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Mindful Monday: Spring Ahead

Happy Monday!

I love the Midwest. I’ve been here most of my life except for the few years I lived in Manila in high school.

Nobody is tougher than us midwesterners! We are survivors and adapters.

We are lucky, too! We experience four seasons each year. Each season brings its own special and unique enrichment to our lives.

But Spring!!!!!

Awwwwww yeah!!

After a particularly brutal winter season, this spring will be epic!

Daylight Savings is a great reminder that spring is just around the bend! (Yesss I get to bust out my trusty old Burberry rain gear ☔️👢)

When I think of spring, I think: St. Patrick’s Day! Nobody does St. Patrick’s Day better than the city of Chicago – I mean we dye our river green, people!

Spring Break! Longer days. More daylight. More energy. Shamrock shakes. Flowers blooming. For the sports junkies out there: March madness and baseball season. Spring cleaning.

This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. This is the time we plant seeds of new intentions. We capitalize on the renewed sense of energy and hope and catapult toward rapid growth and transformation.

Take some time this week to ask yourself what you will shed from the heavy winter months and where you want to focus your lighter energy moving forward.

What do you look forward to this time of year? I’d love to hear about your favorite spring rituals!

Make it a great week, yogis!

March 2019 Pose of the Month: Grasshopper

Happy March and Happy almost Spring! But we are here in the Midwest, so most likely there’s snow on the ground right now as you are reading this. 🤣

Our March 2019 pose of the month is Grasshopper pose! Here you can see this lovely arm balance in various expressions.

And here are five simple (not easy) steps to nail it, young grasshopper. < see what I just did?

1. Start out in Chair Pose, Utkatasana. Bring your feet together, zipper from your ankles all the way to your inner thighs as you bend your knees. Press weight towards your heels and lift your belly off of your lap.

2. Figure four pose. Shift weight to your right foot, lift your left knee towards your chest and place your left heel on top of your right thigh externally rotating left hip while flexing left toes towards left knee.

3. Prayer twist. Draw your palms together at heart center, rotate from your left obliques and twist to the right. Place your left elbow into the middle of your left foot, using your elbow as leverage to twist more deeply.

4. Lower to the ground. Keeping your deep twist, lower both of your palms to the right side of the mat bringing them down on the floor. Your left hip will rotate up so that your left knee is pointing towards the ceiling.

5. Fly. Find Chaturanga arms and slowly start to tip your weight into your hands. Engage your shoulders by pressing through your knuckles into the mat. As your weight transitions to your hands, lift your right foot off of the mat, eventually straightening your right leg and pressing through your right heel. Press your left foot into your left tricep for more engagement.

Mindful Monday: Success is an Iceberg

Good morning, successful, mindful ones!

It’s happened to all of us. We go to a yoga class, and there’s a yogi who flows from pose to pose with effortless grace. He practically levitates or she appears to have no bones!

Success is an iceberg. When we look at others (and when others look at us), we are only seeing a very limited representation of the complete picture.

It’s easy for us to think, “oh he must’ve been a gymnast” or “she was clearly a dancer before.”

What we see is a beautiful but tiny snapshot of their practice.

Well, in yoga (and life) things are not what they seem to be. What you see is just the tip of the iceberg.

The truth is sometimes a little bit darker and uglier than most of us think. To achieve excellence or success, years of struggle and sacrifice are precursors.

The “successful” ones know what hard work and dedication are, and most of them had many moments of desperation and failure.

They’ve fallen out of poses innumerable times and will continue to do so. What brought them to their mat likely may have been trauma or depression or unhappiness.

Don’t get fooled by the tip of the iceberg, people! It’s just that. Like many things in life, what you see (what’s visible) is not always, and even in most of the cases, what it actually is.

So whether it’s your yoga practice or any other aspects of your life, look at what’s below the water on the picture; do all of these things, and I guarantee you will achieve success.

Remember, it won’t get any easier, you’ll just get better!

Make it a great week friends!

Mindful Monday: Cultivating Equanimity

Good morning, mindful ones!

We are quite familiar with the concept of mindfulness by now, right?

The dictionary defines mindfulness as:

1 the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2 a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

When we practice mindfulness, we are re-wiring our brains to seek a state of calmness and presence rather than be deeply affected by external circumstances.

Equanimity is defined as:

1 mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

2 even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral)

While the two practices are strongly intertwined, there are certainly distinctions to be made.

