Took a few days to read a New York Times Magazine special feature about the past, present and future of the human life span.  I had to take it in mini-bouts.  Put our current state of affairs into stunning perspective.  Did you know that between 1920 and 2020 the average human life span doubled?  A number that never really varied much throughout human
history?  That until mid 18th century, 35 years was all you got?  If you were lucky.  Because only three out of five children survived to brief adulthood.

Three pivotal breakthroughs shifted all this: germ theory, antibiotics and (you guessed it) vaccines.  Each development a fascinating story woven of scientific curiosity, public resistance and socio-political activism. Take vaccines: there’s evidence the original vaccine—variolation—originated in India thousands of years ago.  By the 1600’s variolation was saving lives in China, India and Persia.  Enslaved Africans brought it to the American colonies.  This scientific technique has been around the block for centuries.  But it took social and political activism to bring it to widespread use.  And begin gifting us years beyond 35.  And, as with every other breakthrough, once again we’re experiencing the resistance that inevitably accompanies change.

The long and winding road eradicating small pox, cholera and typhoid is paved with different details but the same elements.  Chlorination, pasteurization, penicillin.  Science first, activism second.  And the creativity and inventiveness resulting in reduced mortality has opened a Pandora’s box of new problems.  Can earth support this long-lived population?  Some believe our interconnected globe and its dependence on industrial livestock is leading us into an age of pandemic.  Population explosion and climate change are intricately entwined.  Oh lord.  Enough already.

I put the article down and looked out into my garden.  The flowers know nothing of this and keep on blooming.  The tomato plants are setting fruit.  The sky is vast, infinite, incredible.  I am still breathing, grateful, present.  Curious how to navigate these monumental changes and scale them down to a local, practical, rooted in the moment level.  How to continue to serve community in the face of all this.

Somewhere in all this musing I feel the onus of responsibility shifting.  For more than a year, I willingly embraced a form of guardianship.  Finding ways to keep us safe AND connected: teaching on line; distance garden dancing Sundays; Wednesday Waves on/off with masks, fans, open doors; Essential Recharge for the vaccinated.  I’m not sure when to let go.  When to trust that our individual self-care choices will not put ourselves or others at risk.  It feels like the burden of responsibility may be moving on to the shoulders of the unvaccinated.  Clearly I don’t know.  It just keeps changing and I keep placing my finger on that pulse.  Listening.

So I’ll keep offering up this strange hybrid.  Because it is in the field of practice where clarity continues to arise. For me, for you, for us.  This is how the current hybrid looks:

  • ON LINE Dance Essentials Saturday May 15 10:00-11:30.  So turned on teaching Unbound with Erik Iversen last Saturday. Exposing a contingent of folks around the globe for their first experience on a foam roller.  And the way it ushers us into the free form joy of dancing through space.  Really.  This Saturday we start with release, move into dance and end with stretch/shivasana.  Ninety minutes of joy in the safe comfort of your home.
  • LIVE Wednesday Waves Clara May 19-June 30 6:30-8:30.  Eight sessions, limited to 12 participants.  The incomparable depth of a committed group. Beginning our session with physical distance, masks, fans, open doors. Feeling into the group, arriving at consensus about these details as we begin to move together.
  • LIVE and ON LINE Sunday Sweat Your Prayers May 16 10:00-11:30.  I’m up front this week simulcasting from the garden.  We continue to keep physical distance out there, masks optional…so much space.
  • ON LINE Essentials every Thursday/Friday 10:00-11:30 in May.  Choose your day, lay out your mat: roller, tennis balls, blocks, blanket.  90 minutes to release those fascial binds, access/tone deep subtle core, stretch out those needy tight spots, feel it come together in asana. Drop in; recordings always available; music always stellar.
  • LIVE Essential Recharge 11:30-1:30 Saturday May 22.  For the vaccinated, pre-enrollment required.  Over the top amazing to be with you in the flesh last month.  A good landing zone if you are new to practice, great support for cyber-practitioners.  This month I’m bringing a box of infamous pokey balls so we can get a bit deeper into shoulder and hip release.
  • LIVE Cultivate Being residential retreat July 23-25 Four Springs Center.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is the fifth in a five year series that we had to cancel exactly one year ago. We will be dancing, making art, swimming in the pool, frolicking in the forest from Friday night to Sunday noon. My son Ross is catering the event.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll make some soup!  Harbin Hot Springs is four miles away.  I’ll be at Harbin all day Friday and will return there after the retreat on Sunday.  Masks will be optional at this residential gathering.  Take a moment to read the details and join us please!

Take a look out your window right now.  Take a full breath in and out. In this moment it appears all is well with the world. I’ll take that.

