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Mindful Monday: Zanshin

Aloha and good morning, my yogi friends! I’m writing this blog from our 50th state, Hawaii, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for simply being alive in this moment. And while it’s still pretty early morning here, I should really be wishing you a good afternoon! Here is my early morning view as I write this blog.

We are on the fourth week of a series about four Zen states of mind. It’s important to note that there are many other Zen mind training techniques and mental states than the four I’ve focused on these past weeks. I’ve chosen to highlight these particular states, because we can begin to apply them to our yoga practice and daily lives. This is in no way an exhaustive list!

Read more about the first three Zen states here:

Shoshin

Fudoshin

Mushin

Now, let’s move to our final state of mind called Zanshin.

Zanshin literally translates to “remaining mind” or the “mind with no remainder.”

Zanshin is a general and constant state of relaxed awareness or perceptiveness. This state means that although you’re not actively watching out for things, you are constantly aware of your surroundings and situation. Think of a public safety officer or a first responder: they are always sizing up situations even when off duty. Constant situational awareness.

The concept of Zanshin is that one should be fully present in whatever action is at hand. When eating, eat. The mind is fully engaged in the action of eating. When practicing yoga, practice yoga. When standing, stand. When writing, write. It is being in the here and now, totally immersed in the task at hand, and there is no “remaining mind” to think.

And to take it one step further, every action and every thought in the here and now must be right and harmonious. Every routine, mundane action is important and should be done with Zanshin.

A beautiful example of Zanshin:

Roy Suenaka, the author of Complete Aikido, tells a story about aikido’s founder that is the epitome of this concept. They were seated on the floor face to face having tea and talking when Morihei Ueshiba, without turning his head, casually reached behind himself and then held something out for Suenaka to see. “Ah, a young cockroach,” he said, before gently putting it to the side. Only later did the significance hit Suenaka. How was Ueshiba so aware that even when focused on their conversation could he not only sense the presence of something so small but be able to know exactly were it was so that he was able to pick it up without looking?

There is a samurai saying that roughly translates to: “When the battle is won, tighten your chinstrap.” This means that zanshin should always be practiced, even after a big success or goal has been met. Never rest on your laurels. Be prepared at any moment for another attack (if you’re a samurai). But also that the battle is never over until you stop striving.

If you’ve been working for years on a particular yoga pose, you don’t stop practicing once you achieve it! If you reach your PR in weight lifting or any other competitive sport or arena, it’s not the time to relax and start slacking.

There is a second component to zanshin that can be summarized with this beautiful thought: Everything is aiming.

There is a story of a master archer who consistently hits bullseye after bullseye, even splitting his own arrows in the middle of the bullseye, blindfolded and in complete darkness.

This is attributed to the process being of utmost importance, not the goal! Each and every small detail is preparation for the ultimate goal. But the paradox is that the ultimate goal is not the focus; each and every boring, mundane, repetitive task that is performed thousands of times is where focus lies. Once one has performed every minute detail ad nauseam, the goal is inevitable and can be reached without the luxury of seeing the target.

Have a great week, yogis! As always I love to hear your comments and feedback. And of course if there any topics you’d like covered in our weekly blog please let us know!

Mindful Monday: Labor Day 2018

Good morning, friends! Happy Labor Day!

For most of us, we get an extra day tagged on to this weekend!

As we enjoy this last day of “summer” – don’t worry, we still have time until the official end on the fall equinox – let’s pause to honor the spirit of this day.

Today we celebrate all of the industrious, dedicated workers that literally built this country. And let’s remember that there are still many of those people who are actually working today!

Most of the professions have the luxury of not working today; but so many in the service industry still get up and get ready and go to work. Retail and restaurant workers, and of course, law enforcement, medical and emergency management folks are still on the job today. Aaaaaaaand of course many yoga teachers and other fitness professionals will still be punching in!

Where ever this beautiful Labor Day takes you today, take a moment to pause, breathe deeply and let gratitude for this gorgeous day and for our still great nation and all of its people course throughout your entire body. We are so darn lucky to live in a land of so much opportunity.

A huge shoutout to all of you working today! What a great opportunity to show our appreciation with just some extra kind words for those laboring today! I always overtip for services on days like this.

Happy Monday, y’all. And hellllooooooo pumpkin EVERYTHING this season.