Mindfulness corresponds to our higher-level awareness of present-moment sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences. In other words, mindfulness can be described as the ability or process of maintaining an object of attention in working memory, whether this object corresponds to an external sensory stimulus, an internal sensation from inside the body, a chain of rambling thoughts going through the mind, or even a memory from the past.

In the yogic tradition, the term equanimity (or upeksha in Sanskrit) means leading a balanced life, removing intolerance and caring for all equally.

Upeksha teaches the practice of non-attachment, such an important element in our yoga practice both on and off the mat.

Equanimity means staying so calm within oneself that life is experienced fully without judgment or attachment. As life throws us its ups and downs, we are able to experience appropriate emotions and reactions without attaching to them, reacting to them and without judgment.

I always love to use the example of road rage, mainly because I struggle with it quite frequently!

Imagine that you are leaving a yoga class (preferably one of mine 😊), and you are feeling so calm and open and centered and happy! As you are driving home peacefully, with the gentle flow of traffic, some car speeds up, cuts in front of you and slows down quickly. Your reaction is immediate and physical. Your amygdala is stimulated in your brain triggering your fight-or-flight response. Your heart starts pounding, your brain becomes hyper alert and focused, adrenaline and cortisol is dumped into your bloodstream. You quickly slam your brakes on gripping the steering wheel.

Equanimity is how quickly you can bounce back from that jolting experience. How quickly you return to your equanimous mental and physical state.

Equanimity is not attaching or judging what just happened, but accepting that it happened. Allowing the surge of anger and panic to slowly dissipate without judging or blaming the other driver. Without dwelling on what just happened. How rapidly can you return to the cultivation of your equanimous mind?

This week, think of everything that happens as a test of your equanimity. As you’re moving peacefully through your day, how quickly will you bounce back from that person slamming their mat down next to you in as you are meditating before class or your loud obnoxious co-worker chewing or speaking loudly? Can you observe those around you speaking negative thoughts, venting and gossiping without judging their behavior and most importantly without being drawn into their negativity?

Life gives us so many opportunities to grow and transform. Remember every moment every experience is the teacher.

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

Mindful Monday: Yoga Cure and Endure

Good morning, mindful ones and happy snowy Monday!

Guess what? It’s really, really cold outside and it’s snowing like crazy. And it’s predicted the temperature will continue to drop this week.

That is our current reality.

What was your initial thought and reaction when you first heard about the cold weather continuing? When the cold wind penetrates through your many layers? When you have to walk so cautiously on the slippery surfaces? When the person driving in front of you is moving at a snails’s pace? Did you have to rearrange your entire work day or modify your schedule because your kids don’t have school today?

Isn’t it fascinating how we initially react when we are inconvenienced? We are outraged! Annoyed! Irritated! Impatient! Maybe even pissed off!! Or perhaps you felt victimized? Why did this happen to me? I can’t miss another day of work! I had an important meeting today. Why did the snow plows hit every street but mine? I’m gonna be stuck at home with my kids who are driving me nuts! Of course if you’re one of the kids home from school today, that’s a totally different outlook!

And once we have these thoughts and reactions, of course we articulate them! Maybe you called your girl friend or coworker to complain. A good old-fashioned social media rant. A text to your spouse or partner. Or even a group chat to your entire crew.

Of course, it’s always healthy to vent and blow off a little steam. But it’s rarely productive.

I’m certainly not here to criticize or judge whatever your reaction was! But I do offer you the perspective that how we react to things in life give us such a deep insight into how we live our lives.

How you do anything is how you do everything!

It’s in the small details of our lives that we truly understand ourselves and our mindsets.

Through my intimate practice of yoga, I continue to painstakingly learn that each and every action I take, word I speak and decision I make contributes to the creation of the life I choose to live. It all matters!

Most of our reactions and thoughts are pre-programs. Based on past experiences, observations of our parents and other influential people, we learn behaviors. We go on auto- pilot and mindlessly react. So many of the words we speak to others are also social conditionings. Pleasantries and polite exchanges. Or cultural behaviors: sometimes we get around certain groups of people and it automatically turns into negative, mindless gossip.

I always notice that what people say about the weather gives me such insight into their world viewpoint. Weather is such a great baseline, because it’s something that’s completely out of one’s control.

It seems so futile to me to bitch and moan about something that is completely outside of one’s control (most of life is as well!) Yes, it’s cold outside. I am also aware of that. But I don’t want to spend the next five minutes complaining about something that is not even unexpected since we live in the Midwest.

