Category Archives: yoga therapy

Piano lessons are worthwhile and an exercise in self-torture…

Here's a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano, and two of my mom's beautiful paintings.

Here’s a romantic evening shot of our sweet piano,

Do it well.

Do it with a good attitude.

Do it for a long time.

And you will become it.

Hazel and Nora started piano lessons a few months ago and it has been fascinating to see how they are each responding to the piano, the music, and a practice routine.  I’m watching their skills develop little by little each week. Hazel is a good student in all things. She keeps up with her work and doesn’t like to disappoint those that are counting on her. She also loves music. She practices, has a good attitude, and likes what she’s learning, which all help to make her a really good piano student. Nora, on the other hand, is not enjoying piano. It’s parental/child mutual torture to get her to practice even a few times a week. When Wes is here, she does her best to get him to talk about anything other than piano. He patiently keeps her on task. He might be a saint.

The girls have different attitudes about these lessons, but both are progressing. Nora is almost through her first book of songs and Hazel has moved on to some sheet music. Even though Nora is learning stuff and is getting better, there’s a notable difference (pun intended) in how much the music seems to be a part of each of them. Hazel likes it, owns it, and is really proud of what she has accomplished. Even though Nora is spending time at the piano, her real energy is going into avoiding the task. When she’s playing she’s really practicing wearing us down. On days we are very persistent, she focuses on cranking out the minimal amount of practice with as little effort and the least amount of attention possible. (True confession: As much as it annoys me, I can totally relate. I wasn’t much of a piano student and employed many of these tactics myself. )

Watching the girls learn this new skill makes me wonder about two things:

  1. What is my attitude when I practice yoga? Which kind of practitioner am I? Am I practicing with attention? Am I operating with a good and open attitude? And am I connected to what I’m learning? Or am I going through the motions but actually practicing  ‘avoiding what I’m really there to do’?
  1. Patañjali lays out the process of yoga and how we learn something new in Yoga sūtra 1.17 and it totally applies to piano lessons.

This sūtra says…

vitarka-when we first start piano, we have only a gross understanding of it

vicāra- as we practice, it becomes more subtle

ānanda- this process brings us joy

asmitā-rupa- eventually we know the piano so well that we become one with it.  We don’t have to think about correct posture or “every good boy does fine.”   It’s already there in our muscles and on the paper when we sit down.

anugamāt- It’s through this process over a long time that 

saprajñāta– our understanding of the instrument and the music that it makes, becomes a part of us. 

If we want to have more of something in our lives, then we need to spend time doing that thing. It’s not enough to merely go through the motions. We practice to have more of the kind of experiences we want and with an attitude that fosters a love of learning, ānanda. The experiences that help us to connect, earnestly and eagerly, to the things we want in our lives, are experiences that shape who we are and who we become.

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Registration now open!

Ojai Women’s RETREATIMG0172

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

AGY readers receive a $200 discount on or before May 15th!  Enter the code *RENEW2016* in your registration form under questions and comments. (*cannot be combined with any other discounts)

Learn more at http://handson-retreats.com or contact me with any questions you may have.

How to Take a Nap

MY husband, Dave, follows this comedian guy, David Rees, who hosts a series of how to videos about regular stuff. It’s called “Going Deep with David Rees.” Hot topics include: How to shake a hand, How to dig a hole, and How to open a door. With charm, seeming candor, clever graphics and a few expert special guests, he provides really good insight into the given topic in 22 minutes. Last night, we watched the episode: How to take a nap.

I’ve known that sleep has a function and the different cycles of sleep are important so the body can recover and recuperate from the work of the day. Ayurveda offers several guidelines to follow for good sleep. One suggestion is that you don’t eat right before sleep so that the body can do its best R&R without also having to divert energy toward digestive functioning. But there’s more happening during our sleep than letting the body recover and repair on a physical level. The different cycles of sleep are important for memory, processing experiences, and creativity. It helps us on a mental level, too!

According to our video’s sleep expert, there are 4 sleep cycles and they each serve a function.

  1. Hypnogogic or hypnic jerk can happen in this very light sleep stage. You might have the feeling of falling and then jerk awake.
  2. We visit a transitional stage at the beginning of sleep and again toward the end of sleep. This stage is believed to be important for motor skill learning.
  3. During Slow wave sleep we replay memories of the day
  4. In REM sleep, the recent memories that were reactivated during slow wave sleep are integrated creatively with other experiences. This is where the bizarre scenarios and random people may appear. .

