Mindful Monday: Morning Mantra

Good morning, mindful ones!

Take a slow deep breath, and exhale completely. Do that two more times.

As you prepare for your day, remind yourself that you are the creator of your life today.

Acknowledge that many things will happen that are outside of your control. But it is always your choice how you react.

Everything that happens today is designed for your growth.

Commit to walk today’s path in gratitude and love.

You are here to learn and grow.

Be gentle and loving with yourself and all those you encounter today.

You are worthy of respect and kindness.

Show up for yourself today and honor the opportunity you have been given to be alive.

Choose to be happy today. No matter what happens, choose happiness today.

Find new things to appreciate in your life today.

Be a light of joy and love. Radiate peace and calmness.

Today will be an extraordinary day.

Mindful Monday: Smile, Breathe and Go Slowly

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Smile.

Breathe.

Go slowly.

Probably the opposite of what you do on Monday mornings, right?

I distinctly remember jolting awake on Mondays near panic, grabbing my blackberry (old school, lol) and jumping out of bed. The race began.

That was my Monday morning routine for more than a decade. Smiling, breathing and going slowly … none of these things were on my endless to-do list.

It certainly was such a grind back then. And looking back, I see that so much of it was my own creation of stress and pressure on myself. Well hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?

Through my yoga and meditation practices coupled with life experience, I have learned the magic formula of breathing and stillness.

We’re all just looking for a little more space. More room to breathe, more space within our tight joints and muscles.

To be fully alive and fully human, we need space to breathe and feel, and we need a strong, supple body to move. We all certainly know what it’s like to feel crowded, pressured, stressed. We’re familiar with encroaching deadlines and facing expectations.

There are all kinds of circumstances that create constriction. Some of them are internal: grief, or depression, or personal struggles. Some are external: emotionally and spiritually abusive workplaces, or family relationships, or systems of oppression. The challenge lies in carving out some space for yourself to simply smile, breathe and slow things down. Even for a few, quiet moments to breathe and just BE.

Do you know why?

Because you deserve to draw a full breath. You deserve to have room to breathe. You deserve to have the space to change and grow. You deserve to be honored, and valued, and treated like the precious soul that you are.

So add this to that endless to-do list as you rush around trying to take care of everyone else around you:

Smile.

Breathe.

Go slowly.

Mindful Monday: Patience

Greetings and blessings, Mindful ones.

In this golden age of Amazon Prime, overnight delivery, and open-24-hour drive throughs … Instant Gratification rules!

And our classic, good old-fashioned friend Patience gets a really bad rap. I mean, remember what it was like with the AOL dial ups back in the stone ages?

Enter our practice of yoga! This is where we transform the toe-tapping, teeth grinding, fist-clenching, caffeine-fueled adrenaline rushes into one, unremarkable, slow deep breath of awareness at a time.

As we work to reverse the tendency to push and do, we slowly learn to soften and BE. For me, yoga at times can be agitatingly slow and boring. It was a very long process for me to even stay for savasana. And it took many years before I would even consider taking a restorative class.

But there was definitely something that kept me coming back to my mat. It was the sense of total peace. The realization that underneath all of that thrilling and glamorous rushing around, there was a very unglamorous, plain and PATIENT space within.

I still work hard to cultivate this relationship. Patience is a great friend to have on my mat and off. On my mat, I learn to slow down and feel my body in each pose. To just wait with ease and grace. We have to slow down so much to allow the body to open and heal. And we learn to patiently accept our current limitations and barriers.

I searched for Patience’s hand at the Cubs game last week when I was trying to nimbly and quickly navigate the crowds to make it to the one place in the whole ball park that sells Rum Chata. I literally had to stop myself and slow myself down, and realize I was not in any hurry at all.

Throughout my regular, routine days, I find so many opportunities to connect with my dear friend. I may not always listen to her, but I know she’s always there for me.

Have a great week, my friends!

Mindful Monday: Balance

Good morning, friends! Happy Monday!

We work a lot on balance in our yoga practice. Balancing on one one leg, one arm, upside down. Even balancing on our heads and hands. And in acroyoga, we balance on other peoples’ bodies!

We learn that it takes focus and concentration to maintain balancing poses on our mats. And we see that these poses are dynamic, not static. Within the stillness of a pose, tiny shifts and adjustments are made to maintain balance. Sometimes we see visible shaking, other time it’s imperceptible to anyone else. The body makes corrections to help maintain itself.

