Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone

Stepping outside a Comfort Zone asks we get in shape. Habits are strong, and, therefore, comfortable.

We all want to get in better shape and health, and we all want what we envision. As it should be. The question is, how do we accomplish this?

Chris Uyyek is providing a Platform for this very question. Yoga meets Boxing meets Zumba meets Cross Fit meets Advocaremeets…on and on.

Boxing teaches an individual to Invite the Discomfort, Calm the Self Down, then look at the Options. I’m guessing all Movement Forms have a similar perspective, even if it is called out differently.

I ask for Feedback. How do you personally meet the Challenge of Discomfort, Calm Self Down and Choose the Best Option for the Moment?

In Pain? Look for the Right Teacher!

Finding the Right Qigong (Or any movement) Teacher When You Have Chronic Pain 
by Kim Ivy
Even though Qigong is an ancient practice, in America it is relatively new on the landscape of exercise in general and even newer when considered as an alternative or complementary therapy. Larger cities may have several teachers or schools but there is a dearth of teachers in smaller communities. Certification programs are rare and those that do exist are idiosyncratic and along with the teachers they produce, do not fall under any authority. And so, as with finding the right doctor, naturopath, acupuncturist or even the right friend, finding the right Qigong teacher is in and of itself a challenge and it is one that is made greater with a chronic pain condition. As always, however, with patience and persistence it is possible to add a great Qigong teacher to your group of healing allies and to reap the benefits of the practice for the rest of your life.

Here are my 3 main points for finding a great teacher:

Look for the teacher’s heart and style: Avoid rigid teachers who insist that theirs is the only form, that it cannot be modified and that you must practice it only their way. Find a teacher who flexible and willing to listen to your needs and limits. The teacher must be willing to explore modifying the form for your comfort.

Work with a teacher who has been practicing for several years: The teacher you find should have a good sense of both energy and physical alignment. Unfortunately, alignment is often not emphasized in Qigong but it is especially important for those with chronic pain.

Find an instructional environment that works for you: You should want to come to class. I like classes to be non-competitive, friendly and fun. My school is peopled with students who have chronic health concerns and they are loved and embraced and often much more skilled than they 20 year old athletes!

Here are my 3 main points for being a great student:

Be pro-active in your learning: Ask if the form can be done sitting down, ask if you can rest in between. If your teacher is good they will say yes! Here is the modification. Or, “hum.. I’ve never thought of that, lets try it. Don’t be afraid to teach the teacher how to teach you.

Go slow: Sometimes we feel so good doing Qigong, and because it is so gentle, we over do it. Qigong is subtle. A little goes a long way.

Be patient: Qigong takes time. Qigong is a practice that is unlike how we are used to moving and being in our culture. Allow the practice to become a Way for you, rather than a goal. Have fun applying the principles to your daily life. Let living become your Qigong practice.

In the end, I feel the best advice when choosing a teacher is to follow your intuition. Give yourself all the time you need to research your options, experience a few classes, then sit for a few days with the experience to learn how your body responded to it. Over the years, Qigong’s popularity will continue to increase and you can be instrumental in shaping the teachers who work with those with chronic health conditions. Who knows! You may even teach someday.

How Do We Build Support Networks?

So far, Mentoring Movement is out to create support for people starting on their exercise journey.  We know there is plenty of information, plenty of resources, plenty of organizations, plenty of inspirational “just do it” motivational quotes.  The real question is why do some people keep exercising, and why do some quit?  How do we get started and then KEEP GOING?

I have been reading a book called, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  In this book he outlines the process that gets new habits started.  With each repeated behavior, there is a cue (stressed out), a repeated behavior (eat ice cream), and a reward (pleasure / relief).  After a while, we enjoy this reward so much that we begin to anticipate it, even before we get the cue.  This creates a craving, and reinforces the behavior cycle.  Unfortunately, once that habit is wired, it can never be completely extinguished.  If you see a commerical for Ben & Jerry’s, your old craving and behavior pattern will get triggered.  So instead of trying to “get rid” of that old behavior, you can put a new behavior in its place.  When you’re stressed out, you can call a friend instead of diving head-first into the ice cream, and get a similar sense of relief.  (Here’s a great flow-chart on how to change a habit.)

