Inspiring People: Q&A with Yoga Teacher Amanda Webster

Amanda Sunrise header image

People who pursue their passion inspire me. With their courage, determination and faith, they’re blazing the trail for other dreamers to follow their dreams.

In the past, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a celebrity designer, successful author, Olympic medalist, and my favorite design bloggers.

Today, I’m featuring someone who I’ve admired for a long time. Amanda Webster is a yoga teacher and co-owner of Yoga Adventures Hawaii in Kailua, a business that offers yoga workshops and retreats. As a student in several of her classes,  I know she lives by what she teaches and I’m honored to have her here sharing her wisdom and path she took to follow her dreams.

Amanda Webster

Please describe what you do.

I teach heart-centered yoga classes, workshops and private sessions that range from upbeat to serious, restorative to powerful, and everything-in-between. I believe yoga helps us to identify the intentions, habits, and limiting beliefs about ourselves and others, and to recognize the value of consistent self-inquiry, growth, and expansion of universal awareness both on the mat and off. My strength as a teacher is building community and meeting people where they are by teaching from the idea of “vinyasa krama,” the breakdown of yoga into manageable steps to explore the gradual unfolding of the self in a way that reflects the intelligent unfolding of nature’s inherent rhythm. This is an awareness that benefits you off of the mat, too, which is where the real power of yoga exists.

I am also fortunate to co-host yoga retreats with my business partner Michael Graney. We make a great team, inspiring people to expand their boundaries and constricting beliefs, and to recognize how yoga can improve their welfare beyond the yoga mat!

Can you describe the journey that led you to where you are today?

I always felt a quiet pull towards yoga, but growing up in the Midwest, yoga was something that was just catching on in the celebrity realm. In college I ended up switching majors from pre-medicine to community health to behavioral psychology, eventually working as a behavioral therapist and case manager for autistic children. In 2008, after moving to Hawaii from Los Angeles and giving birth to my oldest son, I took my first class at the Windward YMCA and IMMEDIATELY knew yoga was “my thing.”

As an introvert, I hated speaking in front of people, though I recognized that this work would require me to make many essential shifts that could only make my life and relationships better. I often joke that diving deep into the yoga practice is like jumping into a rabbit hole, meaning it is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time and once you jump there is no turning back! For me, as a student and teacher of yoga, that exploration is the journey….

What was the greatest obstacle/challenge that you had to overcome to get to where you are?

The most challenging part of this work, both past-tense and currently, is finding a balance between the finances/marketing side of yoga as a business and the philosophical components of yoga. This includes marketing events without feeling like a salesperson and earning enough money to make ends meet while allowing yoga to be accessible and affordable to your clients…all while upholding the heart of yoga as a non-dogmatic practice characterized by self-inquiry and unity through adherence to the eight limbs of yoga.

It’s like this: Yoga students often see great value in their practices and have much appreciation for their teachers. An amazing yoga experience is like the satisfaction you feel after eating a delicious, well-prepared 5-star meal. However, students would prefer to only pay fast-food prices for that meal, they only want consider the final product. For teachers, often the work is the reward, but we cannot sustain the 5-star quality on a fast food budget. Many of us who teach yoga as a living are like the fast-food employees making minimum wage and struggling to cover basic living expenses; we need to be paid for the work that goes into preparation in addition to the final product.

Basically, if yoga (or anything) is such an important component of your life, the amount of resources you devote to the development of your practice should proportionally reflect the value it has on your life. It feels taboo to even approach this subject, but there are some really inspirational people in the wellness industry beginning to intelligently bridge that gap. I’m still working on it!

What do you love most about you’re doing?

When we establish a practice (such as yoga) that routinely brings us to the state of connectivity through quiet mind, we see, speak, act and relate with more awareness, intention and love…experiencing this huge shift as an individual and developing a community as people practice together, THAT is why I love what I am doing.

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What Your Soul is Trying to Tell You

{Etsy art by ScissorsPaperMouse}

{Etsy art by ScissorsPaperMouse}

A psychic once told me, “You will be a writer. But you will also be other things.”

