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Mindful Monday: Saluting the Sun

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Have you ever really stopped to contemplate Surya Namaskar? It’s such a common part of our practice, that it’s easy to be on autopilot as you flow through.

No worries! I have found myself doing this at times as well.

Yes, sun salutes are the perfect “warm-up” for the physical body. We lengthen and engage all major muscle groups and joints; cardiovascular system increases; lungs, blood circulation and digestive system all benefit. In fact if you don’t have time for a full hour of practice, do 10 to 12 sun salutes for a perfect physical workout!

But we know that Yoga transcends so much more than just the physical.

In our sun salutations, we are yoking mind and body together, creating a pathway to dhyana or meditation, a state of deep contemplation and reception.

In our fast-paced world, we are often ahead of the current moment. The mind has been trained to fast forward in anticipation. Our sun salutes offer the opportunity to pause, return to our center, rekindling our relationship to breath and pure awareness. With this new awareness of breath and movement, we connect to our deeper rhythm and experience a moving meditation. It’s not in fact the physical poses but the deeper awareness of our inner energetic flow that awakens the state of yoga.

The Sun is central to this devotion, as it is the giver of all life on this planet. Without the sun, life on earth would dwindle and slowly die. The Sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, generates our weather patterns, and gives energy to the growing green plants that provide the food and oxygen for life on Earth.

Miraculously, we are the perfect distance from the sun. Any closer, and we would be scorched. Any further away, and we would be in the Ice Ages.

The next time you flow through Surya Namaskar, focus on the miracle of your existence! Use your awareness to honor and notice where your body happens to be at this moment. Take each breath with gratitude.

Namaste, dearest mindful ones!

July 2019 Pose of the Month: Paripurna Navasana – Boat Pose

Happy July, hotties! Our pose of the month is …. Paripurna Navasana or Boat Pose. Because where else do you want to be in July? Obvi on a boat or next best thing … on your yoga mat. (Or no mat, but in a yoga pose 🤣)

Let’s go for it!

1 Begin in a seated position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 

2 Lift your feet off the floor. Keep your knees bent at first. Bring your shins parallel to the floor. This is half boat pose. Ardha Navasana

3 Your torso will naturally fall back, but do not let the spine round. 

4 Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle if you can do so without losing the integrity of your upper body. You want to keep your torso as upright as possible so that it makes a V shape with the legs.

5 Roll your shoulders back and straighten your arms roughly parallel to the floor with your palms

boom shaka laka! You’re in (not on) a boat! now, if you could do this while you’re on a boat, you are definitely living your best life! 🤣❤️🙏🏾

Mindful Monday: From the Mouths of Babes

Good morning and happy Monday, beautiful mindful ones!

Yesterday we celebrated fathers everywhere! They are the strength and providers (traditionally) of our families. Kudos to all of the loving, active, supportive dads everywhere with their corny dad jokes and all of their hard work.

My dad is currently in Barcelona, so I was grateful to speak with him on the phone and wish him a happy Father’s Day!

I spent the day with my mom, brother, son and nephew. What an epic day!

After a delicious meal together, we tossed the Big Kahuna frisbee around. It’s all fun and games until someone gets beaned by that hard plastic flying disc!

Which was me. Right in the shin! I’ll happily show you the bruise if I see you at the studio this week!

I took a bit of a break to nurse my wound while the boys kept playing. After some time, my seven year old nephew told me to get back in the game. Lol.

Which I did. But I was very timid at this point. He had tons and tons of advice for me: “Auntie Nadja, You have to run faster. You have to jump! You have to run towards the frisbee! Don’t look away. Keep your eyes on the frisbee. You closed your hands too soon.” It was a steady steam.

And it was all great advice! When I told him that I was afraid of the frisbee, he told me: “It’s ok Auntie Nadja. Just don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.”

And that little nugget of advice struck me as so deeply profound.

Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.

Boom.

How often do we get stuck focusing on the pain in a situation? Immersing ourselves in it. Sure, we need to pause and evaluate the situation. But then it’s time to move on! Get back in the game and move forward!

Countless situations in life are painful. Divorce. Death. Kids leaving for college. Betrayals from so-called friends or loved ones. We need time to heal and reassess our life perspective.

