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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: 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: Tempus Fugit

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones! Happy President’s Day! You may have the day off today, but all of our studios are open with our regular schedules!

I was talking to a friend the other day who expressed so much fear surrounding money. She is overworked and overextended, but she continues plodding on at an unsustainable, breakneck speed driven by her fears. I think we’ve all been there. I know that was my reality when I left my role as the spokesperson for the City of Naperville to teach yoga full-time.

But the reason I left the career that I once loved so much was that I wanted more freedom and flexibility with my time to spend more of it doing what I love.

And I slowly realized that money is the currency that we use to purchase goods and services. It is a tool to use in the pursuit of a full and fulfilling life. It is not the purpose of life.

The true currency of life is our tempus TIME. We exchange our precious, limited, finite time for money when we work. It’s a steep price to pay.

Each day, no matter how good looking you are or how much money you have or how talented you are, you are given 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes. That’s all you get in one day. You can’t bank it, roll it over or save it for later.

I always think of Steve Jobs and how all the money in the world could not prolong his life. He couldn’t cash in his vast fortune and buy another decade of life. But he certainly spent his seconds, minutes, hours and days in a way that impacted and changed our entire planet.

Like death, time is our great equalizer. It does not favor the rich or the poor, the believers or non-believers. How you spend or squander your time determines your life, your future, your karma.

Tempus fugit, carpe diem et memento mori

“Time flees, seize the day, remember death”

How will you spend your precious time this day? What will you receive in exchange for this priceless commodity?

Pose of the Month – February 2018 Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Happy February, yogis! This is the month of  LOVE so we are featuring eka pada rajakapotasana or one-legged king pigeon pose as our Pose of the Month! While you can see from the image above, in addition to the deep backbend, your hips enjoy a really deep stretch as well!

Benefits:

  • Opens the hip joint
  • Lengthens the hip flexor
  • Stretches the thighs, gluteals, and piriformis and  muscles
  • Extends the groin and illiopsoas
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Stretch abdominal muscles and internal organs
  • Brings spine to natural flexion
  • Opens your heart and mind
  • Relieves anxiety and stress
  • Provides a fresh perspective
  • Relieves insomnia

How To:

  • From downward facing dog, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling
  • Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of placing your foot down as you would for a lunge, bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand.  Your right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility.
  • Release your left knee to your mat. The front of your left leg is as flat on the floor as possible. Take a look backwards and make sure that your left foot is not sickling inward. It should point straight back.
  • Square your hips towards the front of your mat.
  • Take a block under the right side of your butt as necessary to make the pose more comfortable.
  • Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand.
  • Draw your left foot toward your left glutes, stretching left quads
  • Reach your left hand to your left foot and rotate your shoulder so that your left elbow faces the ceiling
  • Square your shoulders to the front of the room.
  •  Lift from your lower ribs away from your hips to lengthen spine
  • Draw navel to spine to protect your low back
  • Lift your chin toward the sky and drop your head between your shoulder blades
  • Draw shoulder blades together and down your back to open chest toward the ceiling
  • Take five deep breaths into lungs
  • Repeat on left side

Variations:

  • Rather than the backbend, square shoulders forward and lengthen spine
  • Fold your torso  over your right shin leading with your heart, keeping spine long
  • If you have knee issues, lie on back and make a figure four with your legs

Mindful Monday: Slow Your Roll

Good morning and Happy Monday, y’all! What an eventful past week we’ve had. The Super Blue Blood Moon and the Super Bowl! Not to mention the snowstorm and just the hustle and bustle of every day life. Whew! 2018 is off to a busy start.

Life continues to unfold at its usual brisk pace, which is why we are so grateful for this ancient practice of yoga that we have. It reminds us to slow down and be mindful.

When life gets really busy, we can get overwhelmed. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to do more, to achieve more, to be more. To get stuff done! Rather than amp up to a more frenetic pace, this is the best time to slow down and be more mindful.

