My balance story, plus a balance test for you

If you’re like many people, you may not think much about your balance. I know I didn’t–until I discovered I had a balance problem.

Your sense of balance is incredibly important to your health and vitality. A strong sense of balance is key to moving with greater confidence and ease, whether you’re on the tennis court, skiing or walking with a friend.  You can stand up while taking off your shoes. You don’t need handrails to use stairs. You might even walk on tightropes.

If your balance is not so hot, you’re at greater risk of falling, and getting a heckuva bruise, a sprain or a broken bone. Unfortunately, if you’re uncertain about your ability to balance, chances are that you become less active… and being sedentary worsens your balance. This is NOT what we want to happen! 

My story

I first noticed my balance issue a few years back. I was in the kitchen sipping coffee and reading the Wall Street Journal when my daughter showed me a simple balance exercise from her fencing class. She demonstrated by standing with her feet together, then lifting one foot up and holding it up for a minute.

“Your turn, Mom,” said my daughter.

No problem-o.

I stood. Lifted my foot.  And immediately wobbled and swayed. I quickly put my foot down.

What?  OMG, I’d nearly fallen!

I tried again. I wobbled, swayed and started to tip again.

The same thing with my other foot.

Holy moly! What in the world was going on? How could my balance have gotten that crummy?

I was merely in my 40s. Not some advanced age decades into my future.

Plus, I was athletic.  I jogged, did pushups, hiked and more.

But my balance apparently sucked.

How could this be? I should be able to balance on one foot for a few seconds, for gosh sake!

Turns out that I had balance problems for years without knowing it.

BALANCE GOING BAD

There’s no flashing sign to warn you of bad balance. Rather, bad balance sneaks up on you. Which is so NOT FAIR.

 Still, there were clues.  I slid and fell on icy sidewalks several times one winter, but I blamed glare ice, not my balance.  I also fell off a fallen log into the creek that I was trying to cross.

Awareness is  key

Once I learned I had a balance problem, I could start working to improve it. It’s taken me lots of practice over years, but I got my balance back. In fact, I work on it every day because I never want to lose my balance again.  (I’ve not fallen on icy sidewalks for a few winters.)

So if you’ve got balance issues, I totally understand. 

Here’s the balancing exercise my daughter showed me. It’s one way I regularly work on my balance. Take it to test your balance; do it regularly do improve your balance.

Standing balancing test 

  • Focus your gaze on a point a few feet away that doesn’t move. Locking your gaze at one point will help with your balance
  • Lift one foot up a few  inches
  • Stand on one leg for up to a minute or so
  • Repeat on the other side

Results

  • Too easy? You’ve got great balance. Try practicing with your eyes closed
  • Too hard? It’s time to work on your balance. Use a wall, counter or chair for support. Try letting go with one hand. If that works for you, experiment with briefly letting go with both hands
  • If you can’t stand on one leg for minute, work up to a minute over time
  • Practice regularly, but not constantly. Your brain’s cerebellum, which controls balance, needs to rest between balance workouts

Moving and staying active 

Tai chi is one of the best ways to improve balance, according to the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, and others. Tai chi’s gentle, slow, continuous movements build muscle strength and coordination, sensory awareness and other elements of balance.

Standing balancing exercises help.  Tai chi puts it all together, and gives you other benefits, too.

I do tai chi every day, along with other balancing practices. Now that I’ve got my balance, I want to keep it –and improve it!

Your turn

Try balancing on one leg for 30 seconds. Did you find this easy, did you wobble, or did you find this challenging? Leave a comment below.

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Tai chi: April schedule and location news

Here you go:  Our latest tai chi location and class schedule.

Starting April 1 – no fooling!—you can join our tai chi classes at Hwa Rang Do, 5417 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. This is just off 35W — Diamond Lake exit.  (Get directions.)

  • Classes are Tuesdays at 7-8  p.m  and  Thursdays at 7-8 p.m.
  • You’re going to enjoy doing tai chi in this space. It include a WALL of mirrors, which makes everything easier for everybody.
  • In May, we add a tai chi class at Tuesdays at 11 a.m.-noon. You asked for a morning tai chi and here it is!

Through April only, continue to join our tai chi classes at the OM Collective, 3350 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis. (Get directions.)