But rather than focusing on the pain, we can focus on the lesson. How is this pain an opportunity to grow and strengthen. Or to grow and soften. Let the pain be what wakes you up and gets your attention, but not the focal point.

Brilliance. From a seven year old!

Unbeknownst to me, as I was tending to my poor shin, my son got hit in the face with the frisbee and had a busted lip. This kid is an athlete. He has been since he was four. Which is probably why he didn’t even mention his busted lip for a solid hour to me! He continued playing without a peep.

He had clearly gotten that don’t focus on the pain memo! Lol

Life sometimes hurts us, dear souls. Let’s not focus on the pain. Let’s learn and grow from it. Let’s let the pain transform us and elevate us! (Insert gratuitous image of the Rock. You’re welcome!)

Have a great week, my dearest ones!

June 2019 Pose of the Month: Eka Vrschik Pada Koundinyasana or One Legged Scorpion Pose Dedicated to Sage Kaundinya

Happy June, friends!

Our pose of the month (POTM) is Eka Vrschik Pada Koundinyasana or One Legged Scorpion Pose Dedicated to Sage Kaundinya.

Sometimes this pose is called hurdlers pose – it’s an intermediate level arm balancing asana. This month, we’ll add a fun twist with a scorpion tail leg!

Let’s go!

1. From downward facing dog, lift your right leg up and step it outside of your right hand at the top of your mat.

2. Start to work your right shoulder behind the back of your right thigh, bringing your leg as close to your shoulder as possible.

3. Plant your palms down firmly and activate your core. Extend your left leg straight behind you pressing your toes into your mat and pushing energy through your left heel. Take a few breaths as you breathe from your left heel through your heart chakra.

4. Start to hinge forward onto your left tippy toes as you bend your elbows Chathuranga style. Make a shelf with your right tricep for your right leg as you extend right leg forward and float right foot off of your mat.

5. As you bend your arms push like crazy through your chest and your shoulders into the mat and simultaneously lift your left leg up with your left hamstrings.

6. From here, dip your chest down and hook your left foot toward your head.

7. Smile and take five deep ujayi breaths.

Mindful Monday: Be Happy

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

And just like that …

It’s June!

My son has graduated from high school!

I have moved and purged 85% of my worldly possessions!

Life continues to move forward. And it’s entirely up to us how we choose to flow with life as it unfolds or dig in our heels and resist reality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly five decades on this planet, it is that I have created my own suffering and resistance all of these years. I have made my life exponentially more difficult than it ever needed to be!

I have finally discovered the secret to happiness! And it’s so super duper simple.

And today’s your lucky day because I’m going to share this timeless wisdom with you right here!

Embracing happiness requires only two things. And you, my friend, have both of them in abundance!

The first is the simple mental decision to choose to be happy. Now when I say simple I certainly don’t pretend that it’s easy! But simply make the decision that you truly choose happiness … No. Matter. What.

So choose happiness. Boom! Mic drop and walk away.

But what if …

There are no “what ifs” or “buts”.

It’s a choice to be made in every circumstance and in every single situation. It’s easy to choose happiness when everything is smoothly going your way. Duh! Where is the challenge in that?

Your real test is in choosing happiness even when (fill in the blank here). And don’t get it twisted, there will always be roadblocks. Expect them and count on them. And still choose happiness as you navigate up, over and around.

The greatest tool you have to support this decision is your gratitude practice. There are several studies, articles and publications touting the neuroscientific benefits of gratitude. Blah. Blah. Blah. Thank you medical and scientific community for validating a 5000 year old practice!

We don’t need all of those studies, because we live and feel the benefits and results through our practice.

So decide to be happy. And be grateful for everything.

Each time “cats in the cradle” plays in my head, I direct my energy towards gratitude for every single moment I’ve experienced with my son.

When I start feeling regret for all of the beautiful possessions I’ve sold and given away, I feel grateful that my load is so much lighter now.

When someone cuts me off in traffic or is tailgating me, I feel grateful that I have a beautiful car to drive and that I am safe.

