Category Archives: Individual yoga

The Yoga of Stand up Comedy

My husband, Dave, is hilarious and he has a great appreciation for comedy.  His sense of humor made me fall for the guy back in college and it’s a big part of why our relationship and our family life is still so much fun. One of the things Dave looks forward to each year is the Moontower Comedy Festival. It’s a weekend of mostly stand up comedy acts and with our passes around our necks, we get to see a variety of shows over the course of the festival.  Some shows showcase up-and-coming comics who each take the stage for a five-minute set. Mid-size venues feature a line-up of comics who are onstage for ten or fifteen-minutes.  And at the end of each night, the headliners, the comics who have been in the business for a long time, get an hour on stage to stand there and talk…and be funny… with only a microphone. I’m convinced that this is one of the hardest things that anyone could attempt to do, but somehow, the comedians make it look easy.

All the people in the festival are good, but some are really amazing, and those amazing ones always make me think about yoga. We have this idea that yoga happens on a colorful rectangular mat and involves pretzel like postures, but that’s not the real story. Yoga is a way of being and the comedians who flow with their material, timing, and audience embody this state. They are also themselves. Who they are comes through, and they aren’t trying to be anyone else. The Bhagavad Gita says that it’s better to do your own dharma imperfectly then to do someone else’s perfectly. This is true in comedy. In the best acts, the comedian is coming through.

When I’m in one of those audiences, time passes differently. I laugh because I’m connected to the person on stage, the jokes and the stories, and I can relate it to something I know within myself. I’m not the only one who feels it, either. These comics draw the biggest crowds. When we can feel the flow, the yoga, we know it and want to be around it.

How do these comedians get to be so good?  How do they reach this state of yoga?  They don’t get good by standing in front of their bathroom mirrors trying out all their jokes on themselves. It involves hundreds if not thousands of hours practicing their particular craft. They get up in front of crowds for five, and fifteen minutes at a time until they have the chops, the nerves and the material to deliver. They practice doing what they want to be able to do.  Patton Oswalt started doing comedy in 1988.  Colin Quinn – 1984. Chris Hardwick – 1991. Maria Bamford – 1998. I bet all of these people have had moments early in their respective careers in which they felt this flow, this state of yoga. Almost all of us have. But the cool thing is, with practice, it can happen with much more predictability and regularity.  Do it enough and eventually, it is possible to be in this state nearly all of the time.

Yoga’s definition holds a meaningful truth for each of us. We might not aspire to be comedians, but many of us do want to achieve a level of comfort, focused attention and flow within ourselves.  We want to get out of our own way and be ourselves, even if it’s a little messy and imperfect sometimes.  And here’s where our definition of yoga has to expand even further beyond mats and pretzels. The way that we move toward this state of being, a state of yoga, is through practicing yoga. That practice can involve rubber mats, but it doesn’t stop there. Practice supports us most when we bring that way of being in all that we do – into our relationships, the situations we encounter, and the way that we relate to our very own needs, desires, fears and passions. It would be nice if we could watch someone do something amazing and then decide to be there ourselves, but it doesn’t work that way.  We can’t will ourselves to have mastery of a skill or way of being.  The only thing we really can ‘do’ is practice and give ourselves the experience, again and again, of the way we want to be.

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Last Year’s Retreat was wonderful! Carol and I are doing it again and we’d love for you to join us.

Ojai Women’s Retreat

Nourishing the Feminine from Within:

Authentic Transformation  with Yoga, Ayurveda, & the Alexander Technique

August 30th to Sept. 4th, 2017

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green

Real Life. Real Tools.

Hawaii Retreat - Palm Trees
Come discover a new path that will nourish your Body, Mind, and Spirit.
http://handson-retreats.com

 

Awareness is good. Tools to do something about it is life changing.

Sylvia Colle, 1954 oil-on-canvas.  Balthus (French 1908-2001), collection of the St. Louis Art Museum

Balthus (French 1908-2001). “Sylvia Colle”, 1954 oil-on-canvas. , collection of the St. Louis Art Museum 

Differentiation: The ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional functioning.*

I wish that when I was a kid—a ‘sensitive, moody, emotional’ kid, someone had talked to me about this idea of differentiation. I think it would have been so helpful to know that some people can be especially affected by the moods and energy of other people and that sensitive people can learn healthy ways to hold onto themselves during those interactions.

