Mindful Monday: Self-Compassion

Happy Monday, dear, dear friends! And still the snow is falling as I begin writing this blog! I’m practicing gratitude and acceptance so much right now!

Today let’s explore the idea of self-compassion. What does it mean to be compassionate toward yourself? Basically, it means treating yourself the same way you would treat your best friend and/or someone you love.

This is more challenging than it seems! I still struggle with being less judgmental towards myself and more loving and accepting. I am certainly my own biggest critic!

On the other end of this spectrum is self-pity. This is when we become so self-absorbed in our own troubles and woes. We vibrate from a low level of energy and get caught up in the feeling that we have an unfair share of burdens and problems.

The middle ground between being overly critical and overly pitying toward oneself is self-compassion. Like life and yoga, this is a tough balancing act!

To find that middle ground, remember that you are a part of common humanity. And that part of our shared human experience encompasses all of our mistakes, struggles and imperfections. So, compassion isn’t a ‘poor me’ feeling, it’s just recognizing that life is difficult for everyone at some points.

Coupled with remembering our deep connection to humanity (and all other living things part of planet Earth), is the practice of mindfulness. It refers to the ability to step outside yourself and see what’s happening, see that things may be difficult or you’re struggling, and hold that suffering in mindful awareness as opposed to getting lost in it or overly identifying with it.

Like yoga and life, self-compassion is a lifelong practice. Here are some ways you can begin to be kinder to yourself and ultimately kinder and more compassionate toward every living creature that you meet.

1. Stop taking yourself so seriously! Remember you’re doing the best you can, and that will always be enough. That certainly doesn’t mean stop trying; it means give your best in each moment and trust in the process. I certainly use humor as a way to cope with the madness that life brings my way. I strongly believe that laughter is truly the best medicine!

2. Carve out time for self-care every day! If we’re lucky, we get a whole hour to practice yoga at our favorite YBD studio! Some days that simply isn’t feasible. Then spend 15 minutes meditating or journaling. Treat yourself to a bubble bath. Go for a short walk. Drop down and do 10 burpees. Do one small thing that will elevate your spirit and help you de-stress.

3. Start practicing gratitude! When we are grateful for what we have, we realize that everything is enough. What we have is enough. Who we are is enough.

4. Perform random acts of kindness toward perfect strangers! Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Allow that person in the seeming hurry to cut you off in traffic with a wave.

Make eye contact and genuinely smile at someone passing by. I do that all the time, and I find it interesting how people react to it! It becomes a social experiment, and I can readily see how open or closed off people are!

As we practice kindness towards others, it becomes easier to be kind to ourselves. It also shift our focus from ‘poor me’ to how good it feels to connect with others.

5. Take a couple minutes each morning and evening or even before and after your yoga practice to tell yourself that you love yourself. And remind yourself of the reasons why.

And most importantly, remember we’re looking for progress not perfection. Like yoga, it’s consistency and dedication to the practice that yields the greatest transformation. And we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

Can’t wait to see you on your mat this week!

PS Another round of our 21 day cleanse is coming up in a couple of weeks!!!!

Mindful Monday: Snowga

Good morning and happy Monday, my yogi friends! Waking up to so much snow in April is probably not what any of us actually dreamed about.

But whether we like it or not, this is the current reality for chicagoans.

So we have freedom of choice. We can choose to react by complaining and being in a bad mood, which is perfectly understandable and our inalienable rights as human beings.

We can also remember that this day will never come again. That one day soon will be laughing about how Mother Nature got us once again!

Last Thursday (you may recall that it snowed like crazy that as well) I was visiting my favorite little people, and Sadie (5) and Savannah (3) when we went outside literally danced in the snow trying to catch snowflakes with their little tongues!

I learn so much from those girls about having that fresh perspective and welcoming in life with open arms! I constantly ask myself when I lost that wonder and became so darn crabby. Lol.

Bottom line is that 90% of the time we don’t choose life, it happens. 100% of the time we choose how to react.

So happy happy happy Monday, dearest ones! Get out there and do some snwgaaaah!!!

April 2018 Pose of the Month: Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana

Happy April, yogis! Our pose of the month is Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana or One- Handed Tiger Pose!

Eka = One; Hasta = Hand; Vyaghra = Tiger; Asana = Pose

Tiger Pose mirrors the deep stretch a tiger takes when it wakes up. It is a super delicious spinal lengthener and backbend. Use this posture to stretch out your entire front body, from your ankles all the way through your thighs, abdomen, chest, and up to your throat! The one handed variation deepens the opening across your chest and into your shoulder joint.

