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Mindful Monday: Grasping

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. It’s important to know how to do both.

One of our most primal instincts is to grasp. If you put your finger in a baby’s hand, it will latch on to it with superhuman strength. And that is crucial for a baby’s survival.

To grasp is an innate human survival technique. If you are walking down the stairs and lose your balance, that instinct can save you from falling.

But this skill doesn’t always serve us well. You certainly don’t want to latch on to a hot plate.

There’s an ancient Indian story of The Monkey Trap. The trap is a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. The monkey is suddenly trapped – but not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal.

If the monkey took a step back to observe the situation, he would release the rice, pull his hand out and turn the coconut upside down and get the rice!

And we start to see how we mentally and emotionally grasp, which can be such a cause of suffering for us. We all have the tendency to grasp, grab, latch, clench, hang on bit too long when it’s time to let go.

Rather than beat ourselves up over all the stuff we cling to, whether it’s a bag full of old clothes; a garage filled with memories of a time of our life that has passed; relationships that no longer work; outdated and inaccurate self-images or even a job that no longer fulfills us, just acknowledge that the instinct is a good one.

But to move beyond that clinging, we must take a step back like the monkey and see what we are actually trying to accomplish.

The things we cling to, whether they are thoughts, emotions or physical items, are symbolic of something else.

Remaining in a stale relationship or job because it’s familiar is an effort to stay stable and safe. But it also hinders any opportunities for growth and transformation.

The first step is to just create a bit of distance between you and the object you’re clinging to. You can do this by simply observing what’s happening and being compassionate to yourself by acknowledging that it is an innate instinct.

Just by stepping back and watching the process, it is impossible to participate in it. You can go back-and-forth quite rapidly between watching and grasping; but you cannot do both at the same time.

You slowly start to return to your centerpoint, which is always calm and confident and trusting. You know that you will always be OK no matter what unfolds in life, because all of the tools you need to survive and thrive are within you.

And in this way you’re able to slowly let go of whatever it is you’re holding on to so tightly.

And it may take hundreds of attempts. And you may release and think you’re done, but you look up and you’re doing it again. All of this is OK. It’s all part of the process.

Grasping is instinctual; releasing is a skill. Being a yogi is mastering both.

In the illustrious words of Kenny Rogers:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run.”

Have a great week, yogis!

January 2019 Pose of the Month: Utkatasana

It’s 2019!! Our very first pose of the month this year is Utkatasana or Chair Pose.

Utkatasana or chair pose featured on the right

Here’s how:
Stand with your feet together, with your big toes touching. Beginners can stand with their feet hip-distance apart.

Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.

Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your torso will form approximately a right angle over your thighs.

Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears. Do not puff your ribcage forward. Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long.

Bring your hips down even lower and lift through your heart. There will be a slight bend in your upper back.

Shift your weight into your heels. Enough weight — approximately 80 percent — should be transferred to your heels so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to.

Keep your breath smooth, even, and deep. If your breath becomes shallow or strained, back off a bit in the pose until breathing becomes easier.

Spread your shoulder blades apart. Spin your pinky fingers toward each other so your palms face each other, rotating your arms outward through your thumbs.

Gaze directly forward. For a deeper pose, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.

Hold for up to one minute. Then, inhale as you straighten your legs, lifting through your arms.

Exhale and release back.

Happy new year, friends!

Mindful Monday: You Don’t Have a Soul

Good morning, mindful ones!

You don’t have a soul!

I’m not saying that you’re soulless, lol!

I’m saying that you ARE a soul. And you HAVE a human body.

And … Here is a perfect specimen of a human body.

The body is just a temporary house where your soul currently resides.

You have your physical body comprised of bones, skin, muscles and human “filth.”

And then there’s the energetic body, where prana or literally life animates the physical body. This is your circulatory, cardiovascular, digestive and lymphatic systems.

Then we have the mind. This is where most of our troubles and suffering begins. Here we create thoughts that are manifested as emotions and thus drive our actions. The mind is very limited. It’s compiled mainly of opinions about life experiences.

