Most of you are aware that I just returned from a yoga intensive in Encinitas, CA with Desiree Rumbaugh and Andrew Rivin. This year there were 66 participants from all over the country ranging in age 30-mid 80’s. Despite the diversity of our age and our experiences, the group was united in how we all came to learn from each other in an effort to grow in ourselves. The focus on the intensive is to “raise our vibration” and throughout the week we discussed and reflected on how we showed up in the world and also how we would like to start showing up in the world to promote a higher vibration:). We discussed the idea that we are ‘experience’ beings and we agreed that we suffer more and therefore have a lower vibration, when we do not take ownership of our experience….
Personally, I could think of several times when I do not take ownership and I allow “my buttons to get pushed.”
Just the other day, I asked a question to Pontus and instead of acknowledging what I said, or asking me to clarify, and answering my question, he skipped ahead and started to ramble out some unsolicited ideas (this by the way is a normal occurrence and is also the reason why I love him so much). Anyhow, I got really upset because he did not recognize the simplicity of what I was asking and skipped ahead to what he was assuming the bigger issue was. In my frustration of the situation I lost my filter and said things I shouldn’t, thus bringing nothing positive or uplifting to our current state. BIG SIGH… Things eventually calmed down and I recalibrated my state once I chose to soften and tenderize my own idea of what’s right and wrong, and instead chose to listen and see the bigger picture of US. I know that Pontus was only trying to help me in his own way. I should be more grateful for his suggestions and get less upset on the outcome and instead focus more on what I can control, which is how I handle my response.
Being the creator of our experience requires us not only to “show up” physically but also “show up” with a bigger awareness that encourages us to be curious, ask questions, and ultimately improve our situation. Do you have someone in your life that pushes your buttons? Such good teachers!:)
Connecting in our Pilates practice requires the same amount of awareness and willingness to show up!
Here is my unsolicited advice to maximize more connection in your Pilates practice
Stay curious and ask yourself questions!
– Are you allowing yourself to take full breaths?
– What position are you in? Is the exercise/posture a tall back or round back position? Once you are aware of that knowledge, then be sure you are integrating your feet/knees/legs into hips and beyond appropriately.
– Do you feel your body balanced in your work effort? Or are some parts giving too little/too much effort?
– Are you using the exercises and especially the apparatus whether that be the handles or leg spring to grow your body?
Some actions we can take if an effort to “raise our vibration”:
– Stack/connect your structure in the position you are in whether that be your tall or round back.
–Pull into yourself in all you do. HUG your midline from your front, back, left, and right side bodies!
-There is always potential for more SIDE BODY LONG (the length between your hips and armpits). Forget about putting the shoulders down your back, at least until you can lift your torso and draw your shoulders up on your back.:)
– when hands or feet are connected on the apparatus its always a good practice to…squeeze forearms energetically towards one another to create more space in shoulder girdle and squeeze shin bones energetically toward one another to create more space in hips/pelvic center! Be sure to keep your elbows and knees stay a little bent. Connection is easily lost if you lock elbows and knees.
–Soften, soften soften! Keep softening your front body into your back body; including your thigh bones, abdomen, front ribs, sternum, throat, head!
–REACH, SHINE, EXPAND YOU! Remember that our limbs are extensions of our center, so fully reach, don’t hold back!
What do you need to raise your vibration? For me, I am trying to let go of the need to prove myself and instead allow myself to improve! Opening up to a bigger picture and getting curious is helping me ‘raise my vibration’ and I hope it will help you too.
Breathe and allow yourself to take “one step back to two steps forward.”
Slowing down for me is hard to do as it requires patience and discipline. However, I know deep down it is what I need most in order for me to progress in what I am doing. Although what works for me may not be right for you, I do believe we can all benefit from taking a step back to appreciate and observe ourselves in what we are doing to enable us to make deeper connections within and also around us.
For me, taking deeper and fuller breaths allows me to take a step back. When I allow myself to tap into deeper, longer, and rhythmic breaths I am able to explore different ideas, deepen my postures, and feel which in turn allows me to relax. What a process! I find it comical that what I need most to advance in my practice and keep me balanced inside and out is simply to relax more!
I find when I am rushed, stressed, or in the middle of a challenging situation whether that be in my pilates practice or in a relationship, I have a difficult time breathing. As I become more aware of this inner sensation I am able to catch myself quicker and pause before unneeded tension and frustration ever sinks in. I am not saying that this is always the case, but I have made decent improvement that I am proud of and I credit my success to taking a step back and simply breathing a bigger awareness within myself and also the situation at hand.