And of course lessons that we learn on the mat are meant to be integrated into daily life.

There are so many things that can throw us off balance in life. Major life changes and transitions. Shocking news can literally knock you off of your feet. Even smaller, every day stuff. A major traffic jam can throw off your entire morning. One person on a team not managing their time effectively can throw an entire project out of whack. We’re constantly making these small adjustments as we seek stability.

And then there’s the challenge of balancing work, time with friends and family, and self-care. It’s so easy to fall out of balance in these areas. Overwhelmed with projects at work often leaves little time for rest. Or maybe every weekend is filled with social obligations with little free time to do what we want. When we burn it at both ends for too long, trying to please everyone and “do it all,” our bodies shut down with illness and we’re forced to rest and recover and do little else. Again the body is adjusting itself towards equilibrium.

Yoga has helped me immeasurably in learning the importance of working with mindfulness and awareness towards balance and stability. It constantly reminds me that it’s perfectly natural to fall sometimes! And the only option is to get back up and try again with as much grace and humor as I can muster.

Yoga demands discipline and satya, truthfulness with yourself. It clears the maya, illusions, and helps one to truly center. And it reminds us so much that it’s a daily practice.

And remember, dear ones, it’s yoga practice not yoga perfect!!!

Have an amazing week!

Pose of the Month: July 2018 Garudasana

Garudasana or Eagle pose. Headstand with eagle leg variation.

Our July 2018 pose of the month is Garudasana or Eagle pose. In observance of America’s birthday, it’s appropriate that we feature the pose honoring our national emblem, the bald eagle symbolizing long life, great strength and majestic looks.

Let’s begin in a wide Chair pose. Bring your feet hip width distance apart and bend your knees, pushing weight back into your heels while keeping spine straight.

Lift your right foot off the floor and cross your right thigh over your left thigh. Hug your thighs together. If possible, hook your right foot around your left calf to complete the leg bind. If that doesn’t work, it’s fine to leave your right foot unbound or even to lower your right big toe to the floor to act as a kickstand.

Tee out your arms and cross your right arm under your left at the elbow. Bend both elbows so that the forearms are perpendicular to the floor and bring your palms to touch as much as possible. You can also reach hands to opposite shoulders as an alternative to the bind.

Bring your gaze to a fixed point in front of you to help you maintain balance. Take several breaths in this upright position, wrapping your arms and legs together like vines.

Continue to try to stack shoulders over your hips, left elbow to shoulder height and draw fingers forward as shoulders reach back.

Repeat on the left side.

Mindful Monday

Happy Monday, friends!

Hope you had a lovely Fourth of July last week! It felt strange to have a holiday in the middle of the week, didn’t it? But it certainly made it interesting.

Pauses from our daily grind are such a great opportunity to step back and relax and just have some fun! And it also provides a great vantage point to simply slow down and touch base with what’s really going on.

We tend to go on autopilot as we move through our familiar, mundane daily grind tasks. It’s important to take a step back and make sure our thoughts and vibrations are in sync with our physical efforts.

As you begin this new week, take a few minutes for yourself to adjust your mindset and mentally prepare for your week ahead. Your thought vibrations will make all of your work run smoothly and efficiently with very little effort.

Have a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: HB, America!

Happy Monday and hulllllooooooo July!!!

Boom! Just like that 2018 is half over!

This is a great touch point to pause and check in with yourself. Where are you in terms of New Year’s resolutions and goals? Yoga reminds us that it’s never too late to begin again!

This is also the time of year where we pause and celebrate the birth day of our beloved nation. We remember that, just like us, America has seen its shares of up-and-down’s. Times of prosperity and times of struggle. Times of war and strife and times of peace and harmony. Times of civil unrest and times, like the Fourth of July, that we put aside our ideological differences and stand together as one strong, proud America filled with love of country and national pride.

On a smaller scale, our lives are also filled with peaks and valleys. We get caught up in the day-to-day fluctuations that life throws at us. It’s so important to step back and check out the bigger picture to see how far we’ve come and how all that we have overcome has made us stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

For me, yoga is that opportunity for pausing and reflecting. It allows me to step away from the immediate demands and create enough space to take a higher level viewpoint. Things that may initially seem so urgent are proportioned. Situations are looked at from an entirely different perspective. And as I roll up my mat after practice, I tap back in with a fresh new start each and every time.

