Mindful Monday: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Good Mindful Monday morning, friends!

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”

This has been my mantra this summer, as I prepare to say farewell to my soon-to-be college-bound son. He is a “rising” freshman as I’ve been told they are now referred to.

I’ve been holding on to the preciousness and sanctity of each blessed breath and moment.

And letting go of all of the thoughts of how I could have been a better mom.

I’ve been learning to hang on dearly to memories of all of the laughter and fun and lightness.

To release all of the disappointments and hurts that inevitably happen within a family and a personal relationship.

And to grasp the nuggets of wisdom that result in learning the tough lessons of life.

To hang on to the significance of each “last” before he leaves. Last weekend. Last family dinner. Last Sunday lunch. Last night before he embarks on his new adventure.

And to leave behind the expectations and “shouldas” and “couldas.”

To embrace with gratitude this gift of motherhood.

And to acknowledge that this entire journey has always been about preparing to let go.

To continue to trust in the brilliance of life’s plans.

To relinquish the thought that I ever really had much control over any of it.

To accept in my heart that we all did our best.

And to surrender to the belief that this is exactly how it should unfold.

This morning, I found a brand new park to sit in and write today’s post. It seemed fitting to write my last Mindful Monday before my heart and soul is ripped out and transplanted to another city and state. (Not dramatic at all!)

As I sit on a bench with all the sounds of nature enveloping me, one of these birds flew directly towards me then looped around and flew away! So symbolic. I was completely engrossed in watching the flight. As an afterthought I snapped this picture of that bird with one of his bird friends.

While I am well aware that I’m not the only mother in the history of the world to experience this deep, bittersweet sense of loss; I am definitely feeling connected to every human soul who has, for whatever reason, ever had to say a tough, gut wrenching, totally scary and absolutely necessary farewell.

So when the time comes, I pray for the strength to be able to turn around and paddle away, knowing I’ve done all I can and trusting he will be surrounded with love, support and guidance always.

Mindful Monday: Sangha

Good morning and happy Monday, dearest mindful ones!

I’m so grateful to be part of the Yoga By Degrees sangha. I’m so grateful for each and every one of YOU! 🙏🏾

Sangha is a Sanskrit term meaning association, company or community.

In Buddhism, sangha has two meanings: 1. A community of Buddhist monastic monks and nuns, or 2. a community of awakened beings.

When I refer to our YBD sangha, I’m acknowledging that you are all my TRIBE! My peoples.

I’m appreciating the fact that through all of my life transitions over the past eight plus years, YOU my dearest mindful one, have walked by my side; grabbed my hand and pulled me when I needed it; kicked me in my booty at times; pushed; cheered and supported me through ALL of it.

And I sincerely hope that you feel I’ve been able to do the same for you.

How lucky are we to have a sacred space to go and hide, heal, cry, laugh and receive love, compassion, support and understanding?!

I am particularly grateful for all of the love, support, wisdom and much-needed advice as I’ve navigated the turbulent years of parenting a brilliant, talented and very stubborn (not sure where he got that from!) teenager!

And yesterday was a successful launch into his brand new, bright, shiny future as a college freshman in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

It truly takes a village or a sangha to raise a child.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you my dearest mindful ones.

Namaste.

Wellness Wednesday: The Entity Of The Small Moments

Our days are composited with many small moments that are interconnected to form this big picture that is our life.

These small moments can easily be lost among the clutter as we become overwhelmed by responsibilities, obligations, goals and tasks we encounter. In attempt to cope with the chaos of life we reminisce on days past or daydream on days ahead, straying us away from the present moment. We find it difficult to be present because there always seems to be more pressing needs that must be done. When the opportunity arises to spend time to ourselves we feel guilty that we may be neglecting our family, friends and even our work. While life can be insistent, these small moments can carry the potential to cultivate greater bliss we desire for days on end.

Drawing conscious awareness to the present moment is a practice. Resisting our urge to rush enables us to witness our ability to soften, expand and learn. We become more mindful of the space and environment we are in when we focus on our breath and movement. If we handle each small moment with care whether we percieve it as positive or negative we can learn to adore the entity of life itself. Our patience to embrace each small moment will teach us the expedition from one point to another will seem to take no time at all as we move through bliss that is the present moment.

Namaste!

Angie

August 2019 Pose of the Month: Downward Facing Dog

Our August 2019 pose of the month is Adho Mukha Svanasana. The dog days of summer are the best days to down dog!

