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Mindfulness

Refining my List

By Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I just joined a book club and went to my first meeting. We discussed Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead. I’m a huge fan of Brene’s work and Dare to Lead was especially timely for me.

One of the exercises from the book is to examine our values. Our group passed around a list of about 100 values. From the list, we each picked our top ten values and then the top two we thought defined us. This exercise was extremely challenging—all the values listed seemed to apply to me (trust, learning, achievement, financial security, faith, family, personal satisfaction). It was hard to find my top ten, then even harder to pick my top two.

We went around the group and discussed our selections. It didn’t take long before we noticed that I didn’t choose health as a value. How could I overlook health? I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my life to studying health and working in the industry in various capacities.

I was baffled and honestly somewhat embarrassed.

Since the book club meeting, I’ve been asking myself questions:

  • What is health to me?
  • Is it absence of disease?
  • Is it a number on a scale?
  • Is it a set of laboratory values or how energized I’m feeling?

It’s easy to take health for granted until we get injured or sick. Our own community has experienced so many tragedies this year from cancer and suicide, infection and sepsis, to accidents and overdoses. The Winter Solstice is usually a powerful time for me for introspection and reflection. On the longest night of the year, I was able to reflect on what health means to me and where I can make changes to better support my health.

As we close the month of December and move into 2019, we can journal and contemplate shifts we would like to make in our lives. We can take inventory on exercise, personal and professional relationships, sleep, diet and nutrition, outlook on life, as well as habits, needs, and addictions. As a society, mental health and wellness are often overlooked, but chronic pain, anxiety, and depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation and they can decrease our immune systems, too. If you value adventure, curiosity, and learning but your partner values financial security, order, and routine, you can see how conflict can occur and how a survey might be an opportunity to create deeper connection. In the workplace, understanding how your core values differ from your co-workers’ may help explain sources of conflict and instill greater respect.

An honest survey of our values is such a beneficial exercise and a great way to kick off the new year. There are lots of online surveys available to take and download. Or dare to read Dare to Lead.

What does 2019 look like for your health?

In light and love,

Sandy

Christie Brinkley, Billy Blanks, and Me

By Health, Mindfulness, Nutrition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

When I was 13, I received a copy of Christie Brinkley’s Outdoor Beauty and Fitness Book. I was set. In one book, I had the complete guide to everything I needed to know to be just as dazzling and breathtaking as Christie Brinkley. I followed her advice for cutting up bananas and freezing them as a snack to satisfy my sweet tooth. I did her exercises religiously and followed her beauty advice on how to lighten my hair with lemons. What could go wrong? I was totally sure that if I followed Christie’s advice, I would have all the tools I’d need to become a sexy, confident woman.

Fast forward a few years and moves, college and grad school, and I eventually lost track of my beauty bible. It was okay though because I found Billy Blanks and Tae Bo. I could kick and punch my way into total body fitness.

By my 30s, I wasn’t nearly as quick to fall for a quick fix, but I was influenced by yoga teachers, medical mentors, and people who seemed to me to have it all together. I was sure that if I could be more like them, I could be a better mom, wife, and friend. Looking back now, I realize I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t connected to my physical body or my intuition. Being a mom to two young kids, I was completely focused on their needs, care, and wellbeing. I didn’t have time or energy to listen to and interpret the messages my body was sending me. It was easier to listen to people like Christie and Billy, people who knew the steps to success. I ignored symptoms of allergies, stress, and fatigue—signs my body was using to tell me it was out of balance.

It’s taken nearly a decade of my 40s (my favorite decade, by the way) to connect to myself. What changed? Why do I now listen to my own inner voice? I can’t point to just one thing, but I believe meditation, yoga trainings, health coaching, nutrition training, and not working all night shifts in the emergency department have supported me on this path.

When I was a new yoga teacher, I labeled myself alignment-oriented. I knew exactly how a posture should look and I would cue ad nauseam to get students to create that posture. After almost 10 years and many hours of teaching and observing different bodies with different injuries and stories, I’ve come to see alignment as what works in the body within reason on any given day.

