Things That Get Me Through the Work Week, Part 2: Don’t Just Stand There…Stretch Something!

As promised, here is part 2 of my ode to alignment-nerdiness and a peek at what keeps me sane and pain-free(er) during the work week. Part 1, my love letter to my standing desk, is right over here.

Here’s the harsh truth: while standing (in bare feet or flats) is miles better than sitting, if you just stand there for 7 hours a day, you’re going to have aches and pains and varicose veins and all those other things that people suffer from when they sit too much. It’s just a fact – we’re not meant to be still in one position All. Day. Long. So I’ve been working on systems to help myself keep moving and healthy (you can do this if you have a sitting desk too, for the record).

The first thing I did was set up a system of reminders that cue me to stretch, move, and hydrate.

My list of reminders - they ping me every 30 minutes.

Sometimes, if I’m busy or in a meeting, I’ll ignore the cue, but a lot of the time I’ll at least walk around the office, do some chair squats, or do a couple of stretches, even if I wait until I’m done whatever I was working on when the reminder popped up. It takes 1-5 minutes and makes a huge difference.

The next thing I did was make a to-do list of the stretches and exercises I want to do in a day. I don’t always manage all of them, but it still helps me cover my bases. This list is evolving, but here’s a shot of what it looked like a couple of weeks ago:

My ultimate stretchy to-do list

I swear, I really do work during my day…a lot of those stretches can be done at the standing desk anyway (which is part of the reason why I love it so much).

 

Don’t just stand there…stretch something! I dare you! 🙂

My dream (in more than one sense)

I had a dream last night.

But it wasn’t my average dream. It was practically REAL, and it helped me in ways I’d never expect from a dream…

I ran into a friend of a friend. She was a creative spirit with an exuberant and joyful personality, but she struggled when it came to expressing herself through dance (It took the first half of the dream to establish all this, but I’m trying to keep to the point here!). She was going through a rough phase of personal transition, and she knew that it would really help if she could dance.

I offered to give her an Embodied Movement Coaching session (which is a new one-on-one service I’ve been testing…and which I’ve been terrified to talk about up until now). And I immediately began to plan the session out loud (because, hello, dream!).

“Alright,” I said, “We’ll start with some grounding. Really get your feet grounded on the earth so you’re IN your body. Then we’ll start at your head and we’ll do an exercise to help you warm up and free your body joint by joint all the way to your feet. And then we’ll start at your fingertips and we’ll dance part by part until you’re right at your centre. Then we’ll play with movement and see how it feels. Is there a song that you really want to dance to?”

She picked one, and I asked her to bring it to the session. Which, frankly, has been one part of the coaching concept that’s been worrying me. Solution: found.
And the thing is…as I was thinking out loud in the dream, I was doing the movements I was talking about. And I felt better as I was doing them. And I knew with absolute certainty that this would help her, and that it would work and that it was something came naturally to me…that I could make a plan to help anyone who wanted it.

It was pretty much the best dream ever.

I mean, I’ve left out some things, like how we met at an event to raise money for prostate cancer awareness…where people stood in a crowd and chanted “Prostate prostate prostate”…but yeah.

A dream. In more than one sense.

Have you ever had a dream that helped you deal with something in real life? This is a new experience for me, and I’d LOVE to hear your stories!

 

Dance 8: The Long Goodbye (A dance in 2 parts)

I used to hate performing.

Right at the beginning, when my teacher would scream at us backstage and force us to be at the theatre at 8am for an 8pm performance, I hated it. I hated the terror of challenging choreography and not feeling ready and worrying about my pointe shoes and forgetting the steps.

And then I changed schools. And I stopped dancing in pointe shoes. And I started doing my own choreography. And everything changed.

My favourite memories of performing are stepping onto the stage to dance my own solo and Knowing that my dance and my story were powerful, that I could fill that entire theatre with my energy, and that my heart and the hearts of my audience were about to have a conversation.

I can’t adequately describe what that feeling is like. At the time I described it like “having the audience in the palm of my hand,” but that sounds like manipulation. It wasn’t. It was secrets whispered from my heart to theirs, opening a window to my soul and knowing that they would peek in and be touched by what they saw.