It takes time to get all the way through a session REM sleep. A nap can serve a different function depending on it’s length

20 minutes can refresh your attention when energy slumps during the day.

60 minutes can take you through slow wave sleep allowing you to process your memories—good if you are studying for an exam or learning something new.

90 minutes is typically long enough to go through a cylce of REM sleep, which can be useful if you are an artist in need of a creative boost or a scientist awaiting the next breakthrough.

Of course these cycles also apply during our night-time sleep, too.

The more I learn about the wonderful and endlessly complex human system, the more humbled I am. There’s a wisdom to the way that we function and every aspect of that functioning can support us in balance and wellness. More and more, the effort I put toward healthy living is about setting up my activities and the pace of my days so that my system can do what it does with the fewest obstacles from me. If I want good sleep, I have to stay off of the computer after dinner. I need to have a daily schedule that isn’t super stressful, so I can feel at ease and relaxed most of the time. I need to practice yoga and go for a walk. I need days that aren’t so scheduled that I can lie down for that 20 minute nap when I feel the need. The way I see it, good sleep and general health isn’t going to come from tips and tricks. It comes out of a lifestyle that is balanced, and attitudes and behaviors that respect the inherent wisdom of the body.

ojai valley

REGISTRATION OPENS SOON!

OJAI WOMEN’S RETREAT

Practical Transformation: Healing your life from the inside out

with Amanda Green and Carol Prentice

AUGUST 31ST TO SEPT 5TH, 2016

Join me for 5 days in beautiful Ojai, CA, where you can replenish and reset with master teachers as your guides.  Steep in the wisdom of yoga, ayurveda, and the Alexander technique and well-being while enjoying delicious food,  beautiful accommodations and the surrounding Ojai valley.

 

Married, part II

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People Places Things — it’s a  movie

Dave and I have been back together for Married, Part II for a couple of years now. The hurt and the tumult of our separation isn’t so close to the surface anymore, though occasionally, a memory from that time will come up and I can feel it’s presence even if I’m not actively thinking about it. Like when you have gas… you can go about your day, but you aren’t as relaxed as you could be.

One evening last week, with the girls in bed and Dave out of town, I snuggled up on the couch to watch a movie. I picked one from the ‘quirky comedy’ list and, turns out, this story is about a couple navigating separation and co-parenting after divorce. With this story playing out on the screen, those gassy feelings I mentioned moved into the realm of fully conscious reflection. I could relate to the confusion, the excitement, and the parenting negotiations that went on with our hero and heroine. I appreciated the story telling that gave time for the uncomfortable stuff that’s a part of divorce. I was happy, in the end, when the two of them were able to move on.

Memory is such a funny thing. We might forget something that has happened to us, the details may fade, we may remember something correctly or incorrectly, or imagine something. However they come about, and in one form or another, these experiences stay with us. In the first chapter of the Yoga sūtras, Patañjali presents us with 5 functions of the mind, one of which is smṛti or memory*. In YS 1.11 he defines smṛti as the “unthievable record of your experience”**. Untheivable… can’t be stolen. I love that because it is totally true.

Memories don’t leave us, but as we create more memories, the old ones do change and can be refined. After the movie, I went to bed but didn’t fall asleep right away. I was having a lot of old break-up feelings.  They are so different now than when I was in the midst of it. Back then, I could feel my heart race and my body respond over the littlest reminder. This time, they didn’t overwhelm me.

Time heals. Yeah, okay. But the thing about time passing is that in that time, we have other experiences. Time spent laughing together, really listening to each other, offering care and feeling loved – all of these things leave their own memories and record behind.   These experiences have more power than the break-up ones once did.  The new experiences are the ones I want to connect to, and am trying my hardest to create. As a result, these new experiences are reshaping the old memories and giving rise to who we are together now.

 

 

*The 5 vṛtti, functions of the mind.

The mind can…

prāmaṇa — perceive correctly

viparyaya – perceive incorrectly

Vikalpa – create something that isn’t there (imagine or invent).

Nidra – be in a deep, dreamless sleep

Smṛti – create memories

 

*This translation comes from yoga sūtras classes I took with Chase Bossart.

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.