I hope that you enjoy your mid-week holiday, friends! All six of studios will be open with a limited morning schedule on Wednesday, July 4. So come in to detox before your big retox!

Mindful Monday: Hydrate

Happy Monday, mindful, beautiful ones!

Summer is definitely my favorite season. I am at my brightest, happiest and most active self during this time of year. It just suits me.

I easily wake up in the morning and I have seemingly boundless energy for fun and adventures all day long. I also require a lot less sleep during this season.

It’s important to be aware of our constantly shifting energies. Since I know this is a high-energy time of year for me I try to be as productive as I can while still balancing out time for fun and relaxation.

We’ve been pretty lucky this year in terms of heat and humidity. But once the dog days of summer kick in, here are some great tips to help keep energy levels up.

1. Hydrate. Water doesn’t just quench your thirst; it is crucial for keeping energy levels up. Water plays important roles in keeping the body healthy. When your body lacks the proper amounts, some metabolic processes may be affected, which leads to fatigue and headaches.

2. Hydrate. Think of the digestive system as your internal plumbing. When your plumbing is backed up, you feel bloated and sluggish. Water is like lubrication for your internal organs. It helps moves toxins out of the body by flushing toxins through the GI and urinary tract.

3. Hydrate. No one has much energy when they have a headache or a migraine. The key to preventing headaches and concentration impairment is to drink water before you feel thirsty. Your body is usually already depleted by the time you feel the urge to drink come on. It’s best to aim for 8-10 sips of water every hour to be sure you are properly hydrated in the hot summer months.

So there you have it! Staying hydrating is such a simple gift you can give to your body with so many amazing benefits.

Other reasons to stay hydrated? Do you need more?

  • Anti-aging. Keeping your skin hydrated makes you look and feel more youthful
  • Lose weight. Studies show that dieters who drank half a liter of water approximately 30 minutes before eating a meal lost close to 44 percent more weight over a timeframe of twelve weeks. This shows that drinking water 30 minutes before a meal can trick your mind into thinking your less hungry than you actually are.
  • Boosts your mood. Just as a well-oiled engine runs at top performance, so your body will also work better when properly hydrated. And when your internal systems and organs are running better, you’re more likely to feel better about yourself. In turn, you’re more likely to be in a good mood!

Mindful Monday: Are you Happy?

Happy Monday, dear ones!

How happy are you at this very moment? Hah! Excellent question, n’est pas?

It’s not a trick question. It’s pretty simple, actually. And the truth is, you are as happy as you want to be. So super simple and straightforward. But …. not even the teeniest bit easy!

We’ve been conditioned to think of happiness as a commodity; a valuable product to be purchased or at least earned through hard work and sacrifice. Buy this face cream and you’ll be beautiful and happy. Buy these hundred dollar yoga pants and you’ll be happy and chic on your yoga mat. Swathe your body head to toe in nothing but the finest fabrics and designer labels. Push yourself hard each day in beast mode – super happy! Don’t ever ingest another animal protein, that will do it! Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee. Do a 10 day silent meditation retreat. Get married. Get divorced. Quit your big job and become a full-time yoga teacher.

Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing any of those things listed above. At all. I’ve done all of them and many, many more! (A whole other blog’s worth.) But let’s not confuse those things with happiness, as I did for many decades.

As it turns out, happiness is an inside job.

So… Do you want to be happy? It’s a simple question, in fact, the only question that matters the rest of your life.

And the truth is, you are already so worthy of happiness. There’s no need to chase it or earn it. No certain race or religion has a monopoly on it. Like the sun shining on every living creature, happiness shines on all of us. It is essentially your birthright. Just by being born, you have every right to be happy.

So if you answer yes, it has to be an unconditional yes. Life will still happen to you. People will leave you. You’ll get a flat tire. You’ll be late for work because of traffic. Your teenager will say mean things to you. And many many many more things of that nature going to happen. But you have decided to be happy; those things will not veer you off your course of happiness, unless you let them.

There’s really great reasons to be happy.

I mean you practice yoga religiously to be strong and fit and flexible and healthy. So it’s kind of silly to do all of that and still remain unhappy, isn’t it?

The happier you are, more happy vibrations will be attracted to you. It has a compound effect.

And according to the Dalai Lama, it’s a pretty simple first step.

