Sphinx: Bust the Myth of aging

Bust the “Myth of Aging:” Move into Freedom and Relaxation

Remember the Riddle of the Sphinx: “What creature walks on four feet in the morning, two feet at midday and three feet in the evening?” The mythical Greek King Oedipus answered correctly that it is the human crawling as a baby, walking upright in maturity, and moving feebly with a cane in older age. This ancient riddle assumes the gradualBust the myth of aging deterioration of our bodies as we age is inevitable—and it is a myth that continues today. Unlike other animals that remain active until they die, many believe we peak in our twenties and start declining. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m on a mission to bust the myth of aging as I teach body-mind practices that can help us live healthier and gracefully, with vibrancy and ease to the very end.

Founder of Hanna Somatics Education, disputed this “Myth of Aging.”   believed our bodies and minds do NOT have to decline later in life. Nor do we need to allow worry, fear, anxiety, and chronic pain to rob us of our well-being. Instead, we are designed to age by GROWING! This concept is aligned with neurogenesis and brain plasticity—the capacity to grow and rewire our brains, offering hope, optimism, and expectancy for a vibrant and fulfilling later life, inspiring us to make the most of our golden years.

“We are not programmed to die. We are programmed to live.
Evolutionary Biologist Tom Kirkwood, PhD.

Why This Myth of Aging?

Age does not determine destiny. So why do we accept the idea that aging means decline? Your chronological age—the number of years you’ve been alive—and your biological age—your physical and functional ability—are all different and separate. You may be chronologically 40 but biologically 60, or vice versa. In 1950, the average American lifespan was 65 years. Today, it is closer to 80. Though people live longer, the average American can expect to spend nearly 12 years in poor health, mainly at the end of life. However, with certain practices, we can extend our healthy years by taking charge of our health and well-being.

Chronic Stress and Aging

Bust the myth of aging and chronic muscle painIt’s well-recognized that negative stress can significantly impact our overall health and well-being. We were designed to handle stress as a survival mechanism. In ancient times, we needed to protect ourselves by fighting or running from animals for whom we might make a delicious meal. Even today, when walking in a forest and coming upon a stick on the ground, we might perceive it as a snake or a bush that could be a bear; fear arises and stimulates our natural fight—flight or freeze response.

In our modern world, this defensive response has integrated into everyday life. You lose your keys, have an argument with your partner, or have work deadlines, etc. You begin to pile on chronic stress, which may cause worry, anxiety, and chronically tense muscles. We were designed to handle stress as quick starts and extended stops. Following a stressful encounter, our ancients had long periods of rest surrounded by their supportive clan. It’s the opposite for most of us in our 24/7 fragmented world, with long and even multiple periods of stress and never fully relaxing.

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.”
Hans Selye, Endocrinologist, Founder of the Stress Theory

Chronic stress leads to aging. It causes our cells to malfunction and lose their ability to divide. It can also trigger inflammation in the immune system, which has been linked to numerous diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and obesity. Chronic stress can also lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress following a significant traumatic experience or injury. All this stress lands in our muscles, resulting in tension and pain in our shoulders, neck, lower back, and hips. Finding healthful ways to release chronic stress in our body and mind is essential to busting the myth of aging.

Move It or Lose It

Bust the myth of agingWe don’t stop moving because we age; we age because we stop moving. Every animal on the planet moves. Humans are the only ones who develop problems because we stop moving efficiently. We are born to move and develop motor skills to do certain things to move forward into the world: lift our head, roll, stand, walk, skip, jump, and climb. Then we’re told to stop, sit still, pay attention, etc. We sit more at desks or slump in chairs, hunching forward towards screens and devices. We hold our bodies in contorted positions that become habitual. Chronic stress, accidents, and injuries all add to the formation of these habitual patterns, grooving them into our bodies like a path developing in a forest.

Over time, our posture suffers, and we lose the ability to move freely and easily, losing our natural gate and beginning to hobble like penguins. This is because our sensory-motor cortex loses connections in the brain for how to move muscles. Our routines and habits can lead to physical pain and mental and emotional disharmony.

If all this sounds like a lot of doom and gloom, there are things you can do to turn things around, no matter your age.

Breaking the Myth of Aging as Decline

Aging doesn’t have to mean decline. We can reverse habitual patterns in our bodies and minds by continually challenging ourselves physically and mentally. Instead of attributing changes to “just getting older,” we can view them as “gaining experience” and growth opportunities.

Evidence-Based Body-Mind Practices

Two evidence-based practices that I teach can help bust the aging myth and empower you to reverse symptoms of chronic muscular pain and emotional tailspins:

  1. Hanna Somatic Education MovementHanna Somatic Education: A gentle, mindful movement practice that releases muscle pain, improves posture and enhances mobility. It works directly with the motor cortex to create new neural connections.
  2. iRest Meditation: This technique guides people into deep relaxation by releasing held patterns in the physical, emotional, and mental body. It also provides tools to change stress responses in everyday life.