I mention this because this project, this Delicious Dance-a-thon, has brought me closer to that feeling than anything has in years. It’s different, because my dances are improvised, because I can use editing to put the dance together, and because I don’t have the same space-sharing connection as I did in the theatre, but…I don’t know…it feels the same.

It’s reawakening things in me: knowledge of my body’s power, new appreciation of the way I move, a love of the person on the screen (instead of my traditional horror of seeing myself dance on video). And it’s changing me: inviting me to push a little more, lean into my discomfort, try something new, play.

I didn’t realize until this project just how limited I had made myself: dancing my own little dance, making it beautiful—yes—but creating that beauty within the limits of “well, I can’t move farther than this because I’ll hurt myself and I’ll stop dancing altogether.” Every day getting sorer and tighter and more terrified to move. Every day feeling that powerful, connected dancer slipping farther away.

These videos are helping me to push past those limits, trust myself a little more, step out a little farther. They are helping me to take back that power I thought I’d lost, that connection and blossoming energy that made my heart ache with longing whenever I thought about it.

 

Today’s music has two layers: the cello and the marimba. I tried dancing to each part separately.  I was originally going to edit the “best bits” together into one video…but I found that they wouldn’t fit. They wanted to be shared separately, just as they were created.

And I think this works, because it shows two different ways to step outside of a comfort zone:

The cello, smooth and emotional, feels much more home-y to me. During this dance, I pushed myself to move a little bigger, shift a little more often. I pushed to my edge by more fully inhabiting the dance.


(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXN-1VbLcyk)

The marimba, on the other hand, frenetic and unceasing, is a foreign land to me. It’s not a dance I typically do. I stepped outside of my comfort zone even attempting to put this on film. And it was exhausting. You can watch me get tired during the course of the video. For a while, I debated whether to share this take at all. But you know what? those first 20-30 seconds? I adore them. They made the entire exercise worth it. They opened up a new layer of self-trust and opportunity for movement. They make me believe in myself just that little bit more.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gR9daLJeKA)

Thank you for reading this, for watching these videos, for leaving your comments. You are part of this healing, this blossoming. You are part of it, and I am so incredibly grateful to you.

…Down the Dancing Path…

Remember when I talked about starting a home yoga practice and getting to know my post-baby body?

Well…it’s CHECK-IN TIME!

I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since I made that post. It feels like way less. But the change in my body is amazing.

I’ve been continuing with the modified yoga flows almost-every-day (and reminding myself that not-doing it for a day or two now and then doesn’t make me a quitter). And I feel so much better. My abs feel stronger. My back hurts less. My posture is straighter. My legs are less creaky (still creaky if I sit for too long, though).

And that’s just the beginning. My body feels like it’s breathing again. Before I started this practice, my body felt stagnant, the energy in my legs felt sludgy (I can’t think of a better way to describe this). I was barely moving at all, and when I did move…it’s like I couldn’t get my whole body in on the act. I think that’s why I had so much trouble letting go and sweating like a wild-woman. It was…so…effing…frustrating. But now…

Now my body is remembering how to dance again, from my head to my toes. My muscles are reactivating. My energy is flowing. I feel less afraid of hurting myself. I breathe more deeply. I move with more freedom. I feel the truth: that I am a dancer, that everyone is. My body is remembering this.

The other day I was sitting at my computer, and I suddenly felt like dancing—in a way that I hadn’t danced in a long, long time. But more than that, I felt like sharing my dance with the world…with you. So I called Matthew over and he helped me to capture it. This is the first, but it won’t be the last. This way, I can show you my journey instead of just telling you about it in words.

This is short (less than a minute) and silent. But it’s complete and it’s 100% me and I’m so excited to share it with you. Thank you for dancing with me.

xox

Meg

 

Try this at home: Sing in the bath

Confession: I’m really not a bath person.

I *try* to be, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very good at being still. Baths are a challenge. I find that I need to add something to the experience if I’m hoping to stay in the water for more than, say, 7 minutes.