This process of replacing one behavior pattern with another will only get you so far, and it’s why people will start exercising, but not stick with it.  Eventually, the old behavior pattern will win if they don’t believe that change is possible, and see that it is working for others.  I knew this was missing from so many exercise programs, even before I knew it was a necessary component of creating lasting change in people’s habits.

The question is: How Do We Get People Together To Create Belief?

I don’t know the answer to this … I just know that together we can answer it.  I come to you having seen something that we need, and ask for your help in creating the belief that together, supporting each other, we can help each other change, see the change in each other, and make the changes that will withstand any temptation!

Some of the Barriers Boxers Encounter

Boxing, the sweet science,  is not just a sport.  Most Martial Arts practice movement sequences passed down through decades, which allows the individual practicing them to  enter the spiritual element contained within the repeated movement.  Boxing is also an ancient practice, but there are no ritualized movements to memorize.  Boxing is very fundamental.  You have six punches, get in the ring and see what you got.

The primary barrier a  Boxer encounters  is his or her self.  All of us are familiar with being our own worst enemy, to some extent.  But, a boxer must test his or her fundamental skills in the ring with hitting and being hit the purpose of the exchange.  Most of us are not very in touch with our instincts.  We tend to fight, flee and freeze, and mostly at inappropriate times for what is actually going on.  a Boxer is not different.  His / her instincts have been blunted by being raised in a fear-based society.  The beauty of boxing comes when an individual lets go of the fear and turns the fundamentals into a sweet flow of interaction.

How does this happen?  A Boxer systematically trains to convert fight, flee, freeze reactions into response.  However, some of the Reactions run deep, very deep, have been passed on through the family for decades.  But, so has boxing been passed on through the decades.  When we reach out to boxing for help facing our fears, we do learn to break through the barriers that have kept us back all our lives.

Boxing is not about being perfect or doing something correct, it is about facing fear, in whatever form that takes.  Taking on our fears with confidence allows us to break through barriers that keep us from having what we want.

Progress Through Adaptation

I figured it was about time for a status update on how my workout journey is going.  The rehab is going well.  The race is going to the tortise this time for sure … slow and steady is going to win.  I have gone from having to lay face-up on the ground using 3 pound weights as a substitute for push ups, to where I am today.  I can finally do a regulation “military” push-up off my toes.  Yep, I’m up to a push-up with my full body weight.  HOORAY!  I am starting these out easy as well by only doing a few reps, and then going back to doing bent-knee push-ups.

It’s pretty clear now that I am going to take about twice as long as the program intended for me to get the results they promised, but this is such a huge victory.  This is the first time that I didn’t let an injury like this become an excuse for me to quit and stop exercising entirely.  This means that while re-habbing my shoulder, I’ve also been building strength in my core and my legs, which wouldn’t have happened if I gave up on exercising entirely.

How are you doing on your exercise journey?  Are you encountering set-backs?  How are you dealing with them?  Would you like some support?  Let’s get the discussion going and keep supporting each other on our quest for improved fitness and health.

What makes practice, Practice?

