A Blythe Coach

Charming Chosen Challenges – creative ways to try out or jumpstart a habit

Last October I tried out my first Inktober Drawing Challenge, and in January I’ve kept sketching going on a weekly basis. Drawing and visual arts is really a whole other way of being creative than my usual dancing and also very relevant to the enterprise of shape, shaping and space in my dance practice as well.

I got a lot of value out of the challenge of producing 31 drawing studies in in as many days. It was also super inspiring to see the works of, and connect on social media with, “real” illustrators and other visual artists. Great to be influenced by new works and creators!

Podcast 098: Charming Chosen Challenges is the audio version of this blog article

As November passed, I witnessed those who participated in the latest round of NaNoWriMo at work on their books, some ultimately “winning” the 50,000-words-in-30-days challenge. In 2019 I took on the challenge to write a novel in a month myself, not “winning” the challenge, but coming closer than ever before with a 18,600-word partial novella.

In 2021 I went on to write a Haiku poem every single day and like my Inktober adventure, I continue to seek out fun new creative challenges.

What follows are a sampling of challenges I have enjoyed in the past which have led to valuable insights and in some cases lasting change.

Last weekend’s challenge was climbing the steps at the mining museum in Bochum, Germany

Past Challenges Undertaken

Here are a few of the other challenges I’ve partaken in recent years:

  1. Yoga with Adriene 30-day Yoga Journey in January, which I took my time working through the first few years as I was able, eventually helped me build my daily yoga ritual. I then branched out to participate in yoga challenges with Schuyler Grant and others. I am grateful to Adriene Michler as well as all my other in-person and online yoga teachers for helping me establish a daily practice which I have since made all my own and which I hope to continue for life!
  2. Deepak Chopra and Sharon Salzberg’s Meditation Challenges and other such guided meditation practices have also been instrumental in making what was more sporadic practice a consistent feature in my life. Starting with these brief 2-4 week challenges, I again expanded slowly into longer sessions daily. It was inspiring to practice in daily bite-sized pieces and led to my 2021 Daily Meditation Practice Challenge and ongoing daily ritual.
  3. A few rounds of the MinsGame 30-day Decluttering Minimalism Challenge, for example before moving or as a spring refresh, have done me good, and I’ve also used Marie Kondo’s method. I spill the details in my Minimalism Memoir article.
  4. Since buying my Kindle and reading my friend Claire Willett’s incredible debut novel The Rewind Files, I was inspired to dive back into reading for pleasure and have have since participated in Reading Challenges for the last few years on Goodreads. I don’t plan to continue to set higher and higher goals for books read each year, but am glad to continue to read consistently and with relish.
  5. Language Sprints on Duolingo and Lingoda support me to practice my German. I have over a 3-year streak on the former app!  
  6. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is a 12-week in-depth creativity program/challenge full of valuable practices, including writing Daily Morning Pages for freewriting/braindumping/creative flow which I continue benefit from.
  7. For Music, I’ve played with a minimal daily Harmonica practice, and then read the book a Year of Wonder and listened to the accompanying classical music selections daily last year (2022). This was a huge boon to my dance improvisation and choreography practices and my creative inspiration in general.
  8. This year I am having fun with A Year of Planning, which is a weekly Bullet Journaling Challenge, and am considering other challenges to participate in and lead.

…And I’ve done assorted other challenges, such as Letter Writing (my weekly-correspondence goal last year, inspired by the book I Want to Thank You), Cold Showers a la Wim Hof for stress-reduction and immunity, and surely others I’m not recalling in the moment. 

Cultivate Ongoing Habits

Some challenges, like yoga, meditation, journaling, gratitude and abundance, reading, writing, languages, and music have proven to provide ongoing value to my life.

In these cases, a challenge can provide a sort of “kickstart” for something you intend to make a habit or practice. After the official challenge is complete, these may continue in some form indefinitely. These type of challenges have supported me in creating daily rituals and repeating traditions.

Personally, I’m always on the lookout for fun and motivating challenges in different areas where I’d like to learn and grow. 

One-Time Challenges

Challenges don’t have to become a lifelong habit in order to have value. While some may indeed lead to lasting change, others provide insight and inspiration for a time or can be revisited intermittently as desired. 

Maybe it turns out that you require the practices in your chosen challenge only intermittently, or they provide a connection to something that proves to be more meaningful for you, or you realize it’s not really a fit at all. Take the learning forward with you, but feel free to leave the challenge behind if it has served its purpose and you don’t wish to continue.

Always feel free to take or leave any “official” rules or make your own entirely, based on your true objectives.

Challenges to Avoid

There are some common challenges that I certainly don’t plan to participate in in the foreseeable future, such as any kind of food or eating restriction or dieting.

I DO want to continue to make a habit of body acceptance, self-care, and joyful intuitive eating as well as rampant creativity and joy. 

Challenges I Have Led

In the past, I have offered mindful movement and coaching challenges, and going forward I foresee providing further ballet, dance, yoga, meditation, creative living, and coaching challenges for my community. It is such a blast to come together in a focused way to see growth and results in a short time!

What I offer next depends on your feedback, so please do let me know how I can serve you with a free challenge or other service.

Questions for Reflection

  • What sorts of challenges have you participated in previously and what was your experience? Did you experience lasting growth?
  • What challenge would be the most supportive for you going forward? 
  • Which skills and habits are you working on currently? 
  • What tends to prevent you from taking on or succeeding at challenges?

Resources for Further Exploration

Let’s connect by email or on Instagram @ablythecoach, I would love to hear your perspective!

Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life

Annual Refresh – Reflection, Clearing, & Planning Process

Doesn’t it feel good to do a thorough clear-out at the beginning of a new chapter in your life? Our physical, mental, digital, and analog systems can all use a periodic audit to make sure we are on track to live the life we intend.

The following methods bring order to chaos, help me reflect, plan, memory-keep, and create. However, your process and system are bound to look differently and I share this only as a brainstorm of ideas that I hope will inspire your own journey of discovery.

Here’s what I’ve been doing during the transition from 2022 into 2023 to look back in reflection, assess my current needs, and look forward to project the future. It is wintery indeed in Cologne this year, so it really feels like the right time to snuggle up in a cozy and organized space to reflect, journal, and dream.

Podcast 097: Annual Refresh Process is the audio version of this article

Know What is So

My first step is to understand what practices, habits, and goals I’ve been tracking and measuring and assess my results in the last period. Before I can strategize my success, it is important to know how the current projects and plans are going.

Some Metrics I Tallied for 2022

  • Shared Creations: for me this includes published videos, blogs, podcasts, emails, posts, challenges, choreographies, performances, new connections made through sharing my process through various means
  • Income and Expenses: business and personal financial goals
  • Habits: rituals such as reading, writing, practicing, creating, connecting, sustaining, adventuring, and celebrating

Amanda McKinney’s Annual Reflect & Project Process helped provide structure to my Entrepreneurial and personal goal process this year. It includes:

  • Thoughts/Feelings
  • Oh Shoot List/What Didn’t Work
  • Wins/What Worked
  • Celebrate
  • Life, Growth, Revenue Goals/Intentions

I captured all my thoughts on my dry erase board, then distilled down the data and reflections in my Bullet Journal with very simple spreads that include the numbers and assessment for Q4 and an Annual Reflection that feature Glows (wins) & Grows/Let-Gos (challenges, learning, and to release).

