This will be our last Mindful Monday blog, and it has been such an honor and privilege to be able to connect with you through this format for the past several years!
We are so grateful for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you back on your mats very soon!
This collective pause has brought humanity together like no other world event. There’s really no one to “blame” here, although we do see some “finger pointing” happening.
For me, the biggest reinforcement has been that I am the creator of my own happiness, my life and all of its experiences.
And that by practicing mindfulness through movement and meditation, I understand that I will never find happiness waiting for something outside to shift.
I must choose happiness because it’s my birthright. I must decide to be happy anywhere and everywhere under any circumstances.
That if I wait for perfect external conditions: the weather; what others think say or do; whether I practice back in a heated studio, happiness will be fleeting and fickle.
Let’s choose happiness! No matter what! Let’s give up the victim mentality – which essentially gives away our personal power – and remember that we are the creative, intuitive, powerful creators of our lives.
Let’s stay connected, friends!
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“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects things to get better; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
It is so critical to cultivate your mind during this time. Let’s stop looking for happiness in “the way things were” or “when things go back to normal.”
Change is never easy, but it’s certainly inevitable. And it will always draw out the best in humanity!
The stories of birthday drive-bys, of how certain parts of the world are seeing blue skies for the first time in decades, of the acts of love and care and compassion from all of the “helpers” out there.
What are you noticing about your relationships during this time? About yourself? What are three blessings you’ve experienced during this situation? What are some newfound habits and rituals you will continue?
I’m enjoying a slower more deliberate pace of life. I’m so grateful that my days are filled with taking care of my family. Daily walks with my 86 year old father. Remembering how much I love teaching yoga. Knowing I’m contributing to a smaller carbon footprint.
Knowing that we are so deeply reminded of our deep interconnectedness with one another and with humanity.
Seeing how people adapt and can even thrive in our newfound awareness of one another. Acknowledging that we all contribute to the collective. We all have a role in serving humanity. We all matter. We are all important. We are all enough!
Like you, my dearsweet yogi, I often need a reminder of all of this!
That’s why I’m eternally grateful for all of your generosity in supporting us at Yoga By Degrees so that we can stay connected and keep teaching!
Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule
Good morning beautiful mindful socially distanced ones!
We are starting week five of our transition to online practicing! It just illustrates that time and life continue to move forward. That’s happening. But we get to control how we think and process all that is happening around us and for us. Yes for us, not to us.
Many of us observe Easter as a religious holiday; others may approach it as more of a cultural experience for our kids. Either way, it was certainly an entire shift. Much like almost everything that’s unfolded over the past several weeks.
Through our yoga practice we learn to observe the inner dialogue and the inner self in relation to external circumstances.
Never before in history have we as an entire species had this opportunity for introspection and healing.
However we have experienced these new circumstances tell us so much about what’s going on internally. The quarantine and social distancing are the stimuli to surface our inner mechanisms of coping and to show us where we have been ‘stuck.’
Remember, dear soul, that it is not circumstances that cause stress, anxiety, fear, resistance, compassion, love, acceptance and gratitude. These qualities exist within each of us. It is how we choose to think about a situation that creates an emotional reaction.
One exactly identical situation will be processed differently by people based on their vibrational level.
Say you are driving in traffic and someone cuts you off. Your reaction to that situation will vary based on your current mood or vibrational energy.
One vibrating from fear or shame may immediately blame himself or herself for driving too slowly and being in the way. Someone in an angry or egoic space will flash with anger and self-righteousness. Someone in a stable space of courage and acceptance will acknowledge that this is a good example of the need for driving defensively. One in an elevated state of love, gratitude and hope will think this person needs to be somewhere important; I’ll create space for him and pray he gets where he needs to be safely.
And this is how it is with life. Like the rude driver, we cannot control much of external circumstances. The work and effort is internal: how do I want to feel? Do I want to feel happy and safe? Then let me seek out those thoughts and circumstances that allow me to feel this way.
Let me look around at all of the beauty: every positive social media post; every Zoom yoga class; every face mask donated. And look within yourself: how strong you are; how authentic you are; how kind and compassionate to yourself and to others you are learning to be.
And remember, your Yoga By Degrees teachers and community are HERE for you every day with classes, giggles, nuggets of wisdom and an overwhelming realization that we are all in this together. We are ONE!!!
Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule!
We are so grateful for this community! And overwhelmed with your generosity that allows us to continue to teach on this new platform!
I’ll begin one of our final mindful Mondays with the deepest expression of gratitude and appreciation for YOU, dearest friend and dedicated yogi, for your unbelievable generosity and support for our yoga community over the past few weeks with your heartfelt donations! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I am so confident I speak for our entire organization.
I’m also so grateful for our leader ship at YBD for quickly pivoting during our current situation and creating an opportunity to provide a much needed service with continuity and ingenuity.
I’ve always preached in class that we never know what we’re training for when we are on our mats. And as we strengthen our muscles and improve flexibility, we are also increasing our resiliency, toughening mental fortitude and mastering our fickle and temporary emotions.