Fortunately we have the intellect, which has the power of discernment and logical thought. But we don’t dwell here consistently.

The final journey is within: our blissful body. In this state of being there is no thinking or suffering just vast and endless bliss. Unfortunately we spend very little time here.

The goal of our practice is to continue to connect to our blissful state and lengthen the time that is spent there.

Everything that we do affects our state of being.

The human body is literally the food that we consume. What you ingest creates the new cells of your body. Foods have different energy vibrations which affects our bodies down to the cellular level.

Our mind is shaped by how we react to life events. Do we resist? Do we think life is unfair? Do we compare ourselves to others? Who do we associate ourselves with?

The intellect is formed by how we nourish our mind. Do you spend endless hours trolling social media? Do you read books that uplift your soul and spirit? Do you watch violence and reality TV?

Meditation and yoga are two very direct paths toward a blissful state of existing. Someone can give you a direct map to get there, and many of our spiritual leaders and religious leaders have done exactly that; but you alone must walk the path. Nobody can do that for you.

Remember that your body is just a shell. Enjoy all the experiences of being human and honor the full range of those experiences. But also honor you are so much more than that.

You are light. You are love. You are kindness and compassion and patience and tolerance.

Be kind to yourself but remember your soul.

Have a great week, yogis!

Namaste

Mindful Monday: Begin Your Day with Intention

Good morning my beautiful, mindful friends!

Yesterday evening at our Western Springs studio, a small, committed group of 25 yogis met to embark on a 21 day journey toward wellness.

As we explore how we fuel (and poison) our bodies over the next three weeks, we will learn so much about all other area of our lives.

How you do anything, is how you do everything.

So if you weren’t able (or ready or willing) to join us, hopefully you can follow along with us with a mindfulness practice toward any other area of your life!

Lessons will be learned!

How can you participate along with us? There are a few ways!

1. Start a journal. Observe yourself and write about it!

One year, Sandy S. did the cleanse with us, and it was the first time in her four plus decades that she had ever stopped and given a single thought to herself about herself! She’d been so busy raising her three beautiful daughters, there was never any time leftover for herself. She found the journaling process so liberating and insightful, and it helped her deal with her empty nest.

2. Practice gratitude! When you wake up in the morning till you go to bed at night, search for every little thing to be grateful for.

I had flat tire yesterday and I was so grateful! Lol. Why on earth was I grateful? Well, I had driven to and from Michigan for the weekend, and made it both ways safely. When I got in my car yesterday to drive to kick off the cleanse, that was when I noticed the tire air pressure was low. Rather than panicking about being late, I called the studio and sweet Elizabeth was the studio attendant and said she would set up the studio for me. I filled the tire and zipped over to Western Springs. I was grateful that I was able to make it to kick off the cleanse and not disappoint 25 eager, dedicated souls! I was grateful that I made it home safely last night, even though I had to stop three times to fill up the tire with air. I’m grateful that Monday is my only morning off during the week, and I was able to get everything handled! I’m grateful that it was just a nail and I didn’t have to purchase a new tire. Gratitude is the key to happiness and to feeling in control of any situation.

3. Meditate each morning.

Start your day with intention and purpose and focus. Have a plan and goals for your day, but be flexible enough to switch up your schedule to say yes to a friend. Know that it’s not the end of the world if your list doesn’t get done today.

Have a beautiful day, dear souls, on this beautiful rainy Monday! Yes I’m grateful for the rain because I get to wear my rain boots!

Mindful Monday: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Good morning and happy Monday!

Sending Christmas warmth and well wishes to all of our YBD family with a special dose of LOVE to those out there who may be far away from family – either through a physical distance or an emotional gap. Know that you are LOVED and CHERISHED every single day of each year of your life! Family isn’t always about blood – but rather those that surround us and care for us, love us, support us and root for us!!! And of course the most important love of all – love for your true, authentic SELF!!!

When we spend time together practicing yoga, sweating, falling and getting back up, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and opening our hearts to one another, we pretty much define a family.

And if you still have some last-minute shopping to do, here are some Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

ANNICA! ANNICA!! ANNICA!! BE HAPPY!! BE HAPPY!! BE HAPPY!!!

