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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: Thanks

Happy chilly Monday dearest loveliest ones!

How on earth is it the week of Thanksgiving is my question. 2017 has flown on wings it seems.

Here we officially kick-off the season where yoga pants come in really handy for the serious meals heading our way! I’m so darn thankful for yoga pants.

Through yoga, we know that being grateful is a daily practice. We train our minds to reframe the tendency to focus from lacking to abundance. It starts to become a habit.

And this single daily habit has the power to vastly transform your life. The practice of gratitude makes everything Whole and complete and perfect. Gradually we begin to see and understand that what we have and who we are is enough.

It always has been. We just couldn’t see it because our lens was clouded with tendencies to compare ourselves to others; to crave what we don’t have; this constant compulsion to upgrade.

Or that thing we do where we project future happiness and contentment based on a specific set of circumstances.

All of it is really pretty silly when we stop and observe ourselves. This constant spinning and circumventing and projecting and dreaming and regretting and blaming and being down on ourselves. On and on and on our monkey minds whirl.

Then we pause, unroll our mats and climb on. And all of that mental activity is paused. And we take a deep breath and let it go. And we do that again and again and again. And we fill our minds up with the sound and sensation and miracle of our breath.

And there it is. Sitting quietly. Waiting for us. Whatever the heck it was we were spinning around frantically searching for. In the stillness and the silence of our minds, we can finally hear the quiet almost inaudible whisper of our hearts.

Sigh. How lovely is it to feel the strength and flexibility of our own bodies? How lucky are we that we woke up this morning and have the opportunity to read this blog? There’s food in our refrigerator that’s powered by electricity. We have warm clothes to protect us from the harsh wind. We actually have an overabundance of anything that we need. We have the luxury to give away our excess to those less fortunate. This list continues endlessly.

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Fill your heart to overflowing with gratitude. And from this space, devote yourself to service. It can be anything! Just make someone around you smile. Go out of your way to help someone who can never repay you. Be kind and tolerant even when you are irritated. I know you, my dearest sweetest Yogi friend, already do so much to uplift those around you!

When we talk about service to others, we are talking about the ultimate high in terms of happiness. Nothing is more gratifying and soul feeding than that.

For the past 30 years, my family and I have served meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. Honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else on that day. Please contact me if you’re interested in this service opportunity. Kids love it!

And the bonus for all of us? Each of our studios will offer yoga classes on Thanksgiving day. Check the schedule! Morning classes, all formats. Schedules will vary by studio.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mindful Monday: Turn Yourself Upside Down 

Happy Monday, friends! Well — it’s getting real! Is it time to bust out our winter finery? Hats, gloves, scarves, winter coats? Yes. Yes, it is. 

As we are transitioning to colder weather and less daylight, it’s natural for our bodies to start to slow down. It’s a time for warmth and reflection as we wind down the year and prepare for the upcoming holiday season. 

With this natural tendency to hibernate, it’s so important to be mindful of our mental and emotional states. Many of us are susceptible to feeling the “blues” during this cold, darker season. 

Now more than ever a consistent yoga practice is crucial in keeping mind and body supple, happy and healthy.  A great pick me up is your inversion practice!

Dont think you have an inversion practice? Well. You definitely don’t have to balance on your head to invert. A simple child’s pose, legs up the wall, plow or standing forward fold can do the trick!

Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar believes that inversions allow the body to purge impurities, which facilitates strength, firmness, calmness and clarity of mind.

Ayurveda promotes the regular practice of inversions based upon the theory that many of the impurities in our body are held in the lower abdominal area. When you invert the body and raise your feet above your head or have your head beneath your heart, you allow gravity to move these impurities towards the agni (fire), which is located in our digestive tract (just above lower abdomen). By allowing these impurities (which were previously stuck) to move to your agni (which will burn them off), you’ll be able to breathe deeper and improve your health.

The benefits of inverting are plentiful! Here are some of the main reasons to get upside down:

1. Glowing skin

Reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, stimulates the facial capillaries and hair follicles of the scalp, and helps remove visual signs of toxicity (including acne), giving your skin a natural “face lift” and healthy glow. It’s also great for overall circulation in your body. 

 I definitely walk out from a great YBD class feeling like I’ve gotten a great facial treatment! Have you? 

2. Natural anti-depressant

Inversions literally turn your frown upside down!  Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder. 

Getting upside down makes you happy!

3. Boosts your brain

When the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness. 

Shazam!

