Mindful Monday: Mamaste

Good morning and happy Monday!

Yesterday we celebrated mommas everywhere. Those who birthed us; those who nurtured us. All of our maternal figures that have impacted us in some way. Remembering that you don’t have to give birth to be a mom! Anytime we put someone else’s needs above our own, we are essentially “mothering.”

Moms are our first yoga teachers. They teach us all about unconditional love, acceptance, sacrifice and so much inner strength.

And being a mom teaches us so much, too! It turns your world upside down. In the beginning, little things you took for granted, like sleeping, bathing and eating sit-down meals, become the biggest luxuries! And this teeny little bundle hijacks your heart and soul. Of course, it changes you forever.

And as your baby grows and is no longer a baby, you learn tough lessons in letting go, inch by inch, little by little. You learn to trust that you’re doing your best because little man didn’t come with an instruction manual. You learn that life is messy and sticky and it’s never gonna be picture perfect. You learn to forgive yourself again and again and again.

And suddenly you have a teenager, and you learn acceptance and compromise and respecting boundaries. And you marvel at this amazing human being that you have helped shape along the way. And slowly it dawns on you that your entire role as a mom has been to prepare your child to leave you!

And you hopefully see so much humor along this crazy path! You realize that no matter what decision that you made, it will be the “wrong” one for your teenager. And that your kid is so strong and resilient that he’ll always be ok, no matter what you did or didn’t do.

So here’s to all of the mommas and momma figures out there! Yesterday, today and every day, remember that you’re doing a great job!

Happy rainy, thundery, beautiful Monday, friends!

And Mamaste!

Mindful Monday: Rise Above

Happy Monday, friends!

My dad always told me growing up, “If you can’t bring someone to your level, don’t lower yourself to meet them at theirs.”

You know how you feel when you leave a yoga class? Lighter. Happier. Kinder. More compassionate. Stronger. More confident. Generous. Exuding positivity. Tolerant. Accepting. Open. Abundant. And beaming love, peace and contentment.

Am I missing anything?

Those are your natural states of being. The work is in maintaining those feelings no matter what happens around us. No matter what someone says or does. Whether teeny, petty things happen or some of the big body blows hit us.

Let’s continue feeding the positive. Don’t waver from it. No matter what happens pivot towards the positive.

Have a great week practicing, yogis!

Pose of the Month: May 2018 Padmasana

April showers bring May flowers, and our pose of the month is Padmasana or Lotus Pose.

Padma= Lotus Asana = Pose

LOTUS is the quintessential yoga pose and probably the most recognizable. It’s deeply associated with meditation and is named after the lotus flower.

In Eastern religions and cultures, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and enlightenment. It blossoms in stagnant, muddy waters floating pristinely above the surface, untouched by the murk and mire in which it is rooted.

Lotus is considered an advanced pose, as it requires hip flexibility in order to protect the vulnerable knee joints.

Here’s how:

  • Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you, keeping your spine erect.
  • Bend your right knee and cradle your lower leg with your right foot in the crook of your left elbow. Begin to externally rotate your right hip and carefully place your right foot on your left thigh. Make sure that the sole of your foot points upward and your heel is close to your abdomen.
  • Repeat with your left leg.
  • With both legs crossed and feet placed on opposite thighs, place your hands on your knees.
  • Root your sitting bones down and elongate your spine. Draw your head directly above your hips.
  • Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lower them down your back.
  • Hold and continue with long, gentle breaths in and out.
  • To come out, gently remove one foot at a time from your thighs.

This can also be practiced in the half lotus position, ardhapadmasana by sitting in sukhasana easy seated pose and only drawing one foot to upper thigh.

Mindful Monday: Metta Meditation

Happy Monday! April rolled in like a lion and is out of here like a little lamb. Such a great reminder of anicca – the impermanence of everything.

Let’s practice our metta meditation as we welcome in the month of May. Metta translates to loving kindness, evoking the warm feelings of good will and allowing that warmth to permeate your entire being. It’s first practice towards one’s self, as that’s truly where compassion begins.

Let’s begin.

Find a comfortable seated position, and take several deep breaths to release tension and stress. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations as you focus on feeling your breath.

