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Mindful Monday: Thunderstorms and Sunshine

Good morning, beautiful mindful ones! 

Wow, there’s something about a powerful thunderstorm that gives me such a thrill – and reminds me of how little control I actually have of life. I love that perspective! 

The lightning and thunder woke me up early, early Saturday morning, like 5 am. I spent several minutes standing at the window watching with awe and wonder and feeling such a deep sense of peace in my heart. And it felt so good to get back in my warm bed and be lulled back asleep. Best. Feeling. 

When I woke up a couple hours later, I got ready to go teach three classes in Western Springs. This was so significant for me, because for a few years, these classes were my permanent classes:

10:30 Sculpt

Noon YBD2

1:30 Restorative 

And I would also teach an 8 am class at a health club prior to my triple. 

That was my Saturday for many years. I was teaching 7 days a week back then, and I felt so blessed to be hustling and actually making a living doing what I loved – making my own schedule and all in a virtually stress-free environment. The sun was shining every day back then! 

But slowly my life was shifting. I spent less and less time socializing, because I was up so early each day to teach. I was also utterly exhausted. Physically tapped out. Mentally and emotionally fatigued. Which caused me to further withdraw from my life. If the sun was shining, I was too damn tired to notice. 

I wasn’t sure how to help myself. It was like the rain over the weekend: relentless. I didn’t have time to think or heal or even sleep. If I wasn’t teaching, I was storing up energy and preparing to go teach. I would literally collapse at the end of the day and shut down (with lotsa sugar and carbs and crap!)

It went like that for at least a year! Until I finally started dropping some classes. That was rough! Guilt over giving up classes entrusted to me. Attachment to my classes and my students. Fear of losing the income. But I knew I needed some precious time to heal and rest. 

Over the course of the next year, I continued to drop classes. Slowly but surely. First I gave up my Sundays. Then my Thursday nights. Then Tuesday nights. Then Wednesday nights. No more 6 ams either. Finally … my four Saturday classes. And just this year, I dropped my Friday evening class. 16 classes in all. 

It took another year to soothe my circadian rhythm back to some normalcy. I was still pretty much a hermit; exploring my introverted side and still not socializing very much at all. I needed all of my time and energy to process. I’m still processing. 

But last Saturday – driving to Western Springs on a rare Saturday that I was actually working in the middle of a downpour –  felt like pure, unfiltered middle-of-a-heat wave sunshine!!

It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of balancing my life and our favorite yoga buzz word: self-care. 

I walked into the studio (through the downpour!) feeling such a sense of lightness. I remember thinking this is how I should feel teaching my art, my heart and my passion.  I felt grounded and truly present as I checked in my students and taught my classes. It was absolutely sublime. 

And I feel so grateful that I am now in this space where I actually have the energy and time to pick up classes and help out my fellow teachers. 

And I learned that the sun is always there even behind the clouds and rain and thunder. 

Teaching yoga full-time is not an easy path. But I’ve never wanted easy. I want the sun and the rain. The highs and lows. For me, it’s always been about growth, healing, transformation. And so crucial to my happiness is connecting with others in an authentic and significant way. 

Which areas of your life need to be balanced out a bit more? Where can you take better care of you? 

Have the best week ever, you guys! Rain or shine, let’s just show up for each other and for ourselves!

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. ūüėú

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. ‚̧ԳŹ

 

Mindful Monday: April Showers Bring May Flowers

During a huge downpour between classes at YBD Downers Grove, Bernie, Katie and I did what most normal people do – we did a little yoga in the rain!

Happy Monday, radiant, hydrated, nourished ones!¬†Yes, yes, yes it’s been raining for days! Personally, I love the rain.

The weather is our prime example of the impermanence of all things. Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy! I can still hear the words of my meditation teacher S. N. Goenka.

Without rain, all things in nature would cease to exist. We ourselves can’t survive very long without water. In fact, we are pretty much walking skin bags of water!

There are songs and movies about the rain. It’s a powerful force of nature. ¬†We have entire genres of clothing dedicated to the rain. Poets and photographers and artists try to capture its magnificence.