Love, Bella

That first pair arrived as harbingers of middle age.  Cheap readers from the drugstore.  Every year or two the numbers rose: 1.0, 2.25, 3.5…you get the picture.  Maybe you’re living it.  In no time the number could not go high enough, my arms were just not long enough, the lighting was just never strong enough.  When I caved, I found my distance vision wasn’t so hot either.  By the time I was fifty, it was full time bifocal-ville…trifocals before too long.

This is to say that I can’t even remember what it’s like to clearly see the outside world without peering through a lens.  And what a world it is!  When I first received that distance prescription I could not believe what I had been missing.  The clear edge of a blade of grass.  The distinction of individual leaves on trees.  The infinite shades of green out there.  It was mind blowing.

But those prescription numbers just kept advancing as predictably as the arrival of each birthday.  My final distance prescription was the strongest available.  In this last year I could not (safely) drive at night.  Or (at all) into the glare of the sun.  And still the world looked like an impressionist painting…all soft around the edges.  Discernible, just not definite.   Actually quite beautiful in its own way.  There is strong evidence both Degas and Monet suffered from cataracts.  Which is exactly what I learned was going on in my peepers.

It came as a shock to learn that the average human lens operates fairly well only maybe 65 years.  And then not so much.  Opthamologist said I was lucky to be granted extra time.  Who knew?  It took a few months to let this information in and surrender. But I am here to sing some praises (once again) to modern medicine.  Oh my gosh.  With only one eye complete (next one soon) all those discrete borders, vibrancy of color we take for granted, all the beauty available out in the world without a blocking barrier… well, it’s gonna take some getting used to.  I’m willing!

Has it affected my ability to work?  Hah!  Only that I can now dance and actually see who is with me.  Or be on my mat and not worry about crashing into my glasses when I plop face down.  Or see you in treatment without a thing between us.  Still need them to read, but apparently those drugstore readers will suffice again. If that’s not a miracle, well what is?

Let’s take a moment to focus (bad pun) on what’s upcoming that might just suit you:

Unbound: moving from lockdown to freedom is this Saturday 11:00-2:00.  Yes, still on Zoom.  How else could I possibly teach with one of my favorite dancers on the planet, Erik Iversen from Montreal.  Take a look at Erik’s bio and you’ll know why I love to move with him.  We’re holding this space together from east and west coast for you to totally embody what it means to break out.  Rolling & dancing, of course.  You just need your curiosity, roller, pen and paper, and willingness.  Check it out.

Launching LIVE LIMITED COMMITED #2  Wednesday Waves at Clara May 19-June 30 6:30-8:30.  Pretty amazing to move in the flesh together and uber-surprising how quickly masks, fans and open doors fade away in the glory of real time contact.  And Sunday Sweat Your Prayers does not miss a beat.  Mother’s Day this Sunday—bring your kids LIVE or on Zoom.

Essentials every Thursday/Friday 10:00-11:30 in May.  Choose your day, lay out your mat, roller, tennis balls, blocks, blanket.  90 minutes to release fascial binds, access/tone deep subtle core, stretch out needy tight spots, bring it home in asana. Until May 7 pre-enroll in all 4 sessions: commit and save.  Drop in always possible; recordings always available; music always stellar.

Essential Recharge LIVE again 11:30-1:30 Saturday May 22 at Clara.  For the vaccinated, pre-enrollment required.  To be with you in the flesh last month…sigh.  A good landing zone if you’re new to practice, great support for cyber-practitioners.  This month I’ll bring the infamous pokey balls so we can get a bit deeper into shoulder and hip releases.

Consider launching your mat practice. Building on the linear discipline of the mat to experience the free form joy of dancing through space.  Really.  We start with release, move into dance and end with stretch/shivasana.  Ninety minutes of joy.  Dance Essentials is May 15.

Alrighty then…wishing clear vision for us all….bella

P.S.  Intrigued with the physical experience of moving from lockdown to freedom? We’ve been steadily expanding and refining this zone in Essentials…take a taste with this video.

What happens when you return to the same spot 20 years later?  Here I am again.  The base of Mount Whitney, the eastern slope of the Sierras rising everywhere that is west, straight up and out of the 5,000 foot plains of the Owen Valley.  Who was that in 2001 just beginning a crazy rambling month long odyssey in that red bus?  The one we bought for $9,000 the week before.  Barely six months along a 5Rhythms road beginning to be paved with all my neuroses, flagstones crumbling, re-arranging.  My life shifting around me, tumbleweed wheeling over arid sand.  Moving relentlessly toward wholeness.  Fostering way dormant creative urges, letting them finally have more say.  Carving out space for a more authentic emergence.  A place where surely less and less is needed.  Enough to live this given life exactly as it is.  A place I just could not settle for twenty years ago.  A place that doesn’t feel like “settling” at all.  But rather arriving, surprised at the welcome mat to a life that was always laying right at my feet.

