to do it and make a mess of the kitchen, then I am really going to do it up right.  This time it was six pans.  So I shared some with friends and neighbors. 

I have a girlfriend that has never liked lasagna. There is something in it that is common in lasagna recipes and it doesn't taste good to her.  She tried mine one day and couldn't believe that she liked it.  Now I always make sure she gets a pot of it when I make it.  I offered some to another friend from this batch and she readily accepted it saying she doesn't care for it but her family would love it.  I suggested she try it, telling her I have a few friends like her and I would bet that she ends up liking mine. And she did!  Now, I can't tell you what the secret is, no one would need me anymore - so I will carry that with me until I die.  (Or drink enough wine some night that you coax it out of me!).

So, we may all be making or doing pretty much the same thing but it is going to turn out a little different because we can't help but influence the outcome with a little bit of our style.

I teach yoga at the gym.  I have many people that love my class and some that prefer a little different style, though they still join me for class and modify to suit their needs. I encourage them to also try some of the other instructors until they find a yoga that really resonates with them.  It can be such a wonderful experience for us in many ways - mind, body and soul - and can only benefit those that practice it.

But if you've never tried it - try mine - you'll like it!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Silence Means You Agree

As I started my introduction to the yoga class, I mentioned today was going to be handstand and headstand day with a number of animal poses involving lifting our feet off the ground.  The room was silent. I could imagine what was going on in their heads.  "Is she really serious?", "what have I gotten myself into today?", "that sounds like fun!". Probably more of the former and less of the latter inner chatter.

As I started my cycle class I mentioned that we were going to start on a fifteen minute hill climb and then alternate every other flat ride song as a race paced top heart rate zone rush.  Again, the room was silent. Again, I could imagine what was going on in their heads. "Is she really serious?", "what have I gotten myself into today?", "that sounds like fun!". Again, probably more of the former and less of the latter inner chatter. 

Was I serious? - yes very much so in both classes.  And it turns out, they really had a good time in both instances.  But I do playfully warn them if they don't speak up I am assuming they are thrilled with the plan.  And they usually don't speak up. And I usually go ahead with my plan - devious as it can be. 

I found this to be true in many instances outside of the fitness world.  At work in the corporate environment there were numerous occasions in which I wasn't totally in agreement with the plan to move ahead but I also wasn't totally comfortable speaking up.  They certainly weren't life or death situations and no lives or equipment were on the line. I would certainly speak up then. But I quickly found out if you didn't speak up when the issue was addressed, they assumed agreement and moved forward.  Chalk it off to youth or naïveté, it is a lesson worth learning and worth learning quickly. 

When did you wish you had spoken up instead of letting silence mean you agreed?  I look forward to your stories.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Breathe - Just Breathe

A group of friends signed up for a 5 K race called the Neon Splash Dash.  All of the proceeds from the race were for a charitable organization called Red, White and Blue that assists veterans and their families - a great cause. The race started at 8:00 pm. Now that is my kind of race.  Seven or eight o'clock in the morning always seemed like such a painful time to wake up and run around like crazy for a night owl.  Finally, sensible race organizers, starting a race at a time that matches my energy level - when I am fully awake and engaged in the day and ready to roll. 

The race organizers encouraged white t-shirts so that the neon paint that would be sprayed on us during the race would show up under the black lights the best.  Costumes were also encouraged with tutus being the design of choice but my group opted out of the contest this time. I am sure I can motivate some of them to partake next year - hehe - always an optimist.  I planned to run the entire race, after all, 5 K doesn't seem that far.  The others already knew that walking was their preferred method of making it across the finish line.  The race was packed with close to 10,000 runners decorated with all varieties of neon and flashing and glow in the dark gadgets.  It was cool - very cool.  It took some time for the waves of runners/walkers to move forward so that we finally reached the starting line. Then - we were off! 