I no longer hold on to rigid ideas that are tethered to the word “should.” I have a running joke with Becky Kuhl about burpees. After doing them for 15 years, burpees don’t feel so good in my body. In fact, I really don’t like them at all. So I modify when I need to and I take pride in that. At this time of year, I make many life modifications. I may go to bed at 8pm. If I’m not teaching a 6am class, I don’t go to yoga at 6am. I make sure my eating, self-care, and exercise are aligned with what supports me, even if someone I respect tells me to do something different.

As we head into late fall and winter, I can’t encourage people enough to listen to their bodies about sleep, food, movement, and even the company you keep and connections you make. It doesn’t matter what your most inspirational yoga teacher, health guru, accomplished outdoor athlete, or business person eats, drinks, or does to their body or puts in their hair for highlights. It’s wonderful to have teachers, mentors, and guides on our personal journeys, but we don’t have to take others’ words as scripture when our true or best selves may be compromised.

“We are always looking outward, listening to our teachers who come in with their own problems and limitations, and we ignore the most supreme teacher within ourselves. The only way to evolve, to progress, to truly practice, is to listen to our inner teacher.” ~ Prashant Iyengar

In light and love,

Sandy

Motivation

By Death, Mindfulness, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Recently I’ve been thinking about the underlying motivation in different areas of my life. As much I hate to admit it, my interest in fitness first started by reading Cosmopolitan and Glamour magazine articles in high school and college. Thankfully, I evolved beyond that and found running and hiking to be great stress relievers for all of the pressures of Physician Assistant school. If I saw a hill, I couldn’t wait to run up it and clear my mind. Rollerblading, another trend of the times, also gave me a feeling of freedom.

With so much running and no time allocated for stretching, I found yoga as a way to relieve my back pain. My first yoga classes were with a wonderful man at Bally’s Total Fitness in Denver. His yoga was a fusion of Tai Chi and gentle yoga, and I felt so much better on a physical and emotional level. Eventually, I found a yoga studio in Cherry Creek and it became my yoga home. I entered what I like to refer to as my “posture collecting phase.” I was obsessed with inversions, arm balances, and backbends to the point that I ultimately sustained injuries (which have changed the way I now practice yoga). When my kids were babies, then toddlers, yoga was my anchor as I navigated my work-mom balance. I didn’t yet know how to apply yoga off my mat, so I needed classes to create space in my mind.

When I turned 40, things changed. My kids were in school, we sold our business, and I was questioning lots of areas of my life. In addition to doing yoga, I started going to a Lagree Pilates studio and kickboxing gym. I was addicted. Both places provided great physical release, and I became more fit than I ever imagined I would. As I started my journey into teaching yoga, pilates, kickboxing, and personal training, my workouts were an escape for me. With exercise, I was shutting out issues in my marriage, frustrations around parenting, and nagging questions about my career satisfaction and my overall identity. On the outside I looked healthy, but psychologically I was obsessed and borderline panicked by the threat of missing a workout.

As I enter the last bit of my 40s, nutrition, meditation, spending time with my kids, and running a business keep me busy. I still have time to be active, but it’s a healthier mix. I no longer feel the need to do certain things just because I can or should.

The passing of Herald Stout last week has been on my mind. He was a gifted yogi, yoga teacher, and father. I keep asking myself why—he lived a healthy lifestyle and yet was taken way too soon. It’s a reminder that nothing in this world is certain. Harold’s passing inspires me to hone in on my motivation. What are my real priorities and passions? A speaker at the Feel Good Summit I attended in June suggested ditching the Bucket List for a F**k it List—for all those things we know we don’t want to do even though somehow we feel like we should. It’s a list of things we can let go of. This can help when we consider fitness. Do we exercise and do yoga to support our health, to exert control over some aspect of our life, to escape, or to connect with what truly serves us?

In light and love,

Sandy