Practicing mindful breathing is something I try to do daily to help me in my efforts to be present, slow down, and relax! I hope you consider your breath also as a tool to help you stay present and connected in your life and Pilates practice.
One idea that has helped me breathe fuller and deeper is connecting to the qualities of the inhale and the exhale. For instance, when I inhale I connect to the expansion and the fullness I receive. I visualize the inhale nourishing every cell and organ in my body; my heart beating bigger, my diaphragm falling, and my pelvic floor relaxing as my lungs expand. I feel an inner wave taking place within as everything broadens wider from the center line of my spine. On my exhales, I connect to the opposite feeling such as an “inner squeeze.” As my lungs empty, I feel my pelvic floor and diaphragm rising. I feel more integrated as my belly retracts and I pull to my midline. Once I have connected to the qualities of the inhale and the exhale I try to ride the wave of my breath and follow my breath as it rises up and fills me and also ride it down as it empties me.
Once you are riding the wave of your breath, you begin to feel the places inside that are not as lively or awake. For me that place is generally my right lower/middle back. However, this will change from time to time depending where the “kinks” are. When I am able to locate places that are generally “sleeping,” stiff, and tight, I try to consciously focus my breath in that area as a means to wake it back up and soften and loosen all the inner tissue and locked muscles. Furthermore, I remember to think about the “whole” body and how it is connected. One part will affect another part. It’s helpful to consider the relationship between your pelvic bowl and the lungs. I say this because there is a direct correlation between the two and when you are not allowing for width and space in your pelvic bowl you will not be able to breathe to your fullest capacity, and vice versa. Once you understand how to integrate your center in a balanced way you will also benefit from breathing fuller deeper breaths.
Below are some breathing practices you can integrate to stay spacious and connected in your Pilates practice.
-Breathe fully, allow deep inhales and complete exhales.
-Visualize lateral breathing your back lungs and for that matter the back pelvis more open to wake up your back body.
-Inhale to create muscle awareness and inner spaciousness
-Exhale to create structural awareness and to streamline your body taller and longer.
-Inhale into an extension
-Inhale into a side stretch
-Exhale into a flexion
-Exhale into rotations
If you are interested in a free app for your phone, I use the breathing app
I have a new mat workout video to share with you!
“DIVING DEEPER PILATES MAT”
The workout is challenging and more intermediate, than my last video I shared, “A Little Aloha.” Some of the more intermediate exercises include; roll-over, open leg rocker, swan, single and double leg kick, neck pull, shoulder bridge, side leg series, teaser, and seal. It’s 30 minutes long.
“The only actions that do not have an opposing reaction are those that are aimed at the good of all….Consider the totality of the whole” – Eckhart Tolle
I have noticed, that we have a tendency to either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ ourselves in and out of postures, movements, and in general terms, life itself. This either ‘push’ or ‘pull’ action and mentality can not only be tiresome it also separates us from experiencing a balanced and more wholistic posture/movement where the whole body connects and the two actions of ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ instead become one that encourages more harmony, acceptance, and overall enjoyment. I have found that I have no need to ‘push’ or ‘pull’ when I am truly present and allow myself to feel what I am doing, it is MAGIC! That said, I have definitely had many experiences when I have either chosen to ignore the moment and my feelings and even have resisted my feelings for the sake of my ego and what others might think of me.
In this reflection, I would like to highlight the ideas behind ‘pushing’ and ‘pulling.’ Even though, both actions are needed and necessary, finding the right balance between the two is where the magic is! It takes some awareness, perseverance, the right attitude, and most important, the ability to accept the present moment even though you may not like what you see or feel!
Personally I have struggled with this balance and still do time to time when I do not accept where I am at. Accepting and honoring the reality of my own experience in my body must come before any pushing or pulling for the right balance to take place. Even if I have the awareness, and right attitude, it won’t be enough! That said, if you honor and accept where you are at, you can really begin to unite and feel your body as one integrated piece which is my hope for all of us as we continue to strengthen and lift ourselves up:).
