Month: October 2019

Wellness Wednesday: Soothing Silence

Happy Wellness Wednesday, guys!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my annual escape to Colorado to visit friends and absorb the beauty of the mountains. While I was there I couldn’t help but notice for the first time there being a lot less background noise than we do here in Chicago and the suburbs. There was no longer the constant buzzing of sirens and congested roads but instead pure silence. Silence has always been something I craved as my schedule at home can leave me run down as I am sure you can relate to as well. My time spent in Colorado has always shown me the renourishing effect silence has.

But the idea of silence can make us feel awkward, finding it much more easier to move into activity to avoid silence whether this be in a conversation or space. However, silence is with us always. It’s vast, it’s potent, it’s renourishing. It has its own weight and quality. It truly is precious.
As soon as we can accept the ability to be still we can experience our purest self. Our breath, our heartbeat, sensations, intuition. But if we go further to tune ourselves into the deeper silence we can feel the pulsating waves it uses to shake our core clean leaving us nothing but renourished and whole. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

This new perspective I have gained while in Colorado has always inspired me to always search for what feels good, what makes me feel whole. The views, the people, the awareness of ones own health, the balance of loud, social nights and silent, humbling mornings. I can’t take mountains back home with me but I can tune into the same silence I experienced out there. It is comforting knowing that. 

We can access it at anytime even in the midst of it all if we allow it. It is there waiting for us to resist the urge to create uneccessary sound. We can simply wake up before the rest of the world, turn off the car radio or television and immerse ourself into the surrounding silence to fully experience the healing effects.




Mindful Monday: Asanas

Happy Monday, oh Mindful ones!

Let’s continue our study of Ashtanga or the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga as expressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the first two limbs: the Yamas or the guidelines for social behavior and the Niyamas which refer to how we discipline ourselves. So now we move on to our third limb: the asanas or the yoga poses that we practice together at YBD.

The first two limbs prepare us to more fully inhabit this human body through our asanas. The postures that we practice are designed to develop discipline, focus and concentration in order to prepare us, the yoga practitioner, to sit with ease in meditation. The root of the word asana is “as” which means to sit.

This is such an important point: the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third of eight limbs, which factors out to a mere 12.5 percent of our complete practice. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, and the proper caring of it is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation (and life!).

The eight limbs are not necessarily developed in a linear fashion. Indeed, I spent the first eight years of my yoga practice firmly mired in the pursuit of the third limb with the other limbs much less developed. This is a common dilemma that we may find ourselves in- which is ok! The entry point of our practice is just that – how we enter into this lifelong practice. Like life, it evolves and transforms with its own natural rhythm.

There is so much focus on the physical portion of our practice, mainly because it appears to be a tangible. But we really cannot actually SEE yoga – we FEEL it. The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for the Asana is “sthira sukham asanam”, the posture should be steady and comfortable. The next time you are in class, observe yourself:  are you gritting your teeth and tensing in order to find a more advanced variation of a pose? What if you pulled back and focused on calm, steady breathing?

While the asanas are only a small percentage of our complete yoga practice, let’s not forget they are a really fun part of it as well! Have a great week, yogis! Breathe, sweat and smile, my friends!

Wellness Wednesday: Name it, Claim it, Tame it

Happy Wellness Wednesday, guys!

I once had an individual in life who lived by the saying, “name it, claim it, tame it” in order to cultivate for ease and clarity in life. A simple step by step guide in chaotic moments because in those moments it is easier to feel everything all at once than to actually deal with it. We tend to react rather than respond as we realize in our fast moving world that our culture does not always prioritize emotional awareness. We have this tendency to create barriers with self defenses and never actually confront what it is that we feel.

Sometimes we experience the intensity of our emotions without understanding why or without warning. We may dig ourself into a ditch in attempt to identify solutions that will bring us a sense of peace but instead become more frustrated. We gain a sense of taking control when we are able to identify what it is that we are feeling. In doing so we accept and take ownership of what it is we are experiencing whether we perceive it as positive or negative. This encourages us to transition from one emotional state to another intentionally and precisely when we feel ready with honesty. We must be honest with ourself in order to work directly from the root. In doing so we come to be more direct in expressing our feelings, ideas and thoughts to those around us.

Once we identify and accept whole heartedly we have already began the process to tame it because we created the clear connection between the way we feel and our current circumstance. We come to realize how liberated we feel as we detach from judgements and expectations that we put upon ourselves, ultimately discovering what it was that kept us incomplete to control our emotional state all this time.We simply must detach and observe constantly through the process to return back to emotional equilibrium.

“Name it. Claim it. Tame it.”



Mindful Monday: the Niyamas

Good morning and happy rainy Monday! The weather mirrors the constant changing and shifting of life. And here in the Midwest, we sometimes can get all four seasons in the span of a week!