As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases. I often visualize myself as a small child.

Begin to repeat the following phrases to yourself; feel free to come up with your own mantras.

May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe. May I feel peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases.

After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you feel peaceful and at ease.

As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And, if any feelings of loving-kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.

As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind other friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, and animals.

Now call to mind someone with whom you’ve had difficulties and perhaps someone who has hurt you in some way. Direct your loving kindness toward that person or persons.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you feel peaceful and at ease.

You can either use the same phrases, repeating them again and again, or make up phrases that better represent the loving-kindness you feel toward these beings.

Sometimes during loving-kindness meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. You can either shift to mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.

Finally, direct your loving kindness toward all living things, including yourself in this category.

May we be happy. May we be healthy. May we be safe. May we feel peaceful and at ease.

Metta acknowledges that we are all human and that we all experience a full range of emotions, and that all sentient beings will choose good over bad feelings when given a choice.

Metta recognizes our shared connection and solidarity with all living things.

Metta is generosity, kindness, empathy and friendliness toward all living beings.

It is boundless and in so much abundance.

May you be safe, happy and healthy, my yogi friends!

Mindful Monday: Yoga as a Healing Modality

Good morning, friends! Another Monday is here for you to write your own ticket. A fresh slate for you to create your own destiny. Of course yoga will play some role in that narrative, yes?

Think about the last time you had a paper cut. You didn’t have to think about your blood creating platelets to clot and close the wound or to send neutrophils and macrophages to the site to protect against germs and infection, right? Your body just did what it was made to do: heal itself.

When we practice yoga, we create an ideal environment for our minds and bodies to heal. Through the physical practice, we aid circulation, digestion, lymphatic release as we strengthen our muscles and create more flexibility in our joints and other connective tissues. Through the mindfulness practice, we forge new neural pathways and literally rewire our brains toward more peace and happiness.

One of the simplest ways to enhance every physical and cognitive function in your body is through your diet. What you put into your body can greatly strengthen all of the body’s systems. Or it can tax your body and create more work.

At least once a year, I cleanse my body with a 21 day detox. It’s a hard reset physically, mentally and emotionally. By removing foods that create inflammation and unduly stress our digestive systems and replacing them with foods that are easily digested and absorbed, we allow our bodies to focus on more important tasks like cellular repair processes.

Since 2012, I’ve literally led about 150 YBD yogis through this process. Some of those people have adopted this program as a lifestyle. It’s perfectly safe and medically unassailable. Others have taken one or two habits along with them on their path. Many have gone through this cleanse multiple times with me.

Personally I’ve experienced this detox nine times. Each time is different, and I continuously learn more and more about myself throughout the process.

Are you ready for an incredible challenge? Is food your final frontier? Do you want to take your yoga lifestyle to the next level?

If so, sign up today for this 21 day reset!

But don’t just take my word for it. Chances are, you’ve taken a class with a YBD instructor and/or practiced next to a yoga student who has undergone this process with me!

Here’s what yoga teacher Shaun Emerson said:

“Nadja calls it a detox, a cleanse, but for me, it was deeper than that. With Nadja’s guidance, the 21 day period was an opportunity to be thoughtful about what I was putting into my body. Participating in past cleanses, detoxes, and diets, the energy was negative: lose weight, deny, and be miserable. With Nadja’s positive energy shared on a daily basis, the attention is on the transformative impact food can have on our self-awareness and our relationship with others and the world around us. For me, the 21 days was a detox and cleanse, but more importantly, the 21 days was the first 21 days restart in a healthier body, clearer mind and deeper sense of awareness.”

So … what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

Mindful Monday: Self-Compassion

Happy Monday, dear, dear friends! And still the snow is falling as I begin writing this blog! I’m practicing gratitude and acceptance so much right now!

Today let’s explore the idea of self-compassion. What does it mean to be compassionate toward yourself? Basically, it means treating yourself the same way you would treat your best friend and/or someone you love.

This is more challenging than it seems! I still struggle with being less judgmental towards myself and more loving and accepting. I am certainly my own biggest critic!

