benefits of yoga

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!!!

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: Just Breathe

Good morning, dearest ones!

As we launch into this new work week, remember to breathe!

If you’re running late, just breathe

If your kids are moving at less than optimal speed, just breathe

If there’s a long line in front of you at your local coffee shop, just breathe

If you catch every single red light, just breathe

If the person next to you on the train is loudly talking on their phone, just breathe

If your meetings are filled with long-winded monologues, just breathe

If the IT person is taking forever to look at your machine, just breathe

If on the way to yoga class today you’re stuck behind the slowest driving person in the history of mankind, just breathe

And as you breathe, remember to count your blessings. One by one.

I always count you among my many many blessings.

Make it a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Ugh. A painful truth 

Happy happiest of Mondays, friends! Wow! I dont know about you, but I have been so enjoying this scorching weather lately! Maybe it’s my Indian Filipino genetics. But I loooovvvvve the heat! 

Todays blog focus is on a painful truth: We can’t outwork a bad diet. We just can’t do it. Trust me. I know. 

Now mind you, I was able to do it in my 20s and even my 30s. But that’s no longer how it works. The fact is, if you play, you pay. 

Early in my career as a yoga teacher, I was teaching seven days a week. Something crazy like 25 classes and 6 of them were Sculpt classes! Talk about working out! Oh my poor body was so tired, but I used the rationale that I could eat whatever I wanted since I taught so much. And naturally, the  foods I craved were simple carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar, sugar, sugar. Right? Because my body was looking for quick energy. 

So you’re probably thinking that I should have been in the best shape of my life! That’s exactly my thought back then! 

Well the truth is I gained 30 pounds that year. Thirty. Pounds. The extra weight didn’t feel good on my body. Which resulted in me not feeling good in my body. And that’s a really yucky feeling to have. 

It took me a while to pull myself back. Drop a dozen classes. Take time to heal and to rest. And to try to rebuild my loving relationship with my body. It’s still a struggle! 

What’s been so helpful is to once (sometimes twice) a year do a 21 day total reset. I pull out the following things from my food intake:

All animal proteins

Gluten

All processed sugar

Alcohol 

Caffeine 

My first thought is always: well what’s the purpose of getting out of bed? Lol. Excellent question!

This detox is absolutely a tremendous challenge. But it becomes a 21 day journey of learning so much more about yourself. What role food plays in your life. And the discovery of how GREAT we can and should feel when we wake up each morning!

There are no supplements to purchase and we eat real food. Whole organic nourishing and yummy food! 

And we do it together. As a YBD community. 

We start soon! Here’s the info!


Please email me for your questions: nadja0914@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful week my Yogi friends! 

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

Mindful Monday: Keep Your Head Up 


Good morning, my lovely mindful ones! Happiest of Mondays to you. I hope you had a lovely week and weekend. 

Last Monday I shared with you the erratic emotional swings I experienced leading up to the eclipse. This past week was filled with moments of pure sublime joy and happiness. I had such moments of clarity and peace that I was truly present for. 

That’s not to say that each and every moment was like that. On the contrary, I had the usual “ups and downs.” Whatever I’m feeling, I feel it so very deeply! Heartbreak is a physical pain in my chest. Happiness makes my heart want to leap out through my sternum. I literally lose my vision when I’m angry! I can’t see straight. And sadness, it overwhelms me to my core. When I miss someone (and there is someone in my life I miss terribly) my entire body weeps. But then life will send me something to laugh about and my body will vibrate with it. And when I feel love …. ahhhhhh. My heart belts out an opera solo. 


Last week, I was somehow able to pull myself back and stay a little more connected to this underlying current of endless peace and happiness.  It’s so different than the roller coaster of moment to moment emotions. It’s steady. It’s always there. Just beneath the surface. It’s your soul. 

It’s why we love yoga so much.  Yoga gives us a taste of our authentic state of being. Even while we struggle to hold a challenging pose, we connect to sense of beauty in the struggle. We feel without a doubt that we can endure anything for five breaths. 

