Taking Up Space

At the end of a good yoga session  – wait have I ever mentioned before on this blog that I like yoga? I can’t remember…

Anyway, I like yoga. Just a reminder.

At the end of a good yoga session, the final pose is always savasana. It means “corpse pose” or “resting pose” and is basically supposed to symbolize being reborn after a good yoga session. Recently, in a rare class where we had a lot of space, my teacher encouraged us to spread out and take up as much space as possible.

I realized that I tend to go out of my way not to take up too much space. I tend to always be thinking that I’m in the way. Or at least I grew up with that mindset. I was supposed to make sure other people weren’t inconvenienced by me somehow. Make sure to always look out for them and their needs first. Make sure that I’m always looking out for them even if it means I can’t get comfortable myself.

There’s a lot of good in looking out for other people. I’m not criticizing that in itself. Part of the reason our breed of human beings survived is because we’re very good at looking out for each other.

But left unchecked, it created an unhealthy attitude about my own self worth. I’ve literally apologized to people who weren’t paying attention and ran into me at a grocery store with their cart even though they weren’t paying attention and I was the one hurt. In my instinct, I did something wrong just by being there. That is taking this idea to the extreme. It seeps into many aspects of my life and psyche. And it is not healthy.

sorry

This small reminder in yoga class to “take up space” brought that to light even more.

Once I became aware of the mindset and how it was affecting me, I was able to start keeping it in check. I’m not saying I go around to everyone now elbowing my way through life. But I have begun embracing and recognizing that I have every much a right to be in a space and take up space as anyone else. We have to all look out for each other – but it’s not my job to make sure other people are doing that. It’s my job to do my best and to enjoy taking up space.

The universe is huge and we are tiny little specs here for just a moment of its lifetime, so we might as well breathe into (and grow into) as much of it as possible while we’ve got the chance.

Since I’ve embraced taking up space, I also realize that it means I can draw attention to myself. Not because I need attention per say, but because it’s okay to do my own thing and just be me, even if other people aren’t doing the same thing. I don’t need to just occupy as little space as possible in well worn paths. I can do my own thing and take up plenty of space while doing so.

Luckily for me, living in Los Angeles means that there’s a lot of opportunity to practice owning my own space. Even my favorite yoga studio is insanely crowded any given day. Every class is a great chance to both embrace the idea that I can be thoughtful for others (who might need me to move my mat so they can squeeze in) and also okay with taking up my own space without feeling like I need to squeeze in a corner so everyone else can have plenty of room.

It’s a balance and a challenge. It’s a balance challenge. Like a handstand. OMG we brought it back to yoga!

yoga

(Well done, Briana. Thank you, Briana. You’re ok, Briana. Are you ok, Briana? Unclear, Briana. Let’s move on, Briana. Sounds good, Briana. Never talk about this to anyone, Briana? Agreed, Briana.)

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The Gifts of the Random Soccer Match

I was walking back from yoga not long ago by a busy bus stop outside a pretty big apartment complex in my neighborhood when I saw a dude “dribbling” a soccer ball by himself. I put dribbling in quotes not because it’s the wrong word, but because I’m not a soccer expert at all. So while I think he was dribbling, there might be some soccer term that’s more accurate for just playing around with the ball.

Or maybe it’s just that – playing around with the ball?

Ah, it doesn’t matter. I digress.

I sort of looked over at him playing and, I guess in doing so, I accidentally invited an interaction with him.

Now, you’ve got to understand. I actually really like talking to and connecting with people. I’ve done it for years and find that connecting with humans is part of what we were put on this earth to do. Much of my goal in comedy and entertainment is for all of us to know and recognize our common shared humanity rather than constantly point out our differences.

Now, please also understand I live in a big city and have lived in big cities for over a decade. I am accustomed now-a-days to looking down or walking defensively. I still smile. I am still friendly and welcoming. But, out of survival instinct, I tend to prefer to simply walk by people unnoticed than smile constantly and risk someone taking it the wrong way and deciding I’m their new best friend and/or someone they’re going to follow home and/or someone they need to objectify and/or ask out immediately.

I like to call it soft eyes. I keep soft eyes and a soft smile but I hardened exterior for my own safety. Once everyone in the world has control over their own body parts and their own ideas of what they deserve from a stranger, we can all go back to connecting constantly. Until then, soft eyes, hardened exterior for me.

In looking up for this moment, this man must have caught glimpse of my soft eyes (and probably a smile from yoga…god I love it) and decided to pounce. Often, this is the last thing I want. In this case, it was pretty fun.

