Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Stretch for a New Year

    This morning my breakfast was a bowl of vegetable soup, heated up from a big pot I made late last week. 

     Before the soup, I stretched and bent and groaned softly though about 20 minutes of YouTube yoga while still in my pajamas. It wasn't graceful or stylish but that didn't matter. I was alone in my upstairs workspace launching a new year with good intentions.
    Here it is, the first Monday in January 2015 and to me it feels like the real beginning of a new year. On New Year's Day my spouse and I took advantage of crisp, clear weather to hike to the summit of Mt. Pisgah--an invigorating round-trip hike of about 4 miles in a nearby county park. Then we came home for a nap. It was still a holiday! 

    A holiday mood lingered through four days of taking down, winding down, and bringing slow closure to the season. Today begins the real work of setting forth on a new circuit of the calendar. Instead of "resolutions," I've shaped a few "intentions" to guide me through this year.

    The breakfast soup was a tribute to my neuroscientist friend Michael Merznich who advocates shocking your brain from time to time with a change of routine. Shake things up, he advises. Push the oatmeal aside once in awhile for something unexpected. Done! 

    The YouTube yoga honors a host of failed resolutions. Perhaps I can make flexibility a more regular practice in my life by bringing a yoga class to my house when it's clear I'm not going to go out. 

    To support my New Year's "intentions" this year, I'm engaging the power of my smart phone. A few months ago, I programmed the Reminder function on the phone to deliver a daily 9 am beep that implores me to "Get Grounded."The notice reminds me to focus, for just a second, on the feel of my feet on the floor or on the ground. To be aware of connection to the earth. 

    I launched that reminder as a defense mechanism after a series of falls and fractures. It seemed obvious that just nagging myself wasn't getting the outcome I wanted. The phone reminder delivers no judgment--it just urges me to get present. Gradually, I incorporated it into a mantra that steadies me on walks and hikes. "Graceful, grounded, strong and tall," I assure myself. "Graceful, grounded, strong and tall." A mental support system for focus and posture.

    It seemed helpful! So this year I've given a couple more requests to my in-phone coach. An 11 am prompt now advises me to "Walk the Line." This serves the purpose of getting me up from a seated position at my desk, which is really helpful, and while up, doing a 30-step balance exercise by walking a straight line. It's simple, but also easy to let slide without the friendly prompt of my "trainer."

    Every two days, the phone issues a "Bend the Body" prompt at 2 pm--a reminder that if I haven't done any stretching or yoga yet, now is the time. Often by 2 pm, I've put in a few hours at the computer and feel ready to move. It's pretty easy for me to fit in a walk or hike, or even a trip to the gym for 30 minutes of independent cardio exercise. 

   But stretching? Who can slow down to stretch when there's laundry, meal prep, and endless household projects to address? I find a million ways to put a yoga class aside. So this year, I'm bringing in a new coach. I hope a "Bend the Body" nudge every two days will gently help me honor priorities, reminding me of an intention to bend and stretch physically as well as mentally.  

    Good intentions may not perfect my downward dog pose or prevent a stumble, but intentions offer direction--a route on which to explore the paths of an unfolding year.  

Best wishes to you for a healthy, happy, and fulfilling new year. For me, a highlight of the past year was achieving 50 years of marriage! I wrote about the maturation of this relationship in a December "Not the Retiring Type" column. 


  1. Carolyn--This is why your home and your garden are so orderly, and mine are so scattered. You have such a clear, systematic approach to your life and your surroundings. I have no doubt your "intentions" will become as much a part of your life as your walking. Happy New Year!

    1. Well, Ladonna…essental to my "system" is having you come once a week to maintain order in the garden! Thank you.


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