Mindful Monday: School is in Session

Good morning and happy Monday!

Just a friendly reminder that every compliment, criticism, promotion, setback, good vibe, cough, misunderstanding, breakup, disappointment, or really long line you have to wait in is a gift that was meticulously designed to make possible your becoming who you were always meant to be. Who you really are. Who you already are underneath all of the conditioning and domestication.

You never have to pick up another book again. Just observe your life and you will learn all the secrets of the universe.

And if you don’t learn your lesson the first time, Life will keep repeating the lesson until you learn it.

Each moment is the lesson, the test and the teacher. School is always in session.

Make it a great week of learning and growing!

December 2018 Pose of the Month: Five Pointed Star

Our December 2018 pose of the month is Uttihita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star pose.

Literal translation:

Utthita – extended

Tada – mountain

Asana – pose

We love this pose for the symbolism of the Star which is always prevalent this holiday season. And also because of the grounding and energizing benefits the pose offers! Exactly what the yoga doctor ordered as we navigate this busy time of year.

This month we’re offering it in two orientations to the earth! Everything is better upside down, am I right?

Here’s how:

1. From a standing pose, step your feet wide apart, with your arms out to the side. Your feet should be under your wrists, facing forward and parallel.

2. Press your weight into your feet, pull up your knee caps and activate your thighs, gently tuck your tailbone, and feel your strong and solid legs rooted into the floor.

3. Reach out through your fingertips, trying to touch the side walls. Relax your shoulders down and back, gently opening your chest towards the front of the room.

4. Inhale and press the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Look straight ahead with your chin parallel to the floor.

5. Inhale deeply into the belly and chest, exhale press into the feet, fingers and crown, feeling your body expanding out in 5 directions. Option here to walk your gaze up toward the ceiling opening your heart toward the sky.

6. Keep breathing and hold for 4-8 breaths.

7. To release, bend one knee and simply step back into a standing pose.

The handstand variation is exactly the same except your hands replace your feet!

See you next year, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Holiday Stress

Good morning, mindful ones! We are in the home stretch for this holiday season and for this year!

When things are at their most frenetic pace and we find ourselves running around to holiday gatherings and for last minute gifts; it’s more important than ever to pause, breathe and reflect.

We live in the most technologically advanced time in human history. Anything we could possibly need is a phone call or even a click away and can be delivered right to the doorstep. Food is abundant (overly abundant!) We have instant heaters, electric blankets, reliable electricity. We have an endless supply of clean water that can also be warmed to any temperature for a hot cup of cocoa or a warm bubble bath.

There has never been a better time to be a human being. And we live in one of the best countries in the world in terms of economic opportunity, political stability, public safety and quality of life.

Pause. Wow we’re so lucky!!! Gratitude is truly the highest vibration. And it’s pretty darn easy to find a zillion things to be grateful for in this nation, even more so in our communities!

That being said, depression, stress and anxiety are at all time levels in our country! And they are predicted to continue to rise.

Well, that’s pretty puzzling, wouldn’t you say?

Actually, it’s really not … Because stress is an internal condition, not an external one!

Sure there’s tons of things happening right now: overstimulation of all the senses if you step foot in the mall (which I have pretty much successfully avoided this holiday season) or basically even out of your house.

But it’s our reaction that causes the stress! It’s how we process all the external stimuli that bombards us that can potentially create an internal state of stress.

Listen, it’s the holidays. Even the most well-adjusted, “normal”, traditional families will face some type of family drama.

And for the rest of us, it can get much more complicated. Single parents, people who have lost loved ones, those with social anxiety and even people with no family or friends to celebrate with.

“The most wonderful time of year” may be even more challenging for those struggling, because there’s the added expectation that everyone is in a carefree, celebratory state.

So with all of this emotional turmoil many people are facing, it’s really no surprise when people overreact to every day situations like waiting in line or driving in traffic.

People may snap more or react rudely. Let’s be honest, we see this behavior very often, unfortunately. When people are stressed, their fight or flight mode kicks in which can often lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

So let’s not pretend to be surprised when we witness this behavior, and be so gentle with yourself if you find yourself getting a little snappish or prickly.

