Mini Practices To Support You In The Never-Ending To-Do List

In order to slow down and revitalize our heart/mind, we need to deliberately take a break from work and invite more oxygen into our cells and more love into our field. I invite you to try these suggestions throughout the day. 

Find a place where you can be in nature and allow the smells and the sounds to penetrate the muscles of your back body. With each exhalation welcome into your heart the beauty of where you are.

Identify a piece of music that invites your body to move. It can be big movements or movement in a chair but moving is very important for our brain health as well as our oxygenation.

Lie down on your back and allow all the stress from your face, ribs and belly to melt into the floor.

Make a date to have a cup of tea or coffee with a friend, with no agenda other than to be with one another.

Whenever your heart feels heavy, look inside for what you are thankful for. Try doing that every morning or evening. Keep a gratitude journal next to your bed.

Try at least one of these simple practices everyday and notice if it helps you keep a larger window of appreciation in your daily life. We often feel that we need an hour or two hours for self care, but these mini practices can support you in the never-ending to-do list. 

If you enjoyed this, stay tuned for our mini course Body Dialogue to Nourish the Nervous System!

Body Dialogue is a Biofeedback System

Everyone I am speaking to now feels overwhelmed, stressed out and emotionally depleted. In response to this situation, the Body Dialogue team has created a course called Body Dialogue to Nourish the Nervous System.

We live in a culture that values what we do more than who we are. We often burn the candle at both ends, and live fast-paced lives to make ends meet. Given the human situation of living in this period, people are constantly bombarded with sensory input.  This sensory overwhelm creates feelings of fragmentation, dis-location, disembodiment, dissociation, and disconnect. It can lead to addictive behaviors in an attempt to self-soothe and self-medicate. The result is a certain kind of despair and grief. 

When you are accustomed to a way of life that keeps you busy, preoccupied, and responding to external environmental clues, it is hard to recognize when your body/mind/psyche is overloaded and dysregulated.

Body Dialogue is my response to this condition. It is a feedback system. It is the conversation we are having with our bodies all the time, whether we are conscious of this or not. The practice of Body Dialogue teaches us how to be responsive to our inner conversations so that we can fine-tune our energy, thereby allowing us to know when we are in and when we are out of our own vibrational integration.

When things become too chaotic, too charged, too emotionally disturbing, it throws the body-mind system into what people who study the nervous system are now calling dysregulation—which means that in our feedback system, some part is running ahead of another part. Perhaps our mind is so busy that we’re in the future rather than the present. Perhaps our heart is so sad that it’s pulling us into despairing thoughts and painful scenarios. Whatever the cause, the result is that our feedback system is out of balance. The parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of our nervous system cannot do their job.

The reason the Body Dialogue team created this course is to help us establish a scaffolding for the day. What practices can we employ throughout the day to reinforce an inner center that is steady, responsive, and grounded.

Look for our new course Body Dialogue to Nourish the Nervous System coming soon!

The Roots of Body Dialogue: The Alexander Technique

I had never heard of the Alexander Technique until June Ekman, who taught children’s theater at Sarah Lawrence, took us to New York City to meet her  Alexander Technique teacher Judith Liebowitz. It was 1970, I was 20 years old. I had decided that I could no longer be a performing artist or dancer with all the physical and emotional obstacles that kept getting in my way. Having studied at the Martha Graham school for almost a decade, I had lost the ease and joy of being in my body and dancing spontaneously. Going into dance classes felt like a trial by fire. I was plagued by self-doubt and self loathing. I would never be good enough, I thought, to be the performer I wanted to be. I was Addicted to Perfection and my mind was preoccupied with self-defeating negative thinking. No matter how hard I tried, I was in a battle with my body, my weight, and wanting approval from all my teachers. Going to dance class was no longer a solace or a refuge. By 20 years old, I had lost all hope of being a performer and decided to find modalities that worked with the body that allowed me to get joy and pleasure again from moving. I found Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, and improvisation with a teacher from Europe named Katya Delakova. She understood how destroyed I was by the regular dance classes in the dance department at Sarah Lawrence. She offered her classes through the Phys-Ed department and understood my passion for movement and music. I felt welcomed in her “Phys-Ed” class. The other place where I felt I could express my creativity was the children’s theater which was more like physical theater than traditional stage acting. So when June Ekman took us to her teacher in the Alexander Technique, I was doubtful that she could help me. I figured she was just another dance teacher that was going to try to make me into something I was not. Instead, after she worked with me for 20 minutes, putting her hand on my neck, spine, and head, I remarkably went from being breathless and rigid to finding my center of gravity and my torso in a completely different alignment from what I knew as a modern dancer. Her hands were so gentle and her directions were so clear. She told me what to think and how to find ease in a body that was chronically in pain and repeatedly in conflict with it felt like being a dancer. Judy gently put her hands on my sternum and helped me to release that pushing forward posture of the ballet dancer and simultaneously she gave me a gentle length in the back of my skull to help me locate what it felt like for my torso to be over my legs. When she took off her hands, I was at a loss to what miracle she had created within me, but I knew in that moment, if it took me the rest of my life, I was going to understand what she just gave me in twenty minutes. She gave me a new reference point for how I could feel in my body and my mind. 