Perfect KidWhat Makes practice, Practice? by Kim Ivy
Intent. Grace. Humility. Consistency. Routine. Perfection. Imperfection. Motivation. Rest from Motive. Conscious Awareness. Doing something different. Doing the same thing over and over. Flow. Feeling good. Fun. Nine-year-old Zamora who has studied with me for four years says practice is “repeating something over and over until you gradually get good at it.”
I love that a nine-year-old understands the concept of gradually! So, what does makes practice, Practice? The overwhelming theme that has emerged is this: Intention. Practice is many things, but primarily it is bringing our intention into whatever we are doing.It is said of Qigong training that practicing your form for one hundred days in a row will accomplish true change. It is believed that this length of time and consistency is needed for the alchemy of movement, breath and intent to seep deeply into the muscles, tendons, bones and bone marrow. It is also thought that it takes this much repetition to learn the practice for oneself (in contrast to following a teacher) so it can be a useful lifetime tool for longevity and health. Of course it takes much longer than one hundred days to gain even the rudiments of Qigong skill, and practicing regularly within a busy life of family and work can be challenging.At my school, we jump-start our sagging winter mood with “100 Days of Practice” that begins with the excitement of the Chinese New Year. This year, everyone was invited to participate by practicing anything a person chose for 30 minutes a day (+/-). If a day was missed, just start again the next day and kept counting. 120 people (out of 200 students in the school), students and their friends from Spain to the Yukon to Seattle, emailed me to sign up.Their chosen practices were delightfully varied. People devoted themselves to thirty minutes of treadmill, meditation, Taijiquan, walking, career improvement, non-work reading, Qigong, diet/exercise, energy work, listening, playing, beadwork, playing the violin, or being outside every day. My favorite might be the person who will go to bed 30 minutes earlier every night. For me as a teacher, spending time on my own practice is most challenging. I chose two particular forms that I want to improve on. I realized that my martial arts have always been my practice, yet as I began to absorb such varied choices from so many different people, I began to wonder, “what does make practice, Practice?”Practice comes from the old French word “practiser” which is derived from the Latin “practicare” which means to perform, carry out. Given that definition, anything anyone does could be considered practice. But practitioners know the concept of practice takes on a deeper meaning. I appreciate the distinction my student Ellen makes. “For me, ‘practicing’ involves repetition in order to gain a level of proficiency at something, but ‘having a practice’ is more about being fully engaged in something because it is a part of my life. It defines me in a way that other actions of mine do not.”I have come to feel that Practice for me is the intentional act of bringing conscious awareness into whatever I am doing. This could be swimming, Tai Chi, cleaning the house, relationships. For me, this conscious awareness also carries with it the intention to improve. How can my stroke be longer and more relaxed? How can I better connect my movements to my core? How can I be present while cleaning the tub? How can I listen better? I bring to my practice not just repeating something over and over but the act of self-reflection: I practice and I observe. I practice again. I tweak and adjust and tear apart and build up again. I create an opportunity to know myself better. Gradually this habit seeps into the rest of my activities. The result of Practice is that over time, I have a more engaged relationship with my whole life.

At some point, we take the lessons out of the classroom, off the pages, and into the practice process. We propel ourselves beyond the initial lesson and into a more intimate place — a place where it is just us and what we are practicing. Our inner voice and direction seeps out. What about doing it this way? How does this feel? We ask ourselves about our own experience. This is where significant transformation takes place.

Over my years of practice, I have come to believe that our intuition points us to a deeper instinct. This instinct is embedded deep into our humanity. It is the instinct to improve ourselves. To fulfill this often-unconscious drive, we seek out experiences and teachers to help us, to show us, to point us in a certain direction. We may not know what it is specifically so we look for teachers and experiences to ignite an innate fire in us – to bring this urge out of dormancy and then to motivate us on this very instinctual path. At a certain point it is then up to us to blow on the flame, to tend to the coals, to find more fuel. This is practice. As we blow and fan and hunt for more fuel we become strong, more capable, more self-determined and we become more conscious. Over time we become ready to receive deeper layers of lessons.

“But I can’t practice on my own.” “I will do it wrong.” “I will set an incorrect path.” Truly these are the worst things to allow ourselves to believe. I think of a baby, learning to walk. They have no “I can’t do it” verbiage yet. They don’t even know this way of thinking is an option. They just wiggle and push and grab and fall and get up again. Something deep inside the baby drives her to get up, grow, develop, improve, and keep at it. After the baby walks, how much more improvement is available to the human being? So much more!

When we stifle the practice process by choosing to engage in negative mental activity, we close the door on our growth and all that is available to us. We deny our natural instincts, our intuitive guidance. Gradually over time we become smaller, weaker, fragile, less connected. It is a terrible death because we are still breathing but we are not growing. Human beings are the only living beings that can purposefully separate themselves from their nature. Animals don’t do it, neither do plants or babies. It is when we become “smart” enough that we can make that choice. It is a great sadness for me that so many people use their intelligence to intentionally, willfully, purposefully, consistently allow their flame to flicker and die out.

