Happy Monday, friends! Well — it’s getting real! Is it time to bust out our winter finery? Hats, gloves, scarves, winter coats? Yes. Yes, it is.
As we are transitioning to colder weather and less daylight, it’s natural for our bodies to start to slow down. It’s a time for warmth and reflection as we wind down the year and prepare for the upcoming holiday season.
With this natural tendency to hibernate, it’s so important to be mindful of our mental and emotional states. Many of us are susceptible to feeling the “blues” during this cold, darker season.
Now more than ever a consistent yoga practice is crucial in keeping mind and body supple, happy and healthy. A great pick me up is your inversion practice!
Dont think you have an inversion practice? Well. You definitely don’t have to balance on your head to invert. A simple child’s pose, legs up the wall, plow or standing forward fold can do the trick!
Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar believes that inversions allow the body to purge impurities, which facilitates strength, firmness, calmness and clarity of mind.
Ayurveda promotes the regular practice of inversions based upon the theory that many of the impurities in our body are held in the lower abdominal area. When you invert the body and raise your feet above your head or have your head beneath your heart, you allow gravity to move these impurities towards the agni (fire), which is located in our digestive tract (just above lower abdomen). By allowing these impurities (which were previously stuck) to move to your agni (which will burn them off), you’ll be able to breathe deeper and improve your health.
The benefits of inverting are plentiful! Here are some of the main reasons to get upside down:
1. Glowing skin
Reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, stimulates the facial capillaries and hair follicles of the scalp, and helps remove visual signs of toxicity (including acne), giving your skin a natural “face lift” and healthy glow. It’s also great for overall circulation in your body.
I definitely walk out from a great YBD class feeling like I’ve gotten a great facial treatment! Have you?
2. Natural anti-depressant
Inversions literally turn your frown upside down! Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder.
Getting upside down makes you happy!
3. Boosts your brain
When the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness.
4. Aids digestion
When you invert your body you allow the stool that is moving from the ileocecal valve through the ascending colon to move with the force of gravity. The pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls also encourages movement and the pressure on the walls of the digestive tract stimulates a stronger peristalsis (muscle contractions that occur in your digestive tract).
Yoga helps you poop regularly!
5. Strengthen immunity
Inversions help to stimulate lymphatic cleansing and drainage which clears toxins from the tissues and plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the immune system.
Yogis never (ok, rarely) get sick!
6. Improves sleep
A study conducted by LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension) declined by more than 35 percent within 10 seconds of inverting. Muscle tension can contribute to feelings of anxiety as well as insomnia so it’s important to flush it from your body.
Inversions also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing feelings of relaxation and wellness, which also aids in reducing stress, tension and anxiety.
Nothing beats a great night of sleep for a healthy, happy body.
You guys, these are just a few of the endless inversion benefits! Get upside down to shift your perspective, improve back pain, give your heart a break and to have some fun!
Make it a great, upside down week, friends!
Good morning, mindful ones! Happy Monday! Well it’s that time of year where it’s pitch black outside as I woke up this morning. It’s rainy and chilly. And it’s dark and still and gorgeously sublime.
Regardless of the weather outside, this is a beautiful new day filled with endless possibilities to connect with one another. We each have the power to make someone’s day brighter and more meaningful. Including our own.
And regardless of the weather, we continue to practice yoga. From your own practice, you are already familiar with many of endless benefits of a consistent and dedicated yoga practice.
There are entire books and numerous articles already on this very topic. All about the physical benefits. And far beyond the physical benefits.
For me, yoga has
1. Reconnected me to my body. For many years my former career kept me constantly in my head. Planning. Strategizing. Reading. Meetings — endless, endless meetings. My mat time got me back into my body where I realized all the toll that constant stress had taken on my physically. So I became more aware. More flexible. More limber. Stronger.
2. Reconnected me to my emotions. Yoga has totally softened me. And it’s an ongoing process. Decades of emotional denial – pretending everything was ok and not really dealing with life as it unfolded. Avoiding. Projecting. And straight up suppressing feelings until they bubbled up and couldn’t be denied. Yoga is a mirror. You must look deeply at yourself in this practice. And if you are not satisfied with your reflection, yoga is the perfect vehicle of transformation.
3. Eased decades of stress and anxiety. In the beginning, my practice was purely physical. I would push myself physically in order to reach a state of exhaustion. It was only then that I could reach a place of mental stillness. Was it exhaustion or peace? I don’t know, but it works!
What are the ways you have observed that yoga has impacted your life? How are you seeing yoga in action off of your mat?
Make it a great week, yogis!
Good morning, beautiful mindful ones!
Wow, there’s something about a powerful thunderstorm that gives me such a thrill – and reminds me of how little control I actually have of life. I love that perspective!
