The Great Leap Forward

A week ago, I closed my latest show. It will also likely be my last. After almost a decade of professional stage management, I’m stepping away. It’s not out of anger or resentment. It’s because I felt it was time to practice exactly what it is I teach.

In creating The Average Yogi, I wanted to cultivate a philosophy of joy, acceptance, and stepping into your own power. To put it in a more “me” way, I want you to enjoy the shit out of your life and your body, I want to come to my class and my website and walk away an inch taller and a step closer to loving themselves. I want to build a supportive space where the offbeat is honored, and we run towards the things that make us happy instead of labeling them as guilty pleasures.

For the last 2 decades, I have been involved in theater in one way or another. I started acting at 1-, and whenever I thought it was time to “grow up” or “move on”, something pulled me back in. I interned in Stage Management straight out of college, and by the skin of my teeth I kept working. I PA’d, ASM’s, and eventually turned equity and started Stage Managing. I pursued what I loved.

Here’s the thing. After a while, it started to feel like it didn’t love me back. Stage Management is, well, management. Making notes, writing up blocking, creating schedules, and hourly reports, and following all the rules of the theater you’re working in. It’s about making sure the designers know what the director wants, that the actors go where they’re supposed to, and when. It is the absolutely vital backbone to support everyone’s creative process. Everyone’s but your own.

After a while, my own creative voice got quieter. I justified it, saying that I was working with incredible talent.I worked best as a quiet part in the background. My voice wasn’t important. It didn’t matter.

Eventually, I looked up and realized that I was missing something, Here were these phenomenal designers, actors, and playwrights, all passionately creating something. I wanted that. I wanted to CREATE. And theater wasn’t the avenue where I could do that.

So I’m taking a great leap towards yoga. I’m shining a light on the place where I feel creative. I’m shaking up the etch-a-sketch and starting over. I don’t expect it to be easy, and I won’t close the door on theater permanently. I still love it, but my relationship with the arts will be one where I don’t rely on theater to survive.

From here on out, I’m supporting people, supporting women in their work. And I’m supporting myself. When people ask what I do, now I get to say:

I’m a yoga teacher.
I help people find their voice.
And I’m finding my own.

What Now?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a pretty vulnerable piece based on what was happening n my life. It was raw, and necessary, and I am so thankful for the outpouring of support that I received in its wake. Seriously, thank you.

In the wake of that, life returns to a version of normal. I’m back in the rhythm, but more aware, or trying to be. And I promised byself that I would keep writing. But when I put pen to paper this time, my first real thought was, “What now?”

What now that I have expressed what was happening at such a rickety time? Where do I go from there that feels right and sincere?

I think the answer is that I can’t fall back into old habits of being witty instead of being open. When I write, it shouldn’t be about a quick quip. That’s not as satisfying as a deeper truth.

So here’s what’s now:

Now I let myself be vulnerable. I let what I put on the page be honest, open, and, yes, vulnerable. I can’t guarantee it will be pretty, or that I’m going to come acrss as some great motivational force. That’s not what I’m aiming for. I hope whatever it is that crawls out of my brain and onto the page is hreard and appreciated by someone, somehwere, but I’m not going to airbrush my viewpoint so it comes across as wisdom.

So here’s my promise, and my truth:

  • My hair’s bound to be a mess
  • I will drink too much coffee, and practice less often than I think I should
  • I will be awkward at social events, and break glassware frequently
  • I’ll be weird, and imperfect, and vulnerable
  • I’ll be me

On Community

I’ve been meaning to write up a new blog post for a while. Yesterday morning I threw something together about my recent trip to Las Vegas. It was cute, and a little funny, and maybe I’ll post it someday. The thing is, life intervened.

Last night my upstairs neighbor passed away. We weren’t particularly close, but it’s a small building (4 units total) – we said hello and have a good day to each other, and I always saw his cat, Buddy, meandering the building. The part that’s thrown me for a loop is that my neighbors and I found him.