I started off at a slow shuffle as hundreds of us made it up the hill and across the bridge. It finally thinned out enough so that I was able to start a nice run dodging back and forth between walkers.  I found a clear spot and reached a rhythmic pace with what I thought were good breathing techniques.  About ten minutes later I had to slow down to ease a mild pain in my side - most likely from not breathing correctly. Had it really been that long since I had raced that I forgot how to breathe?  Yes.  I focused on correcting my breath work and picked up the pace again.  Just about to cross the finish line, I stopped and walked over to the side to keep an eye out for my walking friends so that we could cross the finish line together.  A group of familiar faces splattered with paint strolled by a while later and I joined them for the final steps across the finish line with smiles on all our faces.

It doesn't matter how good your run, walk, arm swinging or shuffle looks - it's the breath underneath it all that makes it successful.

In yoga I am always reminding the students to breathe. "It doesn't matter what your pose looks like - if you are breathing you are still doing yoga. If the breath isn't right - the pose won't be."

Whether you are about to stand up and speak to a crowd - or have a difficult conversation with someone - use your breath to relax and get in the right frame of mind - and the rest will be easy. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Touch Everyone

I was standing in line at the bank and the man in front of me in line was on his cell phone.  When the teller called him up to her window he remained on the phone and gently shoved his paperwork to her - not stopping to acknowledge her or have any conversation.  She methodically took care of his banking business and gently moved the papers and some money back toward him.  He grabbed his belongings and headed out the door.  During my turn, the teller and I had a polite conversation about people and their rudeness, she took care of my banking business and I was on my way.  I needed to stop at the grocery store behind the bank and left my car at the bank and walked over to the store.  I was surprised to see the man from the bank walking to the store in front of me - but not surprised to see that his cell phone was still attached to his ear.  I was pretty sure the cashier in the grocery store was going to receive the same treatment from him that the bank teller had experienced.  I honestly don't think he realized what he was doing and if he did - would he even care?  I like to think so.
I have noticed this doing business at a number of places.  On another day at the local department store I watched as the cashier rang up a customer's merchandise and the customer remained on her cell phone the entire time.  When it was my turn, I asked the cashier if it bothered him.  "Oh", he replied "it happens all the time, I've gotten used to it". To me, it is so sad that this is something we have gotten used to.  It is easy to change.  We get what we allow.  

I am amazed at the stories and issues in the Dear Abby column of what frantic or frustrated people write in to for help.  Abby frequently responds with, "it will stop when you stop allowing it".
I think it is important to acknowledge everyone in my yoga classes.  Whether it is with a smile or a nod or a touch to adjust their pose, or calling out their name - I like to let everyone know I see them and know they are there. I notice when they are missing as many have their favorite spot and you can see when it is empty.  I know that I can do better with this and as I write I am committing to this challenge.  I don't want people to feel like I missed that they were there or was so busy with other people that I didn't take the time to acknowledge their presence.

There is all this buzz about the present moment and being present in the moment and I agree with it totally.  But I would like to add an addendum - acknowledge the presence of those being present in the moment with you - be it with a smile, a nod, a conversation or a touch.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bored With Yourself?

Note - If you are a follower of my Creativity and Risk Taking blog - - this first paragraph will sound familiar - but the story will end up in a different place so I invite you to reread it.

I attended an afternoon workshop on defining and working with all the resources available to you to move your personal development or your business forward. It was an interesting look at all we have around us that we typically forget or pass over as we rush through our week. We were asked to make a list of 100 resources that we have and were given a few minutes to complete the task. Pens and fingers on tablets moved furiously down the page listing person after person and item after item. Most people had 30 or more resources listed in a very short time. We shared part of our list with the group and the ideas from others in the room inspired us to add to our lists. One that I mentioned was clutter. We think of it as junk but if we were to go through many of the boxes stuffed in our attic or under a bed - we might find treasures that could be used in our work or in some other way we hadn't previously considered. A teacher friend of mine planned to have her students help her sort through some boxes of supplies she had accumulated over the years. She knew that they would be able to come up with numerous ideas on how the "stuff" could be used in alternative ways. Those little ones were creative problem solvers.

