focus

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of old clothes; a garage filled with memories of a time of our life that has passed; relationships that no longer work; outdated and inaccurate self-images or even a job that no longer fulfills us, just acknowledge that the instinct is a good one.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: Begin Your Day with Intention

Good morning my beautiful, mindful friends!

Yesterday evening at our Western Springs studio, a small, committed group of 25 yogis met to embark on a 21 day journey toward wellness.

As we explore how we fuel (and poison) our bodies over the next three weeks, we will learn so much about all other area of our lives.

How you do anything, is how you do everything.

So if you weren’t able (or ready or willing) to join us, hopefully you can follow along with us with a mindfulness practice toward any other area of your life!

Lessons will be learned!

How can you participate along with us? There are a few ways!

1. Start a journal. Observe yourself and write about it!

One year, Sandy S. did the cleanse with us, and it was the first time in her four plus decades that she had ever stopped and given a single thought to herself about herself! She’d been so busy raising her three beautiful daughters, there was never any time leftover for herself. She found the journaling process so liberating and insightful, and it helped her deal with her empty nest.

2. Practice gratitude! When you wake up in the morning till you go to bed at night, search for every little thing to be grateful for.

I had flat tire yesterday and I was so grateful! Lol. Why on earth was I grateful? Well, I had driven to and from Michigan for the weekend, and made it both ways safely. When I got in my car yesterday to drive to kick off the cleanse, that was when I noticed the tire air pressure was low. Rather than panicking about being late, I called the studio and sweet Elizabeth was the studio attendant and said she would set up the studio for me. I filled the tire and zipped over to Western Springs. I was grateful that I was able to make it to kick off the cleanse and not disappoint 25 eager, dedicated souls! I was grateful that I made it home safely last night, even though I had to stop three times to fill up the tire with air. I’m grateful that Monday is my only morning off during the week, and I was able to get everything handled! I’m grateful that it was just a nail and I didn’t have to purchase a new tire. Gratitude is the key to happiness and to feeling in control of any situation.

3. Meditate each morning.

Start your day with intention and purpose and focus. Have a plan and goals for your day, but be flexible enough to switch up your schedule to say yes to a friend. Know that it’s not the end of the world if your list doesn’t get done today.

Have a beautiful day, dear souls, on this beautiful rainy Monday! Yes I’m grateful for the rain because I get to wear my rain boots!

Mindful Monday: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Good morning and happy Monday!

Sending Christmas warmth and well wishes to all of our YBD family with a special dose of LOVE to those out there who may be far away from family – either through a physical distance or an emotional gap. Know that you are LOVED and CHERISHED every single day of each year of your life! Family isn’t always about blood – but rather those that surround us and care for us, love us, support us and root for us!!! And of course the most important love of all – love for your true, authentic SELF!!!

When we spend time together practicing yoga, sweating, falling and getting back up, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and opening our hearts to one another, we pretty much define a family.

And if you still have some last-minute shopping to do, here are some Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

ANNICA! ANNICA!! ANNICA!! BE HAPPY!! BE HAPPY!! BE HAPPY!!!

Mindful Monday: School is in Session

Good morning and happy Monday!

Just a friendly reminder that every compliment, criticism, promotion, setback, good vibe, cough, misunderstanding, breakup, disappointment, or really long line you have to wait in is a gift that was meticulously designed to make possible your becoming who you were always meant to be. Who you really are. Who you already are underneath all of the conditioning and domestication.

You never have to pick up another book again. Just observe your life and you will learn all the secrets of the universe.

And if you don’t learn your lesson the first time, Life will keep repeating the lesson until you learn it.

Each moment is the lesson, the test and the teacher. School is always in session.

Make it a great week of learning and growing!

December 2018 Pose of the Month: Five Pointed Star

Our December 2018 pose of the month is Uttihita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star pose.

Literal translation:

Utthita – extended

Tada – mountain

Asana – pose

We love this pose for the symbolism of the Star which is always prevalent this holiday season. And also because of the grounding and energizing benefits the pose offers! Exactly what the yoga doctor ordered as we navigate this busy time of year.

This month we’re offering it in two orientations to the earth! Everything is better upside down, am I right?

Here’s how:

1. From a standing pose, step your feet wide apart, with your arms out to the side. Your feet should be under your wrists, facing forward and parallel.

2. Press your weight into your feet, pull up your knee caps and activate your thighs, gently tuck your tailbone, and feel your strong and solid legs rooted into the floor.

3. Reach out through your fingertips, trying to touch the side walls. Relax your shoulders down and back, gently opening your chest towards the front of the room.

4. Inhale and press the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Look straight ahead with your chin parallel to the floor.

5. Inhale deeply into the belly and chest, exhale press into the feet, fingers and crown, feeling your body expanding out in 5 directions. Option here to walk your gaze up toward the ceiling opening your heart toward the sky.

6. Keep breathing and hold for 4-8 breaths.

7. To release, bend one knee and simply step back into a standing pose.

The handstand variation is exactly the same except your hands replace your feet!

See you next year, yogis!!!

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!

Mindful Monday: Giving Thanks

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Wow, it’s already Thanksgiving week! The holiday falls a bit early this year, and 2018 has flown by very quickly.

As we wind down for the year, it’s always a great opportunity to pause and reflect on all of the countless blessings that we’ve been given.

Gratitude is definitely a theme I use throughout the year; for me it’s an every day attitude I work on cultivating.

I’ve learned that when I search for things to be grateful for, it definitely impacts my mood positively. It makes me feel lighter and happier for sure.

I’ve also found that when I focus on all that I’m grateful for and what I do have, I can find contentment and appreciation.

It’s a perspective shift to find thankfulness for things we may take for granted because we’ve always had them. Or people who we assume will always be around.

It’s so prevalent in our society to think we need more. Especially as we gear up for the already-here holiday season.

Gratitude is the highest vibration that we can emit as human beings. It attracts more abundance and blessings.

As we gather with friends, family and loved ones this week, what are you truly thankful for?

Can you identify some perceived challenges or setbacks that you’ve experienced this year or even throughout your lifetime, and find gratitude for them? For the opportunity to grow, overcome, strengthen and transform?

Our trials and tribulations ultimately level us up to live with more awareness, compassion, humility and grace.

I’m eternally grateful to you, dear sweet yogis! And for all the yogis who have come before us and for all those who will carry on this sacred tradition when we are all long gone.

May this Thanksgiving season be filled with love, gratitude and continued blessings on your journey.

All 6 of our locations will be open Thanksgiving morning, so please check the schedule!

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!