Happy Tools

I’m happy most of the time. In fact, I’m so cheerful that occasionally it irritates people! I have normal emotional ups and downs but after thinking about it, I realized that I’m happy about 85% of the time. I have been really, really unhappy before though. In fact, I spent a year in clinical depression. Depression so painful that I didn’t want to breathe anymore. It was awful. So I work really hard NOT to go back there.

My favorite tool to keep me on the happy side of life is to count my blessings. I try to find at least five: I have love in my life, I have a place to live, I’m healthy, I’m doing something I really like and My kids still say, “I love you mom!” When I’m having a really rough day my list looks more like this: I’m breathing……I have gas in my car…….UMmmmmm….I have coffee…. squirrels are cute… I like the blue sky…. But at least I can still find five things!

My next best tool is to move (sometimes drag) my mind into the present moment. If I am busy worrying about something then I am NOT present. I’m really in the future making up stories about what “might” happen and then making myself sick over it. If I’m thinking about something in the past I’m not present in this moment either. When I finally bring myself to this moment I can see that everything is fine. I’m ok. Life is good and I don’t have anything to complain about.

Another tool that I use is exercise. I am a yoga instructor so I practice some kind of yoga daily. Yoga helps me get in touch with my body and my mind. It helps me “burn away the crazy” and also produces ‘Happy” endorphins in my brain! I also like to hike, ride my bike, swim or paddleboard. Any kind of exercise is helpful!

An often used tool is to talk to others about what is bothering me. It can be a professional counselor or a really good friend. But it needs to be someone I can be brutally honest with. Someone who will just listen and not judge. This person/or group of people can take some time and trial and error to find! Unburdening myself in this way takes a ton of weight off of my soul and raises my happiness level by leaps and bounds.

Hugs or hand holding is a great way to boost my happiness level. Humans are made to be in connection and communion with others. Being able to hug someone – tight, or walk around holding hands is an essential part of how we are made. If you’re not with a partner right now, go get a massage. Appropriate touch through massage can be a very worthwhile thing in your life. It is especially helpful for senior citizens who have lost their partner in life.

Going outside is probably one of the most underutilized ways to boost your happiness level! Our bodies need the vitamin D that the sun gives our skin. At least 20 minutes a day outside is recommended. I lived in Seattle for most of my life and there is not enough sunshine there but being outdoors at least gave me fresh air, green moss under my feet, huge pine trees to smell and ocean views. The sound of the waves can be a great meditation tool!

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So, if you’re feeling a little out of sorts please try one (or all) of these Happy Tools! Life is good. It’s difficult sometimes but it’s worth it. Every day.

From My Heart to Yours!

5 Poses for a Healthy Back

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than having a chronically sore back. Being in pain every day affects everything else I do. Hiking is harder, sitting for very long is a big no, no and teaching my classes leaves me stiff and sore for hours. I heard on the T.V. yesterday that back pain/discomfort is the #1 reason for missed work and/or disability in America! I believe it because I know that when my back hurts I find it difficult to be motivated to do anything!

As a fitness instructor, I am currently teaching 9 classes a week. Some are Strength & Conditioning and some are Yoga so I’m getting plenty of core strengthening and also lots of stretching. So why is my back acting up AGAIN? The only thing I can think of is that I’m overusing it. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ll be 49 this year! Yikes!

As we age it’s important to be careful with body parts that squeak when we overdo things. We need to stay mobile and flexible but we also need to modify so that we don’t push our bodies over the limit of what they are capable. I would also recommend going to see a Chiropractor if you have chronic issues. I know that helps me immensely but there are also some postures you can do that will help in between doctor visits.

So here are my 5 favorite postures for a sore/tight back. These are the ones that feel good to me. Go slow and take each one easy. See if they help you feel better.

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Uttanasna/Forward Fold

Stand tall in Mountain Pose/Tadasana and then begin to fold forward slowly with the chin and shoulders, be sure to bend your knees and fold forward at the hips. I have had some teachers tell me to fold down with a flat back – but that is uncomfortable for me and puts strain on my lower back – so I roll down through the spine, pulling in my belly as I go down. When I am down as far as my body will fold, I take a deep breath and let it out then roll slowly back up. I repeat this two more times with a big inhale and exhale at the bottom of each one. By the third one I am usually closer to the ground with my hands and feeling looser in my back. Do not be afraid to use props, blocks, a stool – whatever you have handy to help you feel safe and solid in this posture.