Your second – chakra – swadhisthana – is the water element: its primary association is emotional health, intimacy and creativity. When swadhisthana is open and balanced, we enjoy life fully and expansively. We live authentically without fear and experience love, intimacy, sensuality honestly and non-judgementally.

Water in its form of rain can be soft and rhythmic or powerful and even destructive. It’s both formidable and without form.

These rainy days won’t last – so put on your galoshes and go jump in puddles! When my son Julian was a little boy, ¬†splashing in the rain (and mud!) was one of his favorite activities.


Have a great week! Stay hydrated! Be happy!

Mindful Monday:¬†Spring Into Spring

Good morning, lovelies! Happy Monday!

Yoga is a discipline that makes our lives work.But for a practice to change our lives and make them better, we have to follow it EVEN WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO. that’s what makes it a discipline. It is easy to be kind when we are in a good mood and with people who are easy for us to get along with. If we can be lovingly kind to people that are difficult, or when we are caffeine deprived or in a state of stress, THEN it transforms our lives. If we choose to practice yoga, then we must practice consistently or else we will not see lasting change. We have to set up reasonable boundaries for ourselves, and let go of expectations for results, but stick to a practice we have chosen even when we’d rather not. We find then that our preferences change and actually align with what ultimately lessens the suffering in our lives .We can take ourselves to the next step and start the process all over again.

Are you ready to kick it up to the next level? Consider my detox starting in May. It takes 21 days to create a new habit. This is the perfect reset for your heart, body and soul. Give yourself the opportunity to truly shine!

Mindful Monday: Do you believe in Abundance?

To receive abundance, I open my heart and let it pour in. I practice staying balanced and grounded, even on one leg with my body turned toward the horizon. I trust in abundance even with my hand bound to my foot. I relinquish the need to control. And I open to receive.

Happy Monday, dear yogis! I don’t know about you, but I had one of the best weekends of my entire life this past weekend! The weather on Saturday lit my soul on fire! And I filled my weekend hours very mindfully and purposefully.

One of my favorite topics these days is ABUNDANCE. I love preaching and teaching and manifesting ABUNDANCE. ¬†I was literally having a deep discussion with my good friend Stanley about abundance early Saturday morning, ¬†as I ¬†was on my way to Chicago where I was meeting an old friend for a yoga class. We talked about how abundance is a mindset – either you are open to abundance or you live in fear of never having enough. It’s pretty simple. But deeply challenging. Most of my life I’ve believed in abundance. I genuinely believe good things will happen, and they generally do. ¬†And I have found that when I try to tackle some of these higher level ideas, the universe always reinforces my philosophical attempts with empirical and experiential evidence.

As I pulled into the parking garage, it slowly dawned on me that I had left my wallet at home. By the way this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. ¬†ūüôĄ So here I am almost 30 miles from home with no cash no cards and no Apple Pay. ¬†I didn’t panic. My wheels immediately started turning. I may have to borrow money from Ken. Would they let me take class without paying? I knew I was somehow going to take that yoga class. That somehow I would get my parking paid. The possibility of anything other than that happening never entered my mind. It was not a matter of ‘if’ it was a matter of ‘how.’

Now mind you I had about 10 minutes to make the long trek to the studio, fill out the new student paperwork and pay for class. (No free week at this spot!!!!) ¬†Life as a yoga teacher means we’re on the road a lot and we probably have two or three bags going on at any given moment. I had a busy weekend planned and that was the case for me.

I began to frantically rifle through all of my bags, and I came upon a little gold envelope that a dear, generous student had given to me a couple of months previous that was accompanied by a beautifully written and heartfelt message and a ridiculously generous cash gift.  And there was a $50 bill remaining in that envelope.

How. Crazy. Is. That. How LUCKY was that? How could the timing in this situation have  been any more perfect? How powerful was the synchronicity of this moment?

And I have found that the key to sustaining an abundance mindset is GRATITUDE. Gratitude is such an interesting concept. It’s really kind of hard to feel grateful for the things you’ve always had. Often times, and definitely in my experience, my sense of gratitude has been cultivated and conditioned specifically during those down times when I’ve lost something and realized it’s value too late. Or when I’ve had to go without someone or something that I had previously taken for granted.

