latest episode

Got an overwhelming project?

Tackle your goal or problem in baby steps.

At least, that's what all get-shit-done advice says. Dive in with a plan that you can follow, one that includes small steps that you know will be manageable, and leave the far away goal out of the everyday picture.

I think that's good advice, but sometimes the pieces you need to work on are so tiny, that you might not even think to put them on a to do list, even though they may be the foundation of all that follows on your path.

So how do you work on them, then?

You get tiny, too.

This lesson I borrow from Myazaki's film “The Borrower Arrietty”. It's the story of “a family of tiny people who live secretly in the walls and floors of a typical household, borrowing items from humans to survive.”

The Borrowers are tiny to us, as we are giant to them. And yet, they are able to see our giant world in light of their needs – transforming one sheet of tissue into cotton bedding, a sewing pin into a climbing pick, double stick tape into spiderman-like suction for hands and feet…

Every day they enter into a world of enormity and see the possibility it carries for them. And while this is their normal, they had to learn that normal to thrive.

If we can learn to change our scale of vision like the Borrowers, we will see new ways to thrive, too.

And at every different scale, there may be a problem or solution staring us in the face that we hadn’t seen before.

If you feel stuck on a project, try looking at it from a new angle. Get inside and see "what it's made of." Observe it from multiple perspectives including your own to find its essence. Work with that core element to find your solution.

See a mountain as the pile of rocks that it is and you, too, can move mountains.

Observing with you,

We made it!

We made it to the other side of summer into glorious fall!

I LOVE fall. I live for fall! It is hands down the best. time. of. year.

Every summer I get a small kick out of not needing socks or coats, but mostly, I just pine for fall.

And now that it's here, I can relax. (Apologies if I sound unapologetically gleeful.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going on vacation and my fall schedule is craaaazy.

But in fall, I feel like myself, so I can handle the crazy.

I know some of you feel a lil' of the same -- and some of you are just sad as can be at the loss of summer and all that it brings.

So here's what I want you to do to balance the scales a bit:

Ask yourself: in which season do you feel most "relaxed," most at ease --most like yourself?

Can you bring some of that season into your least relaxed season?

Like I try every summer to escape to green spaces without heat waves. Failing that, I stake out great coffee shops with AC and a park view.

If you're a summer person, try scheduling regular saunters and picnic lunches (or the indoor equivalent!). Soak up extra sun whenever you can. Keep the feeling of summer freedom alive.

Schedule even just ten minutes of "summer" (or fall or spring or winter) each day, and it may just keep you more relaxed all year long.

What simple seasonal things do you do to relax and how can you use them to make your whole year a little more you?

Stay cool (or sunbathed!).

Observing with you,

Ahh, Labor Day

There's something special about Labor Day Weekend.

It's a bridge, for many of us, between play and work --a little like New Year's, but with a different mood.

At New Year's, I feel myself and my students "resetting" with determination. Determination fueled by frustrated exhaustion. Which kinda sucks, no?

But as we head into Labor Day Weekend, I notice a different feeling. We seem refreshed by the lazy ease that summer encourages. Plans for a productive fall come about almost without trying! Plans that most of us follow, because we've already reset, no resolutions needed.

I know not all of you have a "typical" schedule and Labor Day may not bring that last long weekend of summer. But most of us can acknowledge some sort of shift around this time.

What does Labor Day signal for you?

A shift from the relaxing pace of summer to the a busy chaos in fall?

A blissful transition from the sluggish misery of August to the refreshing crispness of September? (Hand raised right here.)

Or does it just come and go like any other day?

Take a few moments in the next week(s) to observe how you feel about this shift. What's the quality of the shift? What's the mood of your summer and the temperament of your fall?

Are you happiest in summer? Or in fall? Or indifferent to both?

Enjoy, whatever you do!

Observing with you,

How much mobility do you need?

Human joints can move in predictable ways that are more or less the same for all of us.

More or less the same means we do not move in exactly the same ways.

Why is this?