4. Aids digestion

When you invert your body you allow the stool that is moving from the ileocecal valve through the ascending colon to move with the force of gravity. The pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls also encourages movement and the pressure on the walls of the digestive tract stimulates a stronger peristalsis (muscle contractions that occur in your digestive tract).

Yoga helps you poop regularly!

5. Strengthen immunity 

Inversions help to stimulate lymphatic cleansing and drainage which clears toxins from the tissues and plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the immune system. 

Yogis never (ok, rarely) get sick!

6.  Improves sleep 

A study conducted by LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension) declined by more than 35 percent within 10 seconds of inverting. Muscle tension can contribute to feelings of anxiety as well as insomnia so it’s important to flush it from your body. 

Inversions also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing feelings of relaxation and wellness, which also aids in reducing stress, tension and anxiety. 

Nothing beats a great night of sleep for a healthy, happy body. 

You guys, these are just a few of the endless inversion benefits! Get upside down to shift your perspective, improve back pain, give your heart a break and to have some fun!

Make it a great, upside down week, friends!


Mindful Monday: Continuous Improvement


Good morning, mindful ones! Do you feel the change in the air this morning? That lovely chill of fall and a glimpse of all beautiful things to follow. 
For many many many years, I would wake up on Monday mornings with a jolt. My eyes would pop open and my heart rate would immediately elevate as I grabbed my blackberry and quickly scanned the news and read emails. 

But the anxious energy didn’t start there. It started Sunday afternoon. I would be in a frenzy trying to get laundry done and the house spotless to start the week fresh and ready. 

This was my normal. I didn’t really know anything else. I was conditioned to operate at this high level of “busyness” and self-importance. I was pretty serious and intense back then. 

Then I would get Julian up and ready, I rushed him through breakfast and drop off at school. Then the mad rush to get to the office for a day filled with meetings and directing projects and managing a staff of professionals. 

And I would count the hours until I could get on my mat! Some days I’d rise before dawn to squeeze in a 5:30 am class. I would block my calendar off and sneak out to class during the day. And I would practice at night after work. 

On my mat, I began to get to know myself. Underneath the stress and drama and rushing around, I found a sense of peace, calmness and FREEDOM. Playfulness that didn’t involve heavy drinking or power shopping. Ease. Flow. Movement. Mindfulness. 

I felt such a dichotomy in my life: which Nadja was really ME? There was such a sharp contrast between the two different sides. 

I began to like myself so much more when I was practicing. So I made the leap of faith and “retired” from the public sector. 

Five years later, I am still deconstructing from that lifestyle. It’s definitely a process to reprogram from lifelong habits and patterns. We are either continually growing or progressively dying. To coin a buzz phase from my former career, continuous improvement model. 

Let’s keep growing and figuring this thing out! We’re all in this together!

Have a great week, yogis

Anicca! Be happy! 

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: Receive 


Happy Monday, lovely ones! Another spectacular week and weekend in the books! I hope your week was as lovely as you. 

I celebrated another trip around the sun last week — my birthday is always a time for reflection for me. Another year older and wiser. And a perfect time to check in with myself and to own ALL of my stuff. It’s super easy for me to own the seemingly “bad” and “negative” parts. I tend to dismiss the “good” and “positive.” But I’m practicing owning it all without labels or judgements. Soaking everything in as an opportunity for continued awareness and growth – therefore it’s all good! Painful things help me grow. Amazing blessings soften me with gratitude. 

This year, I worked very hard to practice receiving. A dear friend of mine challenged me to only RECEIVE on my birthday. Wow! That’s a tough gauntlet thrown down!

I realized that so often people try to “give” me a compliment, and it’s so difficult for me to receive it that I end up rejecting the compliment and often times unintentionally offending the giver! How insane is that?! But isn’t it so hard to just smile sincerely, receive the offering and intention, and simply say, “Thank you?”

I had to remind myself that  giving and receiving  is a dynamic universal exchange. It’s part of the yin (receive) and yang (give) of life. You can’t give without someone to receive. And you can’t receive if nothing is offered. We need both. 

So how could I practice truly receiving the tremendous outpouring of love that flooded my life on that day? 

Yes, yes, yes gratitude for sure! But even with gratefulness in my heart, was I truly receiving the offering?