I won’t get into the details, but I will give you a snapshot of the day. Buddy was making a big fuss, which led to Hyo checking the garage and finding John’s car, which led to Tom knocking on his door, then telling us to call an ambulance. Then the cascade started. The rest of the night was a blur of ambulances, police, firemen, the medical examiner, all asking questions again and again. Gaby was holding Buddy, I was hugging Hyo and texting Marcus, hoping he got those messages before he got on the bike home – no such luck. Then it was stricken landlords; us pleading with the M.E. and Animal Control to not take Buddy (this is his home, he’s always around, he’s old and not in the best shape, he just told us something was wrong) to no avail;  Marcus coming home to all of us on the second floor landing; me rushing to explain before the coroner got there…

There were hugs and tears, and jokes to fill the air. And while this all was happening I was okay. I’m my father’s daughter: in a time of crisis, I can handle things, make calls, comfort people. I was okay. I was fine.

Then I woke up this morning to a quiet apartment, and it all sort of hit me. I meditated and sat with my thoughts for a while, but in the end, I needed to reach out and talk to someone. And so I did. There were calls and texts and Facebook posts; I had lunch with a friend from college.

And that’s why I’m posting this.

This isn’t a story about me. It’s about community. No man or woman is an island. John wasn’t the most social person, but he had friends. And he had a whole apartment building of people who cared about him enough to ring the bell, knock on his door. He was kind and loved. He had a community. Me coping alone in an empty house, silently, didn’t make it better. But when I reached out to my community, they reached right back and held on.

That’s the lesson I choose to take away from this. No matter how alone you feel, you have a community. There are people there to love you and support you. Go through it alone if you want to, but not because you feel you have to. Open your arms and you will be held. Hurt, and you will be soothed.

You are not alone.

You are loved.

Confessions of an Average Yogi

I’ve recently come to a realization: I’m average. I’m a size medium, an 8 1/2 in the shoe department, average height, average weight, and when it comes to my yoga practice? Well…

I’ve been practicing yoga for six years now, and teaching for almost two. In that time my practice has evolved, but it’s also hit some definite walls. Compared to other people, I have never been the most flexible, and teacher training was a drastic example of how outclassed I was in the bendy department. Add to that the general expectation of what a yoga instructor should look like and be able to demonstrate, the constant Instagram challenges, popular YouTube channels, and article after article of asanas that other people make look natural, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that there’s nothing phenomenal or interesting about my practice. I’m average.

It wouldn’t get to me so much if I didn’t feel like “average” was a four-letter word. In the studio and online, everyone needs a hook; something to make them stand out, draw attention, and gain followers. You don’t see people boasting about working to maintain their less-than perfect body. No one posts a picture in upavista konasana (wide legged straddle) where they’re struggling to lean forward. So, with my practice where it is, and my body what it is, what the hell do I have to offer?

First thing I can offer that that voice of doubt inside is a resounding response of, Shut the hell up. The fear of being unextraordinary, of being average is, well, normal. But it’s also unnecessary. What I am on paper may be average, but a person is more than a dot on the bell curve. I am not my inability to stick a handstand. YOU are not your arbitrary failures, or plateaus.

That’s where this site comes in to play. I wanted to create The Average Yogi as a place for people feeling stuck, frustrated, or down to find joy. The truth is, you are not alone in feeling less than brilliant. But you are brilliant. You are the culmination of a lifetime’s worth of learning, work, setbacks, habits, likes, dislikes, workouts, Wine Wednesdays, and everything in between.

A year and a half ago, I broke my wrist and elbow. Two years ago, I couldn’t do a headstand. Five years ago? Knee surgery. Six years ago and I couldn’t even touch my toes. Take a moment to look back through your practice and realize how far you’ve come. Your own personal progress is extraordinary. Don’t dismiss it.

The moral of the story is simple – average is just a label. It’s only discouraging if we let it be. It’s dismissive of the amazing, complex person and yoga practitioner you are. My goal, in my life and on this site, is to reclaim that word. I hope to turn average into something not to be dismissed. Embrace the extraordinary, ordinary, complex, historied person that averages out to be you.