I definitely got out my journals for this

Get Clear & Complete

A more thorough process of clearing such as the Accomplishment Coaching Completion Exercise, or another in-depth tool might also be needed to release any lingering energy around the previous year’s efforts, goals, and results.

I find it helpful to do at least annually, as well as at other times I feel stuck or incomplete.

This coaching tool involves ten questions to provide clarity, release, and empowerment. Book a complimentary Discovery Call with me to learn more.

Choose Word of the Year

Since about 2018 I’ve been choosing a Word of the Year / Stand / Intention to shine a light toward my highest objective.

This makes it simple to remain present to my intention and check in throughout the year about whether my goals are in alignment and actions are in integrity.

Refresh Your Soundscape

Treat your senses, including audio enjoyments that suit your current mood or imagined ideal state of flow.

Choosing songs to suit my objective or project, and making playlists is another great way to refresh your outlook and your space as you set the tone for positive changes.

Check out my playlists on Spotify and/or create your own:

Make a Love List

Courtney Carver introduced me to the idea of a Love List and I like this pressure-free way to brainstorm what I would love to happen in the coming year. Why not create a vision of my fantasy accomplishments, situation, and being?

Not that I must do all of the things on the list, but that these dreams can influence my tangible aims, think big and expansive before reigning in to SMART goals and specific tasks.

Declaring what you would love to happen can allow the subconscious to work on what you really want to create, not just what you think is possible for you.

Start Quarter / Month Goals

After I set a clear intention and broad goals for the year (based on previously-established longer-term goals and vision), it is time to chunk the actions into smaller and smaller bits, so the next step is to break down Quarterly Goals and then Monthly Goals for Q1.

I like to start with a sketchy outline of what I plan to do each quarter, with structure to inspire me but enough wiggle room to allow new ideas to unfold.

Then I elaborate details on a month-by-month, weekly, and daily basis.

Notebook Migration

One of my favorite parts is migrating and refreshing my Bullet Journal, and in the video that follows I am walking through the evolution of my BuJo and notebooks system, what my current setup, approach, and collections.

Brands and items I mention in the video are just what I personally use, based on personal experience and opinion, and I encourage you to use whatever supplies you have access to and enjoy.

BuJo Setup / Migration might include:

  • Dashboard – easy reference for Word of the Year, Vision Board, Goals, etc.
  • Future Log – important dates and themes for each month of the year
  • Collections (in Annual Book), Goals & Intentions, Projects 
  • Monthly, Weeklies, Quarterly Reflections (in “Quarterly” Book)
My Notebook Migration 2023 video shows my current Bullet Journal System

Refresh Physical Spaces

I like to clean, organize and provide new visual stimuli in my living and working environments. A deep spring clean may follow, but for now I seek to get key functional areas in order. Some ideas:


Could be a “spa day” or small treats as part of your refresh process:

  • Satisfying Nourishment
  • Feel-Good Movement
  • Peaceful Rest & Sleep
  • Fresh Haircut
  • Smooth Mani/Pedi
  • Pampering Scrub or ritual bath
Home, Office, Digital Spaces

Decluttering / Refreshing Physical and Digital Spaces creates a clean slate feeling, greater ease and concentration. Some places to look:

  • Inboxes – digital and analog
  • Closet/Wardrobe, Cosmetics, Kitchen; most used areas
  • Audit/update office and craft supplies, especially regularly used notebooks, pencils, pens…
Rarely or never-worn clothing on it’s way to be donated

Quarterly Refresh

Preparing for a new year is of course also a quarterly transition as well, and so I have a similar but somewhat scaled-down process that I implement quarterly, including:

  • Update my altar
  • Seasonal Decor, Ephemera, Stamps
  • Review Monthly Reflections & Results
  • Quarterly Glows & Grows in BuJo
  • Review Ideal Daily/Weekly Schedule
  • Clear Inboxes
  • Declutter, clean, organize

It can be invigorating to reflect and refresh on smaller scale on a monthly and weekly basis as well. Observe patterns, be accountable, and have the flexibility to adjust course as needed.

Remember to celebrate! Do a little dance and pat yourself on the back, you are ready to launch into a fresh new year or chapter of your life, anytime you want.

May these or other practices provide you with the sense of renewal that you seek, and I look forward to working together in the coming year.

Questions for Reflection

  • What rituals do you have to start again with a clean slate?
  • How do you let go of the past?
  • What are your 2023 (or annual) and Q1/Quarter goals?

Resources for Further Refreshment

Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life

2022 Favorites & Highlights – Reading, Listening, & Viewing Pleasures

“This moment, do I accept myself just as I am?” – Radical Acceptance

2022 was a tumultuous year for me personally and for all of us globally. I lost a beloved uncle and great-aunt, recovered from COVID, and watched as war broke out between Russia and the Ukraine, with unrest and natural disaster in other parts of the world as well. We all faced our own struggles.

I was privileged to also enjoy a mostly peaceful and creative life, and learned through new experiences and encounters a variety of media.

Personal highlights included outstanding live dance performances, in particular a new work from The Royal Ballet, “Like Water for Chocolate,” and a classic from Pina Bausch, “Orpheus und Eurydike.” My in-studio students had the opportunity to perform in an abbreviated “Swan Lake” and participate in an exam, I practiced yoga and ballet together with devoted students online and in-studio, and released a signature coaching program.

The ability to travel home to Hawai’i as well as to the UK and on regional getaways, time with family, friends, and my love were also memories that I am deeply grateful for.

Podcast 096: Favorites & Highlights from 2022 is the audio version of this article

Perhaps you’d also be interested in some of my favorite sources of inspiration, education, and entertainment from the year past. Some were newly-released over the course of 2022, others were simply new-to-me and recommendable. Even if no one else cares what I liked, this should be a fun reference for future me to see what I was into back in 2022 😉

I would love to hear what you especially got benefit or enjoyment from in the last 12 months, and if you’ve heard of or enjoyed anything from my list as well. Let me know on Instagram @ablythecoach or by email, I am always looking for positive and inspiring inputs.

“What would you do if you were a bad girl?” – We Should All Be Millionaires

Ela and I at the Sculpture Garden in Wuppertal before seeing Pina Bausch with friends


I read 32 books in 2022, and here are my favorites.



  • Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
  • Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • Sex and Vanity is my latest read by Kevin Kwon
  • In late 2021 a friend passed One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston on to us and Ela read it to me aloud, finishing in January. This effectively sent me down a queer romance escapade, including…
  • Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell (academic lesbians – right down my alley!) and
  • The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian and a few of her other queer romances that are very spicy (with graphic sex even, be warned) while also being poignantly sweet love stories
  • Confessions of a 40-Year-Old F#ck Up by Alexandra Potter we found at a little free library in London, and Ela read it to me as our second book of the year 
  • Malibu Rising was my first novel from Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I followed with
  • Daisy Jones & the Six and I’m looking forward to her other books (starting 2023 with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo…)
  • American Royals I & II by Katharine McGee were surprisingly thoughtful romps and I plan to follow the series when I get the chance
  • A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn was my last fiction read of 2022 and I’m anticipating enjoying continuing to read the Veronica Speedwell series.