A sign for Year of the Snake in Vegas said people born in the same year as me end up as, “teachers, psychologists, writers…”

I have only ever really wanted to be one thing. Besides I had already tried out two of the three.

But here’s what I learned about life.

It keeps going. It’s not about getting comfortable in where you are. That’s part of the journey. But the key is to see everything as a lesson, as an opportunity to grow, to stretch yourself past what feels oozy cozy comfortable.

I’ve been writing for the past 7-years. It’s still fun and I enjoy what I do. But lately, I’ve been feeling a strange urge. It’s kind of a whispered longing, a question mark, a paper cut like annoyance.

“If only…” it says.

If only you were to open your wings.

If only you were to be brave.

If only you were to do what you long to do.

If only you weren’t so afraid.

But I am terrified. I am scared of opening myself up vulnerable just like I was 7 years ago.

But you know what scares me more?

Not doing it.

Staying where I am.

Watching everyone else face their own fears as I settle into what feels familiar.

If you are contemplating change as well, you might find solace in these words of advice taught to me by coaches, books and movies:

1. If you say, “No” to this, what will you say, “yes” to?

2. “The soul suffers more from the everyday conditions of life when they do not nourish it with the solid experiences it craves.” – Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

3. If Not Now, Then When? – album title by Ethan Johns

4. If not you, then who?

5. Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?

G’mork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger. – The NeverEnding Story

6. “You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
– L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

7. “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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5 Ways to Inject Spirituality & Meaning Into Your Every Day

Bored with your daily life? It’s actually simple and easy to transform the mundane into the magical. If you can carve out a few minutes into your busy schedule, you’ve got time to infuse meaning right now.

{Etsy art by LeslieAllenFineArt}

Etsy art by LeslieAllenFineArt

1) Meditate.

It’s simple, but true. Research proves that meditation can bring meaning to those suffering from life-threatening illness and life-transforming change. But if the idea of sitting in silence seems daunting, try this. Oprah and Deepak offer a reoccurring free 21-day meditation series. This one is on expanding your happiness. It’s beautifully done and you won’t have to do it on your own. Listen as they direct you on a journey toward meaning making whether you’re in your living room or outdoors.

2) Create a living list.

Instead of a “bucket list” of things to do before you die, compose a list of things to celebrate your life. Then actually make them happen. One thing I’ve always wanted to do was join a choir. Recently, I saw an invitation for new singers to join a community choir group. I’m nervous, but excited to check this one off my list!

3) Pray.

This need not be a religious thing. You don’t need to pray to a God or gods. You only need to silence your mind long enough to say a prayer to yourself. Ask whoever is listening (yourself included) for a sign, guidance or simply say, “Thanks!” Tuning into yourself can raise awareness and put you in touch with a deeper calling in your life.

4) Give back.

Instead of scrolling through Facebook to see what your friends, family and acquaintances are doing, think about ways you can creatively give back. This could be something as easy as giving a loved one your undivided attention or doing something more extensive like donating time or your money. When we give back to others, we’re given so much more.

5) Do one thing that lights you up.

Think back to a moment that made you shine. Was it dancing, painting, or listening to an inspiring podcast? You deserve time for pleasure. When we devote moments to doing things we love, life opens up.

What do you do to attract more meaning in your own life?

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How Your Inner Critic Can Help Heal Your Life

Every once in awhile it’ll creep in. The familiar voice that berates me for not publishing a book yet. The nag that tells me I’m not talented. I’m not “good enough.” The critic who agrees with every insensitive attack on my soul.

It’s a shame spiral that starts from a little splinter of a comment or an insensitive remark and then I’m done. I’m broken and it isn’t even noon yet.

{Gratitude wood sign by the5donalds}

{Gratitude wood sign by the5donalds}

Shame. Guilt. Self-sabotage. The inner critic.

These are goblins that haunt the life of a creative person. They harp on those who are sensitive, vulnerable and raw from years of being told they’re not enough.

But underneath the layers of dark viscous suffocating hurt, there is hope.

