calm

Mindful Monday: Wind

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Wow, those huge winds yesterday were magnificent, weren’t they?

Such a reminder that Mother Nature is all powerful and unstoppable. With all of our innovation, intelligence and ingenuity, there is not much we can do to stop Mother Nature when she’s on a rampage. We merely protect ourselves and move mindfully until it passes.

The element of wind or air is an excellent representation of spiritual faith. Air reminds us that there is so much more to this world than what we can physically see, touch and hold , and that we must grow and change as life and the world around us is constantly shifting.

In yoga and Ayurveda, the wind element is known as Vata energy.

Vata governs all movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.

Qualities of Vata:

• Cold

• Light

• Dry

• Irregular

• Rough

• Moving

• Quick

• Changeable

When strong winds come into our lives, we must adjust our sails and capitalize on the swift movement. It can help carry you quickly to your next destination!

A huge gust of wind can come in and literally change everything! Be prepared for anything and learn to go with the flow.

Have a great week yogis!

Mindful Monday: Cultivating Equanimity

Good morning, mindful ones!

We are quite familiar with the concept of mindfulness by now, right?

The dictionary defines mindfulness as:

1 the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2 a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

When we practice mindfulness, we are re-wiring our brains to seek a state of calmness and presence rather than be deeply affected by external circumstances.

Equanimity is defined as:

1 mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

2 even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral)

While the two practices are strongly intertwined, there are certainly distinctions to be made.

Mindfulness corresponds to our higher-level awareness of present-moment sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences. In other words, mindfulness can be described as the ability or process of maintaining an object of attention in working memory, whether this object corresponds to an external sensory stimulus, an internal sensation from inside the body, a chain of rambling thoughts going through the mind, or even a memory from the past.

In the yogic tradition, the term equanimity (or upeksha in Sanskrit) means leading a balanced life, removing intolerance and caring for all equally.

Upeksha teaches the practice of non-attachment, such an important element in our yoga practice both on and off the mat.

Equanimity means staying so calm within oneself that life is experienced fully without judgment or attachment. As life throws us its ups and downs, we are able to experience appropriate emotions and reactions without attaching to them, reacting to them and without judgment.

I always love to use the example of road rage, mainly because I struggle with it quite frequently!

Imagine that you are leaving a yoga class (preferably one of mine 😊), and you are feeling so calm and open and centered and happy! As you are driving home peacefully, with the gentle flow of traffic, some car speeds up, cuts in front of you and slows down quickly. Your reaction is immediate and physical. Your amygdala is stimulated in your brain triggering your fight-or-flight response. Your heart starts pounding, your brain becomes hyper alert and focused, adrenaline and cortisol is dumped into your bloodstream. You quickly slam your brakes on gripping the steering wheel.

Equanimity is how quickly you can bounce back from that jolting experience. How quickly you return to your equanimous mental and physical state.

Equanimity is not attaching or judging what just happened, but accepting that it happened. Allowing the surge of anger and panic to slowly dissipate without judging or blaming the other driver. Without dwelling on what just happened. How rapidly can you return to the cultivation of your equanimous mind?

This week, think of everything that happens as a test of your equanimity. As you’re moving peacefully through your day, how quickly will you bounce back from that person slamming their mat down next to you in as you are meditating before class or your loud obnoxious co-worker chewing or speaking loudly? Can you observe those around you speaking negative thoughts, venting and gossiping without judging their behavior and most importantly without being drawn into their negativity?

Life gives us so many opportunities to grow and transform. Remember every moment every experience is the teacher.

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

Mindful Monday: Mindful and Conscious Living

Good morning, my beautiful, dearest mindful ones.

Happy Monday!

How you spend your days is ultimately how you spend your LIFE.

You have been given a precious, priceless gift today: this day.

It cannot be purchased.

Or inherited.

Or borrowed from tomorrow.

It cannot be gifted from a loved one.

It is a precious and finite commodity.

1,440 minutes

86,400 seconds

During this time, experts estimate you’ll think between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts.

That’s between 35 to 50 thoughts each minute.

And when unchecked, 98% are the same thoughts that you had yesterday and are predominantly negative.

With all of these thoughts swirling around in our heads, it’s no wonder that we constantly feel disconnected, anxious, stressed, annoyed and overwhelmed.

