There I sat, a grandchild nested both sides, focused ready for a re-read of a favorite Dr. Seuss.  It was a golden oldie when my kids loved The Sneetches.  Pretty amazing how this classic has not only endured but telegraphed a future we are now living.  Maybe you’ve not had the pleasure.  The sneetches: large yellow creatures that live on their own planet, some with stars on their bellies.  The star-bellied sneetches parade around, shoulders thrown back, pride smeared all over their faces. Snooty noses way up in the air.  Those with empty bellies slink around ashamed and dejected, obviously in deep longing.

Everything changes when an enterprising young man shows up with his new-fangled star belly-making machine.  Lacking sneetches hungrily line up, pay a fee and come out the other end with “stars upon thars”.  Their noses snoot up as well.  The original sneetches are appalled.  No problem.  The entrepreneur has another machine designed to remove stars.  You get the picture.  Utter chaos ensues as the sneetches try to keep up with the prevailing and ever-changing trend.  Which after awhile is impossible to fathom.

My grandkids, both under twelve, still masked in public, did not miss the convoluted parallel.  We are living in a weird sneetch planet right now, crazy-making judgments flying through public space.  When the sign says no masks required for the vaccinated, what does it mean when someone is masked?  Maybe they’re not vaccinated.  But they could be vaxxed and living with a health risk or dealing with the unknown public every day or wanting to be extra cautious.  And who knows about the unmasked?  They could be rebellious Covid skeptics and/or mask efficacy non-believers.  All this ambiguity tolerance seems healthy on one level.  I could tolerate it better if I were less worried about the spread of the delta variant.

Last month 15,000 vaccine-required New Yorkers filled Madison Square Gardens to enjoy a Foo Fighter concert.  I have yet to experience the unique joy of huge group participation.  There is a ton of research indicating that joy and happiness and laughter are hugely amplified in the company of others.  A few years back I wrote about “collective effervescence”, the energetic harmony generated when folks come together with a common intention.  Dancing, singing, eating, exercising, worshipping…so many collective activities we have put on hold. We’ve had a long haul of lack of opportunity on this front.

Now that we are slowly, tentatively finding our way back, what does it mean to nurture our yearning for collective effervescence when we know some are excluded?  Or have to mask or have to weigh risk over benefit or know that some differ from us in risk assessment?  Sorry, lots of questions.  No answers.  For myself, vaccinated since April, there’s been a slow but steady peeling away of personal concern.  My mask, an accessory for so long, was mostly off the last couple weeks.

But my collective concern still runs deep. There are people I love who are not vaccine-protected.  It seems so clear to me that 7 billion people cannot live on this planet without this miracle that medical science has provided for a century.  There are just too many of us.  These five upcoming events illustrate what a crossroads we are all living upon:

Essentials:  mostly online, most Friday mornings 10:00-11:30.  I love this cavalcade of Zoom-ers.  Some are virtually present, some participate via recording.  The last four weeks: an embodied exploration of fluid spinal cord; sending and receiving of peripheral nervous system; four lobes right and left of cerebrum; and ever on the job brain stem.  Next week: balance and your cerebellum.  Each class in this nervous system series stands alone as we roll and release, subtly strengthen and become ever more flexible.

Sunday 5Rhythms Dance July 18 10:00-noon: live and in person every Sunday (except July 25), entering our fourteenth month outdoors.  Staying with this until we come back to Clara morning of Halloween.

Cultivate Being July 23-25 at Four Springs:  so excited for this long delayed three day 5Rhythms/art creation retreat, live and indoors.  Vaccination or current Covid test required.  We are full up but things change.  Let us know if you want to be on the wait list.

Resource and Renew July 26-30 at Esalen:  I’ll be assisting Lucia Horan for 5 days of dancing and meditating.  I do not need to write about how thrilled I am to return to the magic of Esalen.  Which is 100% live in person.  Maybe you want to come with me.

Release in the Rhythms:  Saturday August 7 10:00-1:00.  100% online.  Which allows me to team up with fellow teacher Erik Iversen in Montreal.  This is for you if you want a dance exploration of the unique way we each embody stress and the basics of rolling that tension away.  And if you love this idea, Fluid Spine is available on demand 100% online through July 23,link at home page bottom.