What happens when you return to the same spot 60 years later?  Who was that trusting ten year old, dutifully keeping pace behind mom and dad and my little brother?  As if these wilderness total newbies knew what they were doing.  Their parental daring astounds me.  A left turn out of Lone Pine in that Oldsmobile 88, a trailhead winding into the eastern Sierras.  Laden with a mish-mosh of re-purposed backpacking gear, way before REI was your one stop shop.  Steel cups looped to our belts, scooping water out of icy streams.  Gathering down wood, roasting dinner over flames.  Imprinting a novice fire-tender who single-mindedly hones that skill to this day. No tent for this family, cocooned in red plaid flannel bags, fearless under boundless sky.  Building memories right along with the capacity for innate wonder: sapphire lakes, sterling granite, the potency of time stretching empty.

It feels like a parental spell cast in 1960, the family’s return to this sacred spot every year through my teens…well, it has steadily worked it’s magic. Through the random lifetime rhythms until 2021, a year that has stripped away any remaining ties of binding.  For me, for you perhaps, for so many.  Out here on my mat, the exploration of internal landscape feels like a match for these majestic surrounds.  An embodied sense of  bhanda ties that bind us, utterly released as the inhale moves prana through over and again.  What I am sharing on the mat continues to clarify: the intersection of breath, bhandas/chakras and release. Re-orienting to the shushumna as central touchstone.
Body Joy: Unbound Workshop

Incorporating the mat onto the dance floor unleashes the mythic questions. How has this year rocked our home/work world/balance/reality?  Ways that the lockdown has played with our authentic expression in the world.  Are we listening? Are we being heard?  This is the essence of Unbound: moving from lockdown to freedom online May 8th.  It will be so natural to hold this exploratory space for three hours with Erik Iversen, 5Rhythms teacher from Montreal.  Between us we draw from a combined 140 years of embodied wisdom, each of us deeply embedded in a life of internal landscape exploration.  I love dancing with Erik; his invitations are offered in the accessible language to which my body responds.  I hope you can join us for this three hour experience as each of us, in our own unique way begins the tentative moves from lockdown to freedom.

Moving relentlessly toward wholeness.  Fostering way dormant creative urges, letting them finally have more say.  Carving out space for a more authentic emergence.  A place where surely less and less is needed.  Enough to live this given life exactly as it is….❤️Bella

Bhandha: a gesture in which a segment of the body is sealed, isolated or constricted in some manner.  Sanskrit for lock, bind, hold captive.  And why would a body want to do that?  Sounds like the undesirable opposite of release and freedom, doesn’t it?  Well, yes…but I find myself spiraling back around to this wisdom, another layer in subtle core toning.

Embodied personal investigation and research into the dual wisdom of physical therapy and hatha yoga—this is my preferred way to incorporate new stuff.  And though this spiraling journey has only recently begun, I’m taking Essential students along for the ride.  Our focus is the middle lock, uddiyana bhandha, translated as “to rise up, to fly.”  And when you feel it, you know why it is named this.  In physical therapy it is called hypopressive technique.  Whatever you want to call it, this unique physical contraction offers deep structural support to organs in the pelvis, abdomen and spine.  Check this schedule for Essential current offerings.
Deep Essentials
Friday March 19
10:00-11:30am

Basic Essentials
Thursday March 25
10:00-11:15am

Essential Recharge
Saturday March 27
10:00am-noon

Physical Therapy
(916) 267-5478 for appointment

Sunday Sweat Your Prayers
March 21
10:00-11:30am
Zoom or LIVE

Wednesday Waves
March 24
9:00am &/or 6:30pm

Dance Essentials
Saturday April 17
10:00-11:30am

This practice is all the rage in Europe right now—kinda like Pilates was—but the practice is ancient, timeless.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipikasays “of all the bhandhas, uddiyana is the best.  Once it is mastered, liberation occurs spontaneously…even an old person can become young when uddiyana bhandha is done regularly.”  My own road to mastery happened in kundalini yoga teacher training  2006, the full story is a different essay.  Suffice it to say that 18 months of 4:00-6:30 morning practice deeply embedded bhandhas in my being.   All this history tumbled back over me as I incorporated uddiyana into my current practice.  The deep structural support I feel kicking in is a pleasant surprise since I’ve been so subtle core tone focused since 2015.  I consider myself already pretty strong and this practice, without being all boot-campy, takes it to the next level.

The benefits of regular uddiyana bhandha practice are wide-ranging and super-attractive: improved breath efficiency and capacity, increased core strength, enhanced digestion, improved circulation to the brain and organ body, calming of the nervous system.  Physical therapy utilizes it to treat pelvic floor issues for both men’s and women’s health.  The energetic benefits are a whole other story.  But, since it is practiced with breath retention, in that potent pause of prana flow, there is cessation of thought.  It is a meditation booster for sure.