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Balasana/Child’s Pose

This is one of my favorite poses as you can probably tell by the smile on my face! My favorite way to do Child’s Pose is to take my knees as wide as my mat and point the toes together. As I lower my abdomen down between my thighs I reach my hands back  and reach for my toes. I am able to get really low this way. I turn my head to one side and take three measured breaths and then I turn my head to the other side and do the same….feel free to stay here as long as you like!

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Malasana/Garland Pose

Modeled by William Billy Knox

This next pose can be challenging especially if my back is really shouting at me. The feet are wide with the toes pointed outward, lowering the pelvis down towards the floor. The goal is to keep the heels in contact with the mat but if that is too much, try using a rolled up blanket under the heels. Hands come to Anjali Mudra (prayer pose) and the elbows come inside the knees. Knees can press into the elbows. I try to hold this for 5 long, slow breaths.You can just tell by the look on Billy’s face that he is enjoying this posture!

 

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Bitilasana/Cow Pose

Modeled by Jamie Lucas Smith

We do cow pose in almost every class I teach. It’s one of the most accessible ways for students to find articulation of the spine. It is usually done in combination with Cat Pose (Marjariasana) but can be done alone. You can see that Jamie has lifted her seat and also her head, allowing the tummy to fall a bit towards the floor. In this position the top/back of the hip bones (the illiac crest) gets closer to the lower ribs and that releases any tension on the muscles that are attached to those two points. This pose feels so good to me that it’s almost impossible for me NOT to wag my tail a bit when doing it!

 

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Supta Jathara Parivartanasana/Supine Spinal Twist

Modeled by Kendal Taylor Scott

And finally we get to come down to the floor and twist! My daughter, Kendal lies on her back and pulls her right knee into her chest. The left leg is straight. The right knee gets invited to cross over her abdomen and stretch to the left side of her body. Her right hip and buttock come up off the floor offering a great stretch through the lower back, ribs, hips and outer thigh of the right leg. It feels delicious! Be careful not to twist too deeply. It is not the goal to get the knee to the floor. Although in this picture you can see that my daughter is flexible enough to do just that! Find a balance between the twist and the extension of the right arm.Work to find a happy medium.

So, there ya go. My 5 favorite yoga poses that help my poor, old, sore back feel better! I hope these help you as well! Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Namaste y’all

 

 

Cookie Police!

Do you like cookies? My favorite is a coconut macaroon but I’ll try just about any cookie once. I guess I like cookies as much as the next person. It’s even better when they are free! Even if they aren’t really great cookies – they’re free and that makes them awesome! My local print shop always has a box of cookies sitting out by the coffee maker and everyone is welcome to have one or two.

A few days ago, I was happily munching a chocolate wafer cookie while waiting to pick up some items when the lady in front of me turned and addressed me. I was in my own world at the moment so I didn’t really hear what she said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.” I said to them. Lady A dressed all in white with white hair wrapped up in a french twist said, “I asked if you were eavesdropping on our conversation?” “No” I told her, “I was too busy enjoying my cookie.” Thinking to myself, “Oh boy, what did I miss?”

Lady A continued, “Yes, it’s only skinny people like you who can eat cookies!” she said with a little laugh and a dismissive shrug. First of all I wanted to kiss her for calling me skinny and then my brain got stuck trying to figure out why she thought only skinny people can eat cookies. When I get confused like that I find that going with my gut is usually best.

So I told her thank you and then proceeded to share with her that I wasn’t always this size. That before I became a yoga instructor I was 40 pounds heavier, severely depressed and about ready to get a divorce. I think she was taken aback by my candor. “So you see,” I said with a big smile on my face “I earned this cookie.” I worked hard to get here and I now allow myself to have a cookie now and then. Cookies aren’t just for skinny people.”

At this point, lady B – much more quiet and a little cowed by her friends’ outburst began to ask me where I teach yoga and how she could find out about classes. Lady A left and Lady B and I visited for maybe 10 minutes. She took my contact info and may come to a class.