That’s why I’m so grateful for the consistency of our yoga practice.

Let’s delve more deeply into a complete practice, which extends far beyond the ability to bend over backwards or balance on your hands. Yoga is an eight-limbed practice.

The first of the eight limbs of yoga is the Yamas or the moral and ethical guidelines of the practice, which we covered in last week’s Mindful Monday post.

Today we discuss the second limb called the Niyamas or the duties and disciplines. The niyamas are practiced by yogis to cultivate structure and confidence. These five tools provide the opportunity to refine ourselves and live more happily and productively. Like the yamas, Patanjali instructs us in the Yoga Sutras to practice the niyamas in thoughts, words and deeds.

Saucha means purification and cleanliness. The sages instruct that not only is cleanliness the foundation for bodily health but also the gateway to deeper and more tranquil states of meditation. Saucha extends to the consumption of pure foods, purity of intentions and thoughts and cultivating a pure body and mind. When we step onto our mats, we are purifying the body by eliminating toxins and by irrigating all cells with fresh blood and prana. We also have the opportunity to purify our minds as we cease the restless monkey mind and direct awareness to physical sensations. That’s why we feel so great after our practice! The mind is docile and we can experience the cosmic force of our own true nature.

Santosha  means contentment. It is about cultivating happiness and joy by learning to maintain equanimity of mind regardless of circumstances. In yoga, we challenge the perceived limits of our minds and bodies beyond the notion of comfort. We purposely make ourselves uncomfortable both mentally and physically on our mats and then practice breathing and finding contentment. In this way, we learn to look beyond an expectation of ease and comfort from life, as we cultivate a sense of gratitude and contentment that springs from deep within us and remains unaffected by temporary external circumstances. The key to santosha is acceptance and joyfulness.

Tapas literally means heat in the context of discipline and determined efforts. Tapas accompanies any discipline that is willingly and gladly accepted in order to bring about a change of some kind—whether it be improved health, a new habit, better concentration, or a different direction in life. Tapas focuses energy, creates fervor, and increases strength and confidence. 

I see so many of you burning your tapas when you drag yourself to a 6 a.m. class or come to practice after a long, stressful day at work rather than going home and having a few beers or a glass of wine. The more we cultivate this disciplined heat, the stronger and steadier we become!

Svādhyāya means self-study. You’ve undoubtedly experienced the benefits of self-reflection and self-scrutiny through your consistent yoga practice. Also, reading spiritual yogic texts and deepening your practice through this study is an important part of evaluating and refining who you are. It helps you to see the truth and make sensible choices, rather than operating on the basis of delusions about yourself or complacency and being on “auto-pilot” which often results in less than ideal decisions.

Ishvara Pranidhana is about surrendering to the divine or the universe. If you believe there is benevolent power greater than ourselves, you can set a silent intention at the beginning of class, devoting your practice to this force, or someone in your life that needs divine love and support. Meditation at the end of class is another opportunity to move your attention away from ‘me’ and focus instead on the divine presence within and without. Also, by surrendering to the divine, it releases you from the pressure of trying to ‘make things happen’ because when you surrender your will to this intelligence, everything flows as it should. Enjoy the doorways that open through being attentive to the divine.

Have a great week, yogis! I’d love to hear from you on ways that you have begun to integrate the yamas and niyamas into your life! Until next time, live, breathe, sweat and smile!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

October 2019 Pose of the Month: Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose

Happy October, yogis!

Our October 2019 POTM is Pincha Mayurasana. You may know Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose by one of its common aliases: Forearm Stand or Elbow Balance.

Forearm stand is an advanced pose that opens your shoulders for backbends; builds arm strength for more-advanced arm balances; adds an uplifting quality to your spirit and practice and deeply connects to the entire abdominal sheath.

Here’s how:

Bring your mat over to a wall.

1 Come to your hands and knees facing the wall. Your fingertips should be pretty close to the wall. (An inch or two away is good. This is so when you kick up and your heels are on the wall, your spine is as vertical as possible).

2 Bend your elbows to bring your forearms and palms flat against the floor. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the forearms. Your gaze should be down on your mat throughout this posture. 

3 Curl your toes under and lift your hips to come into a Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) position with your legs. This position is sometimes called Dolphin (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana).

4 Walk your feet in toward your elbows as much as possible. Ideally, your hips will come over your shoulders.

5 Lift your dominant leg (the one you like to lead with) to a Down-Dog Split (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana) position. 

6 Exhale and bend the knee of the leg that is still on the floor. Swing your lifted leg for a little momentum as your bottom leg hops up. Try to land both heels softly on the wall. Note that the head stays up off the floor. Keep your gaze on the floor between your hands.