Here we added a variation with the back knee lifted into a bound down dog. We also added Simhasana Pranayama or Lion’s Breath to increase the purifying benefits of the pose.

Here’s how:

1. Come to a table top position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your knees stacked beneath your hips.

2. Engage your abdominal sheath and extend your right arm forward and your left leg back.

3. Bend your left knee to a 90° angle and reach your right hand back for your left ankle.

4. Actively kick your left foot into your right hand to open your chest.

5. Look down at your left thumb for balance. Kick firmly with your left leg and root firmly through your left shoulder as you tuck toes on your right foot into your mat. Use the tension that you’re creating, activate your core and draw your right knee off of the mat.

6. Take a deep inhale through your nose. As you exhale, cross your eyes and stick out your tongue making a “haaaaah” sound at the back of your throat.

Mindful Monday: the Cycle of Life

Happy Mindful Monday! And welcome back, April! We are looking forward to your spring showers and all of the beautiful blossoms that will result.

For those of you that take my class regularly, you know that I recently lost a dear friend of mine. I’ve been sharing so much about my experience with death, and I’ve received a great deal of feedback after class. Many people have found some comfort as they deal with their own losses, so I wanted to share my thoughts here.

Our savasana pose literally means corpse pose. “Sava” = corpse. “Asana” = pose. And it comes at the end of our practice.

This reminds us of the natural order of things; there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If something exists, at some point it will cease to exist, at least in its physical form.

When we make it to Savasana pose, we are pretty happy to arrive, am I right? We enjoy the peacefulness and stillness, because we know we have spent the better part of an hour moving and sweating and working!

In this way we can familiarize ourselves with the concept each time we come to our mats. See that it is a quiet and tranquil place. There is no pain or suffering. Just an awareness of peace.

Death becomes our greatest teacher of LIFE. It reminds us of the sanctity of each moment. How lucky we are to be breathing. We are reminded that everything is temporary, so we can practice non-attachment. We realize how precious our time is and we learn not to squander it.

Regardless of how rich or famous one is, death reminds us that we are all equal here on this Earth. Time is the most valuable commodity we’ve been allotted. It’s the only currency that matters.

In thinking of death as a natural part of life each and every time we climb on our mats, we can be familiar with its inevitable visit. And hopefully this perspective will help us cope with any suffering we must endure.

You have been blessed with 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds today. How will you spend your precious currency? Because you can’t save it for later. You must spend it today.

Anicca! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Open Your Heart

Good morning, dearest mindful ones! I hope you had a lovely weekend.

On Saturday, we had a memorial service for my dearest friend who left us way too early. Of course it was heart wrenching and so very sad. But there’s something about pausing from our day to day routines to drill down that allows us to connect to the bigger picture.

It was a heart achingly beautiful day surrounded by so many loved ones. It really shifted my perspective and opened my heart immensely. Death is the greatest teacher about life. Here are my thoughts.

When we move from FEAR, we live in a state of anxiety, anger, confusion, malcontent, discontent, greed, jealousy, hatred; we feel disconnected and unhappy. We then seek physical pleasures and material possessions to find temporary reprieve from the negative spiral of emotions.

When we move from LOVE, we realize that there is nothing stronger than kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, graciousness and forgiveness. There is nothing to fix or change or recover. We realize that we are ALL connected to every living being, both great and small. When others hurt us, we try to find ourselves in that person. We seek to understand. We will, inevitably, be hurt. As we sit with our pain, we are reminded that it is part of the deal of being HUMAN. It’s inescapable. We feel it and feel it and feel it until it passes. And it ALWAYS passes. And we take the lesson and move on. We seek to destroy barriers. We seek to liberate others from their wheel of misery as we work arduously each day to free ourselves.

We remember that everything is temporary and so fleeting. And we try not to attach. We practice releasing our expectations of how life should be, and we work really hard to appreciate what we have when we have it.

And as life inevitably shifts, we work so hard to open our hands and our hearts and let everything go.

I’ll definitely be seeking some serious mat time this week to support myself as I work on letting go and opening up.

Make it a great week, yogis! Remember that whatever you may be going through, it is so temporary. And that you are never, ever alone in our YBD community.

Anicca! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Get Grounded

Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! Let’s take advantage of this lovely weather and get grounded!

No, not the kind of grounded where you’re stuck at home with no contact with friends, no TV or electronics. (Although that may also prove beneficial! And actually sounds pretty lovely to me in moderate doses.)