Recently, I was enlightened by a podcast with author Elizabeth Gilbert and Sounds True’s Tami Simon. Here is a snippet from the Insights at the Edge interview:

“I had a really helpful conversation recently with a friend of mine, who I really admire [and] who I think is quite spiritually evolved. I just said to her, “What do you do with your shame? Where do you put it? What do you do with it?” And she said, “You know, Liz, you realize that the world doesn’t want your shame, right? That’s got nothing to offer the world. You’re here to offer yourself to the world and to make the world a better place. And your shame is of no use to anybody. It’s not of any use to you either, and if you want to be a creative and generative person, you kind of just have to let it go.”

There it is. Shame doesn’t serve you. It doesn’t make your dreams materialize. It doesn’t make you more creative. It’s not even motivating. When we’re ashamed we want to do nothing, but hide.

What shame does is shut us down like a scolding mother. It makes us feel unworthy, unlovable, and not good enough.

You know what transforms your life? Gratitude.

The next time your inner voice decides to kick you when you’re down. Tell it, “Thank you!” Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being there because I know you’re only there like a shell protecting me, like a blanket sheltering me from hurt, pain and disappointment from others. Thank you, but I don’t need you anymore. I’m whole. I’m going to be okay. I’m enough.

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A Wrinkle for Your Thoughts

Wrinkles

When someone hurts you, when you lose a job, when you’re disappointed in any way, probably someone has said, “Don’t worry. They can’t take away that from you.” They can take your things, but not your pride, not your memory of what was once. It’s just like the song:

“The way you hold your knife
The way we danced ’til three
The way you changed my life
No no they can’t take that away from me”

The sad thing is that there is something that can steal away a loving memory in the night. It can rob you of the person you love and the places you’ve been.

Imagine waking up one day and not knowing who you are. Imagine not recognizing the wrinkles on your face, your partner, your childhood friend.

It’s a secret fear that I have to wide up with Alzheimer’s disease just like my grandmother and her siblings.

When I can’t remember a childhood memory or what I ate for dinner last week, I’m concerned. Are these early symptoms? Will I one day look at my husband and not recognize who he is? Will my child who I know by smell, sight and sound seem like a stranger to me?

It’s terrifying.

I had the opportunity to watch the new animated movie *Wrinkles several days ago. Starring Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine, it followed a group of elderly characters in a nursing home and showed their lives, their fears and what matters most when your kids are grown, you’re retired and your new home is filled with aging strangers. For an animated film, it touched upon issues that were shockingly real.

It was a chilling lesson on how we treat seniors and also how we want to be treated in return. I couldn’t help ponder my own life as an elderly woman. While my life is going 100 miles a moment right now juggling writing, taking care of my baby, checking off my to-do list, I too could end up in a home, forgetful, confused, and helpless.

Will we all end up watching the clock when we finally have the time to enjoy our lives?

What can we do now to live more consciously to change things for the older adults in our lives and for our own future? Although we don’t talk about it. Although we may try to deny it, if we’re lucky enough to grow old, we will all be faced with the same challenges of loss and change experience by those ahead of us.

{*I was given a chance to preview Wrinkles in exchange of an honest review of the film. I’m happy to share that a portion of the digital proceeds will go to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. If you would like to help, please spread news about this hopeful and heartwarming film.}

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Forcing Inspiration

{Etsy print by LoriPlylerArt}

{Etsy print by LoriPlylerArt}

Inspiration often sits at the edge, teetering between busy-isease (sickness of modern times) and sweatpants wearing days.

Many artists would debunk the myth that creativity is something that can’t be worked, talked into, argued into existence.

Maybe I’m a strange writer.

I believe inspiration cannot be forced.

It can be coerced out of its shell.

It can be lured like a wagging rattle in front of a babe.

It can be tempted with sweet treats like good reads, lying around and being unproductive.

Inspiration does not respond at gunpoint.

It does not like to be shouted at like an old school teacher banging her ruler atop a wooden desk.

But it will come, if you let it.

If you schedule it in, as time spent watching the sunrise and set.

If you be still like the trees before a storm.

If you’re so quiet you can hear the sound of a page turning.

If you stare out a window and have enough patience to watch as the clouds disappear into the blue sky.

There she will find you

Calm,

ready,

impatient,

but grateful for her presence

at last.

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