Perhaps the only step. And while you’re treating every other human with kindness, sprinkle some of that good stuff onto yourself!

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

10 Best Beginner Poses For Men

With Father’s Day fast approaching, we got to thinking about all the men in our lives who have not yet experienced the gift of yoga! If you or the guys in your life need a little motivation, here’s the 10 best beginner yoga poses for men
1. Mountain (Tadasana)
Why you should do it: Simple but effective, mountain pose builds a solid foundation for all other standing poses. It strengthens and returns flexibility to your feet, improves your posture, and works your thighs and core.
How to do it: Stand with your big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Balance the weight evenly on your feet and lift up the arches. Engage the thigh muscles slightly to lift up the kneecaps, but avoid locking your knees.
Pro tip: With every inhale, imagine lengthening your spine by stretching your head toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your shoulder blades drawing down your back.
2. Tree (Vrksasana)
Why you should do it: Like other standing balance poses, tree pose will improve your focus while strengthening the muscles in your ankles, calves and thighs. It also stretches the inner thigh and groin muscles on the bent leg.
How to do it: Shift your weight onto your right foot, pressing it firmly onto the floor. Bend the leftt leg at the knee and place the sole of the left foot on your inner right thigh. Point the toes toward the floor. If this is difficult, you can also place the sole of the foot on the inner calf or ankle (but avoid the knee). Bring your palms together in front of your chest and keep your weight centered over the left foot. Press the right knee back to open the groin while keeping your hips parallel to the front of the room. Release the foot and repeat on the other side.
Pro tip: To improve your balance, keep your attention on the floor a few feet in front of you.
3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Why you should do it: Standing forward bend can calm your mind, while also stretching the hamstrings and muscles of the spine.
How to do it: Start in mountain pose with your hands on your hips, then exhale, tucking your chin slightly toward your chest and bending forward at the hips. (As you fold forward, lengthen the front of your torso to avoid curling the spine.) Relax your head, neck and shoulders and let your arms hang loosely. Place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside or slightly in front of your feet. (If you can’t touch the floor, cross your forearms and grab your elbows.) To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips and lift up on an inhale. Keep your chin tucked and lengthen the front of your torso as you come back up.
Pro tip: If your hamstrings are very tight, bend your knees slightly to let the spine stretch toward the floor. Avoid pulling yourself down with your hands—let gravity do the work.
4. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
Why you should do it: Warrior I is often encountered during the Sun Salutation sequence. In addition to improving your balance, this pose stretches and strengthens the ankles, calves and thighs. It also stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and groin.
How to do it: From mountain pose, step your right foot forward and lift your arms overhead. Turn your left foot 45 to 60 degrees to the left. Bend your right knee until it is over the ankle. Bring the hips parallel to the front of the room. Arch your upper back slightly, lifting your chest up toward the ceiling. Press your palms together, if possible, or keep your hands shoulder width apart with your palms facing each other. Look forward or up at your thumbs. When done, step the right foot back into mountain pose. Repeat on the other side.
Pro tip: The most challenging part of this pose is lining up the front heel with the arch of the back foot. If you feel unbalanced, widen your stance.
5. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Why you should do it: Downward-facing dog, another pose found in the Sun Salutation sequence, strengthens the legs and arms, while stretching the calves, hamstrings, shoulders, hands and wrists.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees, with your hands just in front of your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Press your hands firmly onto the floor, with index fingers pointing forward. As you exhale, lift your knees off the floor, keeping the knees slightly bent. Stretch your tailbone toward the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Press your heels down toward the floor and your thighs back to straighten your legs. Keep pressing the base of your index fingers into the floor and lift along your arms from your hands to your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades against your back and down toward your tailbone. When done, drop your knees to the floor.
Pro tip: It’s okay to keep the knees slightly bent in this pose—focus more on lengthening your spine. Use your triceps to straighten your arms, but keep the shoulders from moving toward your ears.
6. High Lunge (Crescent Lunge)
Why you should do it: Also known as crescent lunge, this is similar to Warrior I, except with the back heel lifted and the feet about hip width apart. In this position, you may find it easier to keep your hips parallel to the front of the room, but your leg muscles will work harder to maintain your balance. High lunge will also strengthen the arms and stretch the muscles of the groin.