The art of receiving demands some serious yoga discipline. First, we must have the awareness to recognize that something is been offered. Someone is trying to give you something. In my case, each happy birthday greeting and gift was an offering of love and appreciation.  Secondly, we must practice being open to truly hear and see and feel the offering — this requires STILLNESS. Third, we cultivate gratitude for the intention behind the offering. So… you’re all with me so far, right? Seems simple and straightforward. 

The fourth step is the most challenging for me. It’s to actually fully absorb and assimilate and accept what I’m being offered. And that means that I have to feel deserving of love and appreciation. To feel truly worthy to receive the remarkable gifts offered. 

The word “receive” comes from the Latin word recipere, which means “to take back.” This implies that what we receive is already ours in the sense that we do, indeed, deserve it, that it completes something within us, or simply that we’ve attracted it by the nature of our being.

In the picture above, I’m practicing the art of receiving from my dear friend Sarah P. The benefit of being able to receive in this pose is that physically my body can fold more deeply. But Sarah is offering so much more with this adjustment– she’s offering her love and support for my well-being and my practice. The more I opened and received, the more relaxed and truly nourished and fulfilled I felt. 

Receiving is a yoga practice in itself! The more we cultivate the art of receiving, we become more in tuned with the abundance the universe offers us each moment, each day. 

Have a great week, Yogi friends! 

Mindful Monday: Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, friends! Yikes! This three day weekend got me confused. Lol. So this is coming a wee bit later than normal. 

These long weekends are hopefully filled with good times. And that means different things for different people. 

Some of us may enjoy being surrounded by family and friends at the lake or in someone’s backyard. Others may enjoy the downtime to simply get re-grounded and relax. For me, the best is a balance between both. 

Labor Day is meant to honor the laborers, the backbone of our country. The hard working men and women and their contributions to the strength, success and prosperity of our nation. 

The word Labor is also applied to any hard work, especially that requiring physical exertion. Like childbirth. Or teaching yoga. 😜

I think of Labor as an expression of love. Anything that we undertake that challenges us, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally takes focus and dedication. It IS work. But within that work carries the seeds of  growth and transformation. 

We get to witness the fruits of our own Labor. And we experience the pure joy of time spent doing, feeling, contributing, giving and just being alive. 

However you have chosen to spend this weekend, perhaps you even worked today, I hope it is something that feeds your soul, honors your spirit and makes your heart happy. 

In case you’re wondering why the image of the Rock was selected for Labor Day … the pic should speak for itself. ❤️

 

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: the American eclipse

Good morning, mindful ones! Wow!  Today’s the big day! Total solar eclipse! This is such a significant event astrologically, astronomically, scientifically and spiritually. On all levels of our human existence. 

This is an electrically charged time in our lives. Perhaps you’ve been feeling it over the past week building up to today?

I certainly had an interesting week. I was super edgy and agitated all of last week. I spent a lot of time trying to stay grounded and rooted. Even with my calming practices, I was supersensitive to a sense of chaos surrounding me. Many things came into my life to “trigger” some of my deep-seated and outdated mental and emotional patterns. 

Emotionally I vacillated between old patterns of anger and hostility to overwhelming sadness and despair. Many times last week I was caught off guard with straight up sobbing and ugly crying every time I went into a forward fold on my mat. I practiced being gentle  and being so compassionate with myself. And I also felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love and support surrounding and enfolding me. 

Which makes so much sense! This total  solar eclipse is comparable to the beginning of a new year. The energy of change and transformation is so abundant right now! We must feel and experience stale patterns in order to facilitate letting them go. 

Here are a few things you can do to take full advantage of this rare phenomenon. 

This is the time to write down new intentions and goals. Harness  this energy for self-transformation. 

If you have malas, let them sit outside and soak in this powerful energy. You can do the same thing with water and any healing stones you have.  I have mine all set to go today!

Meditate during this powerful time.  Get synced within yourself. And then sync up with the universe. 

Be safe! Only look at the sun with protective glasses on, please!

Connect with others. Truly meaningfully connect  with those around you. 

Take great care of yourself today. Stay hydrated. Protect yourself from stressful situations and people. Get a massage. Make sure you have enough downtime. Definitely take a yoga class!

Practice forgiveness. This is a fresh start for you. Release any resentments you’re harboring. This is for YOU to feel light and happy and free. That other person will deal with his or her own karma. It’s not for you to administer karma, right? 

Get grounded. Spend some time with your butt directly on the earth. Walk barefoot in the grass. 


I would love to hear from you about any rituals you performed during this auspicious time! 

Here’s to a fresh new start for us all!

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