It’s strange being a public yogi. I get people who think I don’t eat meat – and lots of yogis do abstain from meat. I get people who think I don’t eat bread – OH HELL NO…..I Love bread. I drink coffee with a little cream and sugar and I even eat dessert occasionally. I’m pretty much a middle of the road yogi. I believe that between the two extremes lies the path. I’m not fanatical in any way except for the fact that I believe yoga can change your life. It changed mine.

So……If you want a cookie – eat it dammit. No matter what anyone says.

Xoxo From a Yogi who got called out for eating a cookie in public. And I’d do it again!!!!!

Fidalgo Fitness in Anacortes, WA.

I can’t lie. I thought it would be easier. When I looked through the window at the pool all I saw were gray heads. A pool full of senior citizens! They were talking to each other and smiling. It looked like they were having fun so I figured how hard could it be? I’ll give it a try. I thought Aqua Aerobics would be super easy. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!

My first class was deep water aerobics. After donning my swim suit, I strapped on a wide blue float belt and synched it in tight – to keep it from sliding up to my armpits! I then swam gently over to the deep end of the pool – which in all honesty makes my tummy a little squishy feeling – and tried to find a spot where I wouldn’t bump into anyone.

Kirsten, our instructor is young and perky. She is red headed with fair skin, freckles and enough energy to light up Time Square! She played upbeat music with a quick rhythm and started us out jogging in place – then moved on to jumping jacks followed by cross country skiing. Very quickly I started to warm up! I found that the water provided a resistance to my movements that supplied a full body work out that was amazing!

I also learned that I could alter that resistance by opening or closing my fingers. Bending my knees made things easier but keeping my knees straight and moving from the core and hip worked my body in a whole new way! And increasing the tempo made my muscles work overtime! Kirsten varied our pace and encouraged us to keep our core engaged which made me feel stronger as I bobbed/danced about trying to keep up with the choreography.

I have since attended two more classes and I absolutely love the work out that I am getting from this type of exercise! Now I know why the pool is full of senior citizens! It isn’t because this class is easy, It’s because they are SMART people! They know what works. They know that exercise in the pool provides a low impact, full body resistance work out that you can modify depending on your needs! And it’s fun!

So, if you live in the area, please come on by the Fidalgo Island Pool & Fitness Center in Anacortes, WA. We have a weight room with cardio machines, group fitness classes upstairs and a wonderful pool with open swim times, lap swimming and water fitness classes that will kick your butt into shape! And if you drop in, tell them that Dawn sent ya! See you soon!

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

It’s that time of year again! Everyone is getting ready for the big party on the 4th! Stocking up on ice and beer, planning a BBQ and time with friends and don’t forget the fireworks! Celebrating freedom is big in America!

Freedom comes in many shapes and sizes. Teenagers relish the freedom that driving a car brings. For stay-at-home moms freedom is 15 minutes alone in the bathroom without a small child banging on the door! For people who sail, it’s pulling up anchor and heading wherever the wind takes you!

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For me freedom means travel. In only 8 weeks my guy and I head off on a journey across the United States! We will be free to drive, camp and sail wherever we choose! I visualize us waving our hands out the windows cheering, “We’re FREE!!!!” as we drive down the interstate with Bruce Springsteen blaring on the speakers, and huge grins glued to our faces!

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In addition to the freedom that our truck, tent and trimaran will provide over the course of the next few months, there is another level of freedom that I strive for.  Freedom that can only come from within. As a yogi I practice Aparigraha (freedom from attachments).

Freedom from attachment means freedom from things. I like having fewer possessions because that means less work for me! It also makes it easier for me to travel! No plants to water! No house/pet sitter. The Yoga Sutras explain that “Excessive attachment is based on the assumption that it (the possession) will contribute to everlasting happiness.” ( YS 2.7) So instead of buying stuff I prefer to have experiences.  It’s experience that makes life rich.

It’s not always easy though. I like to buy books, new clothes and shoes – oh how I like shoes. But I’m trying to have less so I go to the library or borrow books from a friend so I can return them. I try to be happy with the clothes I have. I’ve even been downsizing to prepare for our trip! It’s amazing how few clothes I actually wear during the course of a week! And when I’m tempted to buy shoes I try to remind myself what I already have. Although I did still buy those Doc Martins last year. I said I was practicing after all!

So as we celebrate on the 4th of July,  in addition to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness I wish for you freedom to look around you and see how much stuff you have collected. Freedom to decide if all that stuff makes you happy or not? And the ability to look within and ask yourself, “What does freedom really mean to me?”