Day #5 - I got soap in my eye by Stop Stopping STEVE on Flickr.com
…It’s never been THIS bad, though (Image by Stop Stopping STEVE on Flickr.com)

I’ve read in the bath (but my book gets soggy), I’ve listened to audiobooks or music in the bath (meh), I’ve done Reiki in the bath (FABULOUS if I’m in the mood), I’ve meditated in the bath (more on this soon)…but last night?

Last night I sang.

Yup, I sang in the bath. And it was AWESOME.

We all know that the bathroom has splendid acoustics for shower-singing, but I don’t actually mean singing show tunes or the latest Lady Gaga single (what IS the latest Lady Gaga single, anyway?). This is what I mean:

1. Run a bath. It can be your favourite temperature and featuring your favourite bath stuff —it doesn’t matter. I used my last LUSH bath bomb from Christmas (which only lasted this long because it was in my underwear drawer and…well…this shows you how rarely I sort my socks).

2. Get in the bath. Adjust temperature as needed. Do your usual bath-y things.

3. Lie down so your head is just out of the water (Now that I think about it, this could also be fun with your ears underwater…I just didn’t want my hair to be all bath-bomb-y).

4. Make some noise! Start out humming. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…and then try tones Aaaaaahhhhhh. Om works too. Do whatever feels best. (And no, you don’t have to be able to carry a tune to do this)

Try different notes: higher, lower, right in the middle. Play for a bit. You’ll find a certain tone that feels like it’s vibrating your whole body (or at least your head and shoulders). It will fill the air, and you’ll feel like your head and the air around you are resonating at the same frequency…almost like the boundary where you stop and the air/water begins is getting hazy.

Aah, bathtime by ~jodis eva~ on Flickr.com
…there, that’s better (Image by ~jodis eva~ on Flickr.com)

You’ll know it when you find it. It will feel like your body is dancing at a microscopic level…all those atoms dancing together.

And somehow…when you feel your edges blur like that…your center becomes much clearer.

It’s a unique way to get IN your body, and it’s great for times when you don’t actually FEEL like moving.

Give it a try next time you’re in the bath! I dare you! It’s fun!

Falling Down

Up until the end of Grade Eleven, I had very little experience with modern dance. I’d taken one term of modern classes, and I’d found the technique interesting but slightly uncomfortable. And then I went to Walnut Hill…and everything changed.

This technique was completely different —it flowed. It was all about breath and weight and swinging the body like a pendulum. And it felt completely right on my body. I can’t express in words how much I adored (STILL adore) this style. I took every class I could get…and 13 years later, I still remember half the warmup exercises.

This is the only real example photo I have…but you can kind of see the swing and get a sense of the release, I think.

 

I have a great memory of a modern class where we were doing a difficult combination across the floor. I threw myself into the final turn…and fell on my butt. I got up, bright red, and looking at the teacher in desperate apology for “failing.” She smiled at me, turned to the class and said “See? Meg threw so much energy into the dance that she lost control. And that’s good. I want you all to attack this phrase with as much passion as Meg.” (OK, fine, I just paraphrased, but you get the idea). She gave me a suggestion about form and how to harness the energy more efficiently and told me to try again.

And suddenly I was on top of the world. I ran back to try the combination again, and this time I danced with all my might…and didn’t fall.

How often do we make mistakes and then beat ourselves over the head with them? How often do we avoid trying something for fear of making a mistake or failing (however we define that failure)?

What would it be like if we could approach our own dances —physical, mental, or emotional— the way that my modern teacher approached my dance? What would that look like to you?

To me it would look like trying 100%, really leaping in with all of my might. It would look like expressing myself with passion and flowing through the movements and not worrying so much about the “scary” parts…just…MOVING JOYFULLY.

It would look…a little scary at the start…but pretty darn awesome once I got going.

And if I fell…at least I’d know that I was dancing with all of my might.

Numbing Out, Noticing, and Stopping the Spiral.

Tell me if this rings a bell: You’re humming along in your regular routine. Weeks are passing like days, and while you’re not exactly happy, you’re keeping yourself busy and distracted.

You think you’re ticking all the boxes. You’re filling the void with food and movies and audiobooks (or whatever your particular vices are), and it seems like things are more or less OK (if a little depressing and stressful).