Yes, feeling that.  This yearning for collective effervescence.  Joy magnified because it is shared.  Maybe you are, too.  So willing to tread these ambiguous waters with you.  It’s better that way.
❤️Bella

Before I dive in to this uber-dance related narrative let me reach out to you yogis.  Are you ready to touch in to LIVE practice?  Feel it out?  Breath and move and feel indoors with like-hearted practitioners?  Please join me this Saturday at Clara for Essential Recharge.  Plenty of physical distancing space, masks optional and (maybe for last time), vaccination required.  Two hours of pleasure: guided rolling, subtle core, asana, stretch.  Focus on the sending and receiving nervous system: spinal cord, nerves, brain.  Let’s be together.

On to the uber-dance narrative:

Not long after I began holding space for dancers I wondered to myself….why are they coming out to do this?  Over the next year I point-blank asked many people.  Curiosity motivated me to catalogue an ever-evolving list.   But at that early juncture, I have to admit, I imagined I could serve with more accuracy if I knew why people came.  It took about a year to grok this faulty reasoning.  The truth was that all I could do was stay clear about why I showed up.  Meet people where they were and consistently offer up the authentically alive in me.  People would come that resonated with that.

I never waivered from that basic guideline.  At times trusting the support of that internal well is a dubious miracle.  If I patiently wait and listen, it never seems to come up empty.  But my curiosity about why people come to dance never declined.  A few weeks ago I named the ever-evolving list in class. Guided an investigation to clarify personal reasons for showing up.  The closing circle was rich with offerings of subtle variations I hadn’t considered.

Here’s what I sense:  we all come for many reasons.  And one or two rise to the top like cream.  Here’s the current state of the ever evolving list, gathered after many years out there with you.  Don’t see your creamy version?  Please drop me a note for my curiosity catalogue.  These are in no particular order, though I did put my numero uno at the start:

  1.  5Rhythms medicine is practice for the other 24/7:  It’s just so relentlessly revelatory. A guided music wave amps my awareness of what’s currently arising in me.  And then challenges me to maintain that awareness when I’m with you. Or with the group field.  Or both.  So on the dance floor, so in life.  The way I connect to myself and how I behave in the world is quite different than twenty years ago.  In part thanks to this practice.
  2.  Love to dance/ love music: This is such a huge reason for me as well.  They all are!
  3. Meditation: 5Rhythms is simply a moving meditation.  I sit on a cushion most days, but dance is much more akin to real life.  If I’m able to dance-meditate, stay present with eyes open, music going, people all around…then presence is possible anywhere!
  4. Refuge, sanctuary: For some, the dance floor is a safe haven.  I get that, I respect that AND this reason…not so high on my list.  I’m not a space holder who goes out of her way to insure absolute safety.  Actually more a believer that we learn on our edges.  Prime example of why someone may decide not to show up in space I hold. They might not resonate with that edginess.  And that’s OK.
  5. Community, sense of belonging: I know this is cream for many.  And I consciously create space that fosters this sensibility in a variety of ways.  After July 4 Sweat Your Prayers we’re having a community picnic. Please come!
  6. Healing, transformation, growth:  This is totally connected to #1 for me, almost inseparable.  For some this reason is primary and 5Rhythms practice is not necessarily the route they are taking.
  7. Authentic self-expression: How often have I heard a version of this? “This is the one place I can come and truly be myself.”  Many, many times.
  8. Prayer, connection to spirit:  It’s all a prayer. When we dial it in, spirit is ever-palpable.  The wave-induced delivery to the fifth rhythm is, for some, the primary reason they come to dance.
  9. Fun, play, pleasure, joy: For one year pre-pandemic, at practice end, a moment generally ripe with intimate insight, my experience instead was one of pure and simple pleasure.  The joy of feeling my body in effortless motion.  Go figure.  Feel like that one is on the rise for me again.
  10. Bliss seeking, transcendence: Never something I sought, just a sometimes outcome, especially the first few years of practice.  Usually when multiple workshop days produced this form of magic.  Bliss can be super-seductive.  I won’t turn it down, but I’m actually more grateful for a down-in-the-trenches transformative experience.  For me bliss just doesn’t equate with insight. To each his own!