So choose happiness in every situation

Be grateful for everything; especially the opportunities that are disguised as challenges and setbacks

Choose to let go and lighten your load. Always.

Happiest of Mondays, mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: May 2019 Pose of the Month Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana or Compass Pose

Hi, friends! Happy May!

Our pose for May 2019 is Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana or Compass pose. It’s also called Sundial pose.

It is a deep and twisty shoulder, hip and hamstring-opening seated pose that requires a great warm up and a good sense of humor!

After a thorough warm up of hips, hamstrings, shoulders and spine, here’s how:

  • From a seated position extend your left leg long in front of you, round your spine a bit, and take your right knee into right elbow and right foot into left hand. If there is more space, wrap arms around shin and slowly, as it feels good, bring spine upright. Breathe for 5 deep breaths. (If you want to rock shin left to right like rocking a baby, that is also great to loosen up the hip joint.)
  • From shin cradle, take right hand to right ankle, and take left hand over your head and to the outer edge of your right foot. You can use your strap here! Round your spine and shinny your right shoulder underneath your right knee. Start to lengthen spine as it feels good, and breath for five deep breaths.
  • From here, release your right hand to the ground, fingertips facing away from you, soften right elbow as much as you want, and start to poke your head under your left shoulder.
  • Start to lengthen right leg to any degrees that feels good, and breathe there for five deep breaths.
  • Now repeat on the left.

Mindful Monday: Yoga and Your Immune System

Good morning, mindful, healthy ones!

Although the crux of cold and flu season is behind us, we may still be susceptible to some of those pesky viruses. What’s the best prescription for a healthy immune system?

A consistent yoga practice partnered with a clean, well-balanced diet filled with tons of fruits and veggies, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep are exactly what the body needs to thrive and stay healthy!

When we are stressed and anxious and tired, our immune system is compromised. Yoga helps lower stress hormones that suppress the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.

I often claim that yogis rarely get sick and even boast that I never get sick!

Well. I did recently come down with a nasty cough! What makes us sick is when the immune system is compromised and we are unable to fight off all of the daily viruses and bacteria that we normally encounter.

As a full-time yoga teacher, I come in contact with hundreds of students each week; and I practice in several different studios with dozens of different people as well. My goodness, I even step in people’s sweat and touch sweaty bodies on the daily!

So it is very easy for me to trace back and see where my immune system became compromised!

First of all, I never claim to be “sick.” I am a very healthy and strong. But my immune system was compromised and I caught a bug. See the distinction?! 🤪

I know it is from all of the external activities happening in my life: my son graduating from high school and turning 18 on May 24, which is also the week I am moving! Those additional responsibilities coupled with eating a less than ideal diet and not getting enough sleep were all that it took. My self-care routine was relegated to the backseat in my life, and my body and my mind rebelled!

Which raises an important question: should I practice hot yoga when I am sick?

It stands to reason that taking a heated vinyasa class will sweat out the toxins and quicken the immune system’s ability to fight off the body’s invaders.

But we should also consider the possibility of infecting those around us! And how important it is to rest, hydrate and rest some more while under the weather.

Ultimately, only you know your body; and if you listen carefully, it will tell you exactly what it needs.

Some guidelines:

If you have a runny nose and head congestion, you can probably practice. If you have a fever, aches and pains, or anything that originates in your lungs, your body will do best with rest, liquids and healing foods that soothe and nourish rather than tax your body.

Basically, if you have a cold and you’re not contagious, get back to your mat!

But if it’s something bigger like the flu, your best bet is to rest!

Remember it’s OK to be exposed to germs; in fact we simple can’t escape it! This gives the immune system the opportunity to do it’s job. But we must support our immune system by taking good care of the body and mind. Releasing stress is an immediate boost for your immune system!

What are some of your self-care rituals to staying healthy? Does it include essential oils or other natural remedies? I’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy this beautiful, rainy day, friends! Mother nature is giving you an opportunity to slow down and take care of yourself today.

Have a great week and I’m back to my regular schedule this week! See you on your mat!

Mindful Monday: Lifelong Growth

Happy Monday, dear ones!

I’m writing from Baltimore, Maryland where I’m with my son on his last college visit before he makes his final decision.

