annica

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!

Mindful Monday: Pivot and Go With the Flow

Happy Monday, y’all! I had the loveliest of all weekends! Hope you’re enjoying this weather and my favorite time of year as much as I am.

A few days ago I had about an hour of downtime between classes. It was such a spectacular day, so I went to my local forest preserve area with my trusty sidekick Coco.

My plan was to do some much needed grounding work. Summertime with its flurry of activities can really unground me as I have a vata dosha. So quiet, solo journaling in the warmth of the sun was my agenda. And so much what I need to balance and recharge myself.

As I was writing in my journal, Coco made friends with another Yorkshire terrier; and the dog’s mother wanted to make friends with me!

My initial reaction was resistance to being drawn away from my contemplative activities. I only had an hour between classes. I’d been hustling for the past few days. I hadn’t had much downtime. I’d been outputting so much, and I really needed some time to refill my tank. I was on a roll developing such a great thought in my journal. And it would have been pretty easy to shut down the conversation and carry on with my original plan.

But rather than react to my initial resistance, I responded to the woman and her dog. I put my journal down, and I ended up having the loveliest time with Alice and her dog Missy.

Alice is 79 years old, and we talked about everything from God to yoga (of course!) and I got some really great insight on parenting. Coco and I also got invited to her family reunion in July. Heck yeah we’re going!!!

It was such a strong reminder to me how easy it can be to just pivot and go with the flow! It’s definitely important to know the direction you’re heading, and to have somewhat of a plan to get there. It’s also so important to be open to detours. Enjoy those moments where you are seemingly off-track, because that’s where you get the little nuggets from life.

This week, let’s really cue into all of the subtle indicators and reminders from the universe that let us know we’re still on the right path.

Hope to see you on your mat this week as we kick off our Summer Challenge!

Anicca! Be happy, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Blessings Counted

Good morning, mindful ones!

As I lie here in my warm, cozy bed admiring the sounds of rain and thunder, I am overcome with the feeling that today is a great day to be alive!

Right now is the perfect moment to count my blessings.

  • It’s a blessing that I woke up this morning.
  • That I am able to hear all of the sounds of nature.
  • That I am in a warm bed sheltered from the rain.
  • That my hands can hold my phone and I have fingers to type.
  • It’s a blessing that both of my parents are still alive and healthy and strong.
  • My son Julian is my blessing and my teacher.
  • It’s a blessing to have a brother and nieces and nephews. And cousins. And uncles and aunties.
  • I’m blessed to be healthy, happy and so darn clever 😜
  • I’m blessed to have amazing friends in my life; old and new, gold and silver. Some since kindergarten!
  • I’m so blessed to have my yoga practice.
  • It’s a blessing to have so many talented and wise yoga teachers and students.
  • I am blessed to have all of my hurts, disappointments and sadness for all of the wisdom and experiences they’ve brought.
  • I am blessed to experience the full range of human emotions in this life experience.
  • I am blessed to work at yoga by degrees and actually make my passion a career.
  • I am blessed my little Coco is in my life.
  • I am blessed to be surrounded by love always. And to finally see it and appreciate it.
  • It’s a blessing to have running water and access to clean drinking water.
  • It’s a blessing to have electricity.
  • I am blessed to have a vehicle to get me through my day safely with ease and comfort.
  • I’m blessed to be able to share my thoughts with you through this blog.

Won’t you take a few moments this morning to count your blessings?

You are a blessing to me and so many others.

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

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!

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: Snow Day

Good morning, mindful ones!

Well last week’s blog was called Slow Your Roll, and it was about slowing down our instant-gratification-and-endemic-busyness-plagued-society by releasing expectations. How apropos that we had the very opportunity to incorporate that attitude with the huge snow storm that hit us late last week!

We were all literally forced to release expectations and slow down, because we had no other choice. Roads were treacherous and many businesses actually closed or opened late morning or early afternoon.

Things like huge snowstorms give us an opportunity to observe ourselves (without judgement) and to witness our instinctual and also conditioned reactions. And through our yoga practice, we have learned the precious art of finding that space between breaths and pausing before reacting. Then choosing our response.

One of my all time favorite quotes. Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and several concentration camps, and he used his experience to help others find the beauty of life and the will to live.

In the most wretched of human circumstances, Frankl observed that some people maintained their deep humanity through simple acts of sharing their last scrap of bread or still finding beauty in nature.

We, who have so much to be grateful for, can still catch ourselves reacting to unexpected circumstances with annoyance, impatience and even anger. Often we react without thinking. Our behaviors are acted out and reflexive rather than thoughtful.

Through our yoga practice, we have learned to breathe and pause. In this paused space lies our growth, happiness and freedom. With such awareness of this space, we find the freedom from both internal and external pressures and we choose our response.

I think of it as a game. I watch a strong reaction arise within, and try to pause and just look at it. And then I know I have a choice: continue on with the emotion or realize that’s it’s temporary so I can choose a less reactive response.

And we don’t have to wait for a huge act of nature to practice this. We have these opportunities all day long! Sitting at the breakfast table. Walking into a restaurant. Standing in line at the grocery store. Shopping for food before a huge snowstorm hits. Even on our yoga mats, we have sixty minutes to observe, pause and then respond.

It is in the little every day moments our true character is revealed to us. How we behave on our yoga mats shows us how we will respond off of our mats as well. How we train each day determines how we will handle the big stuff when it arrives.

Have a great week, friends! Be safe and I can’t wait to see you on your mats this week!