This is why yoga and meditation are so critical to not only physical but also our mental health and well-being. Through these practices for short periods of time throughout the day, the mind becomes more calm and serene. When we are thinking less, our awareness of the present moment is sharpened and focused. We are more conscious of breathing. Or physical senses are heightened. We are able to truly connect with one another.

Your conditioned, repetitive thoughts have created your current reality. It’s time to raise your vibration!

Don’t allow your mind to wander undisciplined and randomly. Focus on your breath and on your five senses. Train yourself to be grounded in reality and in the present.

Watch your habits! If you have time to bitch about how cold it is, peruse social media mindlessly, binge watch Netflix, or sit at a bar for an entire afternoon; you have time to meditate, journal, practice yoga and plan nutritious meals for yourself!

Everything is a CHOICE. Being mindless and going through life on auto-pilot is a choice!

Here are some quick and easy choices that we can all make together to raise our vibrations and frequencies.

Drink lots of water

Sweat everyday

Fuel your body with foods that support your body’s natural ability to detox and de-stress

Get enough sleep

Avoid loud, obnoxious people and situations

Speak less, listen more

Don’t interrupt or talk over people when they’re talking to you

Remember that you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s just patience

Be conscious of every thought and every word that you speak

Harness your energy by thinking and speaking much less than you normally do

Spend time in silence and solitude each day

Read more, Watch TV less

Travel!

Take a different route to work

Get upside down every day!

Celebrate the simple things

Declutter your home and your heart

Hey friends, let me know if you have other mindfulness practices that you’d like to share!

Have a mindful week!

Mindful Monday: Yoga Cure and Endure

Good morning, mindful ones and happy snowy Monday!

Guess what? It’s really, really cold outside and it’s snowing like crazy. And it’s predicted the temperature will continue to drop this week.

That is our current reality.

What was your initial thought and reaction when you first heard about the cold weather continuing? When the cold wind penetrates through your many layers? When you have to walk so cautiously on the slippery surfaces? When the person driving in front of you is moving at a snails’s pace? Did you have to rearrange your entire work day or modify your schedule because your kids don’t have school today?

Isn’t it fascinating how we initially react when we are inconvenienced? We are outraged! Annoyed! Irritated! Impatient! Maybe even pissed off!! Or perhaps you felt victimized? Why did this happen to me? I can’t miss another day of work! I had an important meeting today. Why did the snow plows hit every street but mine? I’m gonna be stuck at home with my kids who are driving me nuts! Of course if you’re one of the kids home from school today, that’s a totally different outlook!

And once we have these thoughts and reactions, of course we articulate them! Maybe you called your girl friend or coworker to complain. A good old-fashioned social media rant. A text to your spouse or partner. Or even a group chat to your entire crew.

Of course, it’s always healthy to vent and blow off a little steam. But it’s rarely productive.

I’m certainly not here to criticize or judge whatever your reaction was! But I do offer you the perspective that how we react to things in life give us such a deep insight into how we live our lives.

How you do anything is how you do everything!

It’s in the small details of our lives that we truly understand ourselves and our mindsets.

Through my intimate practice of yoga, I continue to painstakingly learn that each and every action I take, word I speak and decision I make contributes to the creation of the life I choose to live. It all matters!

Most of our reactions and thoughts are pre-programs. Based on past experiences, observations of our parents and other influential people, we learn behaviors. We go on auto- pilot and mindlessly react. So many of the words we speak to others are also social conditionings. Pleasantries and polite exchanges. Or cultural behaviors: sometimes we get around certain groups of people and it automatically turns into negative, mindless gossip.

I always notice that what people say about the weather gives me such insight into their world viewpoint. Weather is such a great baseline, because it’s something that’s completely out of one’s control.

It seems so futile to me to bitch and moan about something that is completely outside of one’s control (most of life is as well!) Yes, it’s cold outside. I am also aware of that. But I don’t want to spend the next five minutes complaining about something that is not even unexpected since we live in the Midwest.

Yoga teaches us to endure what cannot be cured: as powerfully as we pray, meditate, and all agree that we wish it was warmer, we have zero influence over the temperature.

Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured: if we cannot affect the temperature or the snowfall, we can certainly shift our attitude and approach towards it.