Are you aware of all of the abundance surrounding you? Or are you stuck on the lower vibrational level of a scarcity mindset?


To cultivate consciousness of abundance ….

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.‚ÄĚ

Have the greatest Monday ever! Expect nothing but abundance and success!

Mindful Monday: Spring has officially Sprung

108 Sangha! Photo credit: Sarah Pogorzelski

Happy, happy, happy Monday, friends! As of 5:29 am today, the Vernal or Spring Equinox commenced! Spring has officially arrived!  This is a powerful time of year! Rapid shedding and releasing; tremendous transformations. The 2017 Equinox is the perfect time to honor all areas and aspects of your life and the circumstances that surround you.

More than 30 of our YBD community gathered together yesterday (a few not pictured) to harness the transformative power of this new season. What an amazing experience!

The sun’s power gives life and allows all things on earth to flourish. As we flowed through 108 sun salutations, we moved and breathed as one. The strength and Grace and¬†power in the room was magnificent.

Four sets of 27 sun salutes.

  1.  Focused and dedicated to releasing what holds us back РSpring cleaning of body mind and soul.
  2. Planting seeds of self-love and self acceptance. Building the foundation for all good things to come.
  3. This set was devoted to people we love. Love is the most powerful energy source.  When we devote our energy to others, we are able to achieve far more  than if it was just for ourselves.
  4. One love. Dedicated to peeling away walls and barriers so that we may find a common ground in all humanity.

Practice ended with some deep yin poses and a guided meditation.

If you were unable to make it last night, no worries! It’s not too late to create your own intentions and plant your own seeds.

Now is the perfect time to bring acceptance to your life no matter the circumstances or the judgements over what is good and what is bad, and to instead honor your unique journey. We are all perfectly in progress!

It is also a time to celebrate how far you have come and how much you have grown over the course of the year. And even last year.

Has 2017 been less than stellar for you ? Well, you can start fresh ! The March Equinox is considered the start of the astrological new year. This is because the Sun shifts into the constellation of Aries, which is regarded as the first of the 12 constellations used in astrology. Never too late to begin again.

The energy of Aries makes it a perfect time to start thinking about what is next and what you would like the next few months to feel like. To think about it but more importantly feel it.

Perhaps make a list of all the feeling words you would like to create in your life moving forward and see if you can start creating those feelings in small ways every single day.

This year’s Equinox is the perfect time to honor the growth and the pain, the light and the darkness and all the experiences that have made you who you are today. It is the perfect time to love yourself and learn to find gratitude and peace with the journey you are taking.

Enjoy this beautiful weather! Make each breath count.

Mindful Monday: Spring Equinox and 108 Sun Salutes

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends!  Living here in Chicago,  we certainly learn to go with the flow Р especially when it comes to the weather!  No shocker when we go from glorious weather in the 60s to snowfall in the same month, right?  So we learn to go with the flow  knowing this is an unchangeable situation and it also impermanent.  Like life it ebbs and flows and is in constant flux and transition.

Regardless  of the weather forecast, our Spring Equinox will be here in a week! Join your YBD community  for a vigorous practice accessible to all levels this Sunday at our Elmhurst studio from 3:30 Р5:30 pm!  The practice itself  should take about 90 minutes.   The final 30 minutes will be a yin and restorative cool down.

While the thought of 108 sun salutes may sound daunting,  the repetitive actions create a meditative experience.  Most people feel a build up of energy as they flow  and leave practice feeling energized!

Each time I’ve been a student for this practice I’ve ¬†experienced an unbelievable freedom ¬†and sense of being unchained. ¬†My practice becomes a devotion and a celebration and a meditation. ¬† It is truly indescribable.

Some common questions are addressed below:

Will the room be heated ?

I will set the room temperature ¬†between 80 to 85¬į

Do we go through 108 sun salutations nonstop?

I chunk out the practice in four sets of 27

Can anyone do this practice?

Yes I will offer modifications to make this practice accessible to virtually anyone who is in decent physical shape and injury free

What do I need to bring ?