In my my moments of sadness and despair last week, I reminded myself that I could only feel the depth of such sadness because I know the incredible highs of happiness. My despair was because of my extreme optimism. My loneliness was because of my deep connections in my relationships. We simply cannot have one without the other, can we?

Whatever you’re suffering through my friend, you can always use the tools of our yoga practice to find stability. Just keep your head up. 

Or. This. 

What does a nosy pepper do?

Get jalapeño business! 

Have a great week!! See you on your mat!

Mindful Monday: Samadhi

samadhi1

Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Wow have we been blessed with some beautiful spring-like weather these last few days! Such is nature and such is life, right? We never know what’s coming our way – well, sometimes the weatherman does actually get it right! – all we can do is make the very best of whatever life brings us.  Our yoga practice keeps us in tip-top shape physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – so that we have all the tools that we need at our disposal to truly seize each moment as it arises!

We’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous seven limbs that we’ve discussed.

  1. Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
  2. Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
  3. Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
  4. Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
  6. Dharana – immovable concentration of the mind
  7. Dhyana – perfect contemplation of mediation

Dhyana sets the stage for Samadhi, which means harmony, “to bring together, to merge.”  Here, subject and object merge as one. This eighth and final stage of yoga brings on super conscious awareness. One loses a sense of “I” and enters this Samadhi state where the meditator, the process of meditation and the object of meditation becomes one. Samadhi is actually a series of states and experiences. Yoga Sutras describes various types of samadhis. One has to go through the different types of this Samadhi experience. Finally the practitioner reaches the highest stage of illumination called ‘Dharma Megha Samadhi’, which liberates the practitioner from all limitations of body and mind.

This identity without differences is a liberated soul that enjoys pure awareness. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of truth and unutterable joy. Which is the ultimate aim of our yoga practice.

Dear friends, wishing you a lovely week filled with mindfulness and increased awareness of all things.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Dhyana

meditation

Happy Monday, friends! Well we’ve managed to get through another Christmas! Whether you absolutely love this time of year or are counting the days until your life goes back to its routine, time continues to march onward. Now is the time for contemplation of the year 2016 and goal setting for the year 2017. What things did you do great this past year? How will you build upon those successes? What were some misses this past year – and what are the growth opportunities you’ve identified? How will you choose to spend your last week of 2016? I just know that there are amazing things in store for you in the upcoming year!

If you’ve been following our blog weekly, you’ll know that we’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous six limbs that we’ve disussed.

  1. Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
  2. Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
  3. Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
  4. Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
  6. Dharana – immovable concentration of the mind

Dharana sets the stage for dhyana, the perfect contemplation of meditation. It is total absorption into the object being focused on. This uninterrupted flow of concentration creates devotion. Dhyana distinctly differs from the one-pointed concentration of dharana in that it is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. In this quiet stillness the brain produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. In dhyana we dissolve separateness and experience the deep river of peace.

As you cultivate a consistent meditation practice, you will derive both mental and physical benefits in your life. Modern science and medicine are just now measuring the benefits of this ancient practice to explain how the body physiologically changes and how each of the trillions of body cells are charged with more prana (energy). Increased life force or prana results in joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Below I’ve listed a small percentage of the vast  benefits of mediation.

Physical Benefits

  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
  • Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
  • Improves the immune system
  • Increases energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy
  • Can assist with weight loss and other physical goals
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Can provide significant relief from asthma and allergies

Mental Benefits of Meditation

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into a relaxed state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation:

  • Emotional stability improves
  • Creativity increases
  • Happiness increases
  • Intuition develops
  • Increase in mental clarity
  • Sharpens the mind by increasing focus
  • Slows aging of your mind
  • Can help with improving relationships

How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life. Try practicing meditation during a hectic day at work, shopping for groceries, attempting to return/exchange holiday gifts, or even waiting in a busy queue of traffic!

As you set your goals for 2017, perhaps sitting in meditation each morning when you arise may be one of them! Start small; set your timer for five minutes each day and build from there. Imagine yourself at this time next year after a full year of meditating! You are 100 percent pure potential, my friend! Let’s talk more next year… On behalf of all of us at YBD, wishing you and your family a safe, healthy and prosperous new year filled with love, happiness, success,  yoga and meditation!