And it always comes back to breathwork.

The reason you sweat it out for endless hours on your yoga mat is training for these very moments in life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to lose your marbles, take a moment to breathe slowly and mindfully and then breathe out. Allow yourself a few moments to pause to give yourself the opportunity to react in a way that you will be proud of and won’t create more anxiety and stress when you think back to that moment.

Reacting to someone else’s stress is your choice. Choosing to take a few breaths and remain stable and grounded is the best thing for your personal health and wellness. And your grounded energy might be just the anchor someone is searching for who may be tail spinning out of control.

In these critical moments in life, there is tremendous opportunity for our personal evolution. And trust me these opportunities are abundant year round! Can we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for one another during this holiday season?

It can make all the difference in someone’s life. We never know the burden they’re carrying.

Remember, kindness and compassion will revolutionize the world.

We got this, you guys!!

Mindful Monday: Miracles

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones!

Let’s talk about miracles! I totally, 💯 percent, without a shred of doubt in my mind or body, believe in miracles!

That’s a pretty bold statement; but it’s totally true. Well, what is a miracle?

According to the Dictionary:

• a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

• a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

• an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.”a machine which was a miracle of design”

According to me:

It is when the seemingly impossible happens!

• It’s when doctors have given up on a sick child and for no scientific reason, that child gets well.

• It’s when you’re down to your last dollar, have piles of bills to be paid, and a check arrives in the mail from some unknown source or an opportunity arrives out of seemingly nowhere. (This literally happens to me almost every single month!)

• It’s when a huge natural disaster hits and you are somehow spared in the midst of it.

• It’s on 9/11 and you stop to buy cigarettes before going to your job in the World Trade Center, and smoking saved your life.

• It’s when a child is born and you can’t believe how exquisitely miniature this new life appears.

• It’s when my brother was in Mumbai on business back in 2008 and his associate talked him into having one more drink before heading back to his hotel which was attacked by terrorists at that exact moment. Drinking literally saved his life!

• It’s watching the sunset on a deserted beach in Hawaii filled with a sense of awe and wonder and the deepest feeling of gratitude.

• It’s when you’ve prayed for a specific purpose and that prayer is answered.

• It’s when there is no earthly reason something wonderful has happened.

• It’s the sun rising and setting each and every day.

Miracles take place everyday. Sometimes they’re very subtle and quiet, sweeping in like a touch on the face. Other times, it’s very evident and public. It doesn’t matter who you are, miracles can and do happen to all of us!

If you take a moment to pause and reflect, you’ll start to see all of the wonderful miracles that have happened in your life.

Have a miraculous Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest ones!

It’s a snow day today! What a bonus on the Monday after a long, holiday weekend! Kids all over Chicagoland are rejoicing at their good fortune.

The picture above was taken on a snow day three years ago when I took the day off and took my son and two of his friends sledding.

Snow days are so magical at that age! The awe and wonder at all of the beautiful, pristine snow just waiting to be hurtled into and shaped into snowmen and snow balls.

At some point, we tend to lose that wide eyed appreciation and become more jaded. We complain about having to shovel this beautiful substance off of our driveways. We worry about traffic conditions and find fault in all the other drivers on the road. We are inconvenienced by this majestic winter event; and hell hath no fury like a slightly inconvenienced American. 🤣

As we move about knowing things will be a little slower, let’s think of today as Mother Nature’s way of giving us an extra day to the long weekend. A magical bonus day to stay home and cuddle with loved ones.

Back when I was the spokesperson for the city of Naperville, we would strongly encourage residents to stay home and stay off the streets if possible for their own safety. If you’re not able to take the day off, this is a great opportunity to practice patience, tolerance and moving more slowly and deliberately.

Any opportunity to slow down and cultivate gratitude and appreciation is a productive day!

If you want to really amp it up, get out there and do some snowga or snow salutations!

Count your blessings not your troubles! You are rich beyond measure. Have a great day, beautiful snow yogis!