This pose is one of the foundational poses of our yoga practice and easily recognizable even by those who have yet to practice yoga. Let’s do this!

1 Come to your hands and knees. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. The fold of your wrists should be parallel with the top edge of your mat.

2 Stretch your elbows and relax your upper back.

3 Point your index finger directly toward the top edge of your mat and splay your fingers wide apart. Spread Press firmly through your palms and knuckles, particularly index finger and thumb. Distribute your weight evenly across your hands without dumping into your wrists.

4 Exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, then draw your sit bones toward the wall behind you. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an upside down V. Imagine your hips and being pulled backwards and lifted upwards from the top of your thighs. Do not walk your feet closer to your hands — keep the extension of your whole body.

5 Press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. As you lengthen your spine, lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling. Now press down equally through your heels and the palms of your hands.

6 Firm the outer muscles of your arms and press your index fingers into the floor. Lift from the inner muscles of your arms to the top of both shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs and toward your tailbone. Broaden across your collarbones.

7 Rotate your arms externally so your elbow creases face your thumbs.

8 Draw your chest toward your thighs as you continue to press the mat away from you, lengthening and decompressing your spine.

9 Engage your quadriceps by lifting your knee caps. Rotate your thighs inward as you continue to lift your sit bones high. Sink your heels toward the floor.

10 Align your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head, but do not let it dangle. Gaze between your legs or toward your navel.

11 Hold for 5 breaths.

12 To release, exhale as you gently bend your knees and come back to your hands and knees.

Wellness Wednesday: Your Sacred Time In Solitude

When we hop onto our mat we may realize it may be the only time we have solitude in our daily schedule. With the fast forward momentum of today’s life, we feel compelled to make the most of each day being productive.

The activities, habits and rituals that sustain us then are the first to become sacrificed. In times we ache for rest it’s important to remind ourselves that our spiritual self should be involved in our list of priorities to cultivate balance in our lives.

Each task, relationship and situation we engage fuels our spiritual vitality. But sometimes we feel guilty that we may be neglecging our family, friends or work. We come very selfless. While being selfless is seen as being thoughtful, we must prioritize our favorite spiritual fulfilling activities and require ourselves to practice the power of saying no to other’s requests and overwhelming responsibilities.

As we participate in activities and relationships that leave us feeling whole, we commit to enriching our personal growth by diving deeper into the benefit of solitude. We then realize this time is sacred and something we prioritize in our healing journey.

Namaste,

Angie

Mindful Monday: Patience

Good morning, Mindful Ones!

“Patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

Boy, did I have an awesome lesson in patience on Saturday morning!

I left my house early to take one of my favorite yoga classes. En route, I stopped to get my iced coffee. I buy my coffee from a spot that is a hidden gem – it’s never very busy because it’s kind of off the beaten path.

Well when I got there, I knew right away things seemed odd. There was a long line for the drive-through.

Simple enough. I parked my car and headed in. And that’s when I saw the long line of customers waiting agitatedly.

I caught the attention of my lovely barista Mârché, and she explained that there was only two people working that morning rather than the scheduled four people.

So, I understood very clearly why there was a longer than normal wait. I had compassion for the two girls working, because they were dealing with two long lines of inconvenienced customers.

And still, a well of annoyance, irritation and entitlement kept trying to bubble to the surface. And I kept breathing deeply and reminding myself of the perfectly logical reason why I was waiting. It was definitely a struggle.

And because I frequent that location, and I have had dozens upon dozens of great experiences there, I was able to restrain myself from behaving badly. Lol.

I had to wait so long, however, that I was now in danger of being late for class! Fortunately I had left quite early that morning, which in itself was a tiny miracle. 🤣 Had I left at my regular time, which generally gives me about a five minute window, I would have absolutely missed my class.

So about 12 minutes later (who was counting?) i’m in my car and speeding off with focus and determination to get to my yoga class.

Wouldn’t that be the morning that I caught every single red light? And not just regular red lights; Red lights that literally lasted like two minutes each.

And why was every driver in front of me the slowest in the history of driving?

Again, that hot flame of annoyance began to rise and build! It was growing into full blown road rage. I was clutching the steering wheel and hunching forward over it. I felt my shoulders tense upward toward my ears; my jaw was clenching. I was agitatedly pounding on my steering wheel!

And I kept reminding myself to breathe. That this was most definitely a first world problem. That I had already texted the teacher and she had put a mat down for me. That if I missed my yoga class there was 32 others during the day that I could take.