“Which is what we all want from art, isn’t it? When someone pins down something that feels like it lives inside us?” – Daisy Jones & the Six


  • I started with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic which is totally inspiring 
  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach I read with my parents and is a secular Buddhist mindfulness primer
  • We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers was my first financial read of the year, followed by
  • Profit First by Mike Michalowicz on business finance which I have since begun implementing
  • One of my year-long chosen “challenges” was daily reading and listening from Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton Hill and it has been an informative and enjoyable 365 days of broadening my classical music listening, appreciation, and inspiration for dance improvisation and choreography. If you’d like a sweeping introduction to a diverse range of classical music and to find some new favorite composers, I definitely recommend it.

Some ideas from reading and other media sources which I’ve been implementing in my life include organizing business finances according to Profit First, planning goals and projects like The 12-Week Year (quarterly goal setting, sprints), Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain (information management), drawing and creative challenges outside my comfort zone, making something good out of loss from Year of Wonder, and Mind-Mapping.

This year I continuing to apply concepts from recent years as well, such as Atomic Habits, The Bullet Journal Method, Artist’s Way, the work of Austin Kleon and others.

“I made a conscious decision that something positive had to come of this, I wanted to be able to look back and say: ‘If my viola hadn’t been taken, then I never would have…’ and what I wanted most of all was to become a full-time composer.” – Sally Beamish in Year of Wonder

At the Royal Opera House waiting for “Like Water for Chocolate” to begin


Here’s what I loved listening to in music, both new and old, classical and popular, as well as podcasts which treated my ears:

  • Lizzo “About Damn Time” and the whole album
  • Beyonce “You Can’t Break My Soul” and “Cuff It”  
  • Bow Wizzle (Snoop  Dogg for kids!) “Affirmation Song” and “Everyone is Different”
  • Gershwin arr. Turrin “Someone to Watch Over Me” 
  • Nat King Cole “Autumn Leaves” 
  • Paganini “24 Caprices”
  • Kluengelkoepp “Koelsche Naechte” 
  • Priya Ragu “Lockdown” – we were fortunate to see them live in Cologne for free!
  • Maintenance Phase
  • Yoga Meets Movement Science 
  • Connected Yoga Teacher
  • Marketing Yoga with Confidence (now called the Unapologetic Entrepreneur)
  • Satisfaction Factor
  • Soul + Wit 
  • It’s Always Halloween
  • Tarot for the Wild Soul
  • Cosmic Cauldron
  • Good Life Project


“Oh, you have the right of it–I do love the ‘mists and mellow fruitfulnes,’ but I can summon enthusiasm enough for any season.” – A Curious Beginning


“Fire Island,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Dancing Pina” Documentary, “The Holiday” (which is not new, but somehow I had never seen it), and international romance has a special place in my heart!), “Strange Land.”  


“A League of Their Own” was a saucy and queer update, “Gentleman Jack” based on fascinating personal diaries, Kleo, “Forensic Files,” we’ve been working our way through all 8 seasons of “The Golden Girls,” “Wednesday” proved to be a timely arrival, and “Heartstopper.”

Videos / YouTube Channels

I am still particularly loving Bullet Journaling, Planning, Journaling content, arts and crafts, enjoying the seasons, productivity and growth, self-care, minimalism, ballet, dance, and performing arts.

A few of my current favorite channels are Chocolate Twist Yoga, Moon Magic Yoga, Naomi Gottlieb-Miller, Bullet Journal (Ryder Carrol & Co), Erin Smith Art, JashiiCorrin, HAY Studio, Men Who Bullet, Use Less, The Minimalists, Sheng Huang, and Ali Abdaal.

Questions for Reflection

  • What is on your “to be read” list this season?
  • Which media sources do you find most enriching?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What makes you curious?
  • What creations will you make and share?

I would be delighted to hear from you via email or on Instagram @ablythecoach

Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of  A Blythe Coach : dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life

Standing in Beauty in 2023 – Word / Intention of the Year

Twenty twenty-three, lovely as can be,

a time to create and witness BEAUTY!

Blythe’s “dashboard” for the year, with word / stand / intention for 2023: Beauty

Resolutions Can’t Be Rushed

To be honest, my reflection an reset/refresh process going into a new year does not end on January 1st, and I’m not starting 2o23 with my resolutions, goals, or intentions all fleshed out.

Grateful to have had the time to start the process however, identifying some wins and stops, tallying habits, looking at results and lessons, and deciding what practices to take into the new year.

Celebrated during the holiday season, had quality time with my love and friends, then plunged into journaling my heart out, processing, letting go.

A Refreshing Reset

It takes time and can be a messy, involved process, but I love that refreshed re-set feeling that a new year, changing seasons, or other transitions can bring.

Now I’ve landed on a stand or word for the year which will be my guiding light, and will return to again and again as I navigate what is so come.

Beauty Drives Curiosity & Luck

As philosopher Elaine Scarry argued in the book “This willingness to continually revise one’s own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education. One submits oneself to other minds (teachers) in order to increase the chance that one will be looking in the right direction when a comet makes its sweep across a certain patch of sky.” (p.7)

Staying Present to Our Intentions

Using a couple tools to help keep me present to this intention, I wrote that little poem fragment and added it to a “dashboard” that is part of my bullet journal and also contains important stuff like my Essence, Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Artist’s Prayer.

May your year also be filled with opportunities to witness and create beauty.

Questions for Reflection

  • What intention or word of the year would you choose?
  • How will you stay present to your intention when life happens?

Resources for Further Exploration

Why Bother Distinguishing Your Why? 5 Tips for Purposeful Living, Inspiration, Meaning & Motivation

Distinguishing our life’s Purpose can provide a compass “True North” that guides all actions and decision making to accomplish/Be what you are on earth for. 

Another metaphor for your “Why” is that of taking a birds’ eye view of life in order to ask if what we are creating and doing is aligned with who we are or want to Be in the world.

In “real time” here in the Northern Hemisphere we are experiencing fall and are near the time of Halloween and many other traditional days of the dead, opportunities to reflect on beloved ancestors and others, our own harvest blessings, and prepare for the darkest days of the year. 

We are invited now, and at all times, to ask ourselves:

“What light will I bring?”

Podcast 095: Why Bother Distinguishing Your Why? is the audio version of this article

Some identify with spiritual or religious belief that lights them up, others a moral or ethical code based on their values. Whatever your personal belief system, it can prove inspirational to get clear about your Purpose in life, creating meaning for your actions and decisions, a strong identity, a potential legacy that radiates into the world. 

Myself, though I deeply appreciate the insights gleaned from my education and a variety of personality tests such as the Meyers-Briggs, Strengthsfinder, Four Tendencies, Astrology, etc. etc., what I have found most valuable in bringing my light into dark times and challenging experiences has been my Essence and Purpose, distinguished in my work with Accomplishment Coaching. 

In an article by Linda Bark, PhD, RN about finding and strengthening your purpose on MindBodyGreen, she notes: “Knowing your purpose is freeing—and finding it can be similar to decluttering your home. Like a good home cleaning session, getting clear on your purpose will leave you with the things that you truly value and that bring you great joy.”