  • Classes are Saturdays at 12:30 -1:30 p.m., Sundays at 1:15-2:15 p.m. through April.
  • In May, this studio space gets turned into a coffee shop. So no more tai chi classes–no more any classes–at this space after April. Alas!

You can get our class schedule at here.

Come check out our new digs at Hwa Rang Do in April. Be sure to swing by classes at the Om through April only.

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We emphasize “flow” in our classes… flowing movement, much like a river.

See you in class soon!

Fast fact:  Tai chi is one of the top five exercises you can do, according to Harvard Medical School. Keep doing tai chi!

Are you shouldering excess stress?

Quick: Where are your shoulders?

You’re probably thinking: Duh. Under my neck and off to the right and left.

Yep. But are they hunched up? Are you carrying tension in your shoulders without even realizing it?

I mean, you’ve got plenty of responsibilities and stresses in your life. A few could be budgets, bills and bosses… family friction… deadlines and demands… taxes and traffic snarl-ups… noisy neighbors and honking horns.

Are your shouldering burdens?

Are you shouldering burdens?

Yikes! Let’s check your shoulders for tension.

Shoulder tension: Find out in 10 seconds flat

  • Notice where your shoulders are right now. Notice how they feel.
  • Take a slow, deep breath, so deep that your lower belly expands. Take a slow, deep breath out. Maintain this slow, deep belly breathing.
  • Let your shoulders feel heavy. Let them sink down. Consciously allow your shoulders to “let go” of stored tension.
  • Notice where your shoulders are right now. Notice how they feel.

If you’re like most folks, your shoulders released down. Not only that, you also released stored tension. YAY!

Carrying excess tension in your neck and shoulders can lead to tension headaches, tight muscles, and more. That’s sooo not good for you.

Deep belly breathing can help you relax and release excess tension.

So can tai chi, according to the medical experts at Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic and elsewhere.

Be wild (as a horse)

One of my favorite tai chi postures is called Wild Horse Flings Its Mane.

When you do this posture, you can imagine that you are a horse running wild and free across the meadow. Feel yourself releasing cooped up tension and stress as you move and stretch.

Even just imagining releasing stress can help. 

Don’t keep shouldering excess stress!

wild horse

Release excess tension and move freely!

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Your turn

What’s your favorite way to let go of stress? Leave a comment below!

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Come do tai chi with us

Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Grab our schedule and other details.

February: Sunday tai chi starts at 1:15 pm

Small schedule changes starting in February.

Sunday tai chi moves to 1:15 pm as of February.

Saturday class stays as is, 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Sunday class moves to 1:15-2:15 p.m.*

*Once a month, the Sunday class runs from 1:15-2 p.m.

Reminder: No tai chi class Saturday, Feb. 22, or Sunday, Feb. 24. The Om Collective is hosting a workshop that weekend.

Our classes are held at  the OM Collective. (View their full calendar.)

Already purchased a packages of classes?

Each time you do a shorter (45-minute) class, you’ll get 15-minutes of credit you can apply toward another class. This applies only to packages of classes purchased before January 21, 2014.

Come join us in class!

10 reasons to do tai chi

Why try tai chi? Here are 10 reasons to give it a whirl!

tai chi on beach 664559_21620051

  1. Burn calories. Tai chi can burn up 300 to 500 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of your workout. Tai chi uses your whole body, so you burn plenty of calories. And yet, you’ll…
  2. Feel energized.  Here in the West, we are obsessed with burning calories and expending energy. But in the East, there’s more interest in preserving energy so it’s there when you need it and so you can live a long life. The cool thing is, tai chi leaves you feeling energized.
  3. Improve your balance. Tai chi is renowned for helping boost balance.
  4. Release stress. Especially when you practice tai chi regularly, you’ll release stress you didn’t even know you carried around with you. 
  5. Get stronger and more flexible. A healthy muscle is both strong and flexible.
  6. It’s easy on the joints. Gentle fluid movements prevail in tai chi. True, we might throw in a few fist punches. But even those are easy on the joints.
  7. It’s a mind-body exercise that’s rooted in the martial arts. Which is flat-out cool, in my opinion.
  8. It’s fun. Seriously. We do tai chi to music. And we like laughter.
  9. It increases your focus. See my post about the Wall Street Journal article on this.
  10. It’s a great complement to your other activities. Whether you run, jog, walk, ski, skate, swim, play tennis or ping pong, curl (as in the Olympic sport), lift weights, play checkers, or do something else, tai chi is going to be good for you.