A sensation is worth a thousand words.  Wanna feel a light uddiyana bhandha?  Seated right there, take a full inhale, especially invite lower rib cage to expand.  As you exhale, gently place palm over mouth and nostrils. Completely relax through torso until every last bit of breath exits.  Now attempt the physical motion of inhale even though you’ve tightly covered the entrance for breath.  No breath comes in.  Feel the flare of lower rib cage, the vacuum you’ve created in chest cavity.  The way organs are being compressed and diaphragm is being stretched horizontally.  When it’s time to inhale breath (don’t push the length of breath holding!), first release the lock, then release your hand, then gently breathe in through pursed lips like sucking on a straw.   Allow a few normal breaths.  Notice the agni/fire you have created in the belly.  After the block there is unblock and the prana flows more freely.  Enjoy the sensation.

We’re slowly building this hypopressive/uddiyana bhandha practice in Essentials.  You can join us any Thursday or Friday morning.  Essential Recharge, Saturday March 27 will include a solid introduction to this practice.  Of course we loosen up the whole body first, including a delicious belly massage before this particular part of the practice.  And it is awesome to feel this fired up core contributing to simple asana practice before we stretch out and rest in shivasana.

Can you feel the parallel out in our altered world?  It’s like the world prana has been sealed, isolated, constricted for a year.  Can you feel the sense of easing, the return of communal life force? There is block…and there is unblock.  What a beautiful time for Spring to arrive.  Surprisingly, I continue to love teaching all this on-line.  Students love the ease of Zoom at home and want me to stay there.  I can imagine that.  And I also imagine a local in person practice session being born as well.  I miss being with you, being together, seeing you in practice, offering touch and instruction based on what is happening in current time.   I’m fully vaccinated so starting March 22 I open my studio for one-on-one physical therapy sessions.  Ready for hands on help with that physical challenge?  I can’t wait to feel you on my treatment table—albeit with masks.

Nothing like Rumi to sum it all up:

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.
Then there’s another way:
a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”

Locked.  Bound.  Held captive.  I feel like we have learned so much from a year of bhandha.  Feeling this quality—and its release—in the breath, in the body…it can take us all the way to infinity.  Let’s go there together.

❤️Bella

By and by the events that pepper our days fall into place.  Our minds, hungry to create meaning, chew on personal stories.  Eventually interpretation breeds perspective.  Which the dictionary defines as the “true understanding of the relative importance of things.”  Sometimes that perspective awakens in a flash.  Which is what happened to me last Thursday.

Minding my own business, doing that Zoom dance thing up in my studio, guided by a Montreal teacher I adore.  Zoom dance, an animal with which I maintain a love-hate relationship.  I’ve learned more about my distraction patterns than I ever wanted to know this past year.  But something clicked that morning.  A kinesthetic memory stirred by the pure joy of my body in fluid motion, a fleshed out perspective of 2019.  2020 had clouded that memory, never allowed it to even fully emerge.

2019: a year that began in the worst of health—post-surgical, a month of radiation, unrelenting bronchitis that morphed into 15 days of unexplained fever.  I was one sick puppy.  I danced on and off through it all.  The loving care of an integrative medicine doc combined with my indefatigable spirit teamed up for healing that commenced mid-April.  I kept dancing.  By summer, feeling good felt brand new, amazing, vital. My dance was taking new form, a springy lightness that had never been there before.

Through the balance of 2019, in closing circle after closing circle, I listened to participants share their dance floor experiences: deep meditation, break through insights, personal transformation.  Variations on all the revelatory truths I had occasionally shared and witnessed in others for twenty years. I intimately knew the territory since my own practice of corralling attention to body, breath, mind often (not always!) yielded juicy personal insight or deep drops into the mystery.

I silently listened during most of these 2019 closing circles.  At the end of each practice I was empty in a way I had never felt before.  Week after week I was dancing two hours of unadulterated joy in motion.  My whole body grinning.  Extreme pleasure was the summation of my experience.  Each and every precious time.  I did not know how precious, even during the last dance at Clara March 11, 2020.

The events of 2020 completely wiped out that barely born experience that was revived Thursday.  Pleasure, foreign yet familiar, felt like it was missing in action, like a long lost friend.  I began to suspect I was not alone in this rusty relationship.  That the events of this long year have placed pleasure on our collective back burner.  On Sunday I invited us to feel how easy it is to be flesh and bone, the simple miracle of an arm winging through space, moving with the space around us as if it were a lover.  Music that allowed the beat to have it’s way with us, a beat we could feel deep and close to our bodies.  The pleasure of release, the savor of surrender.   From the group field response, I gauged I was not alone in this longing.

And so, dear reader, an inquiry.  Your own investigation.  So what’s your  pleasure?  Is it on the back burner?  What would it take to bring it to the front burner for a bit? So curious about us.  What has gone dormant during this collective trauma?  How can the classes I offer be in service to explore, to nourish, to awaken?