When I was in the hands of my Alexander teachers, particularly when we were on the table, I viscerally felt a rebalancing of my Nervous system. I didn’t know then what I know now of the relationship of the vagal system to breathing and to the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. In 1979, the field of somatic education was just beginning. How was my teacher able to get these results by simply balancing my head on my spine and giving up that chronic tension in my neck, torso, and legs? The tension in my body was so constant that as soon as she released my contracted muscles, I felt both totally free and at the same time pulled back to my old patterns. It wasn’t a quick fix. 

F.M. Alexander, the creator of the Alexander Technique, studied his own body for 10 years in the mirror in Tasmania. He was born in 1869 and died in 1955. His method to achieve a reeducation of the body required him to work hands-on with his students and by working in this very practical manner, he developed certain theories that allowed students to relearn basic activities such as sitting in a chair, walking, and moving through space by orienting the mind and the body simultaneously. He did not consider the Alexander Technique a body work technique. He believed that if we used our mind to direct the energy of the body by telling the neck to be free so that the head could balance on top of the spine, this could allow a coordination of the whole torso so that the organic posture that we knew as children could be re-membered and reclaimed. 

Alexander understood that education needed to be more than just delivering information. Although he was a Westerner from Tasmania, he was discovering through his hands what the Eastern traditions knew for thousands of years, which is the unification of body, soul and breath. Although his work was not taught as a spiritual practice, his findings were in alignment with Eastern wisdom. He understood that in the West we were living in a split between the mind and the body. 

I embarked on a decade of Alexander lessons with teachers all over Manhattan, until finally in 1979, having just given birth two months ago to my first child, I enrolled in classes to become an Alexander Technique teacher at the American Center for the Alexander Technique. With each session, I got a little closer to understanding the mystery of how alignment and using the head to balance the spine could be achieved. With each session, I tasted what ease and lack of obstacles in my body felt like. And in the language of the Alexander Technique, I had an understanding of what he called “the means whereby” you achieve conscious control over your body rather than habitual control. 

When I had that experience the first time, a huge recognition of what I had lost in all my years of dance training, and what I longed to reclaim overtook my entire emotional being. It was as if someone handed me back a piece of my life that I had lost. It was not simple to give up all the habits of holding, pushing, tightening muscles to achieve the dancer’s body. All I wanted was to feel that ease and freedom that I found after each session. Week after week, I’d go to my teachers and allow them, both on the table and in the chair, to guide me out of the rigidity that was blocking my flow into an organization that I experienced as a child from my early life in Maine. I recognized that these teachers were guiding me in a direction that I was not able to do for myself. So I diligently showed up each week, believing that if I continued to apply the principles of the Alexander Technique to my mind and my body, I could recreate the ease, joy, and playfulness that I knew as a child. 

Somehow, in my pursuit of being a performer and trying so hard to be what I thought others wanted me to be, I lost who I was. Even when I was introduced to dance techniques that were connected to this flow, because my body had become so distorted through my weekly studies at the Martha Graham school, I couldn’t sustain or trust the movements of more lyrical choreography like Jose Limon or even my Afro-Carribean teachers. 

The one piece that seemed missing in my Alexander training was what to do with the emotions that would come up as a result of reconnecting to the old Janice. There was no room in the Alexander Technique sessions to make sense of the grief, shame, despair that often would arise in these miracles of movement and release. I never felt despair in the sessions, but three days later when the magic would wear off and I didn’t know how to apply F.M. Alexander’s directions to my habitual patterns in my nervous system, I realized that I needed to continue to look for help with the parts of my body/mind/psyche that were still being controlled by the trauma of my early childhood.

