May 19, 2011

The Joy Formula.


Photo: Mary Margret

I was recently interviewed for a Yoga Journal article on keeping your business, practice and teaching light and joyful. As a professional clown and yoga teacher, it seems I might be an expert on the subject. This has not always been the case, as I was diagnosed with clinical depression nine years ago. After a long period of medication and therapy I have made a concerted effort to find and maintain my joy.

I sought help because I was in a place where I was scared of losing control. I was absolutely, utterly, completely miserable and I was sick and tired and done with feeling so awful so often. I was simultaneously faking a positive façade that I lived through.

After seeking much needed professional help, with the support of family and friends, I pursued a career in acting that led me into the welcome arms of clowning in theater school. Now this wasn’t your Ringling full face paint clowning, or your birthday clown that I was exposed to, but your broken-open-hearted European clown. Think Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.

We took that which was most vulnerable, raw and uncomfortable, put it on stage through the lens of clown and I found out that I was funny. Then yoga found me. Then, I found Clowns Without Borders and my life made more sense.

Photo: Clowns Without Borders

My story might be a little more extreme, although it is common. I have compiled a list of components that keep me feeling sane and joyful. I hope one or more of these help you find your joy.  ~Deven

Quiet Time: Stop.  Stop and listen to your breath, to your heartbeat.  Just stop for a moment.  Right now just stop.  Stop reading and breathe.  Even when we are “doing nothing” we are still doing so much to simply be alive. Our lives can easily seem so full and overwhelming we cannot know where we are going next until we know where we are now.

Be here now and breathe without any expectation of this moment.  Take two moments tomorrow. Take three the next day and four the next-next. Keep going and see what happens. You could find yourself developing a meditation practice, or simply a daily routine of slowing down.

Get Off Your Mat: Practice vrksasana (tree pose), utthita hasta padangustasana (the ever elusive extended hand to foot pose) or other balancing poses waist deep in a pool.  Pigeon pose or firelog pose on the beach in the sand can be super forgiving and receptive.  Or try a yoga fusion class like AntiGravity Yoga, AcroYoga or yoga on a slackline with the YogaSlackers to literally get up and off your mat.  Adding risk to a regular asana practice by taking it off the ground or adding a partner can bust open many of our self-reflective preconceived notions.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you”. Getting off your mat can be the first step. Trying new activities keeps me humble and can remove the ego from my practice. A rock-climbing instructor recently told me I could learn a lot from falling while bouldering. I am still chewing on that. Time on your mat is essential to the modern yogi, and even more so to the professional yoga teacher.

But sometimes our practice can get us more stuck in the ruts we are caught in.  When we feel frustrated that we haven’t accomplished as much or as deeply as our ego expectations hope, our practice can harden the body if the mind begins to harden, thus deepening our samskaras (the formations of the mind that keep us from enlightenment). So get up and off your mat!

We cannot do great things, but small things with great love” ~Mother Teresa

Outreach: Volunteer. Spending even a little time once a week to help others (donating a yoga class, donating to a soup kitchen, anything, the smallest easiest thing you can think of) is the best place to start. Our daily problems become overwhelming when we lose perspective.  Helping others who are in greater need keeps that greater world perspective in check and helps maintain an internal practice of gratitude.

As M.C.Yogi sings, “if you want love give your love away” and if you want joy, give joy away. Pick that thing that you love to do so much and share it. There are also so many amazing programs that currently exist waiting to plug you in.  For example: Off the Mat with Seane Corne, The Africa Yoga Project and Karma Krew are just a small few.  You can take the time, energy and effort to travel far and wide or you can find local groups that need volunteers or much needed donations.


Say No: Every time you say no to one thing (whether a proposal or possibility) you are saying yes to the infinite possibility in the rest of the universe.  Creating boundaries in our work environments and intimate relationships can be an opportunity to fully be ourselves. Setting a limit on an unsatisfying relationship keeps you clear and open for nourishing and nurturing relationships.   No is a very powerful and potent tool that can let others know where they end and you begin.  No to others, can be a big fat yes to yourself.


Have An Opposite Day: This one is as easy as it sounds.  Do you normally drink tea? Go for a coffee.  Push the edge of your comfort zone and leave the dishes in the sink if you are the neat and tidy type.  Have a regular ashtanga practice? Try a creative vinyasa class or go swimming.

Make a plan to not make a plan.  Put on an outfit that feels a little wild or conservative, or whatever it is that you are not.  All you have to do is think: “What would I normally do today?” and do the opposite.  If you feel a little silly or crazy or are making your-self chuckle you are on the right track.

Dance!: Make a mix that only includes songs that ignites your joy button (in rhythm and lyrics).  Try out this playlist while you are driving or doing the dishes and see what happens.


Here Comes The Sun~The Beatles

Dog Days Are Over~ Florence & The Machine

Everlasting Light~ The Black Keys

Home~ Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Give Love~ M.C. Yogi

Walking on Sunshine~ Katrina & The Waves

Everybody On a Move~ Michael Franti & Spearhead

Sir Duke~ Stevie Wonder

I Feel It All~ Feist

Birdhouse in Your Soul~They Might Be Giants

Reggae Got Soul~ Toots & The Maytals




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