My friend who lives in Hawaii and my best friend who lives in Charlotte (both originally from DuPage County) both called me to apologize that it’s so cold here! Lol. They truly felt so bad for me as they enjoyed 78 degrees and 55 degrees respectively. Personally, I find this weather to be so magical and beautiful! It’s nothing short of a winter wonderland.

The beauty of yoga is not in one’s ability to master a pose – the true beauty is in raising one’s awareness of the beauty and wonder that surround us on a daily basis.

Have a white and wonderful wintry Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Grasping

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go. It’s important to know how to do both.

One of our most primal instincts is to grasp. If you put your finger in a baby’s hand, it will latch on to it with superhuman strength. And that is crucial for a baby’s survival.

To grasp is an innate human survival technique. If you are walking down the stairs and lose your balance, that instinct can save you from falling.

But this skill doesn’t always serve us well. You certainly don’t want to latch on to a hot plate.

There’s an ancient Indian story of The Monkey Trap. The trap is a hollowed-out coconut, chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be grabbed through a small hole. The monkey’s hand fits through the hole, but his clenched fist can’t fit back out. The monkey is suddenly trapped – but not by anything physical. He’s trapped by an idea, unable to see that a principle that served him well – “when you see rice, hold on tight!” – has become lethal.

If the monkey took a step back to observe the situation, he would release the rice, pull his hand out and turn the coconut upside down and get the rice!

And we start to see how we mentally and emotionally grasp, which can be such a cause of suffering for us. We all have the tendency to grasp, grab, latch, clench, hang on bit too long when it’s time to let go.

Rather than beat ourselves up over all the stuff we cling to, whether it’s a bag full of old clothes; a garage filled with memories of a time of our life that has passed; relationships that no longer work; outdated and inaccurate self-images or even a job that no longer fulfills us, just acknowledge that the instinct is a good one.

But to move beyond that clinging, we must take a step back like the monkey and see what we are actually trying to accomplish.

The things we cling to, whether they are thoughts, emotions or physical items, are symbolic of something else.

Remaining in a stale relationship or job because it’s familiar is an effort to stay stable and safe. But it also hinders any opportunities for growth and transformation.

The first step is to just create a bit of distance between you and the object you’re clinging to. You can do this by simply observing what’s happening and being compassionate to yourself by acknowledging that it is an innate instinct.

Just by stepping back and watching the process, it is impossible to participate in it. You can go back-and-forth quite rapidly between watching and grasping; but you cannot do both at the same time.

You slowly start to return to your centerpoint, which is always calm and confident and trusting. You know that you will always be OK no matter what unfolds in life, because all of the tools you need to survive and thrive are within you.

And in this way you’re able to slowly let go of whatever it is you’re holding on to so tightly.

And it may take hundreds of attempts. And you may release and think you’re done, but you look up and you’re doing it again. All of this is OK. It’s all part of the process.

Grasping is instinctual; releasing is a skill. Being a yogi is mastering both.

In the illustrious words of Kenny Rogers:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away

And know when to run.”

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: You Don’t Have a Soul

Good morning, mindful ones!

You don’t have a soul!

I’m not saying that you’re soulless, lol!

I’m saying that you ARE a soul. And you HAVE a human body.

And … Here is a perfect specimen of a human body.

The body is just a temporary house where your soul currently resides.

You have your physical body comprised of bones, skin, muscles and human “filth.”

And then there’s the energetic body, where prana or literally life animates the physical body. This is your circulatory, cardiovascular, digestive and lymphatic systems.

Then we have the mind. This is where most of our troubles and suffering begins. Here we create thoughts that are manifested as emotions and thus drive our actions. The mind is very limited. It’s compiled mainly of opinions about life experiences.

Fortunately we have the intellect, which has the power of discernment and logical thought. But we don’t dwell here consistently.

The final journey is within: our blissful body. In this state of being there is no thinking or suffering just vast and endless bliss. Unfortunately we spend very little time here.

The goal of our practice is to continue to connect to our blissful state and lengthen the time that is spent there.

Everything that we do affects our state of being.

The human body is literally the food that we consume. What you ingest creates the new cells of your body. Foods have different energy vibrations which affects our bodies down to the cellular level.

Our mind is shaped by how we react to life events. Do we resist? Do we think life is unfair? Do we compare ourselves to others? Who do we associate ourselves with?

The intellect is formed by how we nourish our mind. Do you spend endless hours trolling social media? Do you read books that uplift your soul and spirit? Do you watch violence and reality TV?