…you kind of feel like this guy. (Number25 by cliff1066 on Flickr.com)

And then…in the blink of an eye…you wake up.

You blink, and it’s like you’re coming back to yourself. The sights and sounds around you suddenly come into sharper focus. You observe things that you’ve been ignoring. When you think back, it’s like you weren’t even there for the past…however long.

Does this ring a bell at all?

I call it Numbing Out. And I haven’t been keeping an exact record, but I think I do it fairly regularly.

Like for the first half of this month, for example.

But hey, at least I’ve started to recognize patterns and symptoms…right?

These will vary slightly from person to person, but here are my top 5 symptoms of Numbing Out:

1. Not-moving. Honestly, not really moving my body in any way at all. Not even going for walks. Period. (Extra-fun bonus: when I don’t move, I get SORE. Lots of aches and pains)

2. Eating more. Medicating myself with food. Like I said, filling the emptiness. (Extra-fun bonus: Combine this with #1, and I end up outgrowing my jeans)

3. Avoiding self-care. A big one for me when I’m numbing out is feeling like I can’t give myself Reiki. It feels like things just aren’t flowing. Probably because Numbing Out entails a whole lot of not-being-centred. But this applies to other self-care-ish things too.

4. Not being Present with people you love.  For me, this is all about Xander. Everything about parenting feels like a chore when I’m in the middle of numbing out. (Extra-fun bonus: I feel terrible about it even while it’s happening, but that doesn’t make me able to snap out of it. It just makes me cranky and sad. Out of all of my symptoms, I regret this one the most).

5. Avoiding stillness and silence. I distract myself constantly. I listen to audiobooks non-stop. During a particularly bad postpartum depression-y period of numbing out, I listened to the Twilight Saga audiobooks on such a regular loop that Matthew half-joked that Xander would recognize the Twilight narrator’s voice before he recognized his own Daddy’s.

comfortably numb by rovingI on Flickr.com

And the verdict is in…Meg’s been numbing out.

Yup, even though we’re over halfway through my absolute favourite month of the year, I can categorically state that I missed a bunch of it. Every symptom was present, but the real clincher was the constant (and I do mean constant) need for audiobooks. It got to the point where I could feel my brain begging for stillness.

Now that I’m awake again and noticing things, I’m compiling a list of things I can do to (hopefully) keep this from happening again. I present:

Meg’s Top Six Things To Stop The Numbing-Out Spiral

1. Seek stillness and silence. Turn off the TV, close the computer, and just…shhh. Try reading a book or sipping some tea without any distractions. Just for a change. Look for ways to add stillness to your day.

2. Choose a better option. If you’re zoning out on audiobooks, try listening to music (music = more dancing!). If you’re noticing a tendency to snack a lot, try eating something your body actually wants…or have some water and see if that’s the real issue. If you really want to watch a movie, pick something that’s going to engage you and watch it with a friend. Making a conscious choice helps stave off the numbing.

3. Move. Walking, dancing, skipping, whatever. Moving is key. Ever notice how going for a walk can clear your head and make a solution to a problem just appear? That’s because moving your body is magic.

4. Take time to notice things. Make mental lists of noteworthy or fun things you encounter during your day. The other day I was on the bus and I saw a woman in a pink PJ set sitting out on the steps of her apartment building with a book and a mug of tea. And it made me grin all the way home.

5. Make real connections. Talking to someone in real life brings everything into focus so much faster than email or Facebook-wall-commenting. And focus is the enemy of Numbing Out. So is self-expression. Let’s bring back phone calls (or Skype calls, if it’s long distance). I miss conversation!

6. Clean something. It’s hard to get the momentum when you’re Numbing Out, but cleaning—really cleaning, not “functional-levels-of-tidy”-ing—can help because it moves the energy around in your home, and it actually feels nice to Be there.

There are definitely more ways out there, but these are the Big Six in my books. At least I think they are…I’m currently testing them out. So far so good, but I’ll keep you posted.

Bonus of not being numb? You notice things like this. (sky 2 by ~BrendaStarr~ on Flickr.com)

Do you ever find yourself Numbing Out? Do you have any good tricks to stop it? I’d love to hear them!