I saw him smile and say to me “One touch.” I smiled back and said “Nooooo” but, like, playfully with a big smile. It was too late anyway, he already had my friendly number and had lightly kicked his soccer ball my way. I kicked it back and he kicked it back to me. I said “I’m no good at this” and he said, “Nonsense, you’re great!” I kept watching and he didn’t kick it back to me but instead said simply “Thank you for playing!”

I walked away smiling (grateful that dude didn’t objectify, hit on me, ask me out, yell at me for existing, or follow me home…all of which have happened and are part of the reason I keep my eyes glued to the road when walking alone).

That random soccer player gave me three gifts without even knowing it.

First of all, he gave me the gift of whimsy. What’s the point in kicking the ball to stranger? There is none and I love it for that.

Secondly, he gave me the gift of connection. This is one of my favorite things in the world (see above) and by simply playing along for a moment, I got to connect with another human that I’ve never met before or since and be reminded that our shared human experience has way more in common with random strangers than different.

But finally, he gave me a gift of some self awareness. This one is way less obvious than the others, but it was the first thing on my mind and the only thing I could think about. Really, it’s what makes this story particularly interesting to me. Without it, this is just another story of a goofy stranger interaction.

When he wanted to kick the ball to me, I immediately lost my confidence. I immediately went into Adorable Dope mode, a role I’ve grown comfortable with over the years who I’ve recently started banishing from my repertoire. I said “I’m no good at this,” to a random stranger who just wanted me to kick a ball. I’ve never been excellent at soccer (it was too hard when I was younger, I didn’t like all the running so I didn’t keep up at it). So my self consciousness rears its head high when I don’t have some basic skills in something.

But how silly is that? We weren’t playing a soccer match. We weren’t picking teams. He wasn’t asking me to bend it like Beckham. He just wanted me to kick a ball in his general direction. A toddler could do it. They do it all the time.

So why, then, did Adorable Dope pop up? Why was I immediately hard on myself and less interested in playing with this guy? This is not me bashing myself further for it, it’s just being curious about it.

I was out of my comfort zone. I was interacting with someone and I, as we naturally do, wanted to please him and for him to like me. I wanted to be worthy of this moment – and that’s an absolutely crazy thing because we are all born worthy and don’t need to ever do anything to prove our worthiness. But we’re taught, groomed, and encouraged to prove our worth to others by being the best selves always. We can’t just be, we have to be awesome (#liveyourbestlife amiright?).

In that moment, out of my comfort zone, interacting with a stranger, I let Adorable Dope take over. It should be said that Adorable Dope doesn’t have a lot of confidence. She proves her worth by being, well, adorable. She’s got a great (heavily self-deprecating) sense of humor and there’s almost nothing you can say to her that she won’t have a playful or quippy way of undercutting herself.

Example: A lady on an airplane recently said to me “You have a beautiful smile.” I said thank you, then Adorable Dope took the wheel after a moment and said, “I’ve paid enough for it, I’d sure hope so.” I couldn’t let it just be a compliment. I wasn’t worthy of having a good smile without the help of dentists. I had to undercut it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love jokes. And I enjoy not taking myself all that seriously. But over the years, I’ve found that if I insult me before you insult me, I feel more powerful when really I’m covering up my own vulnerability. I won’t let myself go wholeheartedly into something because what if I’m not good enough at it? What if I care and I fail? And what if I just play a little soccer with that dude and enjoy it without insisting I shouldn’t because I can’t kick a ball?

The point is, that man gave me the gift of understanding I still have work to do on myself. I’ve been doing a lot of work over the years (especially lately). And I’m ok with being my own life-long project. But confidence and worthiness are foundational changes. They’re major shifts that, even when I think I’ve rebuilt my own personality house to my liking, a little quake like this interaction reminds me that it’s not quite as sturdy as I thought.

Man, I shouldn’t have used the quake metaphor. I live in LA and earthquakes are terrifying.

CAN WE ALL PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT EARTHQUAKES NOW?

Needless to say, next time a guy kicks a random soccer ball at me, I’ll hopefully be a little more willing to just play along, risk being bad at it and looking like a fool, and simply enjoy myself.

Unless he kicks it aggressively and at my face or something like that. Then I will throw down my yoga mat and warrior three the crap out of him (that means wishing him love and peace while working on my own balance…I think, I don’t know I just made it up right now).

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 105: Doing What’s Good For Us

Hello again friends,

In this episode, we explore why it is we never want to do what we know will make us feel good. Why do we choose something else even when we know it’s a choice that won’t bring us the most happiness? What’s up with these small, seemingly innocent decisions that lead us down a path that doesn’t help at all.

We talk Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater (and Mission IMPROVable).

We talk Netflix & Chilling.

I give a quick shout out to the hubs.