The lightning and thunder woke me up early, early Saturday morning, like 5 am. I spent several minutes standing at the window watching with awe and wonder and feeling such a deep sense of peace in my heart. And it felt so good to get back in my warm bed and be lulled back asleep. Best. Feeling.
When I woke up a couple hours later, I got ready to go teach three classes in Western Springs. This was so significant for me, because for a few years, these classes were my permanent classes:
And I would also teach an 8 am class at a health club prior to my triple.
That was my Saturday for many years. I was teaching 7 days a week back then, and I felt so blessed to be hustling and actually making a living doing what I loved – making my own schedule and all in a virtually stress-free environment. The sun was shining every day back then!
But slowly my life was shifting. I spent less and less time socializing, because I was up so early each day to teach. I was also utterly exhausted. Physically tapped out. Mentally and emotionally fatigued. Which caused me to further withdraw from my life. If the sun was shining, I was too damn tired to notice.
I wasn’t sure how to help myself. It was like the rain over the weekend: relentless. I didn’t have time to think or heal or even sleep. If I wasn’t teaching, I was storing up energy and preparing to go teach. I would literally collapse at the end of the day and shut down (with lotsa sugar and carbs and crap!)
It went like that for at least a year! Until I finally started dropping some classes. That was rough! Guilt over giving up classes entrusted to me. Attachment to my classes and my students. Fear of losing the income. But I knew I needed some precious time to heal and rest.
Over the course of the next year, I continued to drop classes. Slowly but surely. First I gave up my Sundays. Then my Thursday nights. Then Tuesday nights. Then Wednesday nights. No more 6 ams either. Finally … my four Saturday classes. And just this year, I dropped my Friday evening class. 16 classes in all.
It took another year to soothe my circadian rhythm back to some normalcy. I was still pretty much a hermit; exploring my introverted side and still not socializing very much at all. I needed all of my time and energy to process. I’m still processing.
But last Saturday – driving to Western Springs on a rare Saturday that I was actually working in the middle of a downpour – felt like pure, unfiltered middle-of-a-heat wave sunshine!!
It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of balancing my life and our favorite yoga buzz word: self-care.
I walked into the studio (through the downpour!) feeling such a sense of lightness. I remember thinking this is how I should feel teaching my art, my heart and my passion. I felt grounded and truly present as I checked in my students and taught my classes. It was absolutely sublime.
And I feel so grateful that I am now in this space where I actually have the energy and time to pick up classes and help out my fellow teachers.
And I learned that the sun is always there even behind the clouds and rain and thunder.
Teaching yoga full-time is not an easy path. But I’ve never wanted easy. I want the sun and the rain. The highs and lows. For me, it’s always been about growth, healing, transformation. And so crucial to my happiness is connecting with others in an authentic and significant way.
Which areas of your life need to be balanced out a bit more? Where can you take better care of you?
Have the best week ever, you guys! Rain or shine, let’s just show up for each other and for ourselves!
Good morning, yogis! Happy Monday! Happy Columbus Day! I’ve been loving our rainy weather we had last week! Rain is so cleansing and renewing, doncha think?
Especially this time of year — watching the waning of summer into autumn and eventually winter. Observing the trees graciously surrendering their foliage, one leaf and bud at a time.
As we age, we go through the same process. One by one surrendering the things of our youth. The goal is to age as naturally as possible. To embrace anicca, the impermanence of life. To appreciate what we have while we have it; so when the time arrives to relinquish, we can do it with an open heart filled with love, gratitude and acceptance.
As I have grown older, some things have been fairly easy to yield to my youth: competitiveness, worrying what people think, focusing on superficial things, equating status with success.
Some things, however, are more of a struggle. Particularly, watching my baby boy grow into an amazing young man. Of course my heart bursts with so much pride at what a talented, hard working, compassionate human being he has become. Each stage of his life has been preparing me for the inevitable time that he will fly from my nest.
The latest stage is too quickly approaching. I’m writing this blog from the Purdue campus in West Lafayette – we are actually on our second college campus visit.
Even in this picture, you can see him pulling away from me. 😭
As parents, regardless of race, gender, social or economic status, we all feel the same thrills and pangs of parenthood. Some of you are young parents, struggling with getting a full night of sleep. Or spending each and every weekend watching your kids play sports. Some of you are empty nesters, learning to rebuild a life not dominated by incessant demands of your time.
Like the trees, we parents are all on the same path of letting go. Each milestone in our children’s lives is another practice of releasing. In order to be a successful parent, our children should walk away from us, fully equipped to function and thrive in life.
Anicca. Anicca. Anicca. Be happy. Be happy. Be happy.