Lifestyle’s Impact on Aging

According to the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, lifestyle significantly influences how we age. Over 90% of our lifestyle is determined by environmental factors, including nutrition, exercise, and stress management.

Lessons from Blue Zones

Scientists have identified “Blue Zones,” where people live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Common factors include:

  • Regular movement (gardening, walking)
  • Healthy diet
  • Strong social connections
  • Sense of purpose
  • Stress minimization
  • Adequate restorative sleep

Empowering Healthy Aging

By incorporating body-mind practices and positive lifestyle factors, we can challenge the aging myth and potentially reverse many age-related symptoms. Remember, we are not programmed to die but to live. Let this knowledge empower you to take control of your health and well-being, leading to a healthier, more vibrant life filled with ease until the very end.

Click the links for classes and more information
on Hanna Somatics
and iRest Meditation.

 

your power to heal arthritis

Your Power to Heal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is a painful, often debilitating condition affecting millions worldwide. Some call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. Rates of joint replacements continue to rise—even in younger people ages 45–54. Perhaps you or someone close to you suffers from this condition. But here’s the good news: osteoarthritis is often preventable and manageable with the proper lifestyle habits. This gives us an enormous opportunity to take control of our health and reduce chronic pain and healthcare costs. I am on a mission to educate and empower people and change mindsets so we may continue growing and thriving. Remember, with the right knowledge and lifestyle changes, you have the power to prevent, manage, and heal osteoarthritis.
Continue reading

Meditation

Cultivating Somatic Awareness

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.”Hans Selye, MD, pioneer in understanding stress

We humans spend a lifetime in our bodies, yet all too often we assume that body and mind are separate—the mind controlling what we do, the body dutifully obeying its commands. The eminent neuroscientist Candace Pert, PhD, author of Molecules of Emotion, wrote, “Mind doesn’t dominate body, it becomes body—body and mind are one.” The perceived separateness of mind and body has contributed to an epidemic of stress, chronic pain, and sleeplessness in our culture. Cultivating somatic awareness of the integration of our body and mind may help us achieve a greater sense of well-being. It may even extend our lives.Continue reading

Loving kindness

Taking Pause

“It’s not so much knowing when to speak, but when to pause.”—Jack Benny, American comedian who died in 1974

What is a pause? Generally, it’s an interlude or gap between two things. Some pauses are long and others brief. Some may seem pregnant with meaning, especially when someone pauses while speaking. If you’re taking a class or attending a speech or presentation Continue reading

stress-relief with iRest meditation

Post-Election – Pre-Holiday Stress-Relief

Have you felt overly stressed during the recent election season? Do you feel disheartened with opposing ideologies and uncertainty about the future?

I offer you this short 6-minute stress-relief restorative iRest meditation. May this help you to de-stress, re-harmonize, and access an inner resource to help you restore resilience to meet whatever shows up during the coming times ahead.

I invite you to attend my free iRest meditations on Sunday morning or Thursday afternoon.

hemmingway

Using Your Three Brains to Access Grace Under Pressure

Evoking the quality and tone of the modern era, Ernest Hemingway coined the phrase “grace under pressure.” In his major works of fiction, he created protagonists who face defeat without panic, much as he did in his own life. Today, personal and societal pressures have never been greater, which can take a massive toll on our health and well-being, and keeping one’s cool under pressure may never have been harder. When pressures arise, we need to learn how to engage our three brains — head, heart and gut — to help us realize our true self and access the grace to meet life with a resilient spirit. Continue reading

Carefree Mindlessness vs Mindfulness

Are You Dancing with Mindlessness or Mindfulness?

Mind like popping cornWhat were you thinking about before you started reading this? Do you ever notice an obsessive chattering inside your head when you’re not totally engrossed in something? Your mind is like popping corn, jumping from one thought to another. Mindlessness is pervasive in our culture. At times, most of us have functioned on autopilot, as though we were sleepwalking, not paying much attention to anything but the endless dialogue in our heads. Continue reading

lifespan

Whole and Complete as You Are

Not long ago, I read that our average lifespan is 30,000 days. How many days have you already used up and how many might you have left?

Life is so precious. Each day is a blessing that holds a responsibility to express your special gifts into the world. What would your days be like if you weren’t bogged down by the past, reacting emotionally in the present, or anxious about the future? What if you could feel really at home and at peace in your skin, be in tune with the deepest desire for your life and express your best self in the world?Continue reading

welcome your emotions

Welcome Your Emotions: The Language of Your body

We live in a culture that stresses suppression of emotions. Don’t show your tears or welcoming emotionsyour anger. Hold it all in – and be nice! Yet, emotions such as anxiety, anger and sadness are not truly unhealthy in and of themselves. Our emotions provide valuable information. Welcoming your emotions and learning how to decipher their code and language can lead us down the path to wholeness.

The body offers emotions as messengers, signals that something is not quite in synch with our needs, values, or inner drive for fulfillment, to contribute meaningfully, connect with others, and so on. By welcoming these emotions, and asking questions, they can share information to guide us to something we need to know about our health and well-being.