It was a constant back and forth struggle the entire drive.

I made it to class with two minutes to spare. I dramatically rushed in and got myself set up. I said hello to my fellow students and other teachers. And finally, landed on my mat filled with gratitude and joy.

Sigh. It’s always great to be back home.

Let’s remember together, dear ones, that patience is a sign of STRENGTH and anger is the hallmark of weakness.

Have a great week, great souls! And be so grateful if the universe sends you many, many opportunities this week to practice your patience!

Wellness Wednesday: Heart Over Head

Many of us were taught to value head over heart. We prioritize what our mind says and become conscious to what it says avoiding what the heart has to say. This habit can become ingrained like any other innate instinct we have.

However by shifting our awareness from our head to our heart we plunge into a wholesome place.

The anatomy of our bodies and psychology of our brains is something that is constantly being attempted to be understood. The brain itself is a miracle for the way it processes thoughts, emotions and the way it creates strategies and visuals. We can give great thanks to our body for the way it enables us to survive. Nevertheless we must never forget we can gain so much wisdom from our hearts. The mind and body interconnected allows us to reveal more about ourselves and others as a whole.

When we draw focus to our hearts, feeling is a concept we tend to avoid. We create barriers and walls as they are our first coping mechanisms we turn to during periods of distress. But the distress we are able to feel is varied by the joy we can feel as well. Together it adds depth and color to our lives despite seeing these emotions as positive or negative.

When we give ourselves permission to feel we begin to understand we are feeling at this time for a specific reason in this moment, time and space. In that we must trust the process as we are constantly progressing to evolve ourselves learning something new with every layer we peel back. Much can be revealed when we consciously observe heart over head.

Namaste!

Angie

Mindful Monday: Summer is Slipping Away

Good morning and happy Monday, dearest ones!

Summer is slip sliding away so quickly!

And isn’t time such a relative perspective?

For parents with young, loud, messy, high-energy, easily bored little ones, the advent of a new school year can’t come quickly enough!

For one of my dearest friends whose daughter is in her last two weeks of Beast basic training for the United States Military Academy aka West Point, time seems interminable.

For me? I’d love to slow down the clock because my son Julian leaves for Vanderbilt in less than three weeks! Not to mention summer is hands down (legs up) my absolute best time of year!

Thus is our human nature. Trying to cherry pick life’s moments and experiences. Attaching to and desiring what we perceive to be “good” and resisting and averting from what we deem as “bad.”

We can never achieve permanent, authentic happiness and inner peace if we are constantly defining the conditions for it.

I will be happy if he brings me flowers.

I can’t be happy if she keeps smacking her gum.

I will be happy once I can get my leg behind my head.

I can’t be happy unless I get married again.

I’ll be happy if my mother-in-law doesn’t criticize me.

Whether or not these (temporary) conditions come to pass, we can still choose happiness if we don’t expect or depend on them.

Think about why you take a vinyasa class at your favorite studio: it’s awesome specifically because you don’t know what the teacher had planned! You are a student: open, eager and ready for whatever unfolds on your mat! Especially when you first began practicing, right?

It was all shiny and new and challenging and intoxicating. You didn’t second guess the instructor or try to anticipate what was coming up next. You listened, tried, experienced it.

You learned how to try new things.

How to fall. And get back up with a giggle.

You learned how strong you are!

You learned where you had areas and potential for growth.

You learned to breathe

To listen to your heart.

To accept wherever you happen to be on your journey.

And the entire point of yoga is to transpose all of those lessons off of the mat into real life.

So, rather than trying to make time slow down or speed up, we breathe in fully and deeply each and every moment. We trust in the higher intelligence of LIFE. We surrender to being such a beautiful, integral part of the greater universe.

Of course, it ain’t easy! Lol. Where would the fun be in that?!

So even though my heart aches down to the deepest level of my soul, I choose to be happy even during my moments of deep sobbing and panic. To feel grateful that I am able to love on the deepest of levels. To be thrilled for this ridiculously bright and amazing future my son is embarking upon.

To know and trust that of course it is all necessary and amazing and beautiful. All of it. Especially those circumstances that break us down; crack us wide open; leave us feeling raw and vulnerable and tender.

For these are the opportunities for true growth. Here we learn compassion, patience, healing, acceptance, depth of love and letting go.

Each moment may seem to last forever, but they are so precious and fleeting.