Looking back can be dangerous and even painful, sure, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a quiet beauty in being mindfully contemplative, and a certain maturity required to learn by looking back, all while staying rooted in progress that’s already been made. With broken hearts and confusion that’s erupted for so many of us surrounding recent tragedies, perhaps we need this soft rewinding contemplation more than ever. So, this month we’re bringing you reverse warrior. Stay rooted at the core of who you are, but know that’s it’s okay to bring it back a bit. Reach back, go back, and learn.
Accessing Reverse Warrior:
- From warrior II, keep that same strong foundation in your legs
- Stack your front knee directly over your ankle, and energetically pull your knee back to open your hip
- Keep your back leg strong and straight, with the sole of your foot grounded at the back of your mat
- Inhale your front arm up while your back hand drops down with little to no weight on your back leg
- Look up and continue energizing through your fingertips as your torso stretches back for a side body stretch
- Try not to compromise the bend in your front lunge
Benefits of Reverse Warrior:
- Stretches and strengthens legs, groin, and hips
- Increases blood flow throughout the body, calming the mind
- Stretches the torso
- Builds lower body strength
Feeling low on energy with the shift in seasons? Spend some time on your mat with Sarah W. and we are positive she will share some of her infectious joy with you! Sarah’s warm smile and fun flowed classes are just a few of the reasons we love this sweet yogi! Here’s where you can find her and experience this fun for yourself!
When and how did you come to yoga?
I started practicing yoga about 16 years ago (woah-how am I that old?!?!?!?) I had been in a car accident and physical therapy wasn’t really helping me strengthen my back so the therapist suggested I try yoga and see if that helped! I enrolled in a class at the YMCA by my house and HATED IT!!!!! But I kept coming back to class because it was hard for me and I wanted to “conquer” yoga
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I started teaching 15 years ago. I was a group fitness instructor and the yoga teacher went on maternity leave and since I had been practicing for a bit, my supervisor asked me to take over the class. Not an inspired reason at all, but thank goodness that happened!!!!!!
What is your favorite pose?
I have a bunch of favorite poses but probably the one I feel most graceful, beautiful, strong and free in is trikonasana/triangle pose. It is my ultimate TA-DA pose!
Who inspires your teaching?
It sounds cheesy but my students inspire my teaching the most! I love seeing them lay out their mats, watching them carve out that time for themselves and surrender into their practice, and leave happier, calmer, more grounded. I love watching them fall in love with their practice, discover their strength, tap into their stillness and embrace who they are. I am the luckiest girl in the world that I get to witness this each and every day! It inspires me and energizes me!
Tips for beginners…
My biggest tip for beginners is to keep showing up! Stay with it. Keep coming to your mat and moving and breathing. Don’t try to do everything perfectly; don’t THINK… just feel the way it feels to move and breath. And when things get hard, smile and then take another breath.
What’s your favorite quote?
I think one of my favorite quotes is by Eric Shiffman, which I discovered while studying with Rolf Gates. Eric says that yoga is a way of moving into stillness to experience the truth of you are really are. It’s a matter of looking inwardly always and then simply being daring enough-and trusting enough- to do as you are prompted to do. This quote reminds me to get out of my head and start to practice from my heart.
Good morning, mindful ones! Do you feel the change in the air this morning? That lovely chill of fall and a glimpse of all beautiful things to follow.
For many many many years, I would wake up on Monday mornings with a jolt. My eyes would pop open and my heart rate would immediately elevate as I grabbed my blackberry and quickly scanned the news and read emails.
But the anxious energy didn’t start there. It started Sunday afternoon. I would be in a frenzy trying to get laundry done and the house spotless to start the week fresh and ready.
This was my normal. I didn’t really know anything else. I was conditioned to operate at this high level of “busyness” and self-importance. I was pretty serious and intense back then.
Then I would get Julian up and ready, I rushed him through breakfast and drop off at school. Then the mad rush to get to the office for a day filled with meetings and directing projects and managing a staff of professionals.
And I would count the hours until I could get on my mat! Some days I’d rise before dawn to squeeze in a 5:30 am class. I would block my calendar off and sneak out to class during the day. And I would practice at night after work.
On my mat, I began to get to know myself. Underneath the stress and drama and rushing around, I found a sense of peace, calmness and FREEDOM. Playfulness that didn’t involve heavy drinking or power shopping. Ease. Flow. Movement. Mindfulness.
I felt such a dichotomy in my life: which Nadja was really ME? There was such a sharp contrast between the two different sides.
I began to like myself so much more when I was practicing. So I made the leap of faith and “retired” from the public sector.