Yoga teaches us that it’s how we choose to look at things that form our reality. As many of you know, being upside down is more natural for me than our more foundational grounding and stabilizing poses for some reason. It is through our inversion practice, we are forced to view things from a vastly different perspective.
And I always remind you in class that you never have to lift your feet off your mat to be inverted! Down dog, standing forward fold, plough pose, prasarita padottanasana and also child’s pose are a few opportunities to examine assumptions and to shift perspective!
Life is giving us a rare opportunity at this moment in time to do the same thing. Our yoga practice has been our training ground for this very moment in life. This gift of slowing down, examining our relationship to nature and Mother Earth, evaluating priorities and relationships, practicing self-care and spending more precious time doing the simpler invaluable things in life. Walking outdoors. More family time. More solitude.
Many of you who are “bored” may start to explore a constant need for stimulation and aversion to stillness and quiet contemplation. Many of us are using this opportunity to increase knowledge and learn new skills.
Some among us may find themselves busier than ever! Working in an industry considered essential or adjusting to working from home with a full house and an absence of child care and other resources.
Which ever end of the spectrum you may find yourself, it’s important to raise your perspective from yourself at a micro level and understand that the circumstances are largely outside of your control. But what you can control is how you choose to see things.
The biggest shift that can be the most helpful is realizing that life happens for us. It’s not happening against us. Life will constantly give us challenges in order for us to grow and evolve.
Whatever you are experiencing, you are bigger and stronger than this temporary situation.
And guess what, guys? Life by its very nature is a temporary situation.
We are grateful to continue to be here for you! Keep practicing online with us! and please keep your generous donations coming in so we may continue to provide you with yoga content!
Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule
Good morning, mindful ones! As we begin week two of self quarantine, it is so serendipitous that we have reached the bliss kosha in our studies.
The final of the five koshas is anandamaya kosha—the bliss sheath. Anandamaya encompasses not the feeling of bliss, but rather, the experience of bliss.
At this innermost layer we feel bliss which in my fleeting experiences is simply feeling more alive as we are freed of blocks on a physical or energetic level. Each breath is in acute focus, everything around is experienced in Technicolor and surround sound audio.
When we are in a state of bliss we are feeling happy, full of purpose and able to experience unconditional love for self and for others. We are liberated from suffering.
The anandamaya kosha is referred to as the true self. Connection to this layer can be described as “coming home.” It is the state of samadhi. ￼
In contrast to vijnanamaya kosha, you do not witness the bliss sheath, you are the bliss. Bliss can be thought of not as an ecstatic happiness or even joy, but a steady state of being, no matter what circumstance arises.
It’s so important to note that it is a state of wholeness and completeness with the moment and it is completely independent of any external circumstances.
Anandamaya is still a sheath, or an illusion, a layer that can be peeled back. When anandamaya is peeled away, we reach atman—our very center. Atman is our direct connection with the divine, with the essence of all that is. It is our pure consciousness. The soul.
Striving to reach anandamaya kosha is a futile attempt, for it is only revealed when we release any form of mind control over it. Anandamaya is not of the mind. It is a deeper experience than that which can be contemplated. Even describing it in words is not completely accurate. The bliss of a child fully immersed in the moment—that is anandamaya.
Yet, even this bliss, however wonderful it is, is still a covering, a sheath, a lampshade covering the pure light of consciousness. It is the subtle most of the five koshas. In the silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, so as to experience the center.
Atman is the Self, the eternal center of consciousness, which was never born and never dies.
Atman, the Self, has been best described as indescribable. The realization of that, in direct experience, is the goal of Yoga. Both on and off our mats.
Have a great week, my mindful ones! Stay connected with us through our virtual classes! You can sign up online or on the app via our Elmhurst studio. All classes are streamed via the Zoom app.
I’m so proud of you for using this time as an opportunity for self-care and self-reflection. ❤️🙏🏾
Good morning dearest yogis! Our March 2020 POTM is Hanumanasa or full front splits.
We’ve intentionally curated this pose during this challenging and unprecedented time, because it embodies the spirit of trust, devotion, a belief in miracles and a willingness to do what needs to be done to serve others.
Hanuman was a half monkey avatar of Lord Shiva. Out of devotion, he leapt from India across the ocean to Sri Lanka to comfort Lord Shiva’s wife who had been kidnapped. He also delivered Shiva’s ring to let her know she would soon be rescued.
In another instance, Hanuman leapt to the mountain to obtain a special healing herb for Lakshmanan. Because he’s a monkey, he wasn’t sure which herb it was! To save precious time, he just carried the entire mountain back down to save his life.
So as you can see, this is a very beautiful pose representing valor and devotion.
1. From a kneeling lunge, start to straighten your front leg as you slide your back leg behind you.
2. You may use blocks on either side of your mat to help position yourself.
3. Lift the ball of your front foot up and slide you front leg as far as your hamstrings will allow. You might first want to stop at Ardha Hanumanasana, the Half Split Pose, take a few breaths there, and then continue.