7 If you are able to get both legs up and invert fully, begin to work on engaging your core so you can remove your feet from the wall one at a time and balance independently. Remain in the pose one to five minutes, breathing slowly and deeply.

8 Take five breaths in balsana or child’s pose to counter.

Wellness Wednesday: The Seeds That You Plant

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but instead the seeds that you plant.”

Happy Wellness Wednesday, guys! This past weekend I was driving to my favorite coffee shop after teaching a 6am class only to stumble across this quote posted in front of a business as I was driving.

While at a red light I kept rereading it over and over. I could not help but think how important this message was to remember as we can become so overly goal-oriented. Today we often feel we must be the next bigger, better and best. Our fixation on this idea can make us feel that our current actions are not enough, leaving us feeling stuck.

During these times it is important we reevaluate in order to bring clear what it is that may or may not be keeping us feeling stuck. Sometimes we must find patience within to wait until the momentum of life increases again but often we acknowledge the stillness is coming from our own defenses and attachments. Once we can identify what it is that is making us feel stuck, we can make adjustments in order to harmonize back into life’s tune.

It is important we remember we are the final judge of what it is we need in order to heal. We must be compassionate and gentle towards ourself as we know everyone feels stuck at some point in their lives. Our ability to change our perspective on this situation by viewing it as a process rather than a problem that must be fixed can help keep the frustration aside and cultivate the space we need in order figure out what really is going on. We must look at the steps we have taken rather than our end goal.

Mindful Monday: The Yamas

Happy Monday, dearest ones!

Let’s explore in more detail the Eight-Limbed Path of YOGA.

While the path is eightfold, we can work on each of the steps simultaneously or in any order that evolves organically. Most of us come to the practice through the third step – asana – which is a wonderful entry point! Remember that yoga meets you exactly where you are without reservation or judgement.

The first step in the path is called YAMAS – they can be considered as five moral guidelines, ethical considerations or universal vows. Yamas are basically the DO-NOTS of yoga.

Patanjali instructs us in the Yoga Sutras that we should practice the Yamas on all levels:  in our actions, words and thoughts.

1. Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, which includes physical, mental, and emotional violence towards others and the self. The starting point of your yoga practice begins with YOU. The most violence that we create is often towards ourselves through our reactions to events and others, habitually creating judgment, criticism, anger or irritation. I have observed within myself that for many years I habitually bullied and shamed and criticized myself which I mistakenly thought was motivating myself to achieve more and be more successful. As I began to observe this, slowly I realized how much violence I was directing inward and ultimately outward through these thought patterns. The most effective way to foster ahimsa is to practice being compassionate to yourself, first and foremost, and then towards others.  I try to allow my heart to remain open and loving and I strive to accept events, situations and others exactly as they are. Each time I experience my reactive self, I try to replace those thoughts and feelings with kindness, acceptance and love. This is very challenging and usually not very fun.  And I practice forgiving myself for not having compassion with practicing compassion.

2. Satya is the practice of truthfulness. We strive to live and speak our truth at all times. As always, we start with truthfulness towards ourselves – being honest and authentic with our own reality, opening to acceptance and loving gratitude.   Since Ahimsa must be practiced first, we must be careful to not speak a truth if we know it will cause harm to another. Living in your truth not only creates respect, honor and integrity but also provides the vision to clearly see the higher truths of the yogic path. It also gives those around us the strength and permission to walk proudly within their own truth.

3. Asteya is non-stealing, and is self-evident:  not taking what is not freely given. While this may on the surface seem easy to accomplish, when we look at the deeper implications of this Yama, we see how challenging this practice truly is. As an action, this is pretty clear-cut; obviously, we know not to take what is not ours, like theft of items from a store or someone’s home. But when we look at the level of words and thoughts, it becomes an entirely different practice. Asteya also refers to taking others’ thoughts and ideas and passing them off as our own. Constantly arriving late and having others’ wait for you is a form of stealing someone’s time. Practicing asteya also relates to dominating conversations without allowing the other person to speak and burdening others with our negative chatter (ahimsa).

4. Brahmacharya or continence technically refers to practicing abstinence or moderation in a sexual context, but the overarching thought is to practice control over all of our physical impulses of excess. The thought is that we attain knowledge, vigor, and increased energy when we channel the satisfaction of physical urges into higher goals. This applies to the overindulgence of food, wine, social media, binge watching TV shows, shopping and even getting addicted to the physical practice of yoga. To break the bonds that attach us to our excesses and addictions, we need both courage and will. And each time we overcome these impulses of excess we become stronger, healthier and wiser. One of the main goals in yoga is to create and maintain balance. And the simplest method for achieving balance is by practicing Brahmacharya, creating moderation in all of our activities. Practicing moderation is a way of conserving our energy, which can then be applied for higher spiritual purposes.