Well, the opportunities are all on line for you.  I was actually gonna write about immigration this week, how unless we’re North American native, we’re all immigrants.  How one hundred years ago my grandparents were immigrants.  These thoughts spurned by St. Patrick’s Day and how the Irish were immigrants.  The inspiration for this month’s fundraiser, Dance Essentials, donating all proceeds to the Sacramento chapter of International Rescue Committee  .

Well, so be it.  I had to write about pleasure.   And you can bet there will be a whole lot of pleasure in store for you on Saturday morning as we roll and release kinks, feel the beat deep and close to our dancing bodies and then, like cats in the sun, stretch long.  Plus, the pleasure that comes knowing that 100% of your tuition is helping an immigrant put healthy roots in our community.  Can’t make it Saturday morning?  Just send me your receipt of donation  and I’ll send you the recording.

It’s been a pleasure….love, Bella

Ever had shoulder pain?  No???  You are lucky and very unusual.  I totally remember my first bout.  Scooping really hard ice cream at a school fundraiser, this giant container of vanilla, the table way too high for a short gal like me.  Feel that?  But I was fine doling it out for a couple hours.  It wasn’t until the next day I noticed a dull ache about three inches south of the shoulder joint.  Classic.  And so began my personal introduction to rotator cuff dysfunction.

Way different than learning about it in a textbook, for sure.  But that’s how it’s been in my lifetime. I am the living result of a very active existence moving with a multitude of illuminating misfortunes.  A recipient of the inside story on body aches and challenges.  Ranging from the annoying to the severe.  Low back and hip and neck pain, nerve impingement, foot and knee difficulties, tennis elbow, ankle sprain, patellar fracture, scoliosis, forearm/thumb irritation.  Don’t get me started.

My rotator cuff chapter lasted on and off for a decade. In fact, the somatic memory of it is still with me, awakened because I’ve comfort-inducing-slept on my right side too much lately.  I did not learn what I needed to know about the necessary rehab and management from books or, sad to say, going for physical therapy.  There is such an emphasis in current clinical practice on strengthening and range of motion.  The ubiquitous “fingers up the wall” and the predictable tubing external rotation is still the all too common prescription.  A treatment that can actually be extremely irritating.  I’m sorry if this sounds familiar to you.

On my own, I waded through deep study of the anatomical mechanics and ongoing trial and error and observation.  I kept my sights on what was tight and needing release. I experimented my way to creating subtle stability, gained proficiency in shoulder taping. I had a couple cortisone injections.  Only then, gradually and respectfully, could strength and range of motion be added in.  My healing scenario of three steps forward and two steps back was the same frustrating roller coaster I coach every one else through.

Combine the shoulder’s amazing range of movement, the demands we continually place on it  and the delicate way it is pieced together…well, it’s amazing it functions well at all.   If you are super-curious, this video will answer all your geeky questions about the mechanics of the fascinating shoulder complex.

In Thursday and Friday Essentials this week we play in this deep shoulder field.  We always start with a little slide show of the territory.  The imagination is so powerful in healing.  We release the entire spine, shoulder blades, legs and organ body and then dive into creating subtle core stability.  Warrior 2 will be the perfect simple pose to feel the way the rotator cuff gently cinches the ball of the humerus into the shallow socket of the scapula.  To feel the way the gentle cinching is supported by the release and stability we have awakened in our earlier practice.  We’ve added the use of blocks and access to a wall to our practice.  Don’t have yet?  I always offer alternatives.

On Saturday, in once a month Essential Recharge we coast through the territory covered in February.  Feel the heart basket in its entirety: thoracic vertebrae, ribs and sternum, heart and lungs and diaphragm, the deep musculature that creates movement.  Recharge is for you if you’ve never experienced Essentials.  And it’s totally for you if you want a luxurious slow ride through how to be loose, long and strong.

My second vaccine is this Sunday.  Which means I will finally be available for in person physical therapy visits in my East Sac studio.  Transmission is still an open question, so unless you have been vaccinated, double masking for both of us will be required.  I will continue on Zoom probably as long as I remain in practice.  It has been amazing to see many of you beyond the bounds of my local geography.  It has limitations that the advantages far outweigh.

The shoulders…we can sometimes feel as if we carry the weight of the world there.  It’s been said that it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. True that.  Let’s learn to carry with ease…❤️Bella

Fifty years ago I kept a 20 week standing date with a cadaver.  Without fail.  Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, eight to noon, scalpel in hand, trusty Gray’s Anatomy propped at my side. My original oft-referenced fifty year old text pictured above.  Me and three intrepid lab partners dived in, layer by amazing layer.  For sure squeamish-get-me-outta-here on Day One…but then curiosity took the reins.  One day all the organs were stealthily removed for the pathology students and on another day the head disappeared, gone in service to dental students.  This absence didn’t faze us; our focus was laser-directed on muscle, bone, tendon, joint, ligament, nerve.  Plenty remained. If you want to consider moving from squeamish to curious check out YouTube anatomist Gil Headley splaying open the heart basket below.  He’s quite the character.