Well, so there you have it.  Curious if you have additions, subtractions, observations.  And then Zoom came along and created a whole new playing field, re-arranging all these reasons in interesting ways.  Two things about Zoom and dance for you to consider.  For now, we are done Zoom-ing on Sunday and Wednesday.  This format has potential though, and Montreal’s Erik Iversen and I had so much fun Zoom collaborating in May that we’re doing it again August  7 for Release in the Rhythms.

We are two embodied peas in a pod and once again we’ll go back and forth during the three hour stretch: me guiding quiet body awareness, fascia release foam rolling.  Erik moving us in the dance. A playful informative practice exploring the rich default story of the shapes and patterns we inhabit. The unconscious accumulation—structural, emotional, mental—of a lifetime.  How, where, why do I hold on to stress?  This is expertise garnered over two long lives offering long-term health both on and off dance floor.  All in the comfort of your home space.  Please consider joining us.

Practice: relentlessly revelatory.  There is one small catch however. Favorite Woody Allen quote….”80% of success is showing up.”  Let’s just keep showing up together….❤️Bella

The doumentary Oliver Sachs: His Own Life really got my attention the other night. The compelling story of a brilliant man who came into fullness via a challenging childhood, a troubled young adulthood and a struggling middle age.  Through every difficult passage, across every divide, faced with each seemingly un-scalable wall, he just kept moving with destiny.  Doubting aplenty, murky and flailing at times, his soul kept turning him toward what he needed.  Oliver Sachs, age 82, reached the end of his life utterly fulfilled, dying at peace, surrounded by those he loved.

Despite doggedly pursuing his dream of lab-based neuroscience research, destiny had different plans for this human being.  Oliver Sachs became a highly skilled clinician in the old school mold.  A medicine man spending hours of empathetic time with an incredible array of patients.  People with troubled nervous systems that had completely upended their lives.  He listened, he documented, he treated.  And then he wrote.  Ignored, even shunned by a medical community whose respect he longed for, Sachs just kept following his bliss, going where his unflagging interest delivered him.

Toward the end of his life, the incredible volume of books he wrote—books based entirely on medical case histories—garnered him the attention for which he had always longed.  And, incidentally, at long last, at the ripe age of 75, he connected with the love of his life.  But what delighted this being to no end was that in his sunset years, the newly emerging field of neuroscience exploring the nature of human consciousness, recognized the work of his lifetime.  These acclaimed lab-based researchers absolutely needed the clinical stories Sachs had been documenting all his life. The honor and esteem that eluded him, the knowledge that there was wide spread application of his life’s work, the bounty it was reaping in the field of neurology…a destiny fulfilled.

I’ve always understood the practice of medicine to be 50% art/50% science.  And the skillful ability to be with a suffering human being and discover what they need by simply listening and feeling…therein lies the art.  Watching that creative piece of medicine fade out there over my fifty years in practice has been frustrating and disturbing.  I feel the lack of this skill so often when I am myself a patient.  And I hear it voiced as discontent and utter exasperation by so many patients that end up in my “slow medicine” studio.  Now that my heart-mind-soul is the director of my clinical practice, this artful piece, this attunement to the full humanity of another…well, it has found full flowering.  I don’t know any other way to be the medicine woman that has been my destiny as long as I remember.

And the way the teaching weaves into this clinical practice is finally, after so many years in the dream state, finding expression.  Now my patients have a weekly practice they can land in and students have an opportunity to come see me (even on line, need be!) to explore and receive support for their particular challenges one-on-one.  And that brings us to how Oliver Sachs delivered me to the next round of Friday morning Essentials.