First there's the mobility you're "born with". It's the mobility determined both by the shape of your bones and your soft tissue make up.

Then, there's the mobility you nurture (or don't) through the activities you do (or don't do).

How these two intersect results in your mobility. The exact path and quality of your joint movement is specific to your skeleton and your life.

Let's say you want to be an Olympic gymnast. But you're also 6'3".

You might be able to manage the feat, but your training would need to accommodate the extra foot of height that you'd bring to the sport.

Or say you love to run. But you have lax ligaments and "wobbly" joints.

You can run, but you'll need to engage in targeted strength training to avoid injury.

Not every factor can be trained away.

Take my ballet example from a few weeks back: I don't have the hip joints for professional ballet. That is, I can do ballet, but I can't create the look that is competitive in a professional sphere. All because my hip joint structure is the way that it is.

No biggie, but important for me to know so I don't go pushing my body into shapes it just. cannot. create.

Herein lies the danger of "more" for the sake of more...

At some point you've got the mobility you need to be you and do the thing you love in a way that honors your unique skeleton. That's flexibility. That's enough.

Missed the Mobility Worksheet?

To help you learn a few things about your own joint mobility, I made a chart of the movement expectations of your spine --the center or starting point of all whole-body movement.

Download it now to learn about your own movement!

Observing with you,


About 7 out of 10 newcomers to yoga warn me: "I'm not very flexible."

The other 3 tell me they've started because they want to be "more" flexible.

9 out of 10 times these newcomers have plenty of "flexibility."

What they do often lack is functional mobility.

What's the difference between mobility and flexibility?

Nothing more than semantics, perhaps. But I love semantics, so let's break down the words to see what's here:

Mo - bility = Move - ability = the ability to move

Flex -ibilitythe ability to flex or bend

Who needs a lot of bend-ability? Gumby.

Who needs a lot --and I do mean a LOT-- of move-ability? Athletes.

And who needs a normal amount of mobility? That's right. You and me. 

Use Your Mobility

If you're a sassy sort, like me, you might be thinking, "Esther, ability to move what exactly?"

And what IS just as important as how much.

It's not willy nilly movement we - nor athletes - can use.

For everyday stuff, we need a certain amount of mobility in each joint, and there is an upper limit.

Here's an example of too much: If you could touch your right big toe to your right shin, you'd rightfully want to start freaking out a bit. You wouldn't be walking much that's for sure.

Why is this useful to know?

Because at some point more isn't better, more is just more. And of course, too little gets in the way of life.

Get to Know Your Mobility

To help you learn a few things about your own joint mobility, I made a chart of the movement expectations of your spine --the center or starting point of all whole-body movement.

Click here to open + download the pdf.

Next week we're going to address mobility for specific purposes. This -- figuring out how to do something we can't yet do -- is where many of us learn the most about ourselves.

Observing with you,


What did you learn about your bones in last week's post?

A whole bunch?

Not so much?

Or maybe it wasn't your bones that caught your attention, but your response to palpating them (or just the idea of it)...

We need touch

Touch is right up there with shelter and community in the roster of our human needs. We need it to be comfortable and to thrive.

And because of that, it's something most of us have an opinion about.

Maybe it's an unshared thought, but it's there. If you're not sure about that, try this:

Contemplate being a massage therapist.

Do you start to imagine how great that'd be, to connect with others and heal through touch?

Or can you not get past the part where you'd have to touch whoever showed up on your table?

There's a spectrum there and most of us fall somewhere in between. (I've been on both ends of it myself.)

What about you?

Studies* demonstrate the value of touch to our well being. And while we all need it, we don't all need just any touch.

How do you honor your individual relationship to touch?

Get to know what it is. (It's likely nuanced.)

And then, years from now or bit by bit as you go, you can start to hold space for your needs, preferences, and dislikes.

Start by paying attention to your instincts: do you rush in for a hug or a handshake? Is it the same with just about everyone? Or are there distinguishing lines between family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances?