And so began a life-long love affair with this particular aspect of anatomy, a surrender to a working bias for many years.  Thirty years to be exact.  A good chunk of time to steep, long enough to start making connections, drawing meaning from the physical. What does my body know about spirit?  What is the sensation of a feeling arising?  Where exactly do thoughts originate and translate to action?  Where lives the voice of my soul?  The last twenty years have been all about that.

From time to time I love to dive into the organ body those pathology students absconded with.  It fascinates me.  Last week was one of those times, an exploration from diaphragm to pelvic floor.  Heart and lungs will have their turn soon.  Here’s what I notice: when we bring our attention to organ body we invite the parasympathetic nervous system to thrive.  The sympathetic—in charge of adrenaline-based fight flight freeze—quiets.  Focus on the organ body naturally moves us into a field of rest and restore.

Wanna feel?  Take a full inhale and exhale in honor of each organ: left thumb resting under rib cage, hand covering stomach. Under stomach the worm of pancreas. Right hand, same place, other side, overlapping left—liver is way bigger.  Let hands stroke downward over 22 feet of small intestine taking space all the way to pubic bone.  Stroke outward and rest over ascending and descending colon.  Make two fists as you move them under last rib back body; two kidneys. Now one hand sacrum, other pubic bone.  Rectum rests curled in front of sacrum, bladder nests under pubic bone, womb space reclines in between—the sacred protected lineup.  Rest here.  Breathe.  Summon up gratitude.  Restore.

As fate would have it, in the midst of this series of classes, I listened to a Katherine May podcast on how “wintering” replenishes.  We are deep in wintering right now.  Maybe the deepest wintering many of us have ever experienced.  Darkness, rain, cold…it gets under my skin sometimes, feels limiting, depressing, leaves me longing for “summering”.  Yet now is when we might follow the lead of rest and restore body wisdom.  How do we take in nourishment, gather up what is needed to sustain life, digest?  And then what do we do with that?  Our miracle vessels know how to convert that nourishment.  How to assimilate, incorporate, utilize—create life force.  And then?  Hah.  The body innately knows what and how to eliminate. Release what it does not need.  24/7.  Over and over.

Katherine May went on to expound on the power of rest and retreat to remind us that our lives are deeply cyclical.  That everything repeats.  That nothing lasts.  Wintering asks us to wonder what change is coming…  because it always does.

Take a deep breath in.  Open the window between your rib cage and your pelvis.  Feel the deeply cyclical nature of your organ body as it gathers, creates and eliminates.  Take a rest.  February 5 is the exact middle of winter.  We will be Springing in six or seven weeks.  Here are a few ways to support your February wintering….
 
On the mat: 
Essentials Thursday/ Friday 10:00am moves into heart basket.  All month feeling the unique thoracic spine, how ribs connect it with breast bone. How collar bone delicately marries scapula.  The fluid scapula hovering on back body.  How  diaphragm and lungs and heart team up for aliveness.  Loving our journey.  Until February 5 you can pre-enroll in all February Thursdays or Fridays to save $, commit and have the ease of a single Zoom link.
Dance Essentials Saturday February 13 —combining mat and dance floor. For sure we’ll be dancing that heart basket somehow.
Essential Recharge Saturday February 27 will summarize, integrate, culminate this heart basket journey.

On the dance floor: 
Wednesday Waves 9:00am and 6:30pm…either or both—same link. Loving this one hour double dip whether I teach or take.
Sweat Your Prayers Zoom or live in the garden every Sunday 10:00am.  This month’s fundraiser is Valentine’s Day Sunday February 14.  All proceeds, Zoom and live in the garden, go right back to the farm land we’ve been moving on since June.   Deep gratitude to Ray and Judy Tretheway who have generously offered space where we have been able to safely move outdoors through three seasons. All proceeds will help replace trees being removed for levee restoration.  Wanna join us?  Eventbrite ticket purchase holds our capacity upper limit at a very safe thirty.

Bottom line?  Here’s what we’re up to wherever, whenever you land.  Dedicated time to take in some nourishment.  Feel how it supports and generates creative life force.  Lighten your load, release what’s superfluous.

Let’s keep wintering together.
❤️Bella

Gil Headley and the heart basket…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY_7-UgM3Mw

In a year when much has been lost, we turn to gratitude Thursday.  We give thanks for all we still have.  Which is what I really want to write about this morning.  But first this invitation.   I bet you have food on your table.  Probably in abundance.

“It’s such a critical time in food access.
Food security is a top priority for every community.”
Nicole McNeely, executive director of a food bank

Everything about food moves me and the suffering due to lack calls me to action.  Please join me Thursday morning at 10:00 for Basic Essentials…to feed the hungry.  While we practice, while we remember all that we still have, 100% of proceeds will go directly to Run to Feed the Hungry. So where food is critically needed, there will be food on the table.  Thank you for joining me.  And now a word about what we still have….