I’m referring to connecting with Mother Earth by walking barefoot! Ideally on the beach, but until spring break, we’ll have to make do with the wet grass. Or even in the mud! It’s called “earthing,” and aside from being a super yogi thing to do; it has amazing mental, emotional and physical health benefits!

Here are just a few of the amazing and maybe even surprising benefits of this practice.

Rejuvenates your senses and calms your mind

Earthing is usually done in the morning or evening – but fit it in wherever you can!

Taking deep breaths of fresh air provides oxygen for your entire body to function more efficiently.

The calm atmosphere and brief moments of unplugging from the matrix and plugging directly into Mother Nature helps relax your entire body and mind, allowing you to release your stress.

The green color of grass helps stimulate your body to produce calming hormones that help you relax.

The feeling of cool grass beneath your feet, the calm stillness of early morning or early evening, connecting with nature and feeling the warmth of the sun will certainly boost your mood!

Connects you to the earth and neutralizes your electrical field

When we walk barefoot on grass, we are directly connected to the magnetic field of the earth, which affects the entire electrical and magnetic field of the human body.

This exchange of energies helps neutralize negative electrical impulses in our body which are known to cause certain ailments.

It is said to also neutralize the effects of spending hours in front of our computer, TV and smart phone screens.

Cleansing our bodies of negative electrical energies can definitely have a positive effect on our overall health.

Provides your body with the precious properties of sun energy

The sunlight warms your winter body to the bone and naturally replenishes your essential vitamin D stores.

Sun energy is a great source of healing our energies and restorative powers. In Naturopathy, it is referred to as the source of life and energy.

Studies show that it helps disinfect the body, tones muscles and nerves and supplies the entire body with energy!

According to experts, we can get the maximum sun energy benefits between 6:30 to 9 in the morning and between 4:30 to about 6:30 in the evening. Be mindful of over exposure to the sun in the harsh afternoon sun hours.

So get off the pavement, take off your stuffy shoes, and go get grounded!

Have a great week, my earthy, grounded yogis! See you on your mat this week!

Mindful Monday: Spring Ahead!

Happy Mindful Monday, friends!

When we changed the clocks early Sunday morning, we didn’t magically create extra daylight … we just shifted the time that the sun rises and sets. This affects your circadian rhythm, your 24 hour body clock.

Setting your clock forward 1 hour for Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the spring means losing an hour of sleep on the morning after the change. For most people, this may just be a minor annoyance. However, for others it can be quite disruptive.

Some studies show that tiredness induced by the clock change contributes to an increase in traffic accidents on the first Monday after the clock switch.

Other studies show an increase in heart attacks and even triggers for mental illness and depression due to that one hour of less sleep.

Even though disrupting the circadian rhythm can have some serious effects, most studies find that they pass during the days following a DST change.

Interestingly, during the fall when we gain an hour, the opposite effects have been measured and observed. A decrease in traffic accidents and even a decrease in heart attack rates!

Being tired can decrease productivity, concentration, and general well-being. It can also make you feel crabby, unmotivated and even depressed!

There are some simple ways of making it easier to handle the clock change, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

• Eat a healthy breakfast first thing. Food tells your body it is the start of the day.

• Go for a walk. Light, and especially sunlight, helps to adjust your internal body clock.

• Use the light wisely. Head outside early to get sunlight and wake up, and dim your lights in the evening to get your body ready for sleep.

• Adjust evening activities. To fall asleep more easily (particularly when losing an hour in spring) limit caffeine and alcohol before bed, and avoid strenuous nighttime workouts. Yoga is fine!

Well here’s to Monday! We got this, y’all; we are yogis! Getting proper rest and self-care are our top priorities.

Have a great week my friends. See you on your mat!

Pose of the Month: March 2018 Parivrtta Anjaneyasana

Happy March, yogi friends! It’s the time for new beginnings. New energy flowing in and sweeping out the old stagnant air.

Nothing is better for creating new space than twisting, twisting and …. twisting!

Our pose of the month is Parivrtta Anjaneyasana or Revolved Crescent Lunge.

Parivrtta: to turn around, revolve

Anjaneya: salutation

Asana: pose

This gorgeous pose offers many benefits:

• Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles

• Stimulates abdominal organs

• Improves digestion and elimination

• Stretches the psoas and hips

• Relieves sciatica pain

• Develops stamina and endurance in your thighs

• Improves your balance, concentration and core awareness

Ok let’s get to it!