And one day in retrospect, you’ll look back and those moments you tried to rush through are the ones that you deeply long for!

One more day of summer break with my son

One more afternoon answering endless questions

One more early Saturday morning of baseball/karate/track meet/practice driving/soccer

One more night filled with loud, silly, messy hungry boys sleeping over

One more weekday night after a long day of work to hear the words: “mommy, will you play with me”

Recognizing on the deepest level there’s no going back for do-overs, I know the next best thing is to stay mindfully aware and present for all of the moments of each day.

So take advantage of the gift of these last weeks of summer! What have you been planning to do? Get out there and make it happen! So when you do look back, it’s with a deep, joyful knowing that you appreciated and maximized each moment.

Have a great week, friends!

Wellness Wednesday: Surrounding Yourself With Those That Feel Like Light

“Stay close to people that feel like sunlight.”

One of my favorite quotes that I read somewhere (probably Pinterest, let’s be honest) at sometime I needed to hear it. As someone who is introverted, I always valued quality over quantity. As we are impelled to move forward at such a high speed in our schedules we realize our time becomes sacred and we cannot afford anything less than the feeling of sunshine. So while we begin to acknowledge who our sunshine people are, we also realize along the way we become a better form of ourselves as we seek for this.

We interact with a multitude of people each day. As we consciously acknowledge our exchanges with each person we learn it becomes easier to distinguish who it is we should spend more time around and those we should stray away from. But sometimes it feels as if we do not have much control over who we are around at all times. But our ability to cultivate space to toxicity in the room is within us already as we can detach to maintain our own peace.

When we cleanse ourselves from those that drain us we nurture ourselves with those that respectfully enrich our lives with a growing space that provides support, love and comprehension.

Namaste,

Angie

Mindful Monday: Hot Yoga in the High Heat of Summer? Yes, please!

Good morning and happy Monday, my beautiful, mindful ones!

There’s been tons of rain this summer, but summer is finally here!

Summer is hands down my absolutely favorite season! I love being outdoors. And summer in Chicago is literally the best place on the planet to live!

Summer concerts, Cubs games, street festivals, beach days, pool days, breakfast, lunch and dinner al fresco, long walks in nature, fireflies, funnel cakes, Fourth of July… the list is endless!

But when that heavy humidity is blanketing you, and sweat is dripping from virtually everywhere in your body … a hot yoga class may feel like the last place you’d ever want to be.

However, there are so many great reasons to continue your practice in spite of the summer heat!

1. Consistency and discipline.

The height and depth of your yoga practice (and virtually every other aspect of life) is directly related to how often you practice. That means being very consistent with your commitment to your mat. If you truly want to make Yoga an integral part of your life, it becomes habitual. Just like eating and sleeping. It’s a daily practice!

2. Detoxification.

Sweating aids in cleansing your organs, muscles and glands. Whether you’re feeling lethargic or overindulging during weekend barbecues, summer is a great time to detoxify your body! During the warmer summer months people tend to get sluggish. Doing hot yoga re-energizes you and helps you sweat out bad toxins. So go ahead and eat that Andy’s custard! Just work it off on your mat!

3. Training your cardiovascular system.

Your cardiovascular systems helps regulate and control body temperature. In our privileged society, we externally control our environmental temperatures with air-conditioning and heating. This ensures that we are comfortable throughout the changing seasons of the Midwest. However it does not allow us to train the vascular system to regulate body temperature internally.

When practicing yoga in a heated room, it provides a great opportunity for your cardiovascular system to also train and get a workout!

4. Strengthening your brain!

You’re either comfortable or you’re growing. It’s that simple. If you seek safety in life, relationships, career moves, you’ll never find true growth.

Learning to cope in high heat yoga classes teaches valuable coping skills off of your mat! You become much less reactive to external stimuli and become much stronger in mentally focusing and executing your life goals.

Whatever you “think” you are or do, is the absolute truth.

5. Deepen your asana practice.

After a long day sitting at your desk, you feel stiff basically like everywhere! With your body already warm from the outside temperatures, stepping into the heated studio gives your body an opportunity to become more limber and flexible. With the heat, you begin from a space of warmth and may find a depth to your poses not readily accessible in the colder, stiffer months.

I certainly see very clearly how students’ backbends are so much deeper this time of year. So much more space in the upper body when we’re not hunching over and bracing against the cold!

What are some other benefits that you are seeing through your consistent, year-round practice?!

Have a great week, hotties!!!