5. Aparigraha is the practice of non-coveting. Yoga teaches us to trust in the abundance of life. When we truly open up to the the truth that any and everything that we ever need shall be provided for us, we can resist the urge to cling, grasp, grip and possess anything. This is similar to the concept of stewardship – that we are all here to care for and pass on the gifts of this Earth – but we own nothing. As with all of our Yamas, this one can be so challenging in our consumer-driven society. How can we deprogram our minds’ need to own, possess, acquire and collect? When we know our true intrinsic value, we can stop searching for our worth to be defined as what we have and focus on who we are.

Whether you are an enlightened being who lives, breathes and eats the Yamas to perfection, or you are a flawed struggling yogi like me just trying to do better and be better each day, please, please, please practice compassion for yourself! You are doing the best you can each day. We all stumble, and we all fall and get back up.

Make it a great week friends!

Wellness Wednesday: Celebrating Your Happiness

Happy Wellness Wednesday, everyone!

This past week I had the great surprise to see our instructor, Pamela. Pamela has always been one to remind me the importance of getting excited about our littlest victories in life. She brings such a warm presence into a room, inspiring others to do the same.

Taking pride in our victories can seem like a tough pill to swallow. We may not feel as interesting, successful or important enough to people we may compare ourselves to. We can easily get swept up along in this mindset. Without acknowledging this we may lash our feelings out on others immediately or store our emotional hurt inside of our physical bodies as a way to suppress what we are actually feeling. It seems much easier to avoid our emotions than to actual deal with them so for a brief moment we may turn to other pleasures in hope to find ease, better known as numbing. Denying what we feel may burglarize us of the valuable information about our self that we may need in order to heal and create balance within our life.

Continuing to numb ourselves to the yin and yang of life can have us settle for a monotone world of grey. Our experiences become more dull and we become less content with our life’s path. This goes the same with positive emotions. Suppressing our happiness can be just as unhealthy as suppressing our sadness.  Taking a moment to express our innermost joy can give us the space to live vividly, reminding us the excitement life contains. As soon we can identify what brings us joy we expand our warmth to others as well.

Mindful Monday: Yoga – the Eight Limbed Path

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones.

Whether you’re new to your mat or a seasoned practitioner, you’ve undoubtedly pondered this question: What is Yoga?

Is it being really calm and not eating meat? Or is it buying expensive yoga pants and learning to twist your body into pretzel like shapes? Maybe it’s juice cleansing and chakra aligning. Or going to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and subscribing to Yoga Journal. Wearing mala beads and patchouli essential oil. I know –  It’s drinking kombucha and balancing on your head! Does going to Burning Man officially make me a yogi?

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which translates to “yoke” or “union.” The practice of yoga is both an art and science dedicated to creating this union between body, mind and spirit. It’s a tool for us to learn how to use our breath and bodies to foster a deep awareness of ourselves as beautiful, individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short, it is about making balance and creating equanimity so we may live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were recorded in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, in approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so we enjoy  lasting peace off of our mats.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

1 Yama :  Universal morality

2 Niyama :  Personal observances

3 Asanas :  Body postures

4 Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana

5 Pratyahara :  Control of the senses

6 Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness

7 Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine

8 Samadhi :  Union with the Divine

So you can see that the asanas or poses we practice equate to only 12.5 percent of a complete yoga practice! It’s an integral part of our holistic practice, but it cannot stand alone.

We’ll explore each of the limbs in a bit more detail for the next eight weeks! So make sure to check back in with Mindful Monday each week!

Namaste, my fellow yogis!

“Practice and all is coming.”  – K. Pattabhi Jois

Wellness Wednesday: Coming Out From Hiding

I think it’s easy to isolate ourselves time to time. We may use the defense during our isolation phase that we are shy or lonesome when in reality we could be hiding due to underlying tensions we may be experiencing.

Most of the time we work through this isolation phase as we could simply be angry, upset, anxious about the life outside of our physical bodies. However if we do not pass these feelings, we may resort to bitterness. Bitterness creates space for us to become victims that we no longer have to continue the path of healing. When we acknowledge that it is okay to feel this way time to time, we can reconnect consciously with our hurt in constructive way and begin the process to work through it.

When we hide, we feel as if we are invisible as if no one can see the hurt we are experiencing when in reality we are only hiding from ourself. Each of us has a unique light we can share. When we dim our own natural light we also dim the glowing radiance of the universe. Stepping out from hiding is a way for us to serve ourself and those around us. Our light can energize ourselves and others in a synergistic harmony. Our ability to allow others to experience our light encourages other to do the same. This ripple effect benefits everyone to experience the deep potential warmth this universe holds.