The Holidays.  A phrase layered with a weird combination of joy and foreboding in this special year. Traditions steeped in childhood and layered through ensuing decades usually shepherd us through these coming weeks.  A time of year when each day dawns darker and colder than the last.  Checking in…how you doing with all this out there in weird-ville?

This is where I turn all Zen on you, since it appears we’re all enrolled in the same unique school.  A school repeatedly testing us on our connection with form.  A task-master demanding we watch the forms we have counted on dissolve.  Again and again and again.  I’ve had more practice letting go and being with disappointment than I ever dreamed possible.  Take something as straight up as The Holidays.

Don’t gather with your family indoors.  Don’t gather to worship.  Don’t get on an airplane.  Don’t go to parties.  Don’t go shopping.  Re-think how to cook and share your favorites with loved ones.  Wonder about gift giving.  Don’t even think about intimate gatherings to sing or dance or just hang out by the fire.  In other words: give up tried and true forms.

I’m not addressing those folks who think all these new fangled rules are political in origin, meant to infringe on precious personal freedom.  That would be a different essay.  I’m talking to you intelligent but exhausted people.  Am I the only one who feels this undercurrent of desperate spinning wheels?  This anguished struggle to hold on to old forms, even if it means risking the health and life of people we love the most?

In the absence of tried and true old forms, what do we have left?  Maybe my vision is clouded but from where I sit, I see only two possibilities: create new forms or get comfortable with the formless.  We can count the amazing array of ways we’ve invented new forms.  You only have to look as far as Zoom space to see something we never would have envisioned a year ago.  Multiply that by a hundred.  The creative juices have been astounding in so many areas of our lives.

But in our rush to keep going, in our American can-do-it-ness, we could miss a big lesson offered in the curriculum of this mass cultural Zen training.  Perhaps this is our time to viscerally learn what formlessness means. Not the hypothetical notion of emptiness, but emptiness itself.  Not the intellectual understanding about being with things exactly as they are, but the nitty-gritty experience of equanimity.

So my question today is this:  what has value that is also formless?  When we strip away exterior constructs, some really juicy stuff patiently awaits.  Ineffable, ephemeral, indescribable….maybe this is the surprise blessing of living in weird-ville.  When we peel away the hoopla and tinsel and razzle-dazzle from The Holidays we find the formless treasures that were always there. The foundational sensibility supporting the spirit of this season.

Breath is formless.  Presence is formless.  Love is formless.  When we release our slavery to form, these jewels can really shine.  Can’t you feel this?  Isn’t this what we want to share with each other?  In whatever way is safely possible?  And so I ask…what is hidden underneath all the complex structures and forms historically laid down over our lifetimes?  What remains?  What is formlessly asking to be recognized?

When we get quiet enough, when we bring our focus to the internal weather, when we bravely stay with…the formless is revealed.  Come practice with me on Thursday and Sunday this week.  It’s so close right now you can touch it.

Love, Bella

The physical practice of yoga captured my attention in 1971 at U.C.S.F. during my final physical therapy year.  A progressive instructor introduced it as an exercise modality and I fell in love with sun salutations at the same time I fell in love with anatomy.  When I moved to Sacramento after graduation there were no yoga studios, so I started my regular living room practice with Lilias Folan on PBS. 
 
In the ensuing years—marriage, work, travel, children—I dove in and out time and again.  Something kept pulling me back.  Finally enough spare time and a bounty of intrigue coincided in 2005 to pull me toward the Eastern principles foundational to this ancient practice.  I am aware of the conversation around cultural appropriation and, though nobody “owns” yoga, I am acknowledging yoga’s debt to the Hindu faith’s ancient traditions.  Yoga—the union of body and mind—is not about a mat or triangle pose or how to breathe.  Interestingly enough, those are relatively recent add-ons.  I’ve circled back around countless times, exploring the tenets of the complex eight-limbed philosophy. 
 
The first limb, the yamas, are the front door to the practice.  Not tree pose.  In this charged climate of personal uncertainty and cultural turmoil I find the yamas comforting guidance.   A concise map for human responsibility as I move in relationship with others and the global community.   And, of course, as I spend time with myself.  Wouldn’t you know that the very first of the five principles is kindness?   Do no harm. 
 
Life begins somewhere for all of us and I don’t know how yours began.  But there was a paucity of kindness in my early years.  Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for this first belief, which translates as non-violence.  Unfortunately it’s opposite is much easier to spot these days.  We don’t have to look very far for alarming examples of cruelty, brutality, creation of mayhem.  It’s a bit more challenging to turn that lens inward and catch our own speech and actions. Moments of hostility, cynicism, impatience, vehemence—directed outward as well as inward. 
 