Your mat and a towel and some water

Do I have to count them on my own?  What if I lose track?

I will be counting the sun salutations,  so students have nothing to do but flow

There is still space available!  Sign up at any studio or online!

Have a great week,yogis!  Hope to see you on your mat this week!

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Mindful Monday: Life is just like the Weather

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Herrick Lake at sunset

Happy happy Monday, oh mindful ones! And what a GREAT Monday it is for most of us – students have the day off from school and many are off from work. Except your friendly, local yoga studios – we will be open for business as usual! Hope to see many of you on your mats today!

We are blessed with continued¬†early Spring weather that started over the weekend and will continue through the beginning of this week! I was able to take advantage of this gorgeous weather by spending as much time as possible outdoors. I’m guessing that you did the same!

The weather always strikes me as the perfect analogy for LIFE. We absolutely cannot control the weather – in fact, oftentimes the weather professionals can get it wrong when even trying to predict the future forecast. No matter how much we wish, petition, pray, meditate and otherwise try to manifest a specific weather forecast, we have zero impact on what is actually going to unfold.

And so it is with life. We like to think we can control so many circumstances and situations and even people and our relationships – but the truth of the matter is, we have so little of an impact on whatever life will bring our way. Yes, for sure, we can create goals and visualize certain outcomes, but there’s definitely no guarantees!

Just like a meteorologist can look at past weather patterns and current weather conditions and make an educated guess on what Mother Nature will bring us, so it is with our lives! We plan and project and strive for a ‘perfect’ life, but so often our lives veer in directions that were totally unanticipated.

We learn from our practice that expectation is the root of all heartache. And that the constant cycle of craving and aversion causes all of our own misery and suffering.

For example, with this amazing gift of BEAUTIFUL weather, we are all very happy and do as much as possible to enjoy it while it’s here! But we must remember that the nature of weather and the nature of life is aniccca – impermanence. So when the inevitable day comes – it’s February in Chicago, friends! – that this weather shifts, it will be foolish to crave for the weather to stay the same. It simply cannot and will not – so anything other than accepting reality AS IT IS, not how we wish it to be, is going to cause suffering.

So when the weather shifts to cold, or snow or thunderstorms or biting winds, we instinctually react with aversion to the weather. Which will also cause suffering, Which seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Does the weather really have the power to make someone happy or unhappy? If that is the case, we are in for one big roller coaster ride!

Instead, through yoga and other mindfulness practices, we can tap into an inner harmony and an inner source of happiness that is not affected by life’s daily and impermanent fluctuations. The only true and lasting source of happiness is an equanimous mind – a mind undisturbed by the daily ups and downs in life. This is exactly why we challenge ourselves on your mats each practice, we purposely put ourselves in uncomfortable and straining poses so that we can practice BREATHING and calming the mind in spite of the perceived external discomfort.

In this way, we try to break free of misery and suffering. And it is a lifelong practice!

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

Mindful Monday: Radiate LOVE

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Happy Monday, beautiful love bugs! What glorious weather we were blessed with this weekend – ¬†An early Valentine’s gift from Mother Nature! Mild temperatures and just so much light and sunshine! Not to mention the gorgeous and sultry full moon!! ahhhhh… LOVE LOVE LOVE is definitely in the air.

And it all starts with self-love. Which is really the most challenging, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to love our kids, parents, siblings, cousins and even friends. But why is it so difficult to truly love ourselves?

My yoga practice has really helped me tremendously in this aspect of my love life. What is our practice if not a radical act of self-love? Self- awareness and self-acceptance leads us toward loving ourselves, doesn’t it? Yoga lifts us from the clutches of self-doubt and pain and sadness and reminds us of our true nature – pure loving kindness. It touches our lives at every level – physical, mental and spiritual. It is a method for us to make life purposeful, useful, noble and to radiate LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

As we truly begin to love ourselves, a lifelong practice and a lifelong love affair, we are able to find more depth in all of our external relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always peseveres. Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

Wishing you the sweetest and happiest of Valentine’s days this year. As you acknowledge all of your loved ones, make sure that you are at the top of your own Valentine list!

May all beings be happy, happy, happy and free!