The speaker came highly recommended and I was initially enjoying his talk but my interest started to wane as he continued.  The resource list was a great reminder of all the treasures we have in people and "stuff" and how we could more effectively and creatively utilize those resources.  I was planning how I would add to the list every day and play with my resources in new ways to help myself and those I come in contact with.  But then a feeling started to emerge - like the speaker had given this talk before and he was starting to run on autopilot. He gave us an exercise and then proceeded to get lost in his laptop on some project.  He finished early and I found myself wishing he had given us more information and skipped the last exercise.

I have had yoga class attendees comment that they loved my class because it was always something new and they never got bored.  I was surprised because most of class is usually a repeat of the warm-ups and many poses you do every time. But I do try to give it a little twist every time with a different focus.  I go back through notes from a conference or look up something in a book or on the Internet that might help members deepen their practice.  No matter how I feel, I leave energized and renewed when class is over, inspired by the different energy participants bring each time.  

In my business presentations or classes I try to approach the session with a renewed enthusiam even though I may have presented the same topic numerous times before.  It is a new group and a new day and I try to play in a new way.

How are you approaching your day, your job, your family, your activities? Like you are bored and have done this 100 times and "here you to go again"? 

I invite you to consider how you could make the old "new"?  What small change in your attitude or how you look at something or someone could bring joy back to your life? 

Try it - I think you will like the results!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Person's Name is Important

I attended a women's business lunch the other day and struck up a conversation with a very tall, impressive and fun woman at my table.  I loved everything about her, especially her very red jacket and the fact that as a tall woman she still wore high heels.  When I was young I used to wear flat shoes to keep myself from towering over all the boys.  No more.  After the meeting was over and the crowd headed to the hotel doors to retrieve their cars we ran into each other at the valet line.  She was behind me in line.  We were talking while she paid her ticket.  When she received her receipt, she thanked the valet and called him by his name.  She gained even more respect in my eyes in that short moment. 

I wrote an e-mail to her later that day - and I said -
"You know what I really like about you? – that as busy as it was outside at the valet stand you addressed the guy taking our tickets by his name – “Tony”.  I usually do that – but was distracted by our conversation and activity around us. Thank you so much for that reminder.  I always found out the names of the maids in our office building when I worked in “corporate America” – God knows I saw them often enough when I stayed late J. My father was a strong advocate of the “little man” - the one behind the scenes who doesn't always get all the attention but who without them, nothing would run smoothly. Though I was too young, my sister remembers him sending a check to the family of the police officer (J.D.Tippit – Dallas police officer) who was killed when Kennedy was shot (and with a family of eight kids – you know there wasn’t much extra money laying around to do that kind of thing) because everyone was giving their attention to the Kennedy’s and no one was really thinking about that police officer’s family (at least publicly).  I loved that about my dad."

In yoga class I try to remember people's names and ask them - sometimes more than once or twice.  If I see them often it is easier for me to remember them, but it usually comes back to me no matter how long it has been since I last saw them. I love how they don't mind me asking again and again - until I get it right. I admit having called a few people by the wrong name for months until some light conversation eventually gets me corrected. 

Remember to get their name - it's important - and then - remember their name - it's priceless.

Pick a Pose

When we start off fresh for the new year, many people make new year's resolutions.  Their hearts and will power are in it and they make a list of all the things they are going to do differently this year.  After all, the year is new and everything is possible.  But as January ends and February begins, many of those resolutions fall by the wayside.  Every year the process is repeated.  Hopes and dreams and diets and skinny jeans lay on the floor in a rumpled mess. I believe a few subtle changes might make the outcome entirely different.  One change would be to find a resolution buddy - be it a friend, a co-worker, or a coach.  This person will be your someone to support you when the going gets rough and to be accountable to.  And don't let them go as soon as you meet your goals or your new habits are in place.  Keep them close at hand to keep you on track for the future as there is no going back to the old way of doing things. The second change would be to pick just one thing to focus on and do that really really well. Your other wants and wishes and desires may get done in the process, but the one thing you focus on will surely make progress.  What would you pick from your list?