We discuss Resistance (my fave), Steven Pressfield, and slaying the dragon.

Of course I mention yoga.

And we talk about the small lies we tell ourselves and how getting down looks different on everyone.

Oh, and my sweet little Clydie makes some auditory cameos.

Subscribing and liking helps the show, but listening keeps it going 🙂

Enjoy!

Barn Yoga

I don’t know when I started considering myself a yogi. If you’re not too precious about it, I supposed anyone who does yoga once and enjoys it can be considered a yogi. I think I always hesitated because I can’t do an unassisted head or handstand for very long before flopping sloppily to one side and most of my stretches end at other people’s starting positions. But I think I’ve finally accepted that, despite my shortcomings in the positions – or asanas, as they’re called – I can finally embrace the title of “yogi.” Also, I just called them asanas, did you catch that? I’m such a true yogi.

Vocabulary aside, I’m finally comfortable being considered a yogi mostly because I now seek out doing yoga with different people in different places, no matter where I am.

At least, that’s what led to me to my barn yoga experience.barn yoga 3.jpg

I was touring with three comedy fellows in upper Pennsylvania when we all drove by a tiny little storefront that said “Barefoot Yoga.” I was intrigued and we all googled it immediately. Actually, I probably didn’t because I was too busy staring out the window in awe of the greenery that surrounded me. And one of the fellas was driving. And the other fella I don’t think was interested. Come to think of it, I think only the one guy did the googling and reported the results to the car for the rest of us to feel like we had, also, found out the information.

Was this important to the story? Nah, probably not. But what is life if not frivolous?

Anyway, it became apparent to us (thanks to whichever google sleuth brought us the information) that there was a class available the next morning that wouldn’t conflict with our shows. I immediately wanted – nay needed – to go.

I should have said “neigh needed” since this is a post about barn yoga and horses live in barns. Alas and alack. Add it to the list of writing regrets I pile up every day.

The morning of the adventure, I took time to actually run for the first time in a long while. I went at an insanely fast pace according to the treadmill I was on. I also realized that the treadmill was absolutely broken and couldn’t go at a very fast pace, despite what the readings were saying. But you’d be surprised how much confidence you can gain even if you know you’re being lied to.

Though it maybe wasn’t a seven mile run at a 6 minute mile pace (as the treadmill suggested), I was sweaty and I was ready. In the end, only one of the fellas I was traveling with joined me for yoga. The others had their reasons. But, hey, it’s yoga. It’s honestly the only activity where it’s genuinely the thought that counts.

Boy oh boy was I glad that I had a buddy for this experience, too, because it was a total delight. We entered the studio (which was a small converted barn) and immediately took our shoes off because that’s what it looked like we should do and I like to follow the rules. I couldn’t help but let my overwhelming enthusiasm take over when Teresa, the teacher we saw online, walked up to us in the flesh. We were new to the class and new to her, so I of course made it a goal to become her new best friend. Within no time, I was wandering the studio, taking in the beauty of the space and all the crystals in it, and explained happily what we were doing there. After me berating…err, um, enthusiastically talking to her for a bit before class, Teresa became almost as excited about the start of class as I was.

barn yoga 2We set out our borrowed mats, blankets, and blocks in the locations Teresa set out for us (neither of us had any idea where to place ourselves because we didn’t know where she’d be sitting or anyone else would be sitting…it was a mild meltdown until we demanded she just tell us what to do). I got a spot under a hanging crystal, so I was as happy as can be. Soon, a few locals trickled in and we started up class.

The details of the class itself are likely only interesting to the nerdiest of yogis. It was definitely more traditional, slower, emotional based yoga that I do enjoy dabbling in on occasion (rather than my usual intense, sweaty, get down into it yoga). The most telling pose was when we all got into “Goddess” position with a small squat and our hands in specific mudras that reminded us to feel connected while letting anxiety, worry, and doubt fall by the wayside.

Yeah, your hands can provide that kind of confidence. Our bodies are pretty amazing.

The whole class was excellent for relaxation and Teresa definitely did something by choosing those positions that made me leave there feeling grounded and a little emotionally lighter. Teresa seemed to delight in having us in class as much as we enjoyed the class. We took pictures afterwards to commemorate the occasion.

mi tour 4

Later, when my partner and I were a little out of our comfort zone for a particular project we were working on, we put our hands in mudras, got in goddess pose, and let Teresa’s wise words of letting go of what you can’t control take over so we could do our best and let the experience be what it was.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you ever get the chance to do yoga in a converted barn, do it. And, hey, even if it’s not converted, it’d probably be pretty fun. Assuming, of course, you’re a dedicated yogi like me.