Bark proposes seven questions to “know if you have a strong vision, mission, or North Star” and suggests working with a partner, writing, considering joy and happiness, and flexibility.

You are invited to consider your ultimate life purpose as well as your purpose for each project you undertake and action step you make.

Tips to Find & Practice Purpose

Some ways to winnow out your Why:

  1. Reflect: distinguishing purpose, why, or motivation is an opportunity to add meaning to all of your actions, consider your impact and legacy. This might seem obvious, but intellectually knowing that we have a purpose and that inquiry and reflection will reveal it is not the same thing as doing the work to dig and sift.
    You may need to remove the noise of your environment and other thoughts and distractions to get in touch with your deeper knowing, using meditation or other mindfulness techniques. Use whatever means of reflection you prefer, or shake it up with new questions and perspectives.
  1. Don’t go it alone: purpose exists on the individual level as well as in community. With the support of others we are better able to realize our purpose and potential.

The “A Quick Way to find your Why” video suggests speaking to people we know in order to clarify our purpose or “why,” and in fact, this is part of the strategy of distinguishing Life Purpose in the school of Ontological Coaching in which I was trained.

Sometimes others are better and/or faster able to reflect our qualities than we are. We could work with trusted friends or colleagues to identify Purpose/Why, or a professional counselor or coach.

  1. Put it on paper (or capture it in some way) as a draft and be reminded of it – Consider writing, speaking and recording, creating art, and other means of distinguishing your Purpose. If you love sticky notes, put them to use, or utilize your journal, a visual reminder, jewelry or art piece, digital reminder, or all of the above. Create structures that remind you of your Why on a regular basis and help you make empowered choices.
  2. Iterate and Edit: tweak the wording however you like, be open to changes in your sense of purpose and growth in your understanding with time. It can be valuable to revisit this exercise from time to time, to strengthen our connection to purpose, to evaluate current actions, and to reformulate and iterate as we see fit.
  3. Apply your why / purpose to situations big and small, actions, habits, projects, decision-making and priorities. 
Being my Purpose of Joy with a colorful tree by the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany

Reflection Questions for Inquiry

  • What light do you bring to the world?
  • What is your Purpose? 
  • In what ways are your actions aligned with your Purpose? Where are they out of alignment?
  • How will you be reminded to be present to your Purpose/Why?
  • What structures will you put in place to evaluate potential actions and decisions according to your larger Purpose?

Coaching Resources

As I discussed, coaching has helped me distinguish my Purpose and Essence and apply them in my life.

  • Accomplishment Coaching: Introduced me to my Essence, Purpose, Vision, What by When, and countless other ontological coaching power tools
  • Business Coach Barbara Iuliano of Starland Coaching: helped me connect my Why to my marketing strategy and activities
  • Amanda McKinney’s Marketing Yoga with Confidence podcast and Thrive membership recommend a 90-day planning process with weekly actions and check-ins. I appreciate how from the big-picture to the granular, she emphasizes doable actions formulated with what by when AND why.
  • For support in clarifying your Essence, Purpose, Vision, Mission, Survival Mechanism, and powerful next steps, you can also sign up for a obligation-free Discovery Call with me. 

Related Resources from Blythe

Let’s connect by email or on Instagram @ablythecoach – I would love to hear your perspective and assist in choreographing your next leap of faith! 

Blythe Stephens, MFA & Bliss Catalyst
she/her or they/them
Creator of A Blythe Coach @blythe
helping multi-passionate creatives
dance through their difficulties

DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.

Magic Within You 4-Day Virtual Yoga Workshop Series

Happy spooky season! In celebration of a magical time of year, I’m offering a yummy online yoga workshop that you can do anytime from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Time to tap into your rich internal resources!

It takes just minutes a day to tap into the magic of your own internal resources, so join me for an exploration of the elements within nature and ourselves so we can learn to access inner strength.

You’re invited to the Magic Within You 4-Day Virtual Yoga Workshop Series!

Exploring the concepts of the Elements can also provide fodder for your dance improvisation and choreography practice and other creative endeavors.

When you sign up for the free challenge, you will receive a daily email during the challenge with a brief yoga sequence on video for you to enjoy.

Free Workshop Series Includes:

  • Daily email greeting the 4 days of the workshop
  • Pre-recorded yoga sequence on video to practice anytime and anywhere, 4 very different practices around element themes
  • Live Q&A on Instagram
  • Free consultation to personalize your practice
  • Ongoing support, resources, and joy through the weekly A Blythe Coach email newsletter

Sign up for the Magic Within You
4-Day Virtual Yoga Workshop here  

Audio for this blog article on the A Blythe Coach podcast

I look forward to walking with you through the yoga challenge and beyond, exploring the elements and other concepts that will enrich all areas of your life!

Blythe Stephens, MFA & Bliss Catalyst
she/her or they/them
A Blythe Coach: ablythecoach.com @ablythecoach
helping multi-passionate creatives dance through their difficulties 

DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.

Fall 2022 Curriculum – Self Study & Practices of a Creative Professional

Lifelong learner and curious forever student that I am, the journey of reading, hearing new information and perspectives, and honing new skills is endless. 

Now that the Autumn Equinox has passed for me in the Northern Hemisphere (happy Spring to the Southern Hemisphere!), I am feeling all the back-to-school and fall feels even though I’m not formally enrolled in any coursework. 

Anytime I’m not in school, and even when I am, I tend to design my own learning plans around what I’m curious about. In order to continue to become a better teacher and coach for my students and clients, professional development is critical, and I also wish to further my spiritual, creative, and entrepreneurial journey.

I am studying, reading, and practicing a variety of “subjects” or “courses,” which overlap and could be grouped in a variety of ways, but which I find complimentary, and all of which are related to my goals for the year.

Here I’m sharing the topics of study, specific actions that I take to pursue them, and some of what I’m reading and listening to, as well as what I myself am writing, creating, teaching, coaching, and otherwise sharing. 

Current topics encompass dance and movement, spiritual practice, creativity, business and finance, languages, travel and adventure, love, connection, and relationship.

All of these focus areas are likely to continue into the new year, assuming I have the ongoing privilege and pleasure, but exact inputs and outputs, as well as media sources, will certainly change with growth and the seasons.

Podcast Episode 094: Fall 2022 “Curriculum” is the audio of today’s post


One of my daily practices is giving thanks in many forms. This is part of my mindfulness and spiritual practice, as well as a way to show up well-resourced for whatever life brings.

How fortunate and lucky am I to have access to all of these learning materials and the time and energy to pursue what ignites my curiosity and spirit? I marvel at the sheer volume and quality of the resources constantly available at my fingertips, much of it also available for free to anyone with internet access.

It’s hard to imagine how I can fit my desire to learn into just one lifetime, but I affirm that I have enough time for everything I need and I create structures to support my ongoing growth. 

It helps to have some structure and priorities so as to not become overwhelmed by everything I want to explore, learn, see, experience, know, create, and share! Maybe you’re the same way and have a lot of things your curious about or would like to improve at, and I hope seeing what I’m up to helps inspire your own planning and exploration.