Having the language to describe something like this along with the awareness of what happens is usfeul. Having practices that help to establish one’s emotional autonomy is life changing. It’s empowering. Practice is where we develop tools to use in all sorts of challenging moments that help regognize when we are getting pulled in a difficult direction and can do something about it. Regular practice can also influence and change what we believe to be our relationship to ourself and to others. We can go from distrust or fear in these relationships to something more secure and even joyful. This pursuit has been central to the work I’ve been doing through yoga.

When I began, I participated in group yoga classes. These experiences laid the groundwork for this work. The biggest change came with individualized practice and a relationship with my yoga mentor. Regular individual practice, with the guide of a yoga teacher, provides the method and the support for personal growth. The practices and philosophy of yoga can take us a very long way toward becoming the kind of person each of us wants to be.

If you’d like to know more, contact me. I offer a 20-min call to anyone who has questions about individual vs. group yoga or wonders if it’s the right time to begin a guided personal practice.

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*I came across this definition in the book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate. It’s an excellent book, though it’s not an easy one. There are stories of people who have suffered terrible tragedy and trauma and whose addictions have cost them greatly. Reading this has also provided plenty of opportunities to look at my own addictive behaviors (not easy either). Mate paints a very thorough picture of the different biological and psychosocial aspects of addiction and gives us hope for those who want to recover and heal. The book has stirred a lot in me. I highly recommend it.

 

Is balance and good self-care sexy?

 

amanda green yogaBalance has, in the past, seemed a little boring. Post-college I was not interested in all this self-care, self-reflection and routine that goes along with feeling balanced. It seemed much more fun, to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Read: moody and temperamental. Or maybe it was hard and I didn’t know how to do it. Self-discipline didn’t seem sexy or even accessible so I went to the other end of the spectrum making lack of routine and poor self-care (my body can handle anything!!!) my habit.

Last week, I confessed to some good habits that have slipped over the last few months. Hard won routines proved their worth as I made my way toward balance, but with the complications of sickness, travel and visitors, these things seemed to just fall away and brownies made their way into my late night life. When I’m not paying attention or not that mindful about how I go about my business, cravings and urges have much more sway over how I behave. Maintaining balance requires presence and a some effort.

The thing that I keep learning about balance is how good it really is. When I’m rested, nourished, and digesting well, I’m not distracted by the poor functioning of my body. My mind is more clear. I can be present with my family, students and friends. I feel connection more than isolation. I can stay with a thought or idea much longer. It actually can be really attractive. But then something happens and the seemingly elusive balanced state shifts. I forget how much I like it. I yearn for the familiar distraction of being under-slept or over-fed.

Moving in and out of balance is part of life. In the first Chapter of the yoga sūtras, Patañjali lists a whole bunch of things, called antarayas, that get us all at some point or another. Yoga sūtra 1.30 lists the following as interruptions to balance: Illness, mental fatigue, doubt, haste, physical fatigue, over-indulgence, having a view of ourselves that isn’t actually the case, failing to meet a goal, aging and regressing… these experiences can bump someone who is rocking a balanced lifestyle and good habits into a ditch.

If we know how good it is to be in balance, or if the discomfort of being scattered and distracted causes enough problems, we can and usually do come back. This process might teach us something about our own tendencies and help us to find deeper compassion for these human foibles we all face.

Balance and self-care sometimes involves brownies

 

kids crossing a stream

Ask yourself the question how as a woman, mother, wife, teacher do you find ways in which to nourish yourself and stay balanced in your life. What are some of the things you do? You can write 2-3 paragraphs. 

I’m teaching yoga at a retreat this summer and I’ve been given this writing prompt as a way of sharing what I have to offer as a teacher during the 5-days in Ojai, CA. I have to laugh, because over the last few months I’ve been kind of hard on myself about all the things I’m not doing. Lately, a lot of my nourishing routines and hard won ‘good’ habits are slipping. As I sit down to write this, I’m finishing off my second brownie… and it is way past 8:00pm.

