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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: Just Breathe

Good morning, dearest ones!

As we launch into this new work week, remember to breathe!

If you’re running late, just breathe

If your kids are moving at less than optimal speed, just breathe

If there’s a long line in front of you at your local coffee shop, just breathe

If you catch every single red light, just breathe

If the person next to you on the train is loudly talking on their phone, just breathe

If your meetings are filled with long-winded monologues, just breathe

If the IT person is taking forever to look at your machine, just breathe

If on the way to yoga class today you’re stuck behind the slowest driving person in the history of mankind, just breathe

And as you breathe, remember to count your blessings. One by one.

I always count you among my many many blessings.

Make it a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Go With the Flow 

Happy happy Monday, y’all!  How about that extra hour of sleep you got last night? What a perfect way to begin today with a feisty attitude of gratitude!

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Would you like to be happy for the rest of your life? Then follow that one simple idea by Lao Tzu. It’s truly that simple. Yet … 

We’ve been resisting change literally since birth! Born into a cold, loud world, we start our lives crying and in shock. 

And change continues to happen so rapidly. And we fight it every step of the way … even before we learn to actually articulate the word, “No!”

It continues through childhood. Resisting the rules and expectations first from our parents then our teachers and society at large.  

Do I even have to mention teenage rebelliousness here?

And finally as adults … we continue to resist! Yes, one side of us strives to fulfill our social duties, obligations and expectations in exchange for acceptance from our family, friends  and colleagues. But the other side of us craves to revolt against every belief, dogma and standard that has ever been forced down our throats! We long to throw caution to the wind and live with our own rules and experience freedom. 

Just think of how you react when you show up to yoga and your favorite teacher had to sub out class last minute. Or you open up an app you use every day and it’s been completely updated and it’s super hard to navigate. We simply don’t like change.  Which makes us resistant. Annoyed. Inconvenienced. Not happy. 

And this is just the little stuff, right? 

Some big stuff has happened in my life lately, and I’m struggling to accept and go with the flow. So much easier said than done. A friend of mine who I’ve known for nearly thirty years – my best friend during my rebellious and exploratory, toeing the line 20s – was placed on life support recently.  I’m still reeling from the shock of it. Disbelief. Regret. So much inner resistance. 

Other stuff too. No need for details. You get it. We are all struggling and battling with our own inner turmoil each day. 

So how do I deal with this huge curveball that life has thrown at me?

Each time my feelings and thoughts overwhelm me, I just breathe deeply and allow myself to experience whatever bubbled up. 

I then direct my awareness to so many fond memories and I feel grateful for all the time we had together.  And I dedicate my efforts to her throughout the day. Doing things on her behalf that she may not ever do again.  Or truth be told, she would never do anyway. I could never get that girl on a yoga mat! 

And I remember that despite the lie we all whisper to ourselves, that there is enough time, life is fragile and amazing and each moment is a blessing. Each breath truly a gift. 

My work is non-resistance. To open and accept and laugh and love as much as I can for as long as I am able. 

Let’s stop wasting time complaining about the weather or other things we cannot change. Let’s live with purpose and joy and acceptance. 

Something magical will happen to you today! I feel it coming. Best. Monday. Ever. 🙏🏾

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. 😜

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: 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.  🙄 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.”

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