On the other end of this spectrum is self-pity. This is when we become so self-absorbed in our own troubles and woes. We vibrate from a low level of energy and get caught up in the feeling that we have an unfair share of burdens and problems.

The middle ground between being overly critical and overly pitying toward oneself is self-compassion. Like life and yoga, this is a tough balancing act!

To find that middle ground, remember that you are a part of common humanity. And that part of our shared human experience encompasses all of our mistakes, struggles and imperfections. So, compassion isn’t a ‘poor me’ feeling, it’s just recognizing that life is difficult for everyone at some points.

Coupled with remembering our deep connection to humanity (and all other living things part of planet Earth), is the practice of mindfulness. It refers to the ability to step outside yourself and see what’s happening, see that things may be difficult or you’re struggling, and hold that suffering in mindful awareness as opposed to getting lost in it or overly identifying with it.

Like yoga and life, self-compassion is a lifelong practice. Here are some ways you can begin to be kinder to yourself and ultimately kinder and more compassionate toward every living creature that you meet.

1. Stop taking yourself so seriously! Remember you’re doing the best you can, and that will always be enough. That certainly doesn’t mean stop trying; it means give your best in each moment and trust in the process. I certainly use humor as a way to cope with the madness that life brings my way. I strongly believe that laughter is truly the best medicine!

2. Carve out time for self-care every day! If we’re lucky, we get a whole hour to practice yoga at our favorite YBD studio! Some days that simply isn’t feasible. Then spend 15 minutes meditating or journaling. Treat yourself to a bubble bath. Go for a short walk. Drop down and do 10 burpees. Do one small thing that will elevate your spirit and help you de-stress.

3. Start practicing gratitude! When we are grateful for what we have, we realize that everything is enough. What we have is enough. Who we are is enough.

4. Perform random acts of kindness toward perfect strangers! Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Allow that person in the seeming hurry to cut you off in traffic with a wave.

Make eye contact and genuinely smile at someone passing by. I do that all the time, and I find it interesting how people react to it! It becomes a social experiment, and I can readily see how open or closed off people are!

As we practice kindness towards others, it becomes easier to be kind to ourselves. It also shift our focus from ‘poor me’ to how good it feels to connect with others.

5. Take a couple minutes each morning and evening or even before and after your yoga practice to tell yourself that you love yourself. And remind yourself of the reasons why.

And most importantly, remember we’re looking for progress not perfection. Like yoga, it’s consistency and dedication to the practice that yields the greatest transformation. And we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

Can’t wait to see you on your mat this week!

PS Another round of our 21 day cleanse is coming up in a couple of weeks!!!!

Mindful Monday: Snowga

Good morning and happy Monday, my yogi friends! Waking up to so much snow in April is probably not what any of us actually dreamed about.

But whether we like it or not, this is the current reality for chicagoans.

So we have freedom of choice. We can choose to react by complaining and being in a bad mood, which is perfectly understandable and our inalienable rights as human beings.

We can also remember that this day will never come again. That one day soon will be laughing about how Mother Nature got us once again!

Last Thursday (you may recall that it snowed like crazy that as well) I was visiting my favorite little people, and Sadie (5) and Savannah (3) when we went outside literally danced in the snow trying to catch snowflakes with their little tongues!

I learn so much from those girls about having that fresh perspective and welcoming in life with open arms! I constantly ask myself when I lost that wonder and became so darn crabby. Lol.

Bottom line is that 90% of the time we don’t choose life, it happens. 100% of the time we choose how to react.

So happy happy happy Monday, dearest ones! Get out there and do some snwgaaaah!!!

April 2018 Pose of the Month: Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana

Happy April, yogis! Our pose of the month is Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana or One- Handed Tiger Pose!

Eka = One; Hasta = Hand; Vyaghra = Tiger; Asana = Pose

Tiger Pose mirrors the deep stretch a tiger takes when it wakes up. It is a super delicious spinal lengthener and backbend. Use this posture to stretch out your entire front body, from your ankles all the way through your thighs, abdomen, chest, and up to your throat! The one handed variation deepens the opening across your chest and into your shoulder joint.

Here we added a variation with the back knee lifted into a bound down dog. We also added Simhasana Pranayama or Lion’s Breath to increase the purifying benefits of the pose.