Bonus benefit: You can’t make a mistake. That’s right. Not in our class! We might correct your alignment for safety reasons. We might  show you our preferred technique. But otherwise, it’s all good!

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Your turn

What’s your favorite benefit of exercising or otherwise decompressing? Leave a comment below!

*****

Come do tai chi with us

Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Grab our schedule and other details.

Holiday cheer

Put a little more cheer in your holiday by doing something nice for yourself.

Make time for you… and join us for a tai chi class.

Our tai chi classes give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi.  You’ll start reaping tai chi’s renowned health benefits right away!

Hop on over to our schedule page. Note that class is cancelled Sunday, Dec. 29.

See you in class!

class cancelled dec 29

3 ways to banish holiday stress

It’s crazy. You’d think that the holidays would be among the most exciting and joyous times of the year.

But you repeatedly hear about holiday stress. And no wonder.

Gifts, crowds, food, cleaning, decorating, shopping, parties and get-togethers, and the stress of fitting it all in with your everyday activities.

Wait just a darned minute!

Your life is waaay too precious to get caught up in the cycle of holiday stress.

Do yourself and me a big favor, k?

The next time you’re feeling stressed, try this:

Give yourself the gift of being  relaxed and present.

Give yourself the gift of being relaxed and present.

1.  Slow down your breath. Take a deep full breath in to the slow count of 5. Intentionally breathe into your  lower belly… you’ll feel it expand. Then exhale to the slow count of 5. Repeat five times.

Slow “belly breathing quiets your mind and body. It relaxes you.

2. Let something go. That’s right.

Do you really need to knock yourself out chasing the “ideal” of the perfect holiday?

Nope. Please don’t.

Maybe you simplify your schedule. Overlook a dust bunny. Purchase goodies instead of baking them. Ratchet down your holiday spending.

Far better for you to be happy, healthy and joyful.

3. Relax and be present. Enjoy the wonder and excitement of holidays by being fully you and fully present.

The best present you can give to yourself, to others and to the world is to be fully present and relaxed.

Your turn

What’s one thing you do to release holiday stress? Leave a comment below!

*****

Come do tai chi with us

Tai chi is awesome for reducing stress!

Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Grab our schedule and other details.

Boost your confidence in 2 minutes flat

Do you want to be more confident? Want to feel more effortlessly powerful?

If so, read on.

Because I’m going to reveal an EASY and FREE secret to turbocharge your power and confidence.

Not only will you feel more confident and powerful, others will perceive this in you, too.

Here <drum roll> is the secret:

Hold your body like you own all the space around you… and you use every inch of it.

Get big and expansive for 2 minutes

Stand tall, feet separated shoulder width. Arms wide. Chin up. Shoulders back. You might plant your hands on your hips.

While you’re at it, assume an expression of calm confidence. Add a smile and a twinkle in your eyes. You’re that assured, that at ease. 

Hold this posture of supreme, yet relaxed, confidence for two minutes.

You know you can take on the world. And when the world sees you looking like this, the world knows it, too.

Done with your posture for now?

Good. Take a moment to notice how you feel.

Research: the power of body language

How you hold your body makes a huge difference in how you handle stress and how others perceive you.

Classic "big" postures of power and victory.

Classic “big” postures of power and victory.

Big, expansive postures make you can feel and become more assertive, confident and comfortable. Big body language makes you feel big and strong.

Small, closed-in body postures, can make you stress reactive. Small body language makes you feel small and weak. (Don’t do this, k?)

According to researchers, we open up and stretch our bodies when we’re feeling powerful. We stand tall. Sit leaning back expansively. Chin lifted.

When we feel small, we make ourselves small, tilt our head and gaze down.

Researchers found that people who held high-power poses for two minutes increased their testosterone by 20 percent. Testosterone is associated with leadership and confidence*. At the same time, the participants’ stress hormone cortisol fell by 25 percent.

In other words, holding a power posture for two minutes made people feel more confident and relaxed. The study also found that these people were also perceived by others to be compelling, “more themselves” and more relaxed than people who held low-power postures.

People who held low power postures for two minutes dropped their testosterone by about 10 percent and increased their stress hormone level 15 percent.

Tai chi connection

The postures (like this)  in our tai chi  classes expand and open the body as we take up space.