I’ve learned the most about how to be a better human being from my son. When he was younger, I learned the true meaning of unconditional love. I learned patience, compassion and how to slow down. (I am still working on all of these things!) I’ve also learned about soccer, Pokémon and Super Smash Bros.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had some crash courses on respect and boundaries. On fading into the background and how to not breathe in any way that could possibly embarrass a teenager.

And now I’m learning from my son the importance of taking your time when making a big decision. I tend to make snap decisions based on my instincts and gut feeling. My son is methodical, logical, deliberate and so unhurried!

May 1 is the deadline to declare which college you have selected, and well, it’s April 22, and he is as calm as the Dalai Lama while meditating.

The lesson here is that we are all constantly learning and growing. And our roles as student and teacher are interchangeable in all of our roles and relationships.

Our biggest learning moments are disguised as challenges, threats to our egos and in our failures.

Each moment we are moving closer or further away from growth. Stagnancy is the opposite of growth. We see this in our practice, as well. We become stagnant when we lose our beginners mind and we think we have all the answers. We forget that we can learn something from everyone we meet!

What will you learn today? Who will appear in your life to teach you something?

Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed! <<< another one I learned courtesy of my son!

Have a great, learning Monday, friends!

April 2019 Pose of the Month: Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana: Revolved Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

Our lovely student Zoe Justh embodies our pose of the month

Happy, happy April, dearest yogis!

Our April pose of the month is a big one! Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana or revolved extended hand to big toe pose.

Here’s how!

1 Start Revolved Hand to Big Toe pose from Mountain pose at the front end of your mat. Shift your weight into your right leg, finding all four corners of the foot and lifting energetically up through the sole. Begin drawing the left foot away from the floor while finding your balance.

2 Once you’re balancing on your right foot, draw your left knee into your chest. Take your time to breathe here, lengthening the spine and strengthening your standing leg. Use your index and middle fingers of your right hand to hold the big toe of your left foot. Continue rooting down through your tailbone as you start to extend out your left leg. The left thigh should be parallel to the floor and your spine should be perpendicular.

3 Reach through your heart and broaden across the collarbones to counter the tendency to slouch forward when extending the left leg. Take your left hand to your hip, level your pelvis, then begin to reach the hand toward the back of your mat. Deepen the twist by rooting the femur of your left leg into the hip joint as you draw your right ribs forward.

4 If you can remain balanced, slowly start to move your gaze back towards your left hand. Do this movement slowly and intentionally to avoid losing balance. Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before untwisting and slowly lowering the lifted leg down to the floor. Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

Mindful Monday: Level Up

Happy Monday, Mindful Ones!

For me, 2019 has been about leveling up many aspects of my life. My practice. My teaching. My wellness and self-care routines. Reading and writing more. Expanding my knowledge base and deepening my current interests.

With the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, I am coming to terms with the impending arrival of my biggest level up opportunity, hands down. Leveling up my non-attachment game.

As I write this post, my son is in Providence, Rhode Island on his first of four college visits. He chose to go without his dad or me. Let that one sink in for a few minutes.

I am fully prepared for the next two months to swiftly fly by as he visits three more schools and prepares for high school graduation. And he actually turns 18 on the day he graduates. I’ll let that one sit there for a few moments also.

These days I constantly bring my awareness back to the present moment. Right here. Right now.

And I remind myself that I’ve been preparing for this inevitable moment since before my son was even born. Each milestone that we celebrate in his life is another teeny, tiny act of learning to letting go.

To be a good parent means to prepare your child to leave the nest and fly away and thrive. Everything that we have taught him and tried to nurture within him was always going to be so that he will eventually leave us.

I have been meditating on the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment. You can only lose what you cling to.

And then I focus so much on what a magical and exhilarating time it is for him. And that it might also be overwhelming.

My role as a parent will never end. But my relationship with my son will level up. Transitioning from parent to mentor and perhaps even friend!

What are some things you’re currently struggling with in terms of non-attachment and clinging?

Each moment of each day, Life tries to teach us. And we can only move in two directions: toward or away from growth.

Let’s always choose growth. And love. Let’s always choose love.

Have a great week, friends.