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

Happy Monday, mindful ones. Well Chicago is definitely living up to its name. Wow! That brisk wind blasting my face this morning is exhilarating. Like a double shot of espresso!

It’s getting colder and darker, and I keep reminding myself that it’s OK. In fact, it’s necessary. So I really try to catch myself before I go on auto pilot and just start complaining about it. Practicing mindfulness with my thoughts and my words is a lifelong practice.

I’m really excited to begin preparations for Yoga by Degrees’ winter solstice celebration. We will observe this auspicious time of year by completing a yoga mala – 108 sun salutations!

According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, each vinyasa (sun salutation) is like a bead to be counted and each asana (pose) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. The garland of yoga adorns us with peace, health, knowledge and self-awareness

While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a practice that is super energizing. Sun salutations are the perfect way to lengthen, strengthen and flex the main muscles of the body while distributing prana throughout your whole system. Anyone can complete a yoga mala, regardless of physical limitations. Some will modify and some students actually intensify the practice!

When you begin your YBD classes with a handful of sun salutes, you right away feel your heart rate increasing, right? Sun salutes improve circulation, purify your blood and strengthen your physical body. Your lungs, digestive system, as well as your muscles and joints all benefit from this ancient practice. The more you do, the more vital prana circulation is increased, removing energy blockages and unlocking pathways for more energy to flow through you. The natural high you experience from the yoga mala is indescribable.

Our practice together will focus on the shortest day of the year as a turning point – emerging from a place of darkness to a place of light mentally, physically and even emotionally.

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

• Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles through alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs.

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

• Rids body of enormous quantity of carbon dioxide & other toxic gases.

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

• Normalizes the activity of the endocrine glands – especially the thyroid gland.

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at your studio today! I guarantee you will not regret honoring the changing of the season in this way. Plus it’ll be a great way to blow off some pent up holiday stress and pressure!

Have a great week, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

We have hit the jackpot with all of this bonus sunny, warm weather lately! How on earth is it even December?!

Of course, all of the homes adorned with Christmas decorations, a digital overload from advertisers, busy stores and the heavy mall traffic ground us firmly back into the season. Am I right?

And the shorter days and looooonger nights remind us we are smack dab in the middle of that time of year where we continue moving towards darkness.

What are your thoughts and feelings when you think of darkness? Sometimes I think it gets a bum rap.

We become so obsessed with lightness that we can easily overlook the depth and beauty of darkness. Yet we cannot have one without the other!

Popular culture overemphasizes reaching for the light: positivity and affirmations are ubiquitous. And obviously that’s all good! But learning to connect to our “dark side” is essential for a full, rich and complete Life experience.

Our yoga practice is a dance between light and darkness. We arrive on our mats on a quest toward lightness and moksha, and along the way we encounter and get acquainted with our own darkness.

Our darkness or shadow selves encompasses the parts of us we avoid, repress and even suppress: the not so pretty stuff; painful and messy stuff; shame; unhealed wounds; raw and disowned fragments of ourselves.

It’s very understandable that instinctually we avoid the dark aspects of ourselves. But when we do this, our chances for true happiness and joy are in serious jeopardy.

What? Why?!?

Well…. because light and dark are both sides of the same coin. The only exist in relationship to one another. So as you embrace the dark side of yourself, you are paradoxically supporting the lightest and brightest and most authentic you.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, depressed, jealous, uncomfortable and confused or even to be unclear about what you’re feeling! But whatever it is, allow yourself to feel it and experience it. Sharpen your awareness. Move boldly to the depth of these dark feelings. Once you work through them, you are moving directly back towards the light.

See darkness isn’t so bad after all! Yoga teaches us to embrace the full spectrum: light and dark, expansion and contraction, ease and effort.

Trust your own complexity. Embrace your shadows. Say yes please and thank you to all of life’s experiences. Especially the challenging ones! Graditude for the opportunity to grow and transform.

I will be leading a very special practice where we will explore darkness through a moving meditation on Saturday, December 23 at 2:30 pm at our Western Springs location. Please talk to any of our locations for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week, beautiful ones!

Mindful Monday: Know Your Mind

Hello Dear Ones!

Another Monday has arrived. A beautiful fresh clean slate.

Remember that your mind doesn’t control you; you control your mind!

So fill your thoughts with abundance, acceptance, love, happiness, joy, prosperity. Fill your heart with compassion, laughter, tolerance.

Look for the goodness in every single person you meet. Even if you may need to look really, really long and hard.

Happiness is a choice. Entirely 100% up to you and you alone.

Through mindfulness practices like yoga, we begin to ascertain the deeply seeded thought patterns and reactions we’ve supplanted into our own minds. How easy it is to go on auto pilot and just react to situations that appear to be similar to those we’ve experienced in the past.

These samskaras become so deeply embedded into our subconscious that we are unaware of its effects on our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

We become trapped in this karmic wheel which keeps spinning around and around as we continue to react again and again.

These patterns are deeply rooted into our psyche. It takes deep awareness and dedication to acknowledge and uproot the samskaras.

To truly know your mind, you must find mental stillness in order to observe. From this place of observation and non-judgment, slowly one moment at a time our samskaras will reveal themselves.

Your yoga practice is such an amazing place to explore and familiarize.

Practicing yoga at least three times a week will have a profound effect in your life physically, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically.

Let’s commit to our mats during this crazy stressful and awesome holiday season.

This week Will be only as awesome as you decide to make it.

So much gratitude for you! Namaste.