Practice reveals for us over and again that non-violence begins with numero uno.  We show up on the dance floor and the mat with all our tendencies.  What does it mean to act kindly to our own bodies?  To not push?  To do no harm?  What light does that behavior shed on how I conduct myself with my partner, the clerk at the Co-op, the earth under my feet?  It’s super-useful that the second tenet is satya—truth telling.  Here we are again with obvious opposites so apparent: little white lies, half truths, exaggeration, misinformation.
 
As I practice presence with whatever arises, if I pay attention and am willing to be honest, I know my foot hurts, my heart is aching, my mind is utterly confused or distracted or looping.  This self-knowledge, this honest assessment supports kindness—to myself, to you, to the world at large.  Despite our best intentions we’re pulled every day into behaviors less than optimal.  Ancient leashes tether and surprise us with their tenacity.  Showing up kind and honest 100% of the time is a beautiful and unrealistic expectation. 
 
I’m on to it right now and actively cultivating the pause.  There is a potent moment right before the words emerge or the action manifests.  Asking myself to slow down.  Take a breath.  Maybe silence or stillness is the best response.  Maybe there is a way to soften in the beat, in the heat.  Maybe it’s time to turn the other cheek.  Lucky me—my honor to embody and teach this marriage of ahimsa and satya four days in a row this last week.  Next yama? Asteya, which literally translates as not stealing.  We’ll see how it shows up Thurday and Friday morning on our mats. Envy, jealousy and greed are the oh-so-human signals that flash red when that yucky pit yawns before us.  Wednesday night we’ll dance in honor of the incredible minds that deliver us in and out of these pits.  Sunday Sweat?  Who knows?  Time will tell.
 
Closing with this Dalai Lama quote:
“Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.”
 
I hope we meet on mat or dance floor soon.  Until then, let’s be kind and give ourselves the break we deserve.  It’s hard out there, loves.  Let’s take a breath together right here…..❤️Bella

Been thinking about resiliency.  The way we desperately need it right now.  What it takes to build it.  This gratitude-filled surprise to feel the most resilient I’ve ever felt in my life.  I kid you not.  Curious musing here about why that might be, starting with the dictionary definition.
 
Resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape
 
Maybe this ability to recover quickly builds (or not) through negotiating the challenges and trials of childhood and young adulthood.  In middle age some of us tap that resilience reservoir and buckle down, get with the program.  Me?  I took the traditional road.  Before I could snap my fingers, I was immersed in the traditional trappings of mid-life: discovering how to live in a marriage, stumbling and fumbling through parenthood, signing my life away to a thirty year mortgage, negotiating career moves that morphed to entrepreneur-ship.  In retrospect all that doing looks daunting.  In the midst, I just kept moving through, deeply tapping reserves I didn’t even know had accumulated.
 
Perhaps resiliency multiplies in response to being mined.  Anyway, making it all the way to now wasn’t just resiliency; I had a ton of luck and an equal amount of privilege delivering me past the bounds of middle age.  It surprises me every day to be here.  And in this current crisis, the huge demands of middle age are magnified while ease is expanded for some elders.  I put myself in that category.

Still, when someone asks how I’m doing, what it’s like for me these crazy days, my answer depends on the moment.  If they really want to know, if they have a bit of time, I speak a truth full of ups and downs, suffering and freedom, struggle and surrender, anguish and surprise. To live in this chaos, to be present with this level of unknown, can exhaust us.

If you’re more tired than usual, you’re totally normal.  Our nervous systems are pushed beyond their comfort zones.  I’ve had my share of weariness.  But these months have been illuminating my ability to lean into a deep well of personal resilience.  A reserve built over a lifetime, and not just through the sheer act of making it through.  There is something more: the way I’ve consistently cared for myself over time is serving up a wallop of endurance, a stamina that feels uber-essential for survival in this chaos.

This Saturday’s Essential Recharge offers a practice for building resilience.  All these “R” words keep tumbling out of what’s in store for us in two hours of Recharge:
Reflexes: instinctual response to the moment, heightened with practice
Resilience: built through finding balance between power and fluidity
Release: step one, key to unleashing all that power and fluidity
Resourced: by the dynamic duo of subtle strength and soft surrender
Reverence: connecting us to a greater power than our own
 
Two hours to gently receive an introduction/refresh of all the essentials.  You choose how to follow up at home with access to real-time recording.  Bits and pieces you can dive into in the privacy of your home, on your timeline.  Here’s a quick YouTube video-shot of the territory we’ll cover on Saturday. 

If all this intrigues you and you want additional support, on-line classes begin again every Thursday and Friday morning starting September 17.  And I’m listening.  You have been talking to me, telling me the positive effects you are feeling from this practice.  Wow…who knew resiliency could feel this good.
 
Come feel with me…..❤️Bella
 
P.S.  Link to pre-enroll/donate for Essential Recharge is at the bottom of this page: Yoga On-Line.