It took me over a decade of study and then teaching the Alexander Technique to understand what was missing. Being a diligent student and practitioner, I continued to search to find how to integrate this newfound freedom that often blocked me from finding the ease on my own without the help and guidance of a teacher. So even though I was doing Tai Chi, yoga, and other forms of body work systems, I continually was asking myself, how do I work and successfully deal with the trauma that is still in my nervous system and in the tissue of my body? 

Although the Alexander Technique was not a complete solution, it offered me a reference point and a daily reset as I continued to investigate tools to help me deal with my early childhood trauma and patterns of fear that resulted in constriction.

Join me in January for an in-person workshop at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, FL

Navigating the Aging Body is learning how to become intimate with one’s breathing patterns and habitual tension.

Breathing is an autonomic function of the nervous system. When we stop breathing, we stop living. The brain receives a message that the body is low on oxygen. That message goes to the diaphragm and tells the diaphragm to do its job. Ideally, when the brain gets the message that the diaphragm needs to go to work, we exhale the air that is being held. The diaphragm then ascends into the ribcage, emptying the stale air in the lungs, which allows a more full breath to be taken in. 

But If the diaphragm is weak from lack of activity or trauma, its capacity is limited, and we resort to our accessory breathing muscles, which are in our chest and upper neck. We are not able to truly get a good breath.

Your breathing is as unique to you as your fingerprint, because it depends on the muscle tension in your torso, what you do with your jaw,  how your tongue rests in your mouth, what kind of lower back position you hold yourself in and, most importantly, what is the health of your diaphragm. After all, the diaphragm is your main breathing muscle. 

What’s one thing you might do to allow more room for your breath?

For more information on my upcoming e-book, Navigating the Aging Body, sign up for my mailing list here.

Trusting Our Tools

When your body is aching and your mind is in chaos, it is so difficult to actually trust the tools that can help you and serve you. Sometimes I think it’s our emotions that hijack our trust. 

I have been practicing Alexander Technique since 1969 and have learned that it’s a process that’s so subtle and often so simple that I forget it’s also a great a tool I can rely on. You can rely on these tools, too.

F.M. Alexander understood that if you repeat directions to yourself such as “I’m going to allow my neck to be free” or “I’m going to allow my spine to lengthen and my torso to widen,” those directions can replace unhelpful thoughts such as “My hip is hurting, my back is out, I can’t get a breath.” 

When I trust my Alexander directions, I am reminded that I can use my will to make choices that are good for me, and not fall down the trap of thinking  “I’m never going to feel better again.”

My sitting practice is another tool that helps me when my mind is flooded with negativity and anxiety. Sitting meditation doesn’t come so easily for me, because I would prefer to be moving than sitting still – but, precisely for that reason, I practice mindfulness meditation in a chair.

I’ve found that sitting quietly and watching my breath, noticing what’s happening in my mind, focusing on awareness and not the end result I hope to achieve—all these relate directly back to the tools I have learned in the Alexander Technique, which is not to focus on what I want but where I am. 

Because both of these practices focus on the breath, I have a sensory experience of feeling expanded in my subtle body and relying on the simple decision to slow everything down. 

I’m writing this during a time of seasonal change. It’s in the air. Summer is ending, and Fall will soon be upon us if it isn’t already. Maybe because of our long conditioning that this is the time for school to begin – the time when vacation is over and work beckons – I can feel a resurgence of my old habit of needing to speed up and push beyond my limits. This is a process that will be with me for my whole lifetime.

If I could truly learn to trust that these tools are reliable and my best friends, then my body and my mind do not have to be a battleground but a place of benevolence. 

My personality is passionate and fiery, and I have spent most of my life looking outside myself for approval. The decision to strengthen my inner reflective practices allows me to grow and age with more curiosity and less fear of failure. 

What’s one thing you might do to allow more room for your breath?

Nothing is more important to our health and well-being than how we breathe, and also probably nothing we take more for granted. 

Breathing is an autonomic function of the nervous system. When we stop breathing, we stop living. The brain receives a message that the body is low on oxygen. That message goes to the diaphragm and tells the diaphragm to do its job. 