4. As your front leg straightens, start pushing your back knee backwards so your back thigh is getting closer towards the floor. Make sure your back leg remains straight from the hip and is not extending towards either side.
5. Keep your hips square towards the front of the mat (warrior one hips) and focus on leveling your pelvis rather than reaching it to the ground. Press your inner thighs towards each other to help support your pelvis.
6. Once you become stable, recruit your core and adductors as you lift your arms to the sky. Hold for 5-20 breaths.
We are moving into our more deeper and subtler practice of yoga. It’s such an interesting and exciting journey, isn’t it?
The more we start to learn and discover, our realization is that we have just scratched the surface of this deep and ancient practice.
Today we go into more depth of the outermost kosha: the Annamaya. Kosha translates to sheaths or different bodies that cover our true nature/Self. In our ancient texts, “Maya” means illusion. So these sheaths or covers are illusions, skewing our awareness of ultimate self.
An example of maya is if you are looking in the darkness and can just make out the shape of a man standing outside. You are convinced there is a person there because you can see it. Actually, it was the just post of the old fence.
This outer sheath is the literally the body layer—muscles, bones, skin, organs. Anna means food, which is what sustains this level. Asana keeps this kosha healthy and can be used to treat problems that arise in the body.
We exercise this outermost aspect of ourselves, take care of it, nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.
When life is out of balance, we must identify the kosha that is troubled and take on practices to help it come back into harmony with the others. Exploring and integrating each layer brings us closer to a state of bliss.
This week’s topic is one near and dear to my heart: meditation.
Did you know that the reason we practice our physical poses is to prepare mind and body to sit easily in meditation?
Yes! So interesting, right? Our asanas allow us to develop more awareness of reality; they discipline our mind and body for stillness; we learn not to react to sensations in the body; we learn to calm mind and body when the urge to run away is overpowering; we become mindful of how our thoughts can be mastered.
Physically, asanas prepare the body, especially hips and spine, to endure staying seated and upright without distractions from physical discomfort. Poses also identify and flush out energetic and muscular stress, tension and resistance. The physical practice paves the way for pranyama, breath awareness, which deepens the focus and slows the mind.
So the ideal opportunity to meditate is directly following asana and pranayama practice.
So what is meditation, exactly? Meditation is a habitual practice of training your mind to focus, redirect and eventually to still your thoughts altogether. Like all things worthwhile in life: it is hard work and it requires discipline and accountability.
“But I don’t have time!” This is not even an original excuse. We make time in our lives for things we prioritize. Wake up five minutes earlier. Cut into your social media time. Take just five minutes ￼￼￼at the end of your day.
There are numerous studies and entire books, blogs and documentaries devoted to all of the benefits of a meditation practice. Here are some of the quick and dirty major benefits:
1. Stress release
2. Anxiety reduction
3. Increases focus
4. Decreases blood pressure
5. Promotes better sleep
Just like any new habit/discipline, start out slow and steady!
1. Try to get to yoga class a little early so you can sit and practice mindfulness! You’ll notice a definite shift in your vinyasa practice. This is exactly why we hold quiet space before and after classes.
2. Stay just a few minutes after class to sit quietly. If you’re on a tight timeline, forgo savasana for a seated meditation.
3. Wake up five minutes early and just sit (or lie in bed!) and notice sensations in your body and begin your day with a positive and clear mindset.
4. Take a few minutes right before bed to practice mindfulness. You can sit and observe or you can even do legs up the wall as you release your day and prepare for deep, healing sleep!
5. You can even practice mindfulness when you’re standing in line or sitting in traffic in your car￼! Or performing daily rituals and repetitive, habitual tasks, e.g.: vacuuming, doing dishes, cleaning bathtub.
Set yourself up for success. Have some short term goals and discipline yourself to stick to them! Not only will you get all the benefits of mindfulness practice, but you’ll get a boost to your self-esteem knowing you are supporting the development of your best and highest self.
Have a great, mindful week, dearest ones! I’d love to hear how your mindfulness practice is developing!
The Ajna Chakra or the Third Eye chakra is associated with the LIGHT element and the color INDIGO.
Mantra: “I see” or “Aum/Om”
The Ajna is located on the forehead between the eyebrows, just above and between the eye line.
It governs your vision, intuition, illumination, psychic abilities, perception of subtle dimensions and movements of energy, connection to insight, wisdom, inspiration and creativity.
When your Ajna chakra is open and balanced, you clearly see reality without the filters of your ego, expectations, past experiences and other social programming. The gift of your Ajna chakra is the ability to be mindful and live in the present moment. Your third eye chakra is the center of your intuition and wisdom, allowing you to open your mind to deeper understandings and expand your intuition.
When it is blocked, you may feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond your problems and set a guiding vision for yourself and have a lack of clarity.
When it is overstimulated and without support from the rest of the chakra system, you may indulge in fantasies that appear more real than reality, and experience psychic fantasies and other illusions.
To balance this chakra, try forward folds, shoulder stand and balasana, childs’ pose.