Representative books & items for my Fall 2022 “Curriculum”

Tips for Your Fall Curriculum

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” -Goethe

Start small with one topic or skill to learn about and improve, then once you’re on a roll, add on.

What is important is not mastery or any deluded pursuit of perfection at the expense of improvement (or never starting in the first place because we think we’re “not good enough”), but instead doing what we can to enjoy the process of learning. Tony Cabasco “Incremental improvement over delayed perfection” and perfectionism.

The message is choose a tiny goal or habit, and just start! Declare what you want to do/learn/make and take a little step. Start by considering what topics you wish to explore, and what activities to engage in to build the skills your wish for.

Focus Areas with specific activities that practiced regularly accomplish my goals

Learning Activities

My action steps this season include:

  • Read: Nonfiction books pertinent to each topic of study, fiction, poetry articles, etc., with a goal of number of books to read annually, tracking, key points, and a process to share 
  • Write: personal processing such as morning pages and journaling, organizational notetaking such as my Bullet Journal, blog articles and podcasts, video planning, challenges, signature program, letters
  • Practice: yoga, pranayama, meditation and mindfulness, German, healthy habits, physical therapy, dance techniques, improvisation, composition and criticism
  • Create: videos, podcasts, music, dance choreography and learning materials, yoga and coaching content, food, crafts
  • Serve: teaching & coaching through a variety of means
  • Connect: romance, family, friendships, professional connections, outreach and follow-up, collaboration, email newsletter/list, YouTube community, social media
  • Sustain: financial literacy and fitness, tracking income and expenses, budgeting, business & marketing skills, planning to eliminate debt and create ideal lifestyle, travel, & contribute
  • Adventure: travel & explore, together & alone, regional & international 
  • Celebration: bonus! always seek to enjoy life 🙂
My chosen topics of study and monthly themes brainstorm for Fall 2022

Fall Subjects

Topics at a glance are Language, Living Abroad & Germany, Travel & Adventure, Dance/Yoga/Movement Practices & Philosophies, Cooking, Food, Ayurveda, Spirit, Meditation, Mystery, Reading, Writing, Art, Music, Creating, Business, Marketing, Finance, Connection & Relationship

Languages, German, Life Abroad

German: Duolingo vocabulary, Grammar, Poetry, Songs, Fairy Tales; Work Visa Renewal, Driver’s License

Dance, Yoga, Movement

Ballet: RAD Exam Syllabi, Cecchetti, Partnering, Turning Techniques, “Swan Lake,” “Cinderella” stories, Seasonal Music, Choreography for Classes and Stage 

Dance: Nikolais-Louis Modern Dance Technique, Bartenieff Fundamentals, Laban Movement Analysis, Improv Practice, Choreography Practice, Elements of Dance Challenge

Movement: Bartenieff, Laban, Somatics, Physical Therapy practice, improving Handstand and Pull-Up skills

Yoga / Philosophy: Pranayama, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Yoga Meets Movement Science” Podcast and videos by Jenny Rawlins, Magic Within You Yoga Challenge

Spirit, Meditation, Mystery

Meditation: Radical Acceptance, Book of Joy, 30 minute per day Meditation Practice starting in November (29 in October)

Spirit: Altar, Crystals, Yoga, Meditation, Tarot (weekly pulls +), Intuition, Prayer, Bible, Quran, Book of Joy, On Becoming an Alchemist, “Tarot for the Wild Soul” Podcast, Modern Tarot  

Cooking, Food, Ayurveda

Food & Ayurveda: Complete Ayurveda; Enjoy cooking and eating: Apple Cinnamon Muffins, Pumpkin Muffins, Fall Tea, Shepherd’s Pie, Goulasch, Soups (African Peanut), Oatmeal…


Nonfiction as listed under other categories, fiction as recommended, poetry such as my German and English collections, Mary Oliver, Keats, and Sonnets.


I engage in a variety of forms of writing on a regular basis: reflective, creative, educational and professional. Morning Pages and BuJo are part of my daily rituals, as well as composing Poetry, Website content, coaching and teaching plans.

Long-term goals include publishing works of nonfiction and fiction, and current and past practices leading in that direction are daily writing practice, participating in NANOWRIMO, a yearlong daily Haiku Challenge, and studying poetic forms.

Additionally, I write to connect and follow up with family, friends, and professional contacts, and aim to send messages of gratitude, appreciation, and love.

Visual Art & Crafts

This year I am participating in the Inktober drawing challenge, seeking to create 31 daily ink drawings in October to get rolling. It is both fun and frustrating so far!

General goal of having a sketching practice, experimenting with different media, including pencil, colored pencil, and more recently watercolor pencils. Include drawing and collage in my BuJo, Christmas Cards, Birthday Cards, Love Notes & Correspondence.


My musical practices include reading Year of Wonder this year and listening to the daily pieces, curating and sharing playlists, listening to music new and old, finding pieces for dance choreography, and this season I hope to pick up practicing the Harmonica again as well.

Business & Financial Fitness

Reading and implementing Profit First, 1-Page Financial Plan, You are a Badass at Making Money, We Should All Be Millionaires, following the Financial Feminist on Instagram, the “Marketing Your Yoga with Confidence” podcast, working to pay off debt, apply for student loan forgiveness, consolidating business finances.

Correspondence & Pen Pals

Weekly “love note” practice, write to friends and family to express love and thanks.

Creating & Sharing

  • Blogs & Podcasts – Reach 100 podcasts in total, # of Blogs & Podcasts for quarter 
  • Emails – Reached 100 emails in total, # for quarter
  • Videos – Reach 500 YouTube subscribers, # Videos, Hours Viewing Time 
  • Coaching, Learning & Change – Coaching Challenge, Signature Program refinement, improve New Client Welcome process
  • Program Content & Marketing – Complete Website update, New Client/Student Questionnaires & Services Agreements, Program “modules” videos, PDFs

Looking Back & Ahead

It being “fall semester” and into the winter season, another key activity is to pause and reflect on what I have accomplished this year, what I want to continue or let go of moving into a new year, and what new topics or activities may support me in 2023.

Let me know if you’re interested in reflecting and celebrating together, and I also plan to share some highlights from 2022, including books, movies, shows, music, podcasts and more, to come!

Related Resources

Questions for Reflection

  • What is on your “to be read” list this season?
  • Which media sources do you find most enriching?
  • If you were to choose your current subjects of study, what would they be?
  • What do you want to learn but are afraid to start?
  • With what subject are you familiar enough that you could teach beginners?
  • What makes you curious?
  • What creations will you make and share?

I would love to hear about what you’re currently working on and learning, come share on social media @ablythecoach to connect!

Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life

Current Notebook Lineup – Analog Journals for Creativity

Lifelong Learning & Teaching

Lifelong learner and curious forever student that I am, the journey of reading, hearing new information and perspectives, honing skills is endless. 

Now that the Autumn Equinox has passed for me in the Northern Hemisphere (happy Spring to the Southern Hemisphere!), I am feeling all the back-to-school and fall feels even though I’m not formally enrolled in any coursework. 

Anytime I’m not in school, I design my own courses of study, as a teacher and coach for my students and clients, but also to further my spiritual, creative, and entrepreneurial journey.