To that end, I am human. The inertia of sitting on the couch, lazing around, is so compelling. Staying asleep in relationships and just letting life go by beckons. It is not that I never make that choice. I do. And it scares me when I do. In fact, I might say Practice is a conscious choice to keep myself alive. I don’t mean keep myself living — I can keep myself fed, sheltered and clothed. I mean truly alive. Engaged, purposeful, self-reflecting, intuitive, lively alive. At times it is a ferocious choice. A tough choice. But I fear cold coals. And I deeply trust the fire of Practice to keep me going.

As I attune to and intentionally nurture my deep human drive to grow and improve, I connect very intimately to the bigger world that is doing the exact same thing. I look around. It is spring. Plants are pushing up out of the ground, budding and blooming. As I practice I keep my own growth fed and this keeps the icy winds of complacency from blowing down my neck.

My public work is to light and nurture the Practice fire in others. In doing so, I witness people who practice and others who do not. I try many things to keep the diverse flames going and to teach people how to do it eventually for themselves. Sometimes I am successful. I have come to know that truly the only thing I can do is keep my own practice alive and in that way provide an example for others.

Time has shown me I am not perfect nor will I ever be. In fact Practice has erased that as a goal. Practice has revealed to me that there are days when I don’t even know if I will be able to keep my own Practice nurtured over time. Practice has shown me that it is not an automated process of inspiration and motivation. The truth is this: there are flat days, sometimes flat years.

Yet there are moments (not days, weeks, or decades) when I feel utterly connected. I feel myself with — with what? With nature, with breath, with the people around me, with the birds singing. Myself with. And when I practice, I practice not to achieve those moments. In fact, I have every realization that perhaps I won’t feel them again for a very long time. I practice not to get moments of connection; I practice because I know they are there. Practice gives me the vehicle, the method, the habit, the discipline, and most importantly, the trust to keep myself fired up no matter what. Practice supports me and then, by some act of Grace and Humility, it reveals me.


What is Yoga Calm?

As an RYT 200 hatha yoga instructor with a teaching certificate in Yoga Calm, I am asked regularly to answer the question, “What is Yoga Calm?” Hopefully, this week’s post will answer this question and inspire you to sign up a child in your life for a class or get certified to teach one yourself.

Although Yoga Calm does involve practicing yoga with kids, it’s really so much more. This research supported curriculum integrates simple yoga-based activities; mindfulness exercises, and social and emotional skill building games that help kids/students improve their focus, learning readiness,behavior skills, physical health and emotional stability.  Yoga Calm is an integrated approach to physical, mental, and emotional health for kids that has over 60 activities and lesson plans that are guided by wellness principals. Yoga Calm can be taught anywhere to anyone.

As a public middle school teacher, I frequently use Yoga Calm in the classroom.  Instead of spreading out yoga mats, we practice “chair” yoga. We routinely start our lesson with some calming breath work. We move on to our “active” portion of our Yoga Calm which may include  balancing positions , a “mountain to mountain” chair flow, or a game. We wrap up our lesson with another “calm” relaxation. Today in class our wellness principle was “Listening.”  Our guided relaxation script brought us to a beautiful tropical paradise where we experienced the beauty and wonder of nature. My students were able to talk about the importance of “listening” to their bodies and hearts.

Students/children today are so busy. I see how overwhelmed and stressed out they can be by life’s hectic pacing. When my students walk into the room on Yoga Calm days and see my lights dimmed and the yoga music paying, they all smile. They absolutely love doing yoga and frequently request it. It has helped cultivate feelings of community in my classroom and has given my students tools for communication, self-regulation, and stress reduction.

This program is showing great success around the country and in public schools. It can be used by anyone who works with children: parents, teachers, counselors, phychiatrists, physical and occupational therapists, yoga instructors, etc.

I will be doing my next Seattle Yoga Calm training workshop August 10th & 11th. I will be posting this workshop soon on the Yoga Calm website by June 1. To learn more about Yoga Calm, click on the Yoga Calm link on my bio page and visit the Yoga Calm website.