Yep. While we’re building strength, toning muscle, gaining flexibility, improving balance, flowing and having fun, we are ALSO boosting our self-confidence and power.

Swing by this week for tai chi classes. You’ll gain effortless power and confidence, plus other renowned benefits.

Changing your body changes your life.

We’re looking forward to seeing YOU in class!

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*If you’re a woman reading this, you might think that you don’t want to increase your testosterone too much. I mean, what if you start sprouting a beard… or worse?

All I can suggest is that you can check out the research yourself, which was conducted and reported by Amy Cuddy, an amazing woman who has no beard and does not seem to be worried about we women generating too much testosterone.

Your turn

What’s one way or place you can physically take up more space? Leave a comment below!

*****

Come do tai chi with us

Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Grab our schedule and other details.

7 Ways to Break the Sitting Habit

Are you sitting as you read this?

Do something for me, then, will you? Stand up for a minute. Stretch and move around. Do whatever feels good.

If you’re absolutely NOT getting up for whatever reason, then just wiggle around in your chair, okay. Move your back, shoulders, legs, arms, feet.

There. I bet you feel better now. Moving your body is sooo good for you.

You’ve heard the medical experts. They’re saying sitting is the new smoking. In other words, sitting for long stretches is bad for us. Our bodies are meant to move, not park for hours.

Fortunately, it’s easy to change the sitting habit. Just start by adding more movement throughout your day and week.

7 moves to try at work

Sprinkling in movement—any movement, even one-minute chunks—throughout your workday can make a big difference.

Businessman Midair in a Business Meeting

Love this guy’s enthusiasm for moving!

  1.  Stand up and stretch.
  2. Sit on a fitness ball instead of a traditional chair.
  3. Bend over and tie your shoes. Even this movement is beneficial for desk-jockeys.
  4. Take a short, quick walk.
  5. Kick off your shoes and strike a yoga pose.
  6. Take a mini-dance break. Go on! Shake it!
  7. Try “sweatworking.” Hit the gym, yoga studio, tai chi place, golf course or walking path with a colleague or client.

In your free time

Choose activities that get you moving and that you enjoy or that are otherwise rewarding. If you enjoy what you do, it will fit more effortlessly into your lifestyle.

poochie

Walking Poochie is good for you both.

Ideas:

  • Walking. Swimming. Touch football. Tennis. Jogging. Gardening. Yoga. Tai chi. Biking. Skating. Ping pong. Dog walking. Croquet. Horseback riding. Golfing. Dancing. Martial arts. Skiing. Volleyball. A “game” of yardwork with your family. Housecleaning to music. Kickboxing. Hula hooping. Hiking.

Then commit to it and schedule it!

Your turn

What’s one way you can add more movement to your day? Leave a comment below!

*****

Come do tai chi with us

Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Grab our schedule and other details.

Stressed? How to instantly calm and center yourself

Stressed BusinesswomanWhen we’re stressed, our minds work overtime. Our pulse quickens. Our breathing becomes more shallow. Our bodies are preparing for a “fight or flight” response to the source of stress.

This is well enough if we’re eye-to-eye with a hungry lion. But what if we’re experiencing ongoing stress due to job, relationship, health, money, or other worries?

Most of us only use the top third of our lungs when we breathe. Our breathing becomes even more shallow when we’re stressed—which adds to our stress because we’re not fully exhaling the waste products of respiration.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, try this easy “calming-breathing” technique, which stimulates the relaxation response. It calms your body and mind.

Calming-breathing technique

1. Place your hand on your lower belly.

2. Gently breathe in through your nose so your lower belly rises. Time your inhale to a mental count of four.

3. Hold your breath in for a count of one.

4. Gently breathe out to a mental count of four. Notice how your belly falls.

5. Hold your breath out for a count of one.

6. Repeating this sequence a few times.

When to use the calming-breathing technique

• Before and after a stressful situation

• When feel tense or whenever you want to relax

• Before you eat. This breathing promotes mindful eating, while reducing “stress eating.”

• To help you fall asleep or get back to sleep

Your turn

What’s your favorite stress reliever? Leave a comment below!

*****

Come do tai chi with us!

Mindful, deep breathing is key to tai chi.  Join our tai chi classes, which give you a fresh, fun, easy-to-follow approach to the ancient martial art and health practice of tai chi. Yes, we weave in some qigong! Grab our schedule and other details.