Take what I’m learning, teaching, and coaching around, as well as personal, creative, and professional life, and at any given moment, that is a lot of information to juggle. Therefore, I am constantly refining my record-keeping, idea-generating, and knowledge containers for easy capture and access.

The video version of this Current Notebook Lineup for Creativity content is on YouTube

For a few years since going through _The Artist’s Way_ by Julia Cameron, I’ve been practicing Morning Pages, and the last couple of years, I’ve been doing a version of the BuJo Method by Ryder Carroll, so those form a foundation for my current journaling practice, as well as other tools.

I’m not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned, they are just what I happen to enjoy and currently be using.

This content is also available in audio form in Podcast 093 and further resources are listed below.

Notebooks, Journals, & Tools

  • Morning Pages a la “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron: college block, looseleaf, scrap (02:14)
  • Daily Field Notes/BuJo: small notebook (Moleskine Cahier or dupe) with leather cover from Liebhardt (gift from my gf, 04:32), this is what I actually have with me almost all the time to capture inspirations, nuggets of ideas and poetry, memories, gratitude, tasks, etc.
  • Dance & Yoga Teaching & Choreography Notebook: dot grid “Let’s Travel the World” (gift from a friend, 05:47) for everything to do with my current classes, participants, content covered, music and dance phrases
  • Signature Program Binder: tools, resources, inspiration, client notes, etc. (from Five Star 11:12)
  • BuJo 2022 Q1-3: Tedi brand “Mein Bullet Journal” with annual focus and quests, future log and planning, monthly and weekly spreads, quarterly reflections, project collections, quotes, rituals, etc. (06:52)
  • New BuJo for Q3, Autumn, 2023+: Moleskine Cahier A5 dot grid inside Manufactica saddle leather traveler’s notebook-style cover from Etsy, with handmade folder of paper, stickers, emphemera, and memorabilia for bullet journaling and memory keeping (11:57)
  • Honorable mentions: Dry Erase Board for capturing big ideas, mind-maps, and lists, Evernote for archiving, Google Docs for word processing; iterations/drafts processed through system (10:16)
Excited about my new BuJo and cover for this fall and beyond!

To Each Note, a Fitting Receptacle

Each person’s note-taking, journaling, and creativity system will look dfferently, and I find it so fun and inspiring to take a peek into others’ systems as well as to continue to reevaluate my own practices.

I have noticed a correlation between paper/capture size and media and what sort of idea I’m capturing, and find that different notebooks and spaces for different purposes help me with my flow (09:30).

Related Resources for Further Learning

Questions for Reflection

  • What notebooks (or idea-capture devices) do you have in current use? For what purposes do you use each?
  • Which refinements in your system or supplies are you applying for this season?
  • What are your plans for the coming year? 5? 10?
  • How do you stay present to and keep track of your values, priorities, and quests?

Glad you joined me for this nerdy voyage through my current notetaking, journaling, and productivity system.  

Now is a great time to align our resources and systems that we need around us, to dream and plan, reflect on our processes and results from the year so far, goals for the year ahead, and what we want to take up going forward.

I’ll soon be sharing more about my personal fall “semester” curriculum, within and outside of my comfort zone, as well as the dance, yoga, and coaching content itself, see you again next time!

Blythe Stephens, MFA, Bliss Catalyst
they/them or she/her
Creator of A Blythe Coach: dance through your difficulties
and take leaps of faith into a joyful, fulfilling life

Cool Downs to Cleanse the Palate – 5 Ways to Cool Off & Wind Down

“The waves is on fire, the day is getting hot. This is my desire to the one to hit the spot, yeah. Cool down.” – Kolohe Kai

I’m not a surfer, but I dig the song “Cool Down,” and it has been running through my head as I write this article. Just in the last week the temperatures have dipped here in Cologne from our scorching summer highs, as if on cue to signal the coming change of the seasons.

Coming down, getting complete, making transitions from one activity to the next, taking a breather, pausing to situate yourself in time and space, recovering from amplified or more intense physical or mental situations, experiences of cardiovascular exertion, vigorous challenge, or other heightened experiences of learning or creative work such as classes, rehearsals, performances, all of these can benefit from some form of cool-down ritual.

There is definitely not as of much a focus in technique classes on cooling down as there is warming up and preparing the body to move, but I believe still a valuable practice. Cooling down doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated, just not to rush from one thing right into the next, instead to pause and complete and then move calmly forward.

I especially notice the need in childrens’ classes to ramp the energy back down from high energy, climactic movements and dances, take a moment to complete and acknowledge them and the end of the time together, rather than releasing them fully wound-up out of the studio back to their families, which can be loud, abrupt, confusing, and chaotic.  

Not that we’re perfect, the small students’ exit can still be a bit wild, but ritual definitely helps, the reinforcement of what we learned and their positive contributions, and the chance to breathe together and say “thank you” to our own bodies and selves, our teacher, each other, and the tradition we study. My friend and colleague in ballet education, Matthew Donnell and I touched on the value of reverence in our podcast together, episode 078 as well. 

The same is true for people of all ages, of course. We appreciate rituals and require opportunities to get present and complete to change gears for our next activity.

Cooling down is both a physical and mental practice, as Courtney and Bailey Carver pointed out in their Soul + Wit podcast episode on cooling off. I won’t focus in this article on beating the heat of summer with cool drinks and things, but they do, along with releasing mental steam.

Podcast 092: Cool Downs to Cleanse the Palate is the audio version of this article

Closing Ritual of Révérence

In the classical dance tradition of ballet, we have special ways of greeting and expressing respect for one another. We may enter the dancing space and greet our teacher with a bow, and we also dance a “Révérence” at the end of our class to express reverence, respect, and acknowledgement for the ballet teaching lineage, our own teachers and choreographers, our fellow dancers and classmates, the musicians, our audience, and our own efforts. 

As Rory Foster puts it in the book Ballet Pedagogy: “Many teachers do not do it, but I find that it is a calm, culminating, and aesthetically pleasing way for students to end their class time. There is an atmosphere of completion–of closure.” (p.49)

Donnell’s perspective on révérence, which he shared in the A Blythe Coach Podcast episode 78, is that: “Dancers get so stuck in the technical aspects of what we do. One of the things that I was really taught by a teacher or two was the art of taking the révérence at the end of ballet class. A lot of teachers don’t choose to do that in American schools. You’ll always see it in Russian schools at the beginning and at the end of class. I at least try to do it, I would say 99.9% of the time I will always make sure that there is 30 seconds for at least bowing to stage right, stage left, balcony, you know, and students and just finishing. That is my chance to teach a little bit of stagecraft, of the artistry.” (38:37)

In the excellent resource book The Ballet Companion, Eliza Gaynor Minden also expresses the value of révérence:

“No matter how exhilarating the final grand allegro, no matter how much you might prefer to jeté right out the door, class isn’t over. The conclusion is révérence, the acknowledgment of your teacher, of your accompanist; and of ballet’s own traditions of courtesy, elegance, and respect…It can be a simple curtsy with basic port de bras–or a bow for men–or a more elaborate series of steps with sweeping, ornate port de bras and several changes of direction. Either way, don’t shortchange it. Révérence is not that demanding technically, but there’s still much you can learn from it. And if you did not meet the technical demands of class to your own satisfaction, you can find some redemption in the loveliness of your révérence.” (p. 181)

Start & Finish in Yoga, Martial Arts, other traditions

Like bookends to start and end, we might open or close our practices in similar ritualized ways in a variety of contexts, with familiar words or certain traditions to mark our transition into and out of the sacred space of the studio. 