Meditation and yoga are two very direct paths toward a blissful state of existing. Someone can give you a direct map to get there, and many of our spiritual leaders and religious leaders have done exactly that; but you alone must walk the path. Nobody can do that for you.

Remember that your body is just a shell. Enjoy all the experiences of being human and honor the full range of those experiences. But also honor you are so much more than that.

You are light. You are love. You are kindness and compassion and patience and tolerance.

Be kind to yourself but remember your soul.

Have a great week, yogis!

Namaste

Mindful Monday: Holiday Stress

Good morning, mindful ones! We are in the home stretch for this holiday season and for this year!

When things are at their most frenetic pace and we find ourselves running around to holiday gatherings and for last minute gifts; it’s more important than ever to pause, breathe and reflect.

We live in the most technologically advanced time in human history. Anything we could possibly need is a phone call or even a click away and can be delivered right to the doorstep. Food is abundant (overly abundant!) We have instant heaters, electric blankets, reliable electricity. We have an endless supply of clean water that can also be warmed to any temperature for a hot cup of cocoa or a warm bubble bath.

There has never been a better time to be a human being. And we live in one of the best countries in the world in terms of economic opportunity, political stability, public safety and quality of life.

Pause. Wow we’re so lucky!!! Gratitude is truly the highest vibration. And it’s pretty darn easy to find a zillion things to be grateful for in this nation, even more so in our communities!

That being said, depression, stress and anxiety are at all time levels in our country! And they are predicted to continue to rise.

Well, that’s pretty puzzling, wouldn’t you say?

Actually, it’s really not … Because stress is an internal condition, not an external one!

Sure there’s tons of things happening right now: overstimulation of all the senses if you step foot in the mall (which I have pretty much successfully avoided this holiday season) or basically even out of your house.

But it’s our reaction that causes the stress! It’s how we process all the external stimuli that bombards us that can potentially create an internal state of stress.

Listen, it’s the holidays. Even the most well-adjusted, “normal”, traditional families will face some type of family drama.

And for the rest of us, it can get much more complicated. Single parents, people who have lost loved ones, those with social anxiety and even people with no family or friends to celebrate with.

“The most wonderful time of year” may be even more challenging for those struggling, because there’s the added expectation that everyone is in a carefree, celebratory state.

So with all of this emotional turmoil many people are facing, it’s really no surprise when people overreact to every day situations like waiting in line or driving in traffic.

People may snap more or react rudely. Let’s be honest, we see this behavior very often, unfortunately. When people are stressed, their fight or flight mode kicks in which can often lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

So let’s not pretend to be surprised when we witness this behavior, and be so gentle with yourself if you find yourself getting a little snappish or prickly.

And it always comes back to breathwork.

The reason you sweat it out for endless hours on your yoga mat is training for these very moments in life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to lose your marbles, take a moment to breathe slowly and mindfully and then breathe out. Allow yourself a few moments to pause to give yourself the opportunity to react in a way that you will be proud of and won’t create more anxiety and stress when you think back to that moment.

Reacting to someone else’s stress is your choice. Choosing to take a few breaths and remain stable and grounded is the best thing for your personal health and wellness. And your grounded energy might be just the anchor someone is searching for who may be tail spinning out of control.

In these critical moments in life, there is tremendous opportunity for our personal evolution. And trust me these opportunities are abundant year round! Can we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for one another during this holiday season?

It can make all the difference in someone’s life. We never know the burden they’re carrying.

Remember, kindness and compassion will revolutionize the world.

We got this, you guys!!

Mindful Monday: Miracles

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones!

Let’s talk about miracles! I totally, 💯 percent, without a shred of doubt in my mind or body, believe in miracles!

That’s a pretty bold statement; but it’s totally true. Well, what is a miracle?

According to the Dictionary:

• a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

• a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

• an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.”a machine which was a miracle of design”

According to me:

It is when the seemingly impossible happens!

• It’s when doctors have given up on a sick child and for no scientific reason, that child gets well.

• It’s when you’re down to your last dollar, have piles of bills to be paid, and a check arrives in the mail from some unknown source or an opportunity arrives out of seemingly nowhere. (This literally happens to me almost every single month!)

• It’s when a huge natural disaster hits and you are somehow spared in the midst of it.