The Average Yogi

5 Steps to Resetting a Shitty Day

Today I experienced one of my least favorite feelings while working out. A brief background: At the beginning of the year, in a fit of resolution-induced crazy, I committed to Mudderella, a 7 mile run + obstacle course. Since February, I’ve added cross training to my weekly routine. Several very sore weeks later, I’ve started to find the rhythm of interval training, running, and yoga. Today I took my interval training to the streets, as it were, and used an outdoor fitness court. I was in round two when The Crappy Moment happened.

Marina Green Fitness Court
The Scene of the Crime

A tourist biking by stopped, looked at the fitness court, laughed, pulled out his camera, took photos, and then biked away. Let me say that again: he LAUGHED and TOOK PHOTOS of me, then biked away. I looked around the fitness court, hoping someone was doing something funny and photo worthy. Like, I dunno, a clown in assless chaps doing burpees with a giant marquee sign that said “LAUGHTER” in flashing letters. Sadly, no ass-bearing clown. Instead, there was a trainer and a woman kicking serious workout ass. At that moment my brain started its spectacular cascade of feeling like shit.

together california cotton candy blossom pants
The pants of the crime.

First, the logic breakdown:

– My pants are bright and colorful. Maybe it’s that.
– Outdoor exercise is atypical behavior, hence funny.
– Tourists are prone to finding mundane things entertaining and photo worthy.

Somewhere in the next set of reps came the self recrimination:

– he laughed because I look like a joke
– he laughed because I was doing it wrong
– he laughed at my hair
– he laughed at my weight
– he laughed at me

BUT this isn’t an article about self-pity. This is an article about the fact that we ALL have this moment – this “quit while I’m behind” despairing, disparaging, self-loathing, progress-halting moment. And so as an average, vaguely enlightened person, I have to say Fuck That Feeling. That Feeling is useless. Get rid of it. Here are 5 steps to kick that crappiness to the curb.

1. Do an extra rep.

Whatever you’re doing, add 5-10 more minutes to it. If it’s cardio, push yourself harder. If it’s yoga, twist deeply and challenge yourself. Sweat it out. Use your frustration as fuel and then let yourself get wrapped up in the movement.

2. Wash it off.

It sounds basic, but take a shower. Make it ritualistic and wash off the bullshit that you feel. Make a rule for yourself- once your foot hits the bathroom tile and you leave the shower, you’ve left that doubt to disappear down the drain. Don’t carry it after you leave the bathroom, but don’t judge yourself or punish yourself if it comes back up in your head. There’s still 3 steps left.

3. Put on that pair of pants.

There’s something in your closet that you love to wear. It makes you feel awesome and sexy and like strutting out toe door. Put that on. Enjoy the way it makes you feel. This is your armor, and your reminder that you are a hot badass not a hot mess.

4. Hold some love.

Find something in your house that was given to you by someone who loves you. It can be a thank you card, a piece of jewelry, a picture. Whatever it is, take ten minutes and sit with that object close to your heart. Remember how the person who gave you this gift feels about you. How do they see you? What is one positive thing they’ve said about you, one time that they’ve talked your off the ledge or made you feel better about your day. Hold onto that feeling. That’s a true reflection of the person you are, and you should remember how that feels instead of worrying about a stranger’s snap judgement.

5. Bitch to a friend.

This isn’t about calling your best friend and bawling about your feelings for an hour. This is taking 5 minutes or less to tell a friend about the stupid thing that made you feel bad today. Let them scoff at how absurd it was and bolster your resolve to get over it. And then change the subject. Talk about something that you’re excited about, or happy about. Talk about a badass moment that you’ve had in the past week. Brush off the bad and press on with the good.

After all, it’s in the past, you’ve washed it off, you’re in your favorite pair of *whatever*, and you are loved for exactly the brilliant person that you are.

Love from G