In Hatha Yoga or the physical practice of yoga asanas, we often enter the practice by being still and checking in, centering, breathing together, intention setting and affirming, and/or mantra. In Yoga philosophy, my favorite translation of the “Namaste” greeting is: “The light/highest in me salutes/acknowledges the light/highest in you.”

When I practiced Tae Kwon Do, there was a similarly organized tradition of greeting as we entered the practice space, warming up, cooling down, completing the session and leaving the space respectfully.

In church ceremonies, the benediction and doxology, in academia the convocation and the baccalaureate, all structures have traditions of greeting and farewell.  

Podcast Episode 012: Acknowledgement, Révérence, & Namaste

Physically Unwind Slowly

In the Dance Magazine article “Are Cooldowns really worth the time?” Kim Richards, a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist explains the function of a cooldown after dancing:

“The point of a cooldown is to give your body time to come back to its normal baseline. Dancing, like any type of exercise, increases the amount of blood that’s pumped throughout your body because your muscles need more oxygen during exertion. Letting your heart rate come down slowly gives your body time to transition back to its resting, balanced state, also known as homeostasis.”

Lauren McIntyre, a certified athletic trainer and clinical specialist states: “Your body naturally goes through this process no matter what you do after exercise. But an active cooldown potentially leads to faster recovery of the cardiovascular system, less muscle soreness and a more rapid reduction of lactic acid, the byproduct that builds up in your muscles during intense exercise.”

That is one important role of cooling down, it’s physiological function, as Richards explains: “Abruptly stopping intense activity can lead to lightheadedness, dizziness and, in some cases, fainting.”

Cooldowns don’t need to be elaborate. McIntyre suggests doing movement-based activities that are low-intensity, so you can keep your blood flowing without getting fatigued. “In general, the recommendation is to keep it short, less than 30 minutes. It’s not a second workout; it should be something that feels good and comfortable to you.”

Take a Deep Breath

“For example,” says McIntyre, “walk around the studio as your breathing returns to normal, and take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.”

You can do an unstructured practice of allowing the breath to return to its regular rhythm, use practices from Yoga Pranayama such as those in my Beautiful Breathing YouTube Playlist, or other methods to calm and re-focus.

Splashing in the Rhine river and cooling my heels

Stretch Out

“Dynamic stretching, such as moving through a yoga flow or doing walking lunges, can serve as a cooldown if you need to stay somewhat warm for the rest of your day. ‘There’s some research that suggests that if you have very intense activities separated by less than an hour, that’s a time when an active recovery would be beneficial,’ McIntyre says.

In fact, McIntyre points out that after-exertion stretching is more effective for improving flexibility than during a warm-up: “We know that to achieve increases in range of motion with static stretching, you need to be warm.”

Do your own favorite stretches and check out my Sumptuous Stretching YouTube Playlist for more ideas.

Complete & Mentally Reset

In the same Dance Magazine article mentioned above, psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements points out that “For some dancers, the cooldown is more of a mental necessity. After a performance, for example, it can feel like ‘you’ve had this high and then suddenly you crash and you feel sad.” She says that performance blues” are a common experience and I agree, but there are ways we can cope.

Process & Reflect

Consider reflecting on what you have just experienced, either in spoken or in written form. You can quickly recount what you learned, “glows” or positive experiences and “grows” or areas to improve, and any corrections, notes, or thoughts for next time.

Journal your own thoughts, the teachers’ feedback, music and creative ideas, anything you like! It can also be valuable to record your thanks and gratitude, and acknowledgement for yourself and/or others, which you may choose to share.

When I was training with Accomplishment Coaching, I first practiced the distinction of acknowledgement and learned that appreciating others, and being acknowledged myself, is a powerful ontological tool. In fact, acknowledgement is part of us getting complete on each coaching session and approaching every action with purpose.

Resources for Chilling Out & More

Blog Articles
Music Playlists

Questions for Reflection

  • What would you like to be acknowledged for?
  • Who would you like to acknowledge? What have they contributed to your life?
  • How do you prepare to transition from one activity or mode of life into another?
  • What would your ideal rituals look like to cool down and complete?

Blythe Stephens, MFA
they/them or she/her
A Blythe Coach: helping multi-passionate creatives
Dance through their difficulties & takes leaps of faith

DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.

On Balance – Practicing the Process of Dancing with Equilibrium

When everything is turbulent, how can we find equilibrium, equipoise?

In my work as a movement educator in ballet, dance, and yoga, as well as life coaching, the topic of balance comes up so often! Therefore, I thought I would do an experiential exercise where I ponder on the process of balance in the body as well as in our larger lives while actually practicing refining my own balance skills.

A couple of conversations in particular that I had lately after dance classes have had to do with balance, so I thought I’d share those insights with you as well as point you in the direction of a variety of resources for promoting balance, be it physical or existential. 

Podcast Episode 091: On Balance – Practicing the Process of Equipoise is the audio companion for today’s article

Mind and Matter

One recent conversation was with one of my advanced ballet students, who remarked about how finding her balance is somehow easier after vacation, even though physically deconditioned. My theory is that it has to do with, in addition to a good foundational knowledge of the mechanics of balancing, greater mental relaxation.

You see, balancing well doesn’t rely on strength or endurance, rather proper application of alignment and poise. Effective technique makes it easy, almost “effortless”, but is definitely impacted by our mental state. 

On a related note, in the other recent conversation I spoke with another dancer who is “after 40,” about how balancing skills can also be developed as we age.

Adults can continue to improve balancing abilities, proprioception and familiarity with our own bodies, coordination and control, so that we have practical movement skills that help us age healthily and well. Honing focus, technique, and balance continues to be important to our training at all ages.

I have noticed in my work as a dancer and as a yoga practitioner that there are certain universal physical, anatomic, and kinesiological principles that help us to perform successfully, and there are therefore similar ways that we use the supportive musculature of the body to support our aims.

Naturally the body works how it works and obeys physical laws, no matter what discipline we practice. I enjoy how the approaches, language, and visualization from different philosophies (including of course yoga and dance, which also take from other traditions and take diverse forms) can help create transformation and growth in our chosen areas of focus.

In terms of our physical awareness and mastery, we use proprioception in the body, or awareness of where parts are in relationship to one another and other objects in space. In the sphere of personal mastery, the perception in our mind reality, as well as our self-knowledge and growth, our created commitments, and our goals as we walk through life come into play.

Keep in mind that balance is an ongoing process for every person, and how each of us finds balance is going to look differently!

