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November 2019 Pose of the Month: Prapadasana or Tip Toe Pose

Hey yogis! Wow! Hard to believe that November is here!! We are in the last weeks of 2019! The end of a great decade.

Our  November 2019 POTM is Prapadasana or “tip toe pose.”

This pose, like life, requires focus, balance and a strong determination.

How to do Prapadasana / Tip Toe Pose?

1. Begin in Tadasana / Mountain Pose.

2. Exhale and come into Malasana / Garland Pose.

3. Bring your feet together and slowly lift your heels off the floor.

4. Balance your body on your toes and keep your back straight. 

5. Bring your palms together and focus in between your eyebrows.

6. Stay in this pose for 3 to 6 long breaths.

To come out of this pose, bring your heels down and come back into Tadasana / Mountain Pose.

Here’s why you should do it:

Improves concentration and sense of balance.

Strengthens the core, feet, ankles, calves, knees and thighs.

Stretches the hip flexors, hamstrings and groins.

Stimulates the Muladhara / Root Chakra.

Do it with a friend!

Wellness Wednesday: Your Season’s Flourishing Radiance

Happy Wellness Wednesday, friends!

With the sudden drop in temperatures and overcast skies we often have the tendency to view the next few months with nuisance as we attempt to stay warm and content. Like reading quotes for motivation, we refer to nature for inspiration and lessons. We can gain so much wisdom in the dormant months.

Like any seasoned gardener knows, the seeds that create flourishing plants requires a cold period in order to germinate. Some seeds require a drop in temperature in order to break it’s dormancy. The season’s cycle of harsh conditions exercises the shell of the seed until it has the strength to blossom. Just like seeds, we too, are mentally, emotionally and energetically challenged as we experience less sunlight and stressful holidays. Us humans seek for light both literally and figuratively. It can be dispiriting to begin the frigid months knowing we may not see very much sunlight. The natural cycle may wrongfully inspire us to isolate ourselves to those around us and reflect on past hurts. However a change in perspective is all it takes to change our moment and this period of dormancy may actually be the perfect time to learn to cultivate internal light. It is a grueling phase of growth that we have no control over. Perhaps this is the reason we do not celebrate our progress much the same as brighter periods of our life. In spite of it all, we, too, must endure periods of darkness to experience light- both self made and received by others.

Searching for joy at this time may encourage us to harvest the intimate connections we have. Our desire to spread warmth may infuse with those in our surroundings becoming a synergistic effect. Our ability to internally adjust may allow us to send the genuine love we all thrive off of as intimacy denotes mutual trust between one another. We discover the more we give, the more we receive only to create a cycle of trust and affirmation that nourishes itself. By surrendering to the process we can trust there is always warmth, warmth we can radiate to all beings around us.

Namaste!

Angie

Wellness Wednesday: The Grudges You Carry

Happy Wellness Wednesday, friends!

This past week I have had the opportunity to get back into my practice on a daily basis and remind myself how good a consistent, heated flow feels. It was not until I got into my mat this week I realized how much self-healing had to be done not only physically but mentally, emotionally and energetically. I think this is something we can all relate to at some point in our practice. So I spent more time challenging myself to meditate longer after each practice. Through this I had experienced visuals of people who I was angry and upset with followed by a deep sensation of acceptance and forgiveness. It was something I never experienced before, something I could never explain in words in all my time of meditating. This provided me with a focus to my next step of healing to leave me feeling whole once again. This focus left me pondering long after.

We store our hurt. Whether it is conscious or unconscious. One of the most difficult things we must do when facing these arising emotions is to forgive. It seems much easier to cut someone out of our life and form a bitterness to anyone that has hurt us. However by doing this we create a burden that weights heavy on our chest that we carry with us always- consciously or unconsciously.

Forgiveness is hard. It is hard for a number of reasons. One being that we must accept the actions of what someone may have done to intentionally or unintentionally hurt us. We must give ourselves the time and space to feel before we can accept and begin the forgiving process. We must be ready to stop identifying ourselves with the suffering we experienced and instead forgive as it is something we can do to alleviate the heaviness we continue to carry. We forgive to benefit ourselves that then extends to those around us.

Allowing ourselves to check in with any energetic imbalances and cultivate peace is a great positive step to living a lighter life. We learn through acceptance that the healing work provides us a bridge in which the energy to begin again can be obtained.

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.
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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.

Namaste,

Angie

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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.”

Namaste!

Angie

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.

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