1 From downward facing dog, step your right foot between your hands. Extend your left leg back as you press through the ball of your foot. Engage your core. Rise up and bring your palms together at heart center. As you press your left heel back, reach the crown of your head forwards to lengthen your spine and sides.

2 Take a deep inhalation, as you begin to exhale, twist towards your right leg. With your palms still together, place your left tricep on your right thigh, attempting to get your torso as close to your leg as possible.

3 Push your palms together to engage your arms and try to twist in deeper, sending your chest in the direction of the ceiling and shifting your gaze upwards over your right shoulder.

4 Stay here, or extend your left fingertips down to the ground on the outside of your right leg, and reach your right fingertips up the ceiling.

5 Stay here for five breaths. To exit the pose, unwind and place your hands down on the mat, then step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat with your left leg forward.

Tips:

*Option to lower your left knee. This will make the pose less intense and provide more opportunity to deepen the twist.

*Deepen the twist by using your breath: Inhale for length and let the exhalations happen naturally to turn the torso around the axis of the spine.

*Stabilize your shoulder girdle to isolate the twist in the spine. Often once we start to twist, the bottom shoulder head rolls forward, pulling the bottom shoulder blade off the back. Instead work on stacking one shoulder directly on top of the other and working to maintain equal width in both shoulder blades and collarbones as you twist.

*Squeeze your back thigh muscles to the bone, activate your back glutes and internally rotate you back thigh to keep your hips square and pelvis stable.

Meet Denise, YBD Teacher of the Month

As one of our very own teacher training graduates, we are lucky to have Denise as part of our teaching staff. Originally from Singapore, Denise came to love yoga after finding that breath to movement connection could be very therapeutic. She thoughtfully sequences her classes in a unique and enjoyable way. Her kind smile greets students at the desk and she strives to personally connect with everyone she encounters. Here’s where you can find her!

Mondays

5:45 YBD HOT, Downers Grove

Tuesdays

6:00AM YBD 2 95, Elmhurst

Thursdays

4:30 HIIT Pilates, Downers Grove

When and how did you come to yoga?

I came to yoga when I experienced the loss of a loved one and was seeking comfort and some form of catharsis. I actually started out with martial arts yoga, which is yoga with a little bit of martial arts movements and I found the linking of breath to movement very therapeutic.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I have always wanted to teach yoga after experiencing the benefits of it but I was working long hours in a corporate job back then. After making a big move to Chicago from Singapore, I decided that it was time to take the plunge after discovering Yoga by Degrees by a flyer that was mailed to my house and it was one of the best decisions I have made.

What is your favorite pose?

Eight-angle pose. It is a strong pose which requires a stable foundation even though it is an arm balance and there are many fun transitions that you can play from this.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everyone and everything. I have always been an observer and just watching how things move around me, even how the trees sway and how animals and people move inspires me to create movements that are enjoyable and fun.

Tips for beginners…

Keep breathing no matter what.

What’s your favorite quote?

By one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

Mindful Monday

Good morning, lovely and mindful ones! Somehow we blinked, and suddenly it’s March!

After a long, cold and beautiful winter, this is our final push toward the warmer, sun-filled breezy months ahead.

When I think of March, I think St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Spring Equinox, spring break shamrock shakes (don’t judge) and dating back to my days in politics and community organizing, Women’s History month. What are some of the things that you look forward to this month?

As we prepare for spring, we focus on detoxing and renewing. We do this in our homes, right? Spring cleaning! Opening the windows to let the breeze carry away stagnant, stale air.

Spring is also the time for cleansing the body from the winter’s slumber. In the winter, we have a tendency to get sluggish, and so spring becomes the opportune time to shed heavier layers and clean the body of excess toxins in the tissues.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, the Kapha dosha, which is the water and earth element, is highly accumulated in the body from the winter months. This can be experienced as winter weight gain and feeling lethargic.

This is a great time of year to consider a detox or cleanse of your digestive system. Cutting processed foods, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and dairy for a few to several days will reset your system and leave you feeling light and lifted.

As sunlight creates longer days, the warmth and dampness of this time of year has the potential to leave congestion and upper respiratory conditions in their wake. Spring is the time for releasing deep-seated emotions of sorrow and sadness. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of twisting postures, backbends and deep forward folds in your yoga classes this time of year to guide you in releasing and renewing.

Let’s enjoy these next few weeks of transition as much as we love the transitions we practice on our mats!

Make it a great week, friends!