Here’s how:

1. Come to a table top position with your shoulders stacked above your wrists and your knees stacked beneath your hips.

2. Engage your abdominal sheath and extend your right arm forward and your left leg back.

3. Bend your left knee to a 90° angle and reach your right hand back for your left ankle.

4. Actively kick your left foot into your right hand to open your chest.

5. Look down at your left thumb for balance. Kick firmly with your left leg and root firmly through your left shoulder as you tuck toes on your right foot into your mat. Use the tension that you’re creating, activate your core and draw your right knee off of the mat.

6. Take a deep inhale through your nose. As you exhale, cross your eyes and stick out your tongue making a “haaaaah” sound at the back of your throat.

Mindful Monday: the Cycle of Life

Happy Mindful Monday! And welcome back, April! We are looking forward to your spring showers and all of the beautiful blossoms that will result.

For those of you that take my class regularly, you know that I recently lost a dear friend of mine. I’ve been sharing so much about my experience with death, and I’ve received a great deal of feedback after class. Many people have found some comfort as they deal with their own losses, so I wanted to share my thoughts here.

Our savasana pose literally means corpse pose. “Sava” = corpse. “Asana” = pose. And it comes at the end of our practice.

This reminds us of the natural order of things; there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If something exists, at some point it will cease to exist, at least in its physical form.

When we make it to Savasana pose, we are pretty happy to arrive, am I right? We enjoy the peacefulness and stillness, because we know we have spent the better part of an hour moving and sweating and working!

In this way we can familiarize ourselves with the concept each time we come to our mats. See that it is a quiet and tranquil place. There is no pain or suffering. Just an awareness of peace.

Death becomes our greatest teacher of LIFE. It reminds us of the sanctity of each moment. How lucky we are to be breathing. We are reminded that everything is temporary, so we can practice non-attachment. We realize how precious our time is and we learn not to squander it.

Regardless of how rich or famous one is, death reminds us that we are all equal here on this Earth. Time is the most valuable commodity we’ve been allotted. It’s the only currency that matters.

In thinking of death as a natural part of life each and every time we climb on our mats, we can be familiar with its inevitable visit. And hopefully this perspective will help us cope with any suffering we must endure.

You have been blessed with 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds today. How will you spend your precious currency? Because you can’t save it for later. You must spend it today.

Anicca! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Open Your Heart

Good morning, dearest mindful ones! I hope you had a lovely weekend.

On Saturday, we had a memorial service for my dearest friend who left us way too early. Of course it was heart wrenching and so very sad. But there’s something about pausing from our day to day routines to drill down that allows us to connect to the bigger picture.

It was a heart achingly beautiful day surrounded by so many loved ones. It really shifted my perspective and opened my heart immensely. Death is the greatest teacher about life. Here are my thoughts.

When we move from FEAR, we live in a state of anxiety, anger, confusion, malcontent, discontent, greed, jealousy, hatred; we feel disconnected and unhappy. We then seek physical pleasures and material possessions to find temporary reprieve from the negative spiral of emotions.

When we move from LOVE, we realize that there is nothing stronger than kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, graciousness and forgiveness. There is nothing to fix or change or recover. We realize that we are ALL connected to every living being, both great and small. When others hurt us, we try to find ourselves in that person. We seek to understand. We will, inevitably, be hurt. As we sit with our pain, we are reminded that it is part of the deal of being HUMAN. It’s inescapable. We feel it and feel it and feel it until it passes. And it ALWAYS passes. And we take the lesson and move on. We seek to destroy barriers. We seek to liberate others from their wheel of misery as we work arduously each day to free ourselves.

We remember that everything is temporary and so fleeting. And we try not to attach. We practice releasing our expectations of how life should be, and we work really hard to appreciate what we have when we have it.

And as life inevitably shifts, we work so hard to open our hands and our hearts and let everything go.

I’ll definitely be seeking some serious mat time this week to support myself as I work on letting go and opening up.

Make it a great week, yogis! Remember that whatever you may be going through, it is so temporary. And that you are never, ever alone in our YBD community.

Anicca! Be happy!