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Mindful Monday: Look Within

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Have you ever wished things were different? Your relationships or perhaps work situations? Financial or social status? Or even your yoga practice?

Spending time lamenting is a colossal waste of your precious and valuable time! It certainly won’t change anything – in fact the more we focus on a certain feeling or circumstance, we are actually reinforcing the very thing we wish to change.

Where your mind goes is where your energy flows.

You would be much better served focusing on the present moment with acceptance, forgiveness and allowing. Releasing resistance to the circumstance and shifting awareness to your body.

When you think these thoughts, how does it feel in the body? Where specifically do you feel fear in your body? Anger? Sadness? Grief? How does your body react and process? Where does it clench and resist? How do you create tension and dis-ease in your physical body and correspondingly in your mind?

Allow yourself to feel and observe. As you make space for awareness, watch with interest but without attachment.

Life is giving you an opportunity: understand that this disturbance is an opportunity to heal and transform. You are not a victim! You are a powerful co-creator with Life.

What is showing up in your life is a meaningful disturbance designed to awaken you and give you an opportunity to elevate your soul’s growth.

We don’t have to love the circumstance or the person/teacher triggering the resistance, but with non-attachment we can practice releasing the resistance and creating a higher more powerful energy to transcend.

On some level, you have attracted and even created the very situation that is now causing dissatisfaction or discomfort. So that you can heal and grow.

But if we keep looking outside of ourselves for the answers, we will continue on blindly, stumbling and repeating the same Karma over and over.

He who looks outside, sleeps.

She who looks within awakens.

Today you have an opportunity to continue to sleepwalk or look within yourself and awaken. It’s your life and your choice.

I hope you choose yourself!

Make it 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!

February 2019 Pose of the Month: Backbends!

February is the time for ❤️ love. All kinds of love! But personally I’m celebrating sisterly love this month!

And YOU, my lovely friend, get a bonus pose of the month!

Pose One: Urdhva Dhanurasana or Upward Facing Bow (Wheel) Pose:

Step 1

Lie supine on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head, forearms relatively perpendicular to the floor, fingers pointing toward your shoulders.

Step 2

Pressing your inner feet actively into the floor, exhale and push your tailbone up toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) your buttocks, and lift your buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. Then firmly press the inner hands into the floor and your shoulder blades against your back and lift up onto the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths.

Step 3

Press your feet and hands into the floor, tailbone and shoulder blades against your back, and with an exhalation, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and firm the outer thighs. Narrow the hip points and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees, lifting the pubis toward the navel.

Step 4

Turn your upper arms outward but keep the weight on the bases of the index fingers. Spread your shoulder blades across your back and let your head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor.

Step 5

Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or more, breathing easily. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times.

Pose Two: Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose

Step 1

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.

Step 2

Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the floor.

Step 3

On an inhalation, begin to straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and lift your pubis toward your navel. Narrow your hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.

Step 4

Firm your shoulder blades against your back, puffing your side ribs forward. Lift through the top of your sternum but avoid pushing your front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.

Step 5

Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation. Option to bend your knees and lift your chest hire.

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!

January 2019 Pose of the Month: Utkatasana

It’s 2019!! Our very first pose of the month this year is Utkatasana or Chair Pose.

Utkatasana or chair pose featured on the right

Here’s how:
Stand with your feet together, with your big toes touching. Beginners can stand with their feet hip-distance apart.

Inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor.

Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get. Your knees will project out slightly over your feet and your torso will form approximately a right angle over your thighs.

Draw your shoulder blades into your upper back ribs as you reach your elbows back towards your ears. Do not puff your ribcage forward. Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long.

Bring your hips down even lower and lift through your heart. There will be a slight bend in your upper back.

Shift your weight into your heels. Enough weight — approximately 80 percent — should be transferred to your heels so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to.

Keep your breath smooth, even, and deep. If your breath becomes shallow or strained, back off a bit in the pose until breathing becomes easier.

Spread your shoulder blades apart. Spin your pinky fingers toward each other so your palms face each other, rotating your arms outward through your thumbs.

Gaze directly forward. For a deeper pose, tilt your head slightly and gaze at a point between your hands.

Hold for up to one minute. Then, inhale as you straighten your legs, lifting through your arms.

Exhale and release back.

Happy new year, 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!

Mindful Monday: Daylight Savings

Good morning and happy Monday!

Well it’s my favorite weekend between Halloween and Thanksgiving … the weekend where we gain an hour of extra time!

Time is the most precious of all commodities. Money flows in abundance all around us. Fortunes can be lost and made and lost once again. But once we lose time, we can’t get it back. We can’t order it on Amazon or earn it back in exchange for a job well done. Once time flees, it’s gone.

Each day, every single person is given the exact same amount of time for the day.

24 hours

1,440 minutes

86,400 seconds

You get that quantity, just the same as Beyonce and the Rock.

Oh gosh, sorry … where was I?

Oh yes! We all get that same amount of time, except when we Fall Back and gain an extra hour, 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds!

What can one do with an extra hour?!?

Sleep in

Take an extra yoga class

Write Mindful Monday early

Figure out November pose of the month

Read a book

An extra hour out on Saturday night

Wake up early for a 6 am class on Monday

Organize closets

Watch the sunset

Get a massage

Watch the sunrise

Update expense spreadsheet

Watch Netflix

Drive to the city for brunch/lunch/drinks

Nap

Meditate

Post some items to sell online

Go through garage and donate a bag of unused sports equipment

Laundry

Practice handstands

Go for a run

Go for a walk

Go for a run/walk

Search up archived pics of the Rock

Learn the dance for Keke by Drake

Go shopping

Meet a friend for coffee

Get a facial

Play with your dog

Play with your kids

Practice piano

Play video games

Play candy crush on your phone

Organize photos on your phone

Journal

Plan upcoming week

Christmas shopping list

Prepare for thanksgiving

Volunteer

Whatever you did or did not do with your bonus hour, hope it was great!

Have a great week, friends!