In a recent yoga class I encouraged the group to pick just one yoga pose to focus on for that day or the next few weeks. I encouraged them to pay attention to where they were in that pose today.  Then as the weeks unfold, note how much better they are getting in the pose.  The changes in yoga can be very quick in a short period of time.  It is a good idea to start with a benchmark so that you can be reminded and inspired by your progress.

Pick a pose - see how your ability grows. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day give-away

My Valentine's Day gift to you!

You won!  All followers as of midnight February 14, 2013 are winners! - your choice of a new yoga mat, set of blocks or a yoga strap. 

Please e-mail me at with your preference and we will tag up to get you your new yoga toy!

Thank you so much for participating. Namaste!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Keeping Up with the Googles

A commentary article in the newpaper titled "Microsoft tries privacy ploy against Google" detailed the slug fest between Microsoft and Google.  Microsoft tries again and again to sling mud at Google's business practices instead of working on their own business, products and practices to make them the favored customer choice.  Microsoft was claiming themselves to be a privacy champion, when under closer inspection they are not.  Not that Google is without reproach on several issues.  The article concludes with the comment that Microsoft should focus on it's own efforts - not others.

In yoga we sometimes get distracted by the poses of others around us. Someone else is touching the floor with their hands and we can only get to our knees.  People are balancing on one foot with their eyes closed and we are falling over and can't stand on one foot without using the wall.  We are trying to get one leg to cross over our other leg and our neighbor is putting both feet behind their head.  We look at them and wish we could do those things or feel bad because we cannot.  Instead, look within and pay attention to how your body feels and what would help you move deeper into the pose.  What would help you progress more?  What does your body need?  What can you do to feel more successful in that position?  Forget about the people around you and what they are able or not able to do and focus on you.  Your practice will blossom. 

Here's to not trying to keep up with the Googles. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

It All Comes Together in the End

Sitting down to write a proposal for a client, the words seemed to flow effortlessly.  What the client envisioned for the event and the way in which I saw the event coming together to produce those results was so clear.  The project understanding, the scope of work, the plan, the take-aways and the details appeared on the screen as my fingers clicked away at the keyboard.  Part of me thought, "Wow, that was easy".  But I knew that it was more than a few hours at my desk that had produced the final program.  Several meetings with pointed questions revealed their needs and their expectations. Combining that with years of working in and with corporations at various levels, countless training classes and experimental exercises, research and my own learning efforts brought everything together.  It was a great feeling to envision what the planned events would produce for the client and their participants.  

In yoga, when we are able to finally perform a pose at a certain level above what we had been able to do before, we feel a great sense of accomplishment and others around us are often pleased with our success as well.  It can be as simple as touching our toes or as complicated as balancing on our forearms with our legs up in the air tied up into some sort of pretzel-like configuration.  But the truth is, a lot of stretching, trying, sweating, grunting, fear, and falling took place before that pose ever really made it to where it is today. 

It all comes together in the end.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Set Your Intention

The "famous" yoga instructor started our session seated comfortably on the stage with a beautiful inviting smile on her face.  There was a sigh of relief from many of the participants when she said that there would be an hour of lecture, then an hour of yoga.  Many of them had already completed several two hour sessions and possibly a whole day of yoga before that during the conference and the thought of one more downward facing dog, (a yoga pose in which your hands and feet are on the floor and your hips are lifted so you resemble an upside down V), was daunting.  To be able to sit and just listen for an hour to a number of delightful stories was a welcome rest.  The instructor shared how the "Aim True" theme had become her mantra as she started with her fascination with Greek gods and goddesses as a child to the explanation of the tattoo on her arm.  She reminded us of the practice of setting our intention before a yoga class.  What were we doing the class for and what did we want to get out of it?  Were we there to relax our bodies?  Were we there to heal some injury?  Were we there to practice for those that couldn't, or send love and positive energy to those that needed it?  It is important to set your focus before the class begins so you can direct your energy.