Is touch soothing or does it put you on the alert?

What you notice in yourself may surprise you, and it may take some time for it to surface.

And, of course, while touch may be part of the crazy cocktail of good juju we need for our wellbeing, there is no one way that suits all of us.

Notice --then respect-- your way.

Observing with you,

* When I find a study or research report that I just love, I share it ontwitter and facebook. Follow me there if you want a heads up on the latest interesting mind/body research.

PS: If you didn't get the bone palpation (touch) worksheet last week, you can still grab it and go through the exercises here.

Want to know a little something about yourself?

You. have. 208 bones!

Well... maybe. It's a possibility. It's even a probability. But without some full body x-rays, I can't say for sure.

Because even though we human beings are pretty similar person to person, we're never exactly the same.

And this is true to the bone. Or bones. 208-ish of them.

Our bony variance is not just in the number of bones, but also in the size, shape, density, and arrangement. (Skeletons are soooo darn cool!)

You and I are alike enough that patient people can write textbooks with statements like "there are 208 bones in the human skeleton."

We're also different enough that no textbook can tell you everything.

That's where self observation comes in. (Or, sometimes, observation by movement + anatomy nerds like me.)

You can look at your specifics and, with some help, figure out how you're "textbook" and how you're more, well, you.

It's a pretty useful thing to figure out, because while your unique skeleton may not determine what you do, honoring it can determine how you go about doing it.

Take me, for example. I am a dancer. But my skeleton is set up just so, that no matter how I train, I'd never make much of a ballet dancer --I just don't have the hip structure for it.

Now, I don't want to be a ballet dancer. But knowing a thing or two about my skeleton can help me honor what my skeleton can do when I pop into ballet class. (Just because I'm not "built for ballet," doesn't mean I can't practice it.)

I want you to get to know your skeleton this week.

Start with simple palpation. Anatomy word alert! "Palpate" means touch or feel. That's right, you're going to observe through touch. Don't worry, I've got a worksheet to help guide you. Helpful tips throughout. Click here to view a pdf that you can download.

Have fun! And if you make it through the whole skeleton, I definitely want to hear about it. Send in your comments using the form below!

Observing with you,


PS: I don't know why each of us is unique, but I do know that our variances make us human... make us... us. And I love it.

Photo by University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences used under CC license

Rituals ground us.

Once something is routine, it takes less mental effort. The ritual gets completed more or less through its own momentum.

Routines and rituals are awesome!

Unless, of course, you've got a crappy routine. One that gets in the way of how you want to feel, what you want to do, how you want to live... and is now running on auto-pilot!

A routine that has settled into your brain and your bones is tough to change. Tough, but not impossible. Break it down step by step, and you can change what you want to change.

Does this open up a pandora's box of self observation for you?

Are you sure something is "off" but aren't sure how to figure out what?

For now, let's stick with setting you up for a good night's sleep.

Set your evening routine to suit you

We need to feel safe and relaxed to fall asleep and sleep well. (Being bone tired does the trick, too.) That's why end of day routines are so useful. By being familiar, they ground you, make you comfortable on some level.

But just sorta comfortable isn't what we're going for.

I want you to feel like you did when you were a kid: tucked into bed, Dad reading you The Amazing Bone for the fiftieth time.

So check in: how do you feel when you go to bed? Just kinda normal or genuinely relaxed?

If most nights you go to bed feeling calm and at-ease, then keep doing what you're doing! At some point, well is good enough and better is a misuse of your energy.

If your mood at bedtime isn't what you want, changing something about your evening routine may help.

Here's how:

Once you get used to observing how you feel at the end of your day, start to notice if certain activities shift how you feel.

Here's an example of what I mean: Say you leave work feeling tense, then go to the bar for a drink (or your local yoga studio for class!) and, shortly after, leave feeling more relaxed.

That's a ritual that addresses the need to feel relaxed.

Pay attention to how you feel, what you do in response, and how that action actually effects you.