Ideally, when the brain gets the message that the diaphragm needs to go to work, we exhale the air that is being held. The diaphragm then ascends into the ribcage, emptying the stale air in the lungs, which allows a more full breath to be taken in. 

But If the diaphragm is weak from lack of activity or trauma, its capacity is limited, and we resort to our accessory breathing muscles, which are in our chest and upper neck. We are not able to truly get a good breath.

I learned this physiological explanation of what happens when we breathe from my teacher Carl Stough, who developed his understanding of breathing after decades of practice with trauma survivors, asthmatics, and people with emphysema. 

Carl began his work as a voice teacher. He corrected some of the misunderstandings that are commonly taught around the efficacy of breathwork and created the term “breathing coordination.”

In my practice with Carl Stough, I learned the movement of the diaphragm is a little like the movement of an octopus, in terms of its fluidity and responsiveness. There’s nothing else in our body quite like it. It’s an almost magical mechanism. However, the diaphragm cannot function maximally when the body is in extreme tension and restriction.

In my own practice, I also witness how stress, including the demands of work and too much time spent on our phones and computers, can result in a weakened coordination of breathing. My practice has taught me that, in order to assert our desire for a more responsive breath, we need to slow down our hectic pace of life. 

What’s one thing you might do to allow more room for your breath?

Is it Depression that we’re feeling? Or something else?

A number of people have told me they find themselves feeling depressed as this new year begins. I know I have felt that way. It could be because of what’s going on astrologically in the star alignment– that we’re just very sensitive right now under the Cancer moon  – or it could be that the latest events in our legislative branch of government have been disturbing and also confusing. 

But I’d like to offer a slightly different point of view about depression. I think that word doesn’t really cover the feeling that a number of us are experiencing. I think that what I am actually feeling is a sense of overwhelm and a quality of despair. 

In other words, we may be asking ourselves, does it matter what we do? Does it matter if we choose this party or that party? This action or that action? This step forward, this step backward? We’re wondering what we can do to make a difference in this world right now, and that sense of powerlessness and heaviness in our hearts can be translated as depression but I think it’s a different emotion. 

For me, I think it harkens back to some very early childhood experiences, when I saw what the adults were doing around me, and I knew that if I had power, I might make a different choice. 

As children, we didn’t have that power. So perhaps what we’re feeling is a similar powerlessness that comes from not being the person on top or the person who gets to make decisions or the person who’s going to have an impact in the world. So we feel like our behavior doesn’t matter. 

But I think it’s exactly in these moments that we have to draw on the practices we’ve been building over the years. In particular, some of the practices I developed during the COVID pandemic are the practices I need to draw on now, even though I now have the ability and the facility to move around. 

It is our dream life and the choice of how we express ourselves that will make all the difference right now. For instance, this morning, when I went to the farmers market and spoke to the vendors, I knew that my dollars would make a difference to their lives. I was not powerless then. Or when I call a friend who’s having a hard day, and I listen to her, and we take the time to really feel into our hearts, we know we’re not powerless. 

We only feel powerless when we face obstacles that feel insurmountable, the stories that appear in the world, perhaps of politics or maybe even bigger family issues that we’re facing. 

So today I’m writing you to say let us choose to bring our heart to another person and to bring our soul to each moment so that we can fill our lives with goodness, and we can fill our interactions with caring.

Then our lives are about contributing – in the small ways that make a difference – maybe one person, maybe two, maybe groups of people. If I live from that place every day, I don’t feel depressed. I feel empowered.

A Short Basic Breathing Practice.
Begin by laying flat on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent.

The Breath as a Teacher

What if we knew absolutely that every breath brings us into direct connection to our soul? What if we knew that our heart and soul are leading us exactly where we are meant to be? What if the unknown were nothing more than the next step?

I said to my soul be still

What if in that moment, we breathed into the unknown and recognized that our heart is taking us where we are meant to be going, and our body is present to be in company with the heart’s desire? What if the dreams we have are whisperings of our soul’s longings? What if we know that longing is our guidance system for our highest and greatest good? If we knew that in every part of our being, then our fear would simply be a caution light that’s going off to alert us.

Our bodies are whisperings and wanderings of our life experience.

If we truly knew we could infuse our body with light, and as we light each cell we create more pleasure. The pleasure then aligns with more joy, which is a combustion engine of love. Love is being open to receiving. Love is the true direction of fullest presence.