Finding the right balance between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ is quite simple once you allow yourself to accept. I have lacked this acceptance at different occasions in my Pilates practice and in my life; have you? When I lacked the action of ‘pull’ I experienced muscle strain and disconnection in both my pelvis and shoulder centers. On the flip side, I have also experienced overdoing the ‘pull’ action; if you tend to hold your breath, this may be your tendency too? Hopefully you will not follow me and swing from one extreme to the next, but instead continue to accept and find balance between the two. Simply put, keep in mind that every movement you make should be performed in a balanced way. For every action in one direction, there must be a balancing action in an opposite direction.
What exactly should the action of ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’ feel like?
The action of ‘pulling’ is an effort for us to stabilize, connect, and integrate our bodies primarily at our pelvic center and shoulder girdle. ‘Pulling’ our muscles to our bony structures is a very active conscious firming of your muscles to your bones as well as a dynamic drawing of energy from your periphery into your center. This action is essential to the practice of Pilates! Many of you know that some parts of us are stronger than other parts so when we try to pull muscle energy to the core or our pelvis to stabilize it can be tricky, as we need to sync and pull from several muscles groups at the same time. For instance, in order for us to stabilize our pelvis there needs to be a balanced participation of all the surrounding muscle groups pulling and syncing together (abdomen, upper inner thighs, upper inner hamstrings, upper outer thighs, buttocks, etc…). Simply put, the action of ‘pulling’ to our center gives us not only stability in our body but also provides us with boundaries and a framework to work with as you progress in your workout.
The action of ‘pushing’ is much more subtle. Instead of using our muscles to embrace our bones as we do in ‘pulling’ to stabilize our center, we powerfully expand and extend outward from our “center(s)” in our bones, in an effort to create more space and more freedom in our joints and whole body. I am sure many of you have heard me say “radiate your limbs like rays of bright sunshine out in all directions from your center, just how a star and sun radiates from its center”.
I use the breath as a tool, to teach these 2 actions.
Inhale – HUG (another way to say ‘pull’) your muscles to your bones and stabilize at your center
Exhale – keeping your stability and muscle energy supporting your center, expand (nice way to say ‘push’) from that center in all directions through the bones of your body to feel more extension and space within.
The action of ‘pulling’ to create our own firm boundaries in our body is essential; without it, the expansion of ‘pushing’ will not have anything to push out against, which will limit any possible growth and progress. The goal is to find balanced action between ‘pulling’ in and ‘pushing’ out in an effort to create both optimal stability and freedom of movement in the body so energy can flow freely without getting stuck in any particular place; you are constantly working at it. Finding this balance is worth the challenge!
What are your tendencies? Do you pull in more than you push out? Or push out too much? I hope you can work on the balance you deserve in and out of your workouts and most importantly accept and honor where you are at to feel the magic that embraces and surrounds you always.
-all ingredients are ORGANIC-
Brooke’s Spirulina guacamole:
*inspired from eating at Don Taco Tequila in San Miguel De Allende.
4 tsp spirulina
1/2 -1 tsp salt
juice of 4 limes
pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper
lots of cilantro:)
1/2 sweet onion chopped
*Mix the 4 avocados and spirulina first before adding the last 2 avocados & the remaining ingredients.
Brooke’s ‘Honey Mama’ chocolate bars:
*inspired from my favorite after lunch/dinner treat. Found at PCC, whole foods, central market in the refrigerated vegan dessert section.
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used Theo 85% chocolate)
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
4 tbsp roasted unsalted almonds (any nut would be delicious)
1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1/4 cup honey (any sweetener would work, I personally like these without the sweetener)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
generous maldon salt flakes
1 – Line ‘banana loaf’ pan with parchment paper and cover bottom of pan with the 1/3 cup dark chocolate
2 – In a food processor blend almonds & cacao powder until a nice combined consistent texture
3 – On stove stop melt coconut oil, honey until a candy thermometer reads 120 degrees Celsius. Remove from heat and add in vanilla, espresso powder and cacao/almond mixture.
4 – Pour warm mixture over the chopped chocolate as evenly as possible. Top mixture with salt flakes (be generous, in my opinion!)
5 – Freeze for 30 minutes.
6 – Take out of loaf pan and slice into desired pieces.
7 – Store in fridge.
I hope you enjoy my latest video
Here’s what you can expect
“life is all about figuring it out”
“courage is required to change our minds when we realize that we are merely instruments of it’s will and it is HIS will we ought to fulfill”
“there is no difference between the sea and the waves. When a wave swells, it is made of water. When it breaks against the sand it is also made of water. Everything and everybody is the same, this is the mystery and the end”
In the following I reflect on my own practice of doing a handstand. I chose to write a little something on this topic, in hopes to shed a light on how the practice of Pilates and the practice of doing a handstand are very similar.