When you notice a routine behavior (drink after work) that isn't truly having the effect you want, try adding a new behavior to it (go to yoga first).

It might be hard to make that addition at first, but try! Schedule it in and it will be right there on the calendar: yoga... and you still get to go to the bar after!

And then, bit by bit, you may realize you've replaced the need for a drink.

Basta! Ritual changed. Kinda painlessly.

Of course, there are other examples where the swap isn't so neat. It's okay if a great idea flops.

Experiment, but also give yourself a break between testing ideas. In this case, too much trial and error may be crazy making!

You can tackle the problem through physiology by trying soothing activities (bubble bath anyone?). You can read a host of classic suggestions here. None of them works for me, but that shouldn't matter to you.

If you love setting aside time to drink your valerian root tea before bed, hold space for that. Don't let anyone tell you it's not important!

And if, like me, you think drinking tea every night sounds about as soothing as taking your vitamins, then screw that! It's ok and right for us all to need different things.

Find your thing and own it. Because that's when we feel at ease, when we feel like we are truly free to be ourselves without judgment.

Observing with you,


For many of us, the morning routine has the least variability of all our daily habits. Because of this, you may have found it tough to stop and notice how you feel; it's just so darn "every day"!

I hope you did notice a thing or two, because now we're gonna talk about what to do with it. (Didn't get the heads up to observe how you feel in the mornings? Don't miss out anymore, sign up here!)

How to wake the way you want

There are so many factors that go into shaping your morning. Most of them are out of your control. How can you respond to what is?

Keep in mind what you've observed of "how you feel on waking" as we tackle some variables you can address.

First, how do you feel on waking and what do you do in response?

Some feel groggy getting out of bed and immediately step in the shower to wake up.

Others rise feeling full of energy and go for a run to put it to use.

I wake up curious and spend time engaging my churning brain in learning.

What do you feel on waking? And what's the first thing you do?

  1. Something that makes you feel like a kid again? or
  2. Something that makes you feel like an over-burdened grown-up?

Aim for something that makes you feel like your morning self --whether that's sluggish or chipper!

I went from a morning yoga asana practice to a morning reading/writing practice. And I totally feel like I'm getting away with bad yogi behavior, since it's bored into us that you should do your yoga practice first thing --to set your day up right and so you don't forget to fit it in. But, dudes! Screw that! For now, my new practice works so much better than meditation at setting up my day right.

But! There was a time when yoga and meditation did the trick. I still highly recommend a morning yoga practice! It may be just what you need.

Next, what'd you do last night? maybe it's affecting your morning mood.

I love a neat glass of fine whiskey, but more than one too close to bedtime and there goes my morning clarity.

On the flip side, if I go to bed without at least a little bit of wind down time, I wake up at 4am realizing I left an unread email in my inbox. And then I get sucked in to the drudgery of admin tasks. Such a waste of good learning time. *Sigh*

Let go of the day before so you can start the new one afresh. (Easier said than done, but that's why we're talking about it!)

Do any of your evening habits sabotage your mornings?

We'll look at this in more detail in two weeks, but for now, just start to notice if you can connect any evening habits to any morning discomfort (too much scotch before bed, that's not just me --it'll throw your morning outta whack, too.)

Or! Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who's got the perfect bedtime ritual and wakes every day just as you need to.

Bravo you! What are you doing that's working? Protect it! And if you can't always stick to it, know that you may need something extra to move into your day without feeling "off."

Does your schedule match your mornings?

Are you a night owl with a 9-5 work schedule? Are you a morning bird teaching evening classes?

You may be disrupting your unique biorhythm without realizing it. In a perfect world, you can change your schedule to be more efficient in your sleep-wake patterns. But since it's not a perfect world (yet), maybe you can accommodate the mismatch with a small shift in your habits.

What evening or morning ritual can you adapt to better support your natural patterns despite a tough schedule?

Night Owls: If the science has it right, it takes you longer to wake up in the morning because your circadian rhythm is slow. This means give yourself more time.