In order to reduce the level of stress in our lives, the first thing we should do is reduce our expectations. Yep. That’s right.

While you are plowing through your endless list of things-to-do, notice if you feel road rage bubbling up because of traffic or if you feel annoyed if your barista or server or sales clerk is taking too long to help those in front of you. Or if you are out of sorts because it snowed (during winter, in the Midwest, no less.)

At these moments, rather than get caught up in the negative emotion conjured up, use the opportunity to realize that most of our expectations are completely unreasonable and self-centered.

Without expectations, we aren’t terribly disappointed when he/she doesn’t call or when you open a perfect looking avocado only to discover that it’s already brown on the inside. These things will continue to happen, but we stay open and are therefore not hurt or disappointed by any outcome that unfolds.

This attitude is in direct contrast to the open 24 hours, overnight delivery, express checkout lines, instant messaging culture in which we live. We are taught to have high expectations, demand a better deal, and expect what we want when we want it. The result is that we have been conditioned all of these years to move quickly, multi-task, speed up and drive through. The problem with this hectic lifestyle is that we don’t have the opportunity to practice important attributes for peace and happiness such as patience, tolerance, compassion, conscious breathing and listening skills.

So slow your roll, breathe deeply into the present moment and don’t forget to actually chew your food.

With this newfound space and groundedness, we can focus much more consistently on the top priority stuff like our yoga practice!

Have a great week yogis! Slow down and savor each breath that is coming your way!

Annica! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Yoga Etiquette

Good morning, mindful ones! This is the time of year that our classes can be pretty crowded. You may have already noticed that. So it’s a great time to brush up on our yoga etiquette.

The word “etiquette” is derived from the French word “estique” meaning to attach or stick. It describes proper conduct established by community, such as our YBD community.

It’s important to remember that the essence of etiquette begins by showing respect for others, putting others at ease, and showing kindness and courtesy to others. If we follow these mindful guidelines, we are truly practicing the ancient art of yoga.

So here goes! A few tips to make yourself and those around you at ease and comfortable:

1. Arrive on time – We are all familiar with that feeling of rushing into the yoga studio. It’s stressful to you and your classmates. Be sure to arrive on time, allowing for time to check-in, put away your personal belongings, set up your mat and grab your props. This will contribute to a more relaxing and focused experience for you. And if you arrive really early, you have a few moments to meditate or practice pranayama (breath work).

2. Leave your shoes at the door – Please remove your boots or shoes at the front door and place them in the designated trays. Especially during this time of year when our footwear is covered in snow, salt and slush. Not only are you contributing to the cleanliness of our studios, but you’re helping to create a welcoming space for all of us.

3. Revel in the silence – Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind. Once you step inside the studio, please respect the quiet space we cultivate for you and others. Take conversations to the locker room or lobby area. Many of our students arrive early to practice meditation or to just relax in the warm and silent room. For many, this may be the only time they have all day for themselves. Please be mindful and respectful of that. This of course means please leave your cell phone in the locker room. If there is a specific situation where you need to have your phone with you in the studio, please inform the teacher about it.

4. Practice personal hygiene – The majority of our classes are heated, so smells can be amplified and overwhelming in the hot room. Please come to class odor-free, meaning sans heavy perfumes and other odors.

5. Be aware of your space – Once in the studio, please be aware of your space. Our classes are very popular and can get pretty crowded this time of year, so being mindful about how much space we’re taking is important. Sometimes it is a luxury to have endless space around your mat.

If you notice a late straggler rushing into the room frantically looking for a spot, practice embodying yoga by moving your mat and creating space. This is how world peace begins. One mat at a time.

We don’t have a ton of rules at YBD, but following these few, simple guidelines will enrich our practice tremendously.

As always my yoga lovelies, so looking forward to seeing you on your mat this week!

Onward and upward, always!

Mindful Monday: Begin

Good morning, mindful ones! Here’s to hoping 2018 is off to a great start for you.