A couple reasons why PILATES and HANDSTANDS are similar…
I could keep going as I truly love going upside down and probably do it at least once a day (several/day if I am in Hawaii enjoying he beach:)). My family knows that handstands just make me feel better! Please know that I understand handstands are not for everyone, as there are always exceptions, however just the practice of imagining yourself balancing upside down can teach you a lot if you think about what is required. For me, practicing handstands has been one of my best teachers in figuring out what my body needs more of to balance as one piece!
MY journey doing a handstand started after I saw Pontus do one up against a wall as part of his push-up exercise routine (we were just newly weds at the time). I thought to myself, that is so amazing, and thought I would love to be able to do that! I tried, but completely collapsed on the ground after trying to kick up several times. Not too long after that experience my Anusrara yoga teacher at that time in Des Moines Iowa(Brett Berlin-Scott) started having the class practice handstands in most if not all her classes. I remember dreading this portion of the class (in the beginning), as I was one of the only one(in the beginning) who could not get my feet up and over my head. I was very embarrassed especially as I was also probably the youngest in the class(24 at the time). In fact, I believe several times in class I made a point to go to the bathroom just to have an excuse not to participate in that portion of the class. However with more practice, understanding of body mechanics and a courageous determined spirit I was committed to learning how to do a handstand. Therefore, it wasn’t long until I was able to kick up into some contortion of a handstand resembling what you call a “banana back.” Fast forward several more years of practice and I am able to pull myself up into a handstand that is strong, connected, and resembles one piece.
Currently I enjoy doing a handstand dropping into a backbend and back up to standing. I am working now on moving from a backbend to handstand. WHY some of you may ask? Because it feels good and i’m having fun!
I believe that strengthening my center, learning more about body mechanics, but most importantly, understanding the following ideas(principles) was a huge piece in my success in achieving a handstand. I believe some of my biggest lessons were the following:
1 – Prioritize length and space before you connect and engage.
It’s not about having strong arms and shoulders, it’s more about having an open chest, and have enough mobility in the shoulders to connect the arms bones in the socket to stabilize!
2 – Every part/piece counts; whole body awareness.
The more you engage and press down deliberately with all your finger pads and finger knuckles, you’ll have more success in balancing and also creating more length up through the rest of your body.
3 – HUG YOUR MID-LINE.
Isometric energy between hands and triceps. Squeeze your inner thighs up your inner foot like crazy.
4 – Always a 2-way stretch.
Root to rise. From the focal point in your heart, push down through your hands and in opposition to this reach up and lift through your torso, legs and feet!
5 – Breathe
Use inhales to engage muscles and pull energy from peripheral parts(feet and hands) into the focal point of the heart center. Use exhales to reach out and extend more length through your bones from the center of your heart back to peripheral parts. Keep it big and bright. The bigger the breath, the more opportunity to create inner space and therefore length!
6 – Attitude
I think you all can agree when I say, having the right attitude can definitely make all the difference.
Now when someone asks you what is Pilates? I hope you think about HANDSTANDS and all that is required! This to me is Pilates! It’s interesting to me because I find most people forget to think of how their core connects to the rest of their body, as standing well (handstand upside down:)) can strengthen your abdominals! It’s not about isolating muscle groups, it’s rather about integrating the body in one unit. If you have read my reflections I am sure you know what I mean. My goal in teaching Pilates is to help you build your own awareness of your body as a whole and help you put your pieces together. I hope my instruction and classes encourage you to listen and believe in yourself. How can YOU position yourself in the most optimal balanced way to experience ultimate function and integration in and out of our body?
As you see this can be a lot to ask. I do my best to be encouraging, as it does get better and my regulars(grateful for you!) are my proof.:) A committed Pilates practitioner knows there is always so much going on and to be aware of. This takes a lot of patience and practice to get better at recognizing and after a while it is second nature, however don’t get too comfortable as just with life there is always going to be something more to learn, and pay attention to. The hope is that you stay empowered and on top of the “waves of life.” The waves relentlessly pound sometimes and it can be hard to take a breath. Stay with it…you’ll ride it soon.
Here’s to feeling more connected to ourselves in the new year. I hope its’s fulfilling, positive, bright, and beautiful!
PILATES – Wednesday 8:30-9:25
YOGA – Monday 10:45am-11:45am
*classes at Community Fitness – Flow studio