Five years later, I am still deconstructing from that lifestyle. It’s definitely a process to reprogram from lifelong habits and patterns. We are either continually growing or progressively dying. To coin a buzz phase from my former career, continuous improvement model.
Let’s keep growing and figuring this thing out! We’re all in this together!
Have a great week, yogis
Anicca! Be happy!
Happy happiest of Mondays, friends! Wow! I dont know about you, but I have been so enjoying this scorching weather lately! Maybe it’s my Indian Filipino genetics. But I loooovvvvve the heat!
Todays blog focus is on a painful truth: We can’t outwork a bad diet. We just can’t do it. Trust me. I know.
Now mind you, I was able to do it in my 20s and even my 30s. But that’s no longer how it works. The fact is, if you play, you pay.
Early in my career as a yoga teacher, I was teaching seven days a week. Something crazy like 25 classes and 6 of them were Sculpt classes! Talk about working out! Oh my poor body was so tired, but I used the rationale that I could eat whatever I wanted since I taught so much. And naturally, the foods I craved were simple carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar, sugar, sugar. Right? Because my body was looking for quick energy.
So you’re probably thinking that I should have been in the best shape of my life! That’s exactly my thought back then!
Well the truth is I gained 30 pounds that year. Thirty. Pounds. The extra weight didn’t feel good on my body. Which resulted in me not feeling good in my body. And that’s a really yucky feeling to have.
It took me a while to pull myself back. Drop a dozen classes. Take time to heal and to rest. And to try to rebuild my loving relationship with my body. It’s still a struggle!
What’s been so helpful is to once (sometimes twice) a year do a 21 day total reset. I pull out the following things from my food intake:
All animal proteins
All processed sugar
My first thought is always: well what’s the purpose of getting out of bed? Lol. Excellent question!
This detox is absolutely a tremendous challenge. But it becomes a 21 day journey of learning so much more about yourself. What role food plays in your life. And the discovery of how GREAT we can and should feel when we wake up each morning!
There are no supplements to purchase and we eat real food. Whole organic nourishing and yummy food!
And we do it together. As a YBD community.
We start soon! Here’s the info!
Have a wonderful week my Yogi friends!
Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!
I celebrated another trip around the sun last week — my birthday is always a time for reflection for me. Another year older and wiser. And a perfect time to check in with myself and to own ALL of my stuff. It’s super easy for me to own the seemingly “bad” and “negative” parts. I tend to dismiss the “good” and “positive.” But I’m practicing owning it all without labels or judgements. Soaking everything in as an opportunity for continued awareness and growth – therefore it’s all good! Painful things help me grow. Amazing blessings soften me with gratitude.
This year, I worked very hard to practice receiving. A dear friend of mine challenged me to only RECEIVE on my birthday. Wow! That’s a tough gauntlet thrown down!
I realized that so often people try to “give” me a compliment, and it’s so difficult for me to receive it that I end up rejecting the compliment and often times unintentionally offending the giver! How insane is that?! But isn’t it so hard to just smile sincerely, receive the offering and intention, and simply say, “Thank you?”
I had to remind myself that giving and receiving is a dynamic universal exchange. It’s part of the yin (receive) and yang (give) of life. You can’t give without someone to receive. And you can’t receive if nothing is offered. We need both.
So how could I practice truly receiving the tremendous outpouring of love that flooded my life on that day?
Yes, yes, yes gratitude for sure! But even with gratefulness in my heart, was I truly receiving the offering?
The art of receiving demands some serious yoga discipline. First, we must have the awareness to recognize that something is been offered. Someone is trying to give you something. In my case, each happy birthday greeting and gift was an offering of love and appreciation. Secondly, we must practice being open to truly hear and see and feel the offering — this requires STILLNESS. Third, we cultivate gratitude for the intention behind the offering. So… you’re all with me so far, right? Seems simple and straightforward.
The fourth step is the most challenging for me. It’s to actually fully absorb and assimilate and accept what I’m being offered. And that means that I have to feel deserving of love and appreciation. To feel truly worthy to receive the remarkable gifts offered.
The word “receive” comes from the Latin word recipere, which means “to take back.” This implies that what we receive is already ours in the sense that we do, indeed, deserve it, that it completes something within us, or simply that we’ve attracted it by the nature of our being.
In the picture above, I’m practicing the art of receiving from my dear friend Sarah P. The benefit of being able to receive in this pose is that physically my body can fold more deeply. But Sarah is offering so much more with this adjustment– she’s offering her love and support for my well-being and my practice. The more I opened and received, the more relaxed and truly nourished and fulfilled I felt.
Receiving is a yoga practice in itself! The more we cultivate the art of receiving, we become more in tuned with the abundance the universe offers us each moment, each day.
Have a great week, Yogi friends!