Yoga teaches us to endure what cannot be cured: as powerfully as we pray, meditate, and all agree that we wish it was warmer, we have zero influence over the temperature.

Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured: if we cannot affect the temperature or the snowfall, we can certainly shift our attitude and approach towards it.

My friend who lives in Hawaii and my best friend who lives in Charlotte (both originally from DuPage County) both called me to apologize that it’s so cold here! Lol. They truly felt so bad for me as they enjoyed 78 degrees and 55 degrees respectively. Personally, I find this weather to be so magical and beautiful! It’s nothing short of a winter wonderland.

The beauty of yoga is not in one’s ability to master a pose – the true beauty is in raising one’s awareness of the beauty and wonder that surround us on a daily basis.

Have a white and wonderful wintry Monday, friends!

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: Happy New Year

Good morning, mindful ones! Not only is it the last Monday of 2018; today is the last day of 2018!

While there’s so much emphasis placed on the advent of a new year, the truth is today is just another Monday and tomorrow is another Tuesday.

Yes, there is certainly something so satisfying about closing the book of 2018 and starting a fresh, clean page called 2019.

And we come prepared! An ambitious list of new year resolutions. THIS is the year we get it together! I’ll do everything right this year! I’m living my best life in 2019. The world is my oyster!

But I believe we have that opportunity every day of every year. And there’s a reason why most new year resolutions are abandoned by February!

I’m certainly not diminishing the added momentum and energy a fresh, new year brings to our efforts at self-improvement. But let’s be honest, those who do make New Year’s resolutions usually make the same ones year after year.

So how can we create lasting transformations in our lives?

I think it’s important for so much more self-awareness. If you want to lose weight, or get a better job, or stop drinking as much, or eat healthier, or improve your relationships/health/lifestyle/whatever…. ask yourself WHY?

What will happen when you lose that extra weight? What will happen when you make more money?

The underlying goal of all of our resolutions is to be more HAPPY. Am I right?

So why don’t we look at that? Because as we practice becoming happier, weight loss, healthier lifestyle, more successful career, better relationships will all naturally develop.

Our resolutions are just addressing symptoms. Creating a happiness mindset is addressing the cause.

So how can we become happier?

First, let’s acknowledge that happiness is a state of mind. Lasting happiness is an internal state of being. Pleasure on the other hand is a temporary state attached to the physical and the external.

So rather than stale old new year resolutions, let’s focus on cultivating happiness.

Here are some tips that have helped me grow my happiness quotient throughout the years.

1. Attitude of gratitude – Focus on all of the amazing things you have in your life. And here’s the kicker: it’s all amazing!! It’s easy to focus on the seemingly positive. Remembering so much that even those things we perceived as negative actually carried with it seeds of growth, learning and transformation. So basically if you are alive and breathing, you are winning! There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.

2. Move your body – get up and get moving. Take a yoga class. Go for a walk. Dance naked in the mirror. Just start moving and get out of your head. It uplifts your energy and raises your vibrations!

3. Limit social media and screen time – Login for a specific reason. Post a positive message. Find inspiration for yourself. Catch up with a long distance friend. But be mindful of endless scrolling and time sucking. I’ve found I feel overwhelmed oftentimes by an overload of social media and being overly connected and accessible. I’ve been focusing on the actual people in my life versus the virtual community. Real versus manufactured.

4. Dig a little deeper – what are the things that make you feel good? Do more! What are the things that make you feel crappy? Do less! Here are a few of my triggers that I have observed throughout the years:

  • Comparing myself to others
  • Dwelling in the past or anxiously obsessing about the future
  • Noticing I’m squandering my time
  • Doing things I don’t really want to do out of a sense of obligation
  • I’m playing the role of a victim and giving my personal power away
  • Obsessing over relationships
  • Trying to control situations and outcomes rather than allowing the universe to guide and unfold organically
  • Shifting from my abundance mindset to scarcity and fear
  • Allowing myself to downwardly spiral into negative thinking and overindulgence
  • Allowing other peoples energies to affect mine
  • And thinking that there is a certain magical point in time where these things will suddenly stop happening

As we welcome in 2019, let’s remember so much that we are exactly where we are meant to be! Trust yourself and trust the universe. Believe in the synchronicity of life.

Happy, happy new year, my beautiful mindful ones!!

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: 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!