Next week, we’ll talk about Mushin – The third Zen state of mind. If you’ve missed the past couple of weeks, you can read about the first Zen state of mind here and the second Zen state of mind here.

Mindful Monday: Sho Shin

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Sho Shin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that means ‘a beginner’s mind.’ There are four states of mind in Zen Buddhism. This week, we’ll discuss the first state.

Sho Shin is characterized by an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a complete lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or beginning an endeavor.

Think about when you took your first yoga class. Or first 100 for that matter! You were excited and so eager to learn everything about this ancient practice! Your mind was like a sponge, simply and enthusiastically absorbing every thing you could about yoga.

When you are in a state of shoshin you are feeling enthusiastic, creative and above all optimistic.

It’s easy to be fired up about new, exciting endeavors. The practice is to remain open-minded and optimistic when you’ve practiced for many, many years and are considered an ‘expert.’

One of the key aspects of shoshin is an absence of preconceptions and a general sense of optimism. When you are in a state of shoshin you shouldn’t be thinking too much about what you think is going to happen, you should just be eager to accept whatever comes and assured it will all be for the best.

This release of preconceptions and attitude of viewing everything with fresh eyes is one of shoshin’s most valuable qualities. You can work on placing yourself in a state of shoshin even when doing something you’ve done before to keep each experience fresh and to ensure that you aren’t making poor decisions based on preconceived biases. It also helps train you to keep a positive and eager outlook about everything that might come your way.

For this reason, I always try to keep my teaching as well as my personal practice fresh with new and different sequencing and transitions. In order to do this, I MUST continue to practice with new and different teachers. I must continue to expand my knowledge base and work tirelessly to cultivate a state of shoshin. I often see experienced students turn on auto-pilot in class and assume they know where we are going next.

The danger of an ‘expert’s mind’ is that few possibilities exist in this mind. Less aspects of a situation are questioned and more are assumed. This often results in a narrowed perception and performing tasks on autopilot without room for a fresh, new perspective. Things are always done a certain way with no opportunities for improvement.

So how do we cultivate shoshin in our everyday lives and on our mats?

Just like all programs of thoughts in our minds, new thought patterns can be cultivated. Meditating and practicing gratitude are scientifically measurable ways to literally create new gray matter. Cultivating a beginner’s mind is exactly the same.

  • Try to approach situations without assumptions or expectations.
  • Don’t judge as good or bad. Be open to any outcome.
  • Be curious! Question with interest and wonder!
  • Switch things up. Drive a different route. Practice at a different time. Move your mat to a different place in the room.
  • Empty your mind!
  • Have a great week, friends!
  • Mindful Monday: HB, America!

    Happy Monday and hulllllooooooo July!!!

    Boom! Just like that 2018 is half over!

    This is a great touch point to pause and check in with yourself. Where are you in terms of New Year’s resolutions and goals? Yoga reminds us that it’s never too late to begin again!

    This is also the time of year where we pause and celebrate the birth day of our beloved nation. We remember that, just like us, America has seen its shares of up-and-down’s. Times of prosperity and times of struggle. Times of war and strife and times of peace and harmony. Times of civil unrest and times, like the Fourth of July, that we put aside our ideological differences and stand together as one strong, proud America filled with love of country and national pride.

    On a smaller scale, our lives are also filled with peaks and valleys. We get caught up in the day-to-day fluctuations that life throws at us. It’s so important to step back and check out the bigger picture to see how far we’ve come and how all that we have overcome has made us stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

    For me, yoga is that opportunity for pausing and reflecting. It allows me to step away from the immediate demands and create enough space to take a higher level viewpoint. Things that may initially seem so urgent are proportioned. Situations are looked at from an entirely different perspective. And as I roll up my mat after practice, I tap back in with a fresh new start each and every time.

    I hope that you enjoy your mid-week holiday, friends! All six of studios will be open with a limited morning schedule on Wednesday, July 4. So come in to detox before your big retox!

    Mindful Monday: Pivot and Go With the Flow

    Happy Monday, y’all! I had the loveliest of all weekends! Hope you’re enjoying this weather and my favorite time of year as much as I am.

    A few days ago I had about an hour of downtime between classes. It was such a spectacular day, so I went to my local forest preserve area with my trusty sidekick Coco.

    My plan was to do some much needed grounding work. Summertime with its flurry of activities can really unground me as I have a vata dosha. So quiet, solo journaling in the warmth of the sun was my agenda. And so much what I need to balance and