• It’s on 9/11 and you stop to buy cigarettes before going to your job in the World Trade Center, and smoking saved your life.

• It’s when a child is born and you can’t believe how exquisitely miniature this new life appears.

• It’s when my brother was in Mumbai on business back in 2008 and his associate talked him into having one more drink before heading back to his hotel which was attacked by terrorists at that exact moment. Drinking literally saved his life!

• It’s watching the sunset on a deserted beach in Hawaii filled with a sense of awe and wonder and the deepest feeling of gratitude.

• It’s when you’ve prayed for a specific purpose and that prayer is answered.

• It’s when there is no earthly reason something wonderful has happened.

• It’s the sun rising and setting each and every day.

Miracles take place everyday. Sometimes they’re very subtle and quiet, sweeping in like a touch on the face. Other times, it’s very evident and public. It doesn’t matter who you are, miracles can and do happen to all of us!

If you take a moment to pause and reflect, you’ll start to see all of the wonderful miracles that have happened in your life.

Have a miraculous Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest ones!

It’s a snow day today! What a bonus on the Monday after a long, holiday weekend! Kids all over Chicagoland are rejoicing at their good fortune.

The picture above was taken on a snow day three years ago when I took the day off and took my son and two of his friends sledding.

Snow days are so magical at that age! The awe and wonder at all of the beautiful, pristine snow just waiting to be hurtled into and shaped into snowmen and snow balls.

At some point, we tend to lose that wide eyed appreciation and become more jaded. We complain about having to shovel this beautiful substance off of our driveways. We worry about traffic conditions and find fault in all the other drivers on the road. We are inconvenienced by this majestic winter event; and hell hath no fury like a slightly inconvenienced American. 🤣

As we move about knowing things will be a little slower, let’s think of today as Mother Nature’s way of giving us an extra day to the long weekend. A magical bonus day to stay home and cuddle with loved ones.

Back when I was the spokesperson for the city of Naperville, we would strongly encourage residents to stay home and stay off the streets if possible for their own safety. If you’re not able to take the day off, this is a great opportunity to practice patience, tolerance and moving more slowly and deliberately.

Any opportunity to slow down and cultivate gratitude and appreciation is a productive day!

If you want to really amp it up, get out there and do some snowga or snow salutations!

Count your blessings not your troubles! You are rich beyond measure. Have a great day, beautiful snow yogis!

November 2018 Pose of the Month: Virasana

For our November 2018 pose of the month, we are featuring Virasana or Hero Pose to honor all of the veterans that sacrifice so much personally so that we can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities of our wonderful nation.

Hero pose can be quite challenging for many, so we will offer several suitable variations.

There are numerous benefits in practicing this pose:

▪ Stretches the hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet

▪ Improves circulation and relieves tired legs

▪ Strengthens foot arches, relieving flat feet

▪ Improves digestion and relieves gas

▪ Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

▪ Improves posture

▪ Therapeutic for asthma and high blood pressure

▪ Great alternative to lotus or easy seated pose during mediation.

▪ During pregnancy it helps to reduce swelling of the legs (through second trimester).

▪ Useful in Asthma and high blood pressure.

To get into Virasana:

Start from a tabletop position; bring your knees together and splay your heels apart.

Begin to ease your sitting bones back, trying to keep your knees together.

When you’re about halfway down to seated, reach back and externally rotate the fleshy part of your calves.

Ease back and down into a seated and upright position.

Straighten your spine: stack head over shoulders, shoulders over hips with a lift through the crown of your head. Puff through your chest, drawing shoulder blades down your back away from your ears.

You can always place a block between your feet and sit on the block.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. You can gradually build up the time.

If you’re not feeling much sensation, and only if you’re not sitting on a block, you can start to ease onto your elbows, keeping chest uplifted and shoulder blades down your back.

For a deep expression, lower all the way onto your back and extend your arms overhead catching opposite elbows for Supta Virasana or reclined hero pose.

Your full expression is an advanced posture requiring very open quadriceps and flexibility in knees and ankles. This final expression is entered through bridge pose or setu bandha sarvangasana.

From bridge pose, walk your heels in closer to your back and tuck your toes underneath you lifting your heels. From here, gently ease your knees to the floor gently rolling to the crown of your head. Energetically extend your arms overhead and breathe deeply into chest and throat chakras!