Today is Day One of our 21 day cleanse. Two dozen of our YBD family are embarking on a radical journey together: 21 days of clean, organic eating. It’s a radical reset and an opportunity to take really great care of ourselves.

I’d like to share with you the five enemies of the mind that can hinder growth and transformation that I have shared with my cleansers this morning. Have you ever experienced these mental hindrances?

1. Sloth or Torpor – this is where the mind and body become tired, heavy and dull. Many times we lack a specific direction to move energy toward and we become lethargic.

2. Craving or Sensory Desire – this is where the mind and body want to FEEL GOOD and we become driven by a compulsion for food, sweets or some other physical comfort and pleasure. Try to observe where/what is driving this compulsion. Sometimes where we think we are HUNGRY for food, we are actually hungry for something else: stress relief, distraction, quick escape. Often this is not about the FOOD but another situation in your life. Observe, journal, watch the craving dispassionately as it will soon dissipate.

3. Agitation – we are shaking up our normal routine – we are making shifts and changes and closing the door on our comforts and our woobies or teddy bears – habits that we have created as psychological safety nets. When we challenge ourselves, it becomes uncomfortable and agitating. Just sit with these sensations and observe how the body physiologically reacts according to our thoughts.

4. Aversion – there may be certain unpleasant truths that we don’t want to deal with – we avoid these thoughts and situations with wine, chocolate or other physical activities to avoid stillness and thought.

5. Doubt – this is where we begin to question why we are doing something. We begin to feel uncertain and our commitment is tested.

Just as there are five enemies, there are also five friends on this path.

Draw upon the strength of these friends.

1. Awareness – simply observing the inner challenge without

succumbing or reacting.

2. Concentration – focus your energy on your goal.

3. Wisdom – knowing everything is bound to change. Acknowledging the impermanence of all feelings and challenges.

4. Effort – determination to stick to your goal.

5. Equanimity – calmness of the mind, non-reactivity.

Whatever your intention or resolution for the year may be, be on the lookout for the mental roadblocks and remember always that you are much stronger than any temporary thoughts, feelings and cravings.

Have a great week, friend! Onward we go.

Mindful Monday: Happy New Year!

Good morning, mindful ones! Happy, happy new year!

Today we begin again. A fresh clean slate. This is the year that we can finally get it right!

We begin this new chapter with so much hope and enthusiasm. And resolve.

Take some quiet time for yourself today to reflect on where you are in your life. Celebrate how much you have grown, endured and survived!

Focus on all of your blessings. When we see through the lens of gratitude, we attract more abundance, opportunity, and success. Be humble and grateful, and the world will lay itself at your feet.

Consider the possibility that you are perfect exactly as you are. You are not broken. You don’t have to fix anything. Every moment of your life has been deliberate and meaningful. All of your life experiences converge to bring you right here, right now; this beautiful, expansive moment.

Life has been conspiring on your behalf since you took your very first breath. Crafting lessons and challenges, each designed specifically for your growth and development.

There are no mistakes. There are lessons. No regrets, just pure, painful growth. Every compliment, criticism, promotion, setback, good vibe, illness, heartbreak or really, really long line you have to wait in is a gift that was meticulously designed to make possible your becoming more than who you were and, ultimately, happier than ever before.

Your path toward happiness and success is not a delineated path at all; it’s actually a metaphor for the time it takes for you to really love yourself. To be happy with who you already are, where you are right now, and what you already have … no matter what.

So set your resolutions this year, but not to fix or improve yourself, but resolve to open your heart, trust more, do scary things. Be happy. So let’s welcome in the year 2018 … It’s all about awareness and gratitude!

Our studios are open today with a variety of class offerings. Check us out on our YBD app.

If you really want a radical experience in self awareness and growth, I challenge you to join or 21 day detox!

In 2018 … May you transcend, rise above, and live happily in abundance, health, and harmony…

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

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!!!