As we learn their language and heed their message, we can then learn to live with them, and use them to help us make better life choices, while being free of their potential negative impact on our body and mind.

Of course, there are positive emotions, too. They also need to be questioned; for example, we need to examine our euphoria as we indulge in luscious desserts or buy another new outfit. However, we are going to focus on the emotions that contribute to feeling bad and stress that causes pain and suffering.

Managing stress

Stress itself isn’t really the problem. It’s how we handle stress that gets us in trouble. At an early age we taught ourselves how to handle stressful situations. Based on our core beliefs,welcoming emotions our subconscious is automatically triggered by words, language, actions or circumstances around us. Perceptions and judgments arise along with a whole chain reaction of thoughts, sensations, feelings and emotions.

Often emotions seemingly rise up for no apparent reason. Yet, there is always something that triggers them, whether from your external environment or inside you.

One way to address this is to pause whenever you notice that you are feeling discomfort, distressed or depressed. Take a deep breath and ask yourself what you were thinking or doing before the feelings arose, or what happened around you. Creating this awareness can help you consciously work things out or make the appropriate changes in your thinking. Each time you pay attention to these triggers you’ll begin to experience a release of the negative emotion or feeling more quickly.

neurocircuits 2What you are actually doing is re-wiring neuropathways and brain patterns that you unwittingly formulated long ago. The good news is that modern brain science tells us that the brain has plasticity. No matter how old your brain, you can change these patterns and eliminate the reactions to previous stressors.

The body can hold memories of stress stored over time. For many years my job involved a lot of phone work. This was before headsets. Over the years muscle tension accumulated in my left shoulder, neck and ribs. Even after I started using a headset, my body automatically positioned itself as it had learned to do. A pattern was ingrained within my body and brain. One day I realized what was happening and moved the phone to the right side and consciously worked at retraining how I held my body.

Welcoming emotionsThe body and mind also can hold memories of a traumatic event or accident. This is referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We frequently hear this term in reference to rape victims, people living through natural disasters and war veterans. It’s estimated that up to 20% of today’s returning veterans have some degree of PTSD and 30% for Vietnam veterans, many who continue to suffer today.

Embodied emotions from the past

Many years ago, I was at a friend’s home and accidentally chipped a ceramic piece. The friend said not to worry as her husband could repair it. However, the next day she phoned me extremely angry about the incident and the fact that “you didn’t even say you were sorry.” Following that call the emotions poured out of me. I suddenly had a flashback of being a little girl playing with a little porcelain tea set that I broke. My mother, bless her heart, was an ‘emotional spanker’. When she discovered what I had done – she became very angry and punished me. I now know my mother was doing the best she could based on her challenging life. But, at the time, I simply felt ashamed that I wasn’t a perfect little girl for her.

While my experience can hardly be compared to those who have experienced war or disaster, I was reliving a traumatic experience. We all experience mini traumas early on that can come to haunt us into our adult life if not nipped in the bud. To this day, the words “I’m sorry” are expressed like a knee jerk reaction whenever I “mess up.” But more and more I feel compassion, for myself and others who may be reacting.

Engaging mindfulness to welcome emotions

I’ve worked for many years with military veterans, mostly men from the Vietnam era, facilitating a guided meditation called, “Integrative Restoration, iRest.” Research has shown this modern adaptation of the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra to reduce the effects of PTSD, insomnia, chronic pain, and more. I am so proud of the dedication of the men I’ve work with who, after only three months, experienced many positive effects.

drop in waterOne of the hallmarks of the iRest protocol is to welcome emotions, as well as sensations, thoughts and beliefs that show up. We’re not trying to change anything. Rather, by welcoming and learning to be with the emotion or belief, the nervous system and the brain begin to return the body to its natural state of well-being and equanimity.

Positive and negative emotions

You can use your positive emotions to help combat the negative ones. In the iRest protocol we welcome emotions by feeling into each emotion and where it shows up in our body. We do the same with an opposite emotion followed by feeling back and forth between opposites. Finally bringing both together neutralizes their impact, restoring the body and mind to natural calmness.

Many factors impact how our body experiences emotions – foods we eat, exercise, the thoughts we think, and our inner exploration can play a role. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, being in nature, and recreational activities all can contribute to a healthy functioning of our brain, mind and body.

Balance and Harmony

As a former dancer I love moving my body, and often take a break to just move spontaneously with music or in silence. I recently led a workshop with female veterans, many who have the added impact of sexual assault issues. The workshop is called, “The Joy of Being in Movement.” This playful, expressive and guided meditative movement and body exploration experience provided them with a great outlet to express and release the emotions of the child within.

Our bodies, in synch with our brains, are constantly seeking a state of balance and harmony. We only need to tune into its channel and heed its life-enhancing message.

I invite you to attend my weekly iRest meditation classes when we get more in sync with what’s important in our lives.