It’s not just the brownies. On this side of a big family trip, house guests, and a bout of sickness, my body is kind of tired, so I’m not rising before the sun. Instead, I do my yoga practice after I get the girls go to school. I’m not pushing myself to strive and accomplish quite as much during my work-week because the weather has been so beautiful and the garden calls to me. I have an exam that’s coming due, but instead of studying during the 30 minutes before the girls are home from school, I read my first romance novel. I found the discarded book poking out from under a bush as I walked through the neighborhood with a friend. On the cover I could see a little drawing of a cabin and hearts pouring out of the chimney. The title, in its fancy golden script, shone in the sunlight : Manhunt, by Janet Evanovich. I picked it up and slipped it into my purse, deciding to read it all the way to the end. And I have.

There have been times when I prided myself on all of the things I’d do each day in the name of balance and self-care. For about a year, I had an expanding list of do’s and don’ts taped next to my bathroom sink so I wouldn’t forget the recommendations of my Āyurvedic practitioner. I wrote out the prayer that I wanted to recite to begin my day and kept that at my bedside. The details of my yoga practice were in a special binder next to my mat so I could stay true to what my teacher gave me. These routines and special efforts were really important, as was the sense of empowerment and pride I felt when I did what I intended to do. It helped me to see that I can play an active part in how I feel. These routines made it possible to live in a more conscious and intentional way. Through this period, with the guidance of people who know me and care about me, I saw how engaging with simple things, earnestly and sincerely, does truly nourish.

Right now I’m discovering that my path to balance and nourishment doesn’t look the same as it did two years ago. I need to be easier on myself. After all, the occasional brownie at 9pm isn’t the end of a good life lived. And balance isn’t a destination. We don’t arrive at “Perfectly Nourished” and then just hang out there for the rest of our lives. It’s an ongoing process. Just like we have to eat, drink, and breathe every day, we need to continue to nourish ourselves in other important ways, again and again, each day. As time passes and we change, the ways we care for ourselves may change, too. Rigid and disciplined routines, though very necessary to help me establish good self-care and empower myself, aren’t what I need at the moment. Now, nourishment is coming from a schedule that is more spacious and spontaneous. I’m more balanced as I learn to look with less judgment and more compassion at the moments when good habits slide. It comes from time with family, time with friends and a community of people who are also engaged in this process. We support each other along the way.

 

Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREAT

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th! IMG0172

REAL LIFE. REAL TOOLS.

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT. 5TH, 2016

This 5-day retreat is specially designed to teach you the art of unlearning and letting go of old patterns that have long since lost their usefulness while also providing precious leisure time which allows these new skills and understandings to become more rooted in your daily life.

We teach YogaAyurveda and the Alexander Technique in a practical and meaningful way so that when you return home you will have useful tools to keep this new, balanced relationship going—not only within yourself but with everyone around you.

Carol P. Prentice ~ Amanda Green ~ Sydney Laurel Harris

Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments to receive your discount. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

 

This class begins May 10th, and it’s free! Yoga for Addiction Recovery

 

Mundane vs. Miraculous; The Battle Continues

Hazel as a little baby. Parenting a little baby is the ultimate experience of mundane-ity and miracle-ity all in one adorable little package

I have a yoga practice that I do just about every morning. It involves some chanting, movement, breathing, meditation and prayer. It’s the same practice at the same time and in the same place every day. It’s worth doing. My personal practice is the vital and foundational way I connect to myself, to others, and to God.

I practice in the early morning when lights are out and the house is quiet. It’s a special time of day. When I’m connected and really present, each breath can feel like a little miracle — like a conversation with something divine. It brings such sweetness to the day and reminds me of how I want to be.

It’s not always like this, though. This morning, for example, I caught myself going through the motions like some yoga-automaton. I was half way through my second āsana when I realized I’d been reviewing client appointments and thinking about emails that I hadn’t responded to. I’m not waking up at 5:15 am to think about emails. I brought my attention back to my practice then my mouth watered at the thought of the cup of tea I’d make for myself. I wondered what the weather was like outside and if I could go on a walk. I remembered that the library books are overdue. I kept going through the motions, but I wasn’t really there. My thoughts were somewhere disappointingly mundane. There was no little miracle feeling. There was no particular connection to myself and no awareness of God.

And it occurred to me that this may be my primary work right now– moving toward this special connected feeling and being there more and more of the time. If one end of the spectrum looks like going through the motions, (not just in my yoga practice but in teaching, parenting, being a friend) with my mind and my attention somewhere else, then the other end of the spectrum is this present, aware, connected place in which every moment is a blessing and miracle. This is where I want to be.