Sunday, July 24, 2011


My friend Lori Gravley from Laughing Girl Quilts invited me to a session at Yoga Springs Studio on Balance. Who could resist such an invitation? Don't we all want balance in our lives?

The instructor, Mary Sinclair captured my interest immediately when she said the goal is to develop a sensory experience with your body, to find the line in your body that best connects you to gravity's force, resulting in comfort, ease and natural strength. I felt another quickening when she relayed that the birth of this movement was in Paris, France at the Institute D'Aplomb. I've just returned from ten days in Paris and have been studying French for about a year. Un autre signe, non?

Mary Sinclair

Mary began with a fascinating series of slides where she pointed out the differences in posture of people in developing countries where about ten to twenty percent of the population have lower back problems, and the posture of people in highly industrialized countries, including the United States, where more than eighty per cent of us have some degree of lower back pain. She used a plumb, a red vertical line, on the slides to emphasize how out of balance we are. Eye opening! She gently reminded us that posture is learned. In other words,  habits can be changed. She used models of the pelvic region and a full spinal cord to demonstrate the effect on our spine of out of balance posture. But the best model of balance was Mary herself. She stood with beautiful ease.

In the second part of the session, after talking us through the most beneficial way to stand, rise and return to a chair, and sit, Mary adjusted each person's sitting posture. This was not like a chiropractic adjustment but rather a gentle guiding of the body. She completed the session with a series of movements we could do to gently align the body back to balance or aplomb.

I researched the word aplomb. It came from the French a plomb, literally according to the plummet. Broader definitions include: the vertical position, balance, poise, assurance. What a lovely versatile word.

I am already so much more aware of my position in space, already feeling more connected to the earth's pull, more centered, and yes, more in balance! Thank you Mary.

I'd also like to thank the folks at Yoga Springs Studio for this offering and of course my friend, Lori, for inviting me to join her there. It's lovely to have such a friend.

The following is an excerpt from the Tips section on Mary Sinclair's website:

Have you ever estimated or even thought about how many times you bend forward in one day? The moment your feet hit the floor at the start of your day begins an endless succession of bending just to move through life. We do it so much in fact that we are hardly aware of doing it at all. Most of us even know someone who has “thrown their back out” while bending over.


The next time you need to bend over to pick something up, slow down. Notice your belly, are you holding it in? If you are, let it soften, relax your belly. That’s right, relax your belly. Let that relaxation seep down into your groins and pelvic region, if you need a mental image here think about where your underwear touch the top of your thighs, that’s part of your pelvic region and groins.  Right there, relax. Begin to let your pubic bone release through your legs. You want to let the relaxation in your belly transfer to a deep relaxation in your hip joints so that the pelvis may rotate freely over the tops of your thigh bones. When you begin to notice pulling sensations (stretching) on the backs of your thighs, soften your knees forward. Let the weight stay towards the back of your feet in your heels. To put this simply, whatever you are bending towards, your rump moves away from it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thank You Betty Ford

Official White House Photo 1974

I celebrate the life of Betty Ford and send a kiss of gratitude to her as she begins the next stage of her journey. I remember when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974. I was twenty-three years old and already badly disconnected from my body.  I was uncomfortable with the open way she discussed her cancer and her mastectomy. I wondered how she would be with her husband afterward. And I wondered if he would still want her. 

My father had colon cancer when I was thirteen. He had surgery and survived. I knew he was sick and I knew he had an operation but I was never told, and was too well conditioned to secrets to ask, what the surgery was. It was months later when my brother-in-law mentioned my father's cancer and saw my shock that anyone realized I did not know it was cancer. Cancer was a shameful secret and colon cancer even more so. Breast cancer was talked about in whispers and with more sorrowful shame. It was a "female problem" and not for public, or for that matter private, discourse. Betty Ford just blew the doors off that. Not only did she say she had breast cancer; she said the "m" word, mastectomy. It was the first time I heard that spoken aloud. She even allowed her picture to be taken while still in the hospital. This all made me terribly uneasy, somewhat embarrassed, and confused. Then she did the most surprising thing; she recovered! Not only did she not die, she thrived. And her husband seemed as devoted to her as ever. 

Thirty-five years later, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it is a different world. People wear pink ribbons, walk and run to raise money, have support groups, and talk openly about breast replacement, scars, treatment, everything! Yet, I still felt vaguely ashamed of having a problem with a "female” part. I wondered if I would be considered defective, less than desirable, or damaged goods. Those early imprinted messages run deep. But I blogged about it, joined support groups, and talked with other women, lots and lots of other women. I am just realizing now that I have not talked with men very much. I was in the middle of an ugly divorce and did not get the kind of support Betty Ford got from her husband. I am just now realizing the example he set. He clearly still loved her and stood by her. She was what was important, not her body, not her breasts. He loved her. I mourn that I did not have that and that rejection there wounded me further. Gerald Ford was President of the United Sates of America and did not feel he needed a perfect, two-breasted wife to complete his image.

What I did have, and celebrate to this day, was a legion of women. Not just friends and family but strangers met through various support groups. For the first time in my life I talked about my body and a struggle I was having about my body with other human beings. I had been silenced early on, programmed to not mention anything to do with my body or sexuality or even sensuality. I have a male therapist I trust and he was magnificent in his understanding and encouragement. A few friends’ husbands were sympathetic, and while I appreciated their sympathy it made me realize more acutely the lack in my life. It was the women who understood and saw me through to the other side. And Betty Ford, by her brave example, was first in line. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4th

Happy Fourth of July! I love my country. I love to travel but am always so grateful to come home. On my way home from Paris, as we descended to land, I had a vivid recollection from that first trip to Italy with my mom and a group of mostly senior citizens. When the wheels touched the runway, they spontaneously burst into song, "God Bless America." At first it was just our group but then it spread throughout the plane and strangers were nodding and smiling and singing. I was so choked up I could barely sing. Unabashed love of country.

This trip, I was alone but as we approached Newark I began to sing softly to myself.

God bless America
Land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains
To the prairies
To the oceans
White with foam
God Bless America
My home sweet home
God bless America
My home sweet home

Irving Berlin

Again, I choked up. Across the aisle was a couple visiting the USA for the first time. They asked if I was all right. I smiled through my tears and replied I was fine, just grateful to be home.

On this day I value my freedom and I appreciate both my country and its citizens. Here's Martina McBride singing it more beautifully, but in no less heartfelt a way, than I ever could.

Happy 4th of July!