So what did my past experiences of living in a house of fear and hiding teach me? It taught me that coming out of hiding is my truest destiny. I was directed to work with the breath as my teacher to the great potential of our fullest expansion.

Most of us cannot stay there all the time. We have life to teach us. We have bodies to teach us.

But what if we truly know in every moment we can breathe ourselves into presence and receive the love that is our divine birthright?

This is the teaching I have received so far in this lifetime. I  am open to being a student of this teaching because of my story, not despite it. It provided me with a hunger to embrace the love that my soul has always known. The breath teaches me that the soul and the heart long to be one, and that flow is mine if I am open to it.

Is today a breathing day?

I’m waking up knowing I have a lot on my plate today, feeling my head bog down, filled with details. In the background is Ukraine. I can’t put it out of my mind, nor should I. Millions of people are being displaced; for what reason? What gives a bully the right to go into a country that just wants its people to have a choice? What gives a bully the right to decide that he has so much power that he can completely affect the world order? He can affect gas prices, he can affect the stock market, he can affect how much food we have on our table.

It reminds me of my father who used to say “There are Haves and Have-nots, and I want to be a Have”. That philosophy of life was his motor; it kept him going. He had morning blues which meant he hated to get up for work on Monday, but he had an underlying voice saying “I want to be a Have”. I know I have internalized that message. I know I have traded on my privilege. I know the thought of being a Have-not not terrifies me. When I look at the people leaving the country with just the dog and a suitcase I think that could easily be me. Having been raised with that story in my background I see how much it rules the decisions I make.

Every day I ask myself can you breathe? Is today a breathing day? And if I can’t breathe I have to look inside and ask my brain, what is stopping you from breathing today? After years of practice and working on this one question, I know that when I can’t breathe it’s primarily my head and all the noise that’s getting in the way. So the combination of having had the experience of learning to breathe properly, learning to use my diaphragm, learning the importance of sound, and understanding why we need vibration is what allows me to go from my head being noisy and my heart pounding fast to beginning to have a breath. I need to do this every day. It’s not a choice to skip it. I’m not doing back stretches only because my back hurts. I’m doing back stretches because it helps me breathe. I use a belt and traction my spine because it helps me breathe. I stretch my arms up over my head and let my ribs expand because it helps to breathe. Every day, I wake up, and I start again and again and again.

Finding Light Through the Dark

An upcoming women’s retreat Inspired by the Marion Woodman Foundation.

Still space open to join our women’s retreat this Spring.
Visit to learn more

Freeing Your Breath

The pandemic is making some of us very aware of the challenges of breathing. If you’ve had Covid, then you know what it’s like when the onset of the disease happens, and there’s this anticipation that something’s going to happen to your respiration, so you immediately go into fear and constriction.

If you haven’t had Covid, there’s a chance you may be walking around holding your breath and being vigilant because you’re worried that you’re going to breathe in the virus. 

For anyone living in the 21st century, it’s not unusual to notice that your breath is shallow and your mind tells you that perhaps you could have a better breath — but the question is, how to do that?

So it’s possible you search the web and you listen to different experts tell you how to breathe. You try to do some of of the practices and you notice that you can do them one or two times but they don’t become part of your lifestyle. 

So what I want to suggest to you is from now until whenever you decide — a week from now, a month from now — you start becoming aware of how often you are holding your breath. How often are your shoulders up near your ears? How often do you feel like you want a satisfying breath but you can’t get it? After you become aware of this chronic pattern of shallow breathing, then and only then can you begin to unpack what creates better breathing coordination.

Your breathing is as unique to you as your fingerprint, because it depends on the muscle tension in your torso, what you do with your jaw,  how your tongue rests in your mouth, what kind of lower back position you hold yourself in and, most importantly, what is the health of your diaphragm. After all, the diaphragm is your main breathing muscle. 

I’d like to recommend that after you’ve paid attention and become aware of your breath, then can you start working on having better breathing coordination. 

If  this is speaking to you, let me know. I am now currently bringing people together to help them breathe in a more efficient and easeful manner, and I will add your name to my list.

The recording that’s attached is a short guide to creating a better breathing coordination. I hope this finds you in a good place and that you’re able to put this awareness into your life.

BodyDialogue · Basic Breathing Practice