Somewhere back in October 2020 we began a long meandering journey.  It started with a foot focused class and then week by week, bone by bone, joint by joint, muscle by muscle we have worked our way up the body.  Lingering for long explorations of pelvic bowl, rib cage, spine, shoulder…wherever interest delivered us.  Then we took a full two month detour integrating the bandhas into our rolling and stability practice.  Two weeks ago we landed in upper cervical spine and the way it meets base of skull.  Last week it was how tempomandibular joint figures in that delicate relationship.  And so now, to complete this series, it is time to tie it all together.  We’ll feel into the anatomical nervous system—brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves—over the next 6-8 weeks.   And that will deepen our understanding of how neuroscience illuminates the very nature of human consciousness.  After that? I do believe we might just circle back on down and begin again at the feet.  I love finding fresh new ways to explore.

Essentials happens on line 90 minutes most Friday mornings.  You can drop into any particular class at any time.  Explorations always held in the context of loosening up with balls and rollers, subtle core toning, stretching and some asana practice.   This video summarizes the three bandhas we detoured into. We practice them in a variety of positions. Give it a watch if you’re new; it has been truly amazing to feel how this delivers us to alignment and stability.  But here’s the key thing: the essentials are always there in each class, meaning that you will feel really good at 11:30.  And really supported in personal practice during the week.  For that support?  Or if you want to join in but can’t make this time slot? Recordings always available.  Music backdrop always awesome.

So…as the subject line says…”you gotta lot of nerve”.  Embodiment is the only way I know for us to fathom and honor the enormous part this nervous system plays in the symphony of our lives.  Come feel….❤️Bella

I had barely drifted into sleep land Thursday when the barking began.  Not an occasional yip.  A persistent deep-throated arf with only a very occasional pause.   How animal vocal capacity could sustain this woof was beyond hard to fathom.  My irritation grew steadily into frustration which soon escalated to outrage.  After an hour I figured if slumber was to be denied, perhaps practice was called for.  I began to doggedly include the barking.

Buddhism 101 enumerates three torments of the heart, three poisons that create human suffering:

  • We want good stuff.  In fact sometimes we crave as much as we can get. We grab anything pleasurable and greedily hold it close.  More is better, right?
  • We don’t want bad stuff.  We can become more and more skilled at pushing away what pains us, turning away from ugliness and, if it bothers us enough, lashing out in hatred.
  • We don’t care about stuff that doesn’t directly affect us.  We can be indifferent, intolerant, ignorant and head-in-the-sand.

Why do we do all this stuff?  It’s so basic: we can’t believe we’re not  permanently here. All this grabbing, pushing and ignoring guard against considering our demise, keep us from feeling into our inevitable disappearance.  Mortality sucks.  These three strategies work as viable short term solutions to not feeling how fleeting life is. They’re so convoluted though and tend to keep us enslaved to our own self-centeredness. What’s a human to do?  It’s hard out there.  Who wants to suffer?

I don’t want the bad stuff either.  But instead of spending my limited energy lashing out at Mr. Dog, I just stayed still and included him.  Did I sleep?  No.  But I wasn’t all worked up about the situation. I could breathe and feel and rest in this practice of inclusion.  This is a workable possibility when we are stuck in that place of not wanting the bad stuff.  Inclusion can eventually deliver us to compassion.  Sometimes.

Well of course there are antidotes to that greedy place and that not caring place as well but this not wanting the bad stuff place was just not done with me yet.  After the night was over and morning had finally arrived, I climbed the stairs to my studio to Zoom teach Essentials.  As the door opened I was greeted by the piercing screech of the smoke alarm, programmed to emit a warning every 15 seconds.  It’s a longer story of why I could not get it to cease until class was over.  But it is a very short story of what I made of this ridiculous situation.

How obvious could it be that great spirit was not done with this survival lesson about how to embrace it all.  I had spent the night practicing but apparently there was still more to learn.  I just returned to the breathe-feel -rest  place, introduced students to our smoke alarm companion and carried on.  We dove into a class that was about way more than the upper cervical spine.  By the end of ninety minutes I barely noticed the sound.

Polarization is a fact of current life. Color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, financial status…each can be construed to divide us. Practicing exclusivity is what transforms all these human variations into hate.

“We have everything we need to make the present moment the happiest in our life, even if we have a cold or a headache. We don’t have to wait until we get over our cold to be happy. Having a cold is a part of life.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Practicing inclusivity is a moment by moment choice.  Often not an easy one.  Let’s practice……❤️Bella

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