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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!

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: 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: Harmony

Happy Monday, friends!

During my meditation this morning, the word harmony surfaced, and an immediate sense of well-being and peace washed through my body.

Such a lovely, fluid word! In music and art, harmony is a blend of various, individual elements to create a pleasing integrated composition.

According to Sri B.K.S. Iyengar, “Any action done with beauty and purity, and in complete harmony of body, mind and soul, is art.”

I’ve experienced those fleeting moments on my mat; when my breath is dominating my mind and I have a hyper awareness of my body balancing on my mat with a sense of ease and lightness. A feeling of effortless effort. Allowing my muscles to engage without any tension or resistance. For those few breaths, time slows down and expands. I am aware of all the energy surrounding me, and I can feel a single bead of sweat trickle down my back. And then a single thought enters my mind, and I waver and my balance shifts and the moment vanishes.

With that awareness of perfect harmony on my mat, I am able to recognize those moments off of my mat as well. Moments walking in nature. That perfect, elusive golf swing. Watching the sun rise and set each day. Sitting in the sun at an outdoor beer garden. Listening and dancing to music. Moments of complete, comfortable silence with a loved one. A few solid breaths of mental stillness during meditation. They are few and far between. But glorious and sublime and perfect.

And the truth is that each moment of life is perfect unto itself. And the human challenge is to cultivate that acute level of awareness and mindfulness to appreciate the full spectrum of life experience. Sadness, happiness, tragedy, good fortune, failure, success, love, fear, profit and loss.

Health refers to the physical body; wellness refers to our state of being. When body, mind and spirit are in harmony, we experience perfect health. I strongly believe that truth health is an integration of how we treat our bodies, but also so much more important is how our minds live in a state of wellness.

The thought of living in harmony with others is perfectly expressed in chapter 49 of the Tao Te Ching.

– 49 –

The Sage has no fixed mind; she understands the mind of the people.

She treats those who are good with goodness.

She also treats those who are bad with goodness

because goodness is the nature of her being.

~

She is kind to the kind.

She is also kind to the unkind

because kindness is the nature of her being.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.

She also trusts people who are not trustworthy.

This is how she gains true trust.

~

The Sage lives in harmony with all below heaven.

Her mind is like space.

People don’t understand her.

They look to her and wait.

She sees everything as her own self;

she loves everyone as her own child.

Of course, these moments are also so fleeting and rare. But such a lovely ideal to move toward!

Harmony in nature was another thought that arose in my sitting today. I believe that to be another complete topic for another time.

It’s imperative to live in harmony within your own body and mind as the initial step to harmonizing with others and nature. Practice and all is coming.

Have the best week ever, friends!

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: Memorial Day

Good morning and Happy Memorial Day, friends.

This holiday weekend always brings me right back to my public sector roots. I worked more than a dozen years in state and then municipal government. My former bosses State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and later Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel were both huge advocates of the military. Treasurer’s son Pepe serves as a JAG officer in the Army and Mayor Pradel himself served as a Marine.

So I spent many memorial days walking in parades and attending memorial services.

Memorial Day is the time to show honor and reflect upon those that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our nation. Officially declared by Congress in 1968 as the final Monday of May; Memorial Day exists to honor our countries fallen.

Whether relaxing by a pool side barbecue or taking that out of town trip, Memorial Day weekend has evolved into a celebratory and festive time and an unofficial kickoff to summer vacation.

Many will argue that the weekend has lost its value and meaning amongst Americans today. We may not all visit a burial site or attend a ceremony for the fallen, but we should all take a personal moment to reflect and remember those that were lost. I can think of no better way to honor those that have fallen in the name of this country, than to live the greatest life that we can within our communities. I hope you live today in remembrance of those that have fallen, respectfully honoring their self-sacrifice that give us the freedoms we enjoy each day.

I always take a moment to remember the families of those who gave their lives in the support of the ideals of our nation as well.

Our studios are open today with a holiday schedule with last classes at most locations at noon today. 11 am in South Naperville. Please check the schedule at all of our locations to find the time and format that works for you!

Happy memorial day, friends!

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: 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!

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!