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Go Small and Have it All

I have found great rewards in making small habit changes that produce positive transformative results in my life. This realization can also save others from being consumed with the big goals that leave them feeling too overwhelmed to start...

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About twenty years ago, I was a high functioning executive with many professional demands; a small consulting business and a full range of family responsibilities. I did a lot of speaking engagements, conferences and travel.  Under the mounting pressures of trying to be all things to all people; maintaining the illusion of giving 100% to everyone and everything every day, my body rebelled with lower back issues that were foretold to me with a two year bout of sciatica produced, in part, by a fearless sense that I could do everything and that I could lift a beautiful, exotic low level granite table in and out of my car for a women’s circle featuring pillows on the floor; Egyptian style mint tea and belly dancing. I paid for that mistake with back pain that eventually grew into the need for surgery.  To make matters worse, I was a weekend warrior and even my self-care was punishing and intense.  I believe it was my 52nd birthday when I got a gift certificate for a massage that without knowing what to expect, the massage therapist started walking on my back. In retrospect, this was a glaring error that I only came to realize a short time later when my back, spine and discs went into spasm that could not be relieved with medications, cortisone or anything else.

While home during one particular medical leave period, I was channel surfing and saw this woman exercising on a beach.  Curious about what she was doing, I was transfixed and started to mimic her movements and started to watch her daily program on public television.  At the time, I was still traveling with the assistance of a cane and a wheel chair at airports. On one such occasion, while waiting for my flight, I ordered the complete set of videos which at that time were on VHS.  Classical Stretch/Essentrics with the Canadian creator Miranda Esmonde-White became my 23 minute daily practice that would later become my salvation.  It wasn’t long before my very conservative orthopedist finally had to recommend surgery, and then I found out just how important that small habit of morning exercise would change my life.  An excellent surgeon did my surgery and I made all the checkpoints with the specialists and my primary doctor post-surgery, but although the pain was gone, I was left with “drop foot,” atrophy in my right leg from the months of debilitating pain that left me motionless without exercise, and a recommended regimen of physical therapy that was costly and tedious.  It was then that I decided to make Classical Stretch/Essentrics, the 23 minute miracle practice, a lifestyle change to rehabilitate my back and leg through a small but significant daily habit.

2021 marks almost twenty years of doing the scientific full body stretches and I don’t walk with a cane, don’t use wheelchairs and I am not forced to swing my leg like a dead weight as I used to.  The quality of my life is greatly enhanced by this simple habit that has me religiously rising at 6am to spend a little under a half hour on myself. I have improved posture, balance, stamina, flexibility and alignment that collectively give me grace of movement and vitality as I move through life. I was even featured on the PBS fundraising special entitled “Forever Painless” with Miranda, my mentor and dear friend. This has been proof positive for me that small positive changes can be transformative and we get good at whatever we practice. 

This year, I am focusing on using my glass water bottle and drinking water first thing in the morning and at intervals during the day to enhance my health.  For decades, I drank water out of plastic bottles.  Now, me and Mother Earth want to grow old gracefully, so I have decided to be intentional about my water consumption for the health benefits and plan to prevent plastic bottles from damaging the ozone with methane gas emitted from landfills as the bottles breakdown. It’s what I call a “two-fer;” one small change with big results. I take a small step to enhance my health and help the planet in the bargain.  What could be better? As you ponder your next great adventure or your New Year’s resolutions, consider going small, instead of BIG and think of what we can accomplish individually and collectively with lots of little plans.  Saddle up and make it happen starting here and starting now.

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