We seem to often have the mistaken idea that balance is static, fixed, or still, something either “off” or “on.” Really, balance is a CONSTANT play and flow of adjustments. If we embrace the process, rather than trying to find a “perfect” position once and for all or giving up and assuming we can never learn, we are so much freer to learn to balance (or stand) dynamically and efficiently. The same is true of balance in other realms of life 🙂

On Balance: Practicing the Process of Equipoise is the video companion to this article

Dynamic Image of Posture

Peggy Hackney quotes Irmgard Bartenieff in the book Making Connections:

“The static image of ‘upright posture’…persists widely, in spite of the fact that modern science, particularly neurophysiology, has broken down the notion that static ‘posture’ is in contrast to mobile locomotion, because it is now realized that they are not based on different regulatory mechanisms. The reflexive order of the use of upper and lower limbs is equally applicable to standing and maintaining balance and walking. That is, the same mechanisms regulate ‘postural’ change and locomotion. The dynamic image of ‘upright posture’ is described by Laban as an ongoing, cohesive, three-dimensional process that creates and recreates a series of relationships of Up/Down, Right/Left, Forward/Backward. In fact, the whole body slightly sways while ‘standing still’ in figure-of-eight distributions of the weight (Center, Forward, Right Side, Backward, Center, Forward, Left Side, Backward, Center). Uprightness is the quintessential example of the moving equations describing both sides of the constant stability vs. mobility struggle. Physiologically, all activities of the body function maximally to the degree that they maintain balance even in motion, just as philosophically/psychologically, our lives depend on the same principle.” (p.97)

Build a Strong Foundation

Ultimately, I believe practicing the process of balancing consists of applying two things:

Basic Alignment Principles / Techniques
Mental State / Mindset
Brilliant Balance

It is about the PROCESS of balancing, which is experiential and ongoing, not about a one-and-done complete and final state. We can see this process in action in the most masterful dancers as well as those just starting out, such as in the famous “Rose Adage” from the “Sleeping Beauty” ballet:

Rose Adage with Svetlana Zakharova on YouTube

Balletic Balance

In her manual of ballet technique, Vaganova includes  “Stability & Aplomb” in her basic elements of classical technique.

Podcast Episode 024: Stability & Aplomb

Podcast Episode 024: Stability & Aplomb, or Integrity in Action is the second in my podcast series on the Elements of Dance, including The Body, Action, Shape & Shaping, Space, Time, and Quality/Energy

“Definite stability is achieved only when the dancer realizes and feels the colossal part the back plays in aplomb. The stem of aplomb is the spine. The dancer should learn to feel and control her spine through observation of muscular sensations in the region of the back during various movements. When you manage to get the feeling of it, and to connect it with the muscles in the regions of the waist, you will be able to perceive this stem of stability.”
Basic Principles of Classical Ballet: Russian Ballet Technique of Agrippina Vaganova

Yummy Ballet Conditioning provides gentle training in fundamental movements for core strength and balance while mostly reclining on the floor

A key example of developing a stem of stability is through breath and core support, or integration of the systems of the body.

Yogic Balance

In yoga we use pranayama or breath techniques as well as asana or postures to develop stability and ease. One technique to support yoga practice and physical integration for dance and athletic endeavor is engagement of the Bandhas.

Three of the most commonly applied bandhas are the Mula, Uddiyana, & Jalandhara, which together form the “master bandha,” the Maha Bandha. Bandhas fall under the larger classification of Mudras, which can be gestures or positions of the hands or other parts of the body, with bandhas specifically involving engagement or “locks” of specific muscle groups, as discussed in the video below:

The Yoga for Integration – Bandhas & Kapalabhati video explains the use of breathwork and muscle “locks” to inform yogic integration and assist with dynamic balancing

This balancing process is addressed in classic texts of yoga philosophy such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra book 2.46-48, where it states: “The posture of yoga is steady and easy. It is realized by relaxing one’s effort and resting like the cosmic serpent in the waters of infinity. Then one is unconstrained by opposing dualities.” (Yoga Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, translated by Barbara Stoler Miller)

I really love that image that Patanjali uses about the cosmic serpent, Ananta, or “the infinite,” resting afloat on a sea of milk, feeding on honey, and receiving a foot massage… it’s so luscious!

In their Yoga International article on these Sutras, Robert Svoboda & Scott Blossom explain that this concept is: “More literally translated as ‘resolutely abide in good space.’” They go on to define the Sanskrit terms: “The yoga term sukha means happy, good, joyful, delightful, easy, agreeable, gentle, mild, and virtuous… Sthira can mean ‘firm, compact, strong, steadfast, static, resolute, and courageous.”

Podcast Episode 011: Creating Good Space: yogic sukha & sthira provides audio about this yogic philosophy

Podcast Episode 011: Creating Good Space

Patanjali was describing a balanced posture for meditation, but it can also be a great way to approach any situation that calls for balance, from movement contexts to relationships.

You may also enjoy practicing balance while standing on one or both legs or on your arms as in the following practices:

Happy Knees Stability Yoga Practice video
Arm Balance Yoga for Energy video

Living a Balanced Life

Poise and coordination are the physical manifestation, dynamic postural alignment, coordinated and ready to move in any direction or maintain a position in space. 

We don’t operate in a vacuum, physically or metaphorically, we are moving through the world responding to our own needs and calling, and also to others, to changing circumstances and forces around us, in constantly-shifting relationships. Like physical balancing, the basic principles are universal, but exactly what it ends up looking like for each individual is unique. 

“Work-Life Balance,” family and career, input and creative output, community and solitude, so many media and venues and so little time. Yes, “work-life balance” is about making empowered choices, understanding that there are seasons of life, and true balance is change management.

In larger life, it is having a solid foundation of well-being in place, healthy priorities, a strong support system, and tools for purposeful and aligned decision-making, the presence to respond with sensitive awareness. I’m not saying it is ever easy or over, but there are lots of tools to help you strike your own sense of balance.

My recent series around the stages of my signature process is also relevant the the concept of personal and professional balancing:

Be Open to Easy Balancing

Remember finding balance can come more naturally when we are well-resources and relaxed. Try not to over think it, rather consider balancing simply as standing with stability, rootedness, dynamic posture on whatever part of the body it may be, not necessarily suspended in air far above the earth (although the principles work there as well).

We’re just trying out, playfully, just standing in different ways (arranging our body parts or our lives in different arrangements, not necessarily a tightrope walk far above the earth.

For perspective, here’s what that looks like:

Same skills, but very different context! Consider staring on a lower gradient and see where that takes you 🙂

Questions for Reflection

  • What is your relationship with balancing?
  • What habits help you to practice balance in your life?
  • What physical balancing practices do you particularly enjoy?
  • How can you bring a sense of play and exploration to your balancing efforts?
  • Could you use more steadiness, more ease, or both?
  • What resources do you have that you’re not currently utilizing to create balance in your life?
  • How might you be able to luxuriate, like a serpent, in your own movement and stillness?
  • What will you commit to doing today to create the stability and comfort of “Good Space” for yourself and for others?
  • How will you care for your body and foster integrity this week?

You are invited to take a playful approach to practicing balance today, and in every moment.

Balance Technique Resources

Life Balance & Self Care Resources

DISCLAIMER: A Blythe Coach recommends that you consult your physician regarding the applicability of any recommendations and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program. When participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself.

WordPress Cookie Plugin by Real Cookie Banner