Take the two hours you need from alarm to exit. This means you'll need to go to bed earlier, which may be rough for you.

Try this: set an ideal time to be asleep by, start your wind down process the hour before, and if you're still winding down with reading or something for an hour beyond your sleep time, so be it. Enjoy more of your book! Or whatever. Ideally this won't happen every night. But if it's more often than not, try amping up your exercise routine. Strong exercise will help most of us sleep better --just make sure it's not too close to bed time, because that may keep you awake longer!

Morning Larks: If you must be productive late into the day, give yourself permission to take mental/energy breaks earlier in the day. Take an extended coffee break (or nap) and set yourself up for a second wind!

If you're arriving home close to your bed time, do give yourself some wind down time, but just the minimum, so you can get to bed at as normal an hour as possible. You'll be up early, after all.

What's the minimum? My abbreviated wind down usually involves a bowl of noodles and about 20-30 minutes with my latest silly sitcom of choice. For you, it may be a cozy cup of chamomile tea in a quiet room.

The best way to find it? Start paying attention to what you're doing now and how it makes you feel. If anything makes you feel not great, try removing it (one day at a time). No need to fill the space --a better habit often comes about on its own.

Whatever your mini wind-down is, once you know it, you can rely on it.

Sleep is awesome

We should all be getting enough sleep (quality sleep! we'll talk about this next week). How much sleep exactly is again specific to you, but there are low and high limits!

Once you've figured out where you fall in the spectrum, own it. And do whatever you can to get the sleep YOU need. That makes your mornings better, which tends to make you a nicer person, too.

While you're doing all this noticing of how you feel on waking up, keep an eye out for yucky morning symptoms! Some indicate an underlying health issue that you should get checked out. If you're concerned, click here to read an article on several common ones.

Treating yourself right isn't always easy, but you're worth it.

Go make your mornings the way you want them to be!

Observing with you,

When I teach a yoga class, I try to let a little food for thought filter in through the steps and breaths.

Some days, the most magical phrases tumble out.

The eloquence of what I've just said astonishes me.

Did I really just say something that I'm willing to pretend sounded smart and useful? How did that happen?

I'm especially surprised because I don't anticipate or plan for these moments of wit. (When I do, I trip over every word. Classic.)

But whether my words are tentatively planned or off the cuff, I've now built a habit (through the practices I shared to my email list last week) of observing what I say. I try to notice whether it has the effect I need it to -- and even more so, what effect it actually has -- on others and on me. 

You know what that does?

It helps me admit that my speech isn't just mine, it's yours, too.

By virtue of being communication, the words we say don't "belong" to us in the way that maybe our thoughts do.

We all know the old adage that what you say matters. We know now thatwords can hurt and words can heal. And I want you to keep all of that in mind as you think back on your observations of how you speak with the different people in your life.

Because I'm guessing you found that your speech varies for different groups of people --sometimes to your detriment, sometimes to theirs, and, with luck, often to the mutual benefit of both.

Here's an example of what I mean. My husband, dear gentle soul, drops f-bombs in response to the slightest mishaps. Spilled milk and the like. His crass exclamations are for his benefit only. In an instant, they help him let go of his frustration. Thankfully, when his nephew is around, he's a little more careful.

Or say, when I'm in a training full of yoga teachers whom I've just met, I'm likely to respond to a thoughtful comment with "Thank you for sharing. I appreciate what you just told us." But with my friends, I'd just say "omg, I know!"

See what I did there? With friends, I keep my support vague and emotional. With colleagues, I set up my support with precision and formality.

Take note of the words you say, those you choose carefully and those you don't make any effort to control, and you'll start to amass solid data on how you view yourself and others.

And trust me, working with solid data makes it much easier to speak your piece and play your part in all your relationships.

Go on. Get talking... and noticing.

Observing with you,

this is mov/ed

A space to move, heal, and be true to yourself. Want a personal introduction? Let's talk. 
copyright © 2021 esther m palmer