How to do it: Start in downward-facing dog. As you exhale, step your left foot forward between your hands, keeping your left knee over the ankle and your feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, lift your torso upright and bring your arms out to the side and overhead. If possible, bring your palms together—or keep the hands shoulder width apart with the palms facing each other. Press back through your right heel and lift up through the torso. To come out of the pose, bring your hands to the floor as you exhale and step back to downward-facing dog. Repeat on the other side.
Pro tip: Don’t lean forward—keep the torso directly over the hips, and think about sinking your hips straight downward while engaging the back thigh to keep the back leg straight. Don’t let the front knee move ahead of the ankle. To give your legs a rest, drop the back knee onto a mat or folded blanket, and focus on the stretch in your groin.
7. Boat (Navasana)
Why you should do it: While often known for its ab-busting potential, boat pose also works the deep hip flexors, as well as the spine. When you add in the arms, even your shoulders will get stronger.
How to do it: Start seated with your legs extended in front of you. Press your hands into the floor just behind the hips, pointing your fingers forward. Lean back slightly and lift up through your chest, to keep your back from rounding. As you exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor until your thighs are at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Straighten your legs slowly. When you feel stable, lift your arms off the floor and bring them out in front of you, parallel to the floor with the palms facing each other. To come out of the pose, lower your legs and arms as you exhale.
Pro tip: If your hamstrings are tight, keep the knees bent so you can maintain the neutral shape of the spine—similar to as if you were sitting in a chair. For a more intense workout, lift your arms overhead.
8. Locust (Salabhasana)
Why you should do it: Locust pose is a great way to slowly strengthen your back and prepare you for more challenging backbends. In addition to working the muscles of the spine, locust strengthens the buttocks and the muscles on the back side of the arms and legs. It will also stretch the chest, shoulders and thighs.
How to do it: Lie on your belly with your forehead on the floor and your hands by your hips, palms facing up. Point your big toes toward each other slightly to roll your thighs inward. As you exhale, lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the floor. Rest your weight on your belly, lower ribs and pelvis. As you inhale, lengthen your spine by stretching your head forward and your legs backward. Stretch back through your fingertips while keeping your arms parallel to the floor. Look down or slightly forward to avoid crunching your neck backward. Lower down on an exhale.
Pro tip: As you hold the pose, think about lengthening your spine on every inhale and lifting the chest and legs slightly higher on each exhale. If you feel pinching in the back, lower the chest and legs slightly.
9. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Why you should do it: A deeper backbend than locust, bridge pose stretches the front side of the body, as well as the spine and the rib cage.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your buttocks, with the feet about hip width apart. As you exhale, push your feet and arms into the floor and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your thighs parallel as your lift. Interlace your fingers beneath your pelvis and stretch your arms toward your feet. To come out of the pose, release the hands and lower your hips slowly to the floor on an exhale.
Pro tip: In the beginning, you may not be able to lift your hips very high. Instead of forcing it, focus on keeping the thighs parallel and stretching your tailbone toward your knees to lengthen the spine. With each inhale, lift a little higher. To keep the knees from spreading outward, hold a yoga block between your thighs while in the pose.
10. Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)
Why you should do it: One of the best yoga poses for stretching the hamstrings, it also stretches the hips, groin, and calves. Done properly, it will even strengthen the knees.
How to do it: Lie on your back. As you exhale, bend the left knee and pull it toward your chest. Keep the other leg pressed firmly onto the floor while pushing the right heel away from you. Hold a strap in both hands and loop it around the middle of your left foot. As you inhale, straighten your left leg slowly toward the ceiling. Move your hands up the strap until your arms are straight, while pressing your shoulders into the floor. Once your left leg is straight, engage the left thigh slightly and pull the foot toward your head to increase the stretch. Stay here for 1 to 3 minutes. Then lower the left leg slowly toward the ground, keeping the right thigh pressed into the floor. Continue until the left leg is a few inches off the floor. Work the foot forward until it is in line with your shoulders. Inhale your leg back to vertical. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side.
Pro tip: When you extend the leg upwards, press the heel toward the ceiling. Once the leg is straight, engage the thigh slightly and lift up through the ball of the foot.
If you’re a really quick learner and breezed through those 10 poses, try these three challenging yoga poses to really release tension everywhere.
And ready to take on a bigger challenge? Stay tuned to your Inbox for 3 challenging yoga poses for men.
Be sure to forward this article to the guy(s) in your life!