I also invite you to connect with us on here on this blog or also on Facebook  at the Trimaran Journal or Yoga Gypsies as we make our journey across the US. It’s going to be an awesome adventure and we’d love to share it with you!

I wish you all a happy and safe holiday and I hope that you will always Live Simply, Breathe Deeply and Travel Lightly!

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I Got Lucky Today!

When you are on Holiday in another state AND it’s a Holiday week –  you never know what’s going to happen when you go into a yoga studio for a class. Usually there are a lot of subs teaching, people on vacation and cancelled classes. But not today. Today I got very, very LUCKY!

I am on St. Simons Island, Georgia and I went to Omcore Yoga & Body for a Barre class! I’ve never taken a Barre class before although I knew it involved a lot of Ballet-esque poses. Our teacher for the day was Jennifer Mack and BOY did she ROCK the house this morning!

Jennifer started with a little aerobic warm up and then moved quickly into some plies and releves. Jen lights up the room with her big Georgia girl smile and cheerleading to keep us moving. Very quickly I was sweating and felt that old familiar muscle burn! Jen kept saying it’s “Butt by Barre Today” as a way to encourage us!

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I also learned today that I am way more strange than most people! In class today I was moving and grooving to the music, doing the work – eyes closed…ya know…..really feeling it, dancing to the beat, moving my arms around and then I opened my eyes and noticed that everyone around was doing the basic moves – no flair at all! This is when I realized that I am no longer a resident in “normal town”! LOL.

It is a rare thing to find a teacher who is happy, encourages you to play, sing and dance at the same time that she is kicking your butt – literally by making you sweat and work AND makes the whole experience FUN! I haven’t had a class this good in a long while. Thank you Jen and thank you Omcore Yoga.

5 Keys to an Amazingly Happy Life!

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1. Play Every Day!  Don’t ever give up playing. As we age we tend give up the things we used to do when we were younger. Things like Riding a bicycle, play in the woods, rollerskating or skateboarding.Did you used to  jump in mud puddles, go sailing or color in a coloring book? How about singing at the top of your lungs to your favorite song? Whatever play means to you – find some time for yourself to play every day and you will make your life more enjoyable!

2. Decide to Live now! I meet so many people who are unhappy and they put off the things that they really want to do for some time later for various reasons. Well, what if later never comes? Life is Short. Live it Now. If you want to move to a new town, move. If you want to change jobs – do it! Start planning that trip you’ve always wanted to take!  Start putting money away and planning your wardrobe. You CAN do it. Silence that little negative voice in your head that says  you can’t or shouldn’t. Start moving forward toward your goal. It IS attainable. Your life is what you decide to make of it!

3. Get Yoga in your life. Yoga is for EVERYONE!  And yes, I mean EVERYONE! (All Caps intended) If you can breathe you can do yoga. Be brave. Find a classroom and see how it goes. I have been blessed to have students from ages 96 on down to toddlers (ok the toddlers were really along for the ride but you get my meaning). I have had students in wheelchairs, with spinal fusions, hip and knee replacements, fibromialgia, arthritis, migraines and sciatic pain. I have taught people who are thin, heavy, skinny, tall and short. EVERYONE says they are not flexible. You are not alone – we all have body issues so there really is no reason NOT to get on a mat so stop trying to give me your excuses!

4. Believe in Yourself!  I wish you could see how awesome you are! You have a light within you that is just longing to shine out to the universe! Each of us is a unique expression that will only happen once. You are enough just the way you are. You don’t need to be smarter, thinner, more flexible, richer or younger.  Don’t let anyone tell you what you should be. Listen to your heart. Your heart will never steer you wrong. Each of us has a unique special purpose here on earth. Find out what yours is – share yourself with the world. Shine your light – shine it bright because only YOU can bring it like you can!

5. Don’t do it alone! Find a circle of support where ever you are. We are all in this together! Find people who really care about you and who want you to be happy and healthy. Find a group where you have a connection and create community. A place where you can talk and folks like to hear about your plans and goals. Where they encourage you, lift you up and help you feel like you belong. Where they see your beauty, your specialness, your ability and fierceness!  We are all here on this great ride called life  let’s be kind to each other- let’s make it a blast!