It is also important in life to set our intention so that we are able to get the most out of moments.  If we have a business meeting planned, what happens when we don't set our intention?  We probably have productive meetings but there could be so much more evolving from them.  What if we set our intention to really listen and hear what people were saying beneath their words or connect with a person in the meeting that we don't really know?  How would that change the outcome?

I have presented classes on subjects that attendees usually have some experience in.  I had one young woman attend my project management class and she had already obtained the Project Management Professional designation.  This fundamentals class was going to be everything she already knew.  But she approached the class with an open mind to see what else she might gain in project management knowledge.  She shared with me after that the class was very valuable and she learned some new things she could apply directly to her work.

Set your intention and see where it takes you.  It will create more meaningful experiences for you.     

Monday, January 14, 2013

Have to? Get to?

The priest that celebrated the mass today has always been one of my favorites.  His sermons are well planned and contemporary.  You leave with a practical application of the message to incorporate into your life.  He used to be the pastor but has moved on and teased he was a visiting priest today.  He mentioned a few of the places that he was scheduled to visit this year.   The list included Italy and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  As he mentioned each city he was to travel to he preceded it with the word HAD.  I smiled to myself because if places like that were on your HAD to go to list, life really couldn't be all that bad, could it?  Shouldn't it be GET to go to?  I tried to catch him after the service but he was surrounded by followers and deeply involved in animated conversation.

At the beginning of yoga class I mention some of the poses we are going to GET to do that day.  There are varied reactions to the knowledge: some fearful, some excited, some confused.  But I know they will enjoy it no matter what their initial reaction is.

Where do you GET to go or what do you GET to do this week, month or year?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Valentine give-away

Wouldn't you love a new yoga mat or other yoga toys? 

You've enjoyed reading my "I Yoga Party - Do You?" blogs.  Now become a follower. 

All new (and current) followers will be entered in a drawing for yoga mats, blocks, straps and zafus (yoga pillows).  The drawing takes place on Valentine's Day (2-14-13) at noon (CST).  Be sure to sign up as a follower before then.  Winners will be posted on this blog. 

Bonus contest - invite five friends to follow the blog - the first five people that get five friends to follow I Yoga Party automatically win a new yoga mat.  E-mail me your name and the names of your five friends to participate -

Starting now - go!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dolphin Delight

I nestled into the corner of the boat to enjoy the ride, the warmth of the sun, the beautiful views on the shore and in the water and the interesting display of characters and their vessels parading along the canal.  Our captain devoted his attention to our safety and pleasure, maneuvering the boat through the canal while keeping a watchful eye out for dolphins.  Soon, several were spotted a short distance from us near the shore.  Our captain turned the boat around and positioned us near the circling dolphins.  They were looking for fish, we were looking for them.  Repeated attempts at leaving our wake in their path to tempt them to follow were fruitless.  You could imagine them laughing under the water at the silly humans.  Again and again he circled the boat back and forth to the first group of dolphins and then to others we observed at a distance from our current location.  Finally, a pair of dolphins were frolicking in the wake of our boat, jumping in and out of the water right next to the the back corner of the boat (off the port quarter in seaman's terms).  We squealed with delight each time the head or tail of a dolphin rose above the water. It was an amazing show.  All that work by our captain paid off.

In yoga, success in a pose can sometimes be difficult to obtain. We put forth a great deal of effort in our practice.  It is not unusual for the reward to take some time.  Patience and perseverance will get you to where you want to be.  And when we finally reach that place, it is delightful.