Cooky Yoga Man

I’ve been talking about getting out of the house more lately and challenging myself at different t-rex yogaclasses (including and especially Yoga classes).

I recently had a substitute teacher at a yoga class that tickled me pink. Not literally. But I have a feeling, had he been given the chance, he would have.

He was a cooky guy.

He started the class casually with a long chat for about 5 minutes about different things that he found interesting. The few of us who were there didn’t seem to also find this interesting. I could tell by the way we all got confused wide-eyes and looked around at each other.

Eventually, he got the class started. He was almost so casual that we had to more or less guess that we were starting. I was front and center and I couldn’t help but laugh. He reminded me of every socially awkward teacher I had growing up. He was a big guy, which means nothing to me fitness-wise, but he really only semi-coached the poses and barely stayed in them. At one point, he even got a phone call so our quiet yoga music got turned into a robotic voice repeating “The phone is ringing. The phone is ringing.” Because that’s exactly the type of ringtone a guy like this would have. I wondered what it was until he simply, casually said, “That ringtone cracks me up,” then continued half-heartedly doing poses and giggling to himself.

I was also giggling profusely.

Even though my traditional yoga workout wasn’t stellar, at least I got a good laughter yoga workout in. Especially on the drive home after the “class.”

Yoga … biatches

I talked before  about how I’ve been trying to do more yoga lately. I started actually committing to it and being social and going out of my house to do it.

Crazy, I know.

But I’ve been totally loving it.Yoga-dogs-1

I have tendency to be a bit of a hermit. I talk about it. I’m a strange mix between loving to be social and loving to go out with people and needing to stay in and being very particular about the energies I keep around me at any given time. That sometimes means I’m particular about my company and that I prefer the company of my own brain to just going out for the sake of going out. That sometimes leads to me staying in my apartment for hours and turning very anti-social and mildly creepy.

On more than one occasion, my poor sweet man will ask me how my day was after I’ve spent it alone in my apartment with my own thoughts and will have to deal with a very energetic Briana who’s taking all of her pent up social energy out on one person and has somehow in one day forgotten the basic tenants of proper human interaction.

I’m a lucky lady to date a very patient man.

I say all that because I’ve been using my commitment to yoga to become more physically and spiritually balanced. And in that balance, it means getting a little out of my comfort zone and going to classes with other people and teachers who aren’t YouTube videos and may give actual corrections to what we’re doing. It means I have to put on real workout clothes and drive a short distance to park and make eye contact with people before settling down into the practice. It isn’t as “productive” time-wise, but I think it’s good for my balancing.

And it makes me actually feel like I accomplished something.

And it’s made me calm down a little. Which, for my rather high-strung personality, can be a very good thing.

So I’m gonna keep on doing it and keep on pushing myself.

Sure, I’m only going to the classes at my gym while wearing oversized sweat pants and a t-shirt and haven’t yet committed to becoming an all out-yoga person. But that may not be the most balanced approach for me. If someday I find I need that to really keep pushing and challenging myself, then I’ll cross that bridge (pose) when I get there. Until then, yoga is all about what you can do today to check in with yourself and become a little better than you were yesterday in some way. For me, right now, that means getting out of the house and finding time to breathe amongst a bunch of other strangers who scare me while in a tiny multi-purpose room that has an annoying alarm that goes off every 4 minutes or so while people around me are quietly posing and texting. Who knows what the future hold, but this choice right now is making me enjoy the present even more.

Yoga…biatches.

Streeeeeetch Yourself

yogi nora

I love Yoga and stretching but I’m absolutely terrible about making time for it. I’d rather lift or do sprints every time. Even though I know if I take the time to stretch, my body will be grateful and perform even better the next time I want to do life or sprint.

So I’m working on being better. Like all things I know I’m lacking, I try and make an effort to improve (even if it’s minimal at first).

I’m making time once a week to do an online Yoga video (there are so so so so many on YouTube for free!). I discovered this one by a lady named Yogi Nora. She smiles a lot. Which is good. Because her deep stretches are very painful so I’m cursing a lot while doing them. So we basically balance each other out.

We did approximately 6 stretches in 30 minutes and I was nearly sobbing from the pain in each one. And I was sore for three days after the stretching because it pushed my body in a way I haven’t been pushed in a very long time.

And now I’m making time weekly to have this smiling yoga teacher put me through self-inflicted torture so I can get healthier. Maybe someday I’ll even stretch twice a week. Maybe someday I’ll even have a thriving yoga practice. Maybe someday I won’t start crying because it hurts so badly to move into a certain position because it’s so tight and I never take the time to stretch it.

Maybe. Or maybe somebody can shoot me now and put me out of my misery!