benefits of yoga

Mindful Monday: Tending to Yourself

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

It’s so easy to get caught up in a swirl of non-stop activities, isn’t it? In fact, you may even take pride in your perpetual state of busyness and being able to handle so many things at once. But eventually, there’s a tipping point: where stress builds up and burnout creeps in. That’s why tending to yourself is so vital to a true state of wellness and contentment.

What does your Mind conjure up when you think of tending to yourself?

I think of paying attention to myself. Taking time to turn inward and see what’s really going on physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Noticing what’s really happening and caring for and nourishing myself. Cultivating an overall sense of well-being and contentment.

Today, begin your week by deciding to give yourself some well-deserved attention. When you care deeply for yourself, you become the shiniest, best and brightest version of you that you are truly meant to be!

It starts on the physical level. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Your daily mindful practice … of course, take a yoga class at YBD!, but on those days that you just can’t seem to fit one in, still carve out some space to just sit and meditate and tend to yourself.

As the physical body is soothed and loved through proper rest, sleep, nutrition and movement, more awareness of what is happening mentally and emotionally naturally evolves. Notice thoughts and emotions as they arise, and make space for them to move through you. Rather than getting hooked and bogged down and making them mean something, give them so much space to move without attaching or identifying with them.

Take a few moments today to take some deep breaths and just pause. Make this as habitual as brushing your teeth and making your bed!

Take time today to tend to your soul.

Namaste, dearest ones!

Mindful Monday: Smile

Good morning! Happy Monday, mindful ones.

There are millions of reasons to smile each day! Even in the midst of tragedy and loss, there’s always space for a smile.

One of my very favorite emotions is laughter shining through in the midst of tears.

But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic!

As we focus so consciously on breath work in our yoga and meditation practices, a very simple addition is to layer in a smile.

Inhale

Exhale

Smile

It’s the first time I do each morning.

Wake up

Stretch

Smile

Smiling can become a habit, much like all of our other conditioned and learned responses.

Start practicing on the easy stuff.

Today it’s pretty easy to smile at the sun and mild, springlike weather!

Smile at your barista.

Smile at your coworkers – especially the crabby ones! It annoys them and makes you smile even harder.

Smile when your friend texts you.

Smile at a funny meme.

Smile for no reason at all.

Then start practicing smiling at the harder stuff.

Just smile when your son spills his milk.

Smile when the person in the car in front of you is going under the speed limit.

Smile when the person next to you beeps their horn.

Smile when you really don’t feel like it.

When things are really rough, start digging deeply for one measly reason to smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Choose happiness. Choose gratitude.

Smile.

October 2018 Pose of the Month: Paschimottanasana

Happy October! In this time of transition from summer to fall, it’s so important to work on grounding and stabilizing.

October pose of the month is Paschimottanasana or intense west stretch.

Pashchima = the West, or the back of the body.

Uttana = intense stretch.

This pose honors the inner wisdom and voice of your spirit; calms the nervous system, and allows you to literally turn in toward yourself. It is one of our most grounding poses!

• Extend your legs in front of you and ground down through both sitting bones. If your low back is particularly tight, consider sitting up on a folded blanket so your pelvis can tip forward.

• As you bow over your legs, aim to initiate the fold from the pelvis/hips, as opposed to the mid back.

• Keep the lumbar spine long, and then round over with the thoracic and cervical spine.

• Take slow and deep breaths as you surrender to the stretch and connect to the inner quietude.

Simple and yummy!!!

Enjoy!

Mindful Monday: Fly Into Fall

Good morning, mindful ones! It’s the first day of October, and it definitely feels like fall.

After the autumnal equinox, our days get shorter and shorter and the nights become darker and longer.

This is the time for dramatic and drastic transitions evidenced by how quickly Starbucks started peddling their pumpkin spice lattes (end of August!) to all of the Christmas decorations retailers are already selling!!!! Can we please at least get through Halloween?!

Personally, I prefer to take my cues from Mother Earth. The lush greenery surrounding us turns to vibrant hues of orange, red and gold; a biting Vata wind flows through; trees slowly demonstrate the process of non-attachment, one by one eventually letting go of each and every one of their leaves.

Right now, as we transition into fall, we can capitalize on the light, clear, and moving Vata energies in our practice! Join me for an arm balance and inversion workshop this Friday in Elmhurst!

We will begin with a stabilizing and grounding warm-up, and we will spend the majority of the practice actually practicing poses like crow, one-legged crow, side crow, headstand, forearm stand and handstand!

You can sign up at any location or even online! Let’s fly!

Have a great week, yogis! Namaste 🙏🏾and aloha 🤙🏽

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: 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: 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: Get Grounded

Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! Let’s take advantage of this lovely weather and get grounded!

No, not the kind of grounded where you’re stuck at home with no contact with friends, no TV or electronics. (Although that may also prove beneficial! And actually sounds pretty lovely to me in moderate doses.)

I’m referring to connecting with Mother Earth by walking barefoot! Ideally on the beach, but until spring break, we’ll have to make do with the wet grass. Or even in the mud! It’s called “earthing,” and aside from being a super yogi thing to do; it has amazing mental, emotional and physical health benefits!

Here are just a few of the amazing and maybe even surprising benefits of this practice.

Rejuvenates your senses and calms your mind

Earthing is usually done in the morning or evening – but fit it in wherever you can!

Taking deep breaths of fresh air provides oxygen for your entire body to function more efficiently.

The calm atmosphere and brief moments of unplugging from the matrix and plugging directly into Mother Nature helps relax your entire body and mind, allowing you to release your stress.

The green color of grass helps stimulate your body to produce calming hormones that help you relax.

The feeling of cool grass beneath your feet, the calm stillness of early morning or early evening, connecting with nature and feeling the warmth of the sun will certainly boost your mood!

Connects you to the earth and neutralizes your electrical field

When we walk barefoot on grass, we are directly connected to the magnetic field of the earth, which affects the entire electrical and magnetic field of the human body.

This exchange of energies helps neutralize negative electrical impulses in our body which are known to cause certain ailments.

It is said to also neutralize the effects of spending hours in front of our computer, TV and smart phone screens.

Cleansing our bodies of negative electrical energies can definitely have a positive effect on our overall health.

Provides your body with the precious properties of sun energy

The sunlight warms your winter body to the bone and naturally replenishes your essential vitamin D stores.

Sun energy is a great source of healing our energies and restorative powers. In Naturopathy, it is referred to as the source of life and energy.

Studies show that it helps disinfect the body, tones muscles and nerves and supplies the entire body with energy!

According to experts, we can get the maximum sun energy benefits between 6:30 to 9 in the morning and between 4:30 to about 6:30 in the evening. Be mindful of over exposure to the sun in the harsh afternoon sun hours.

So get off the pavement, take off your stuffy shoes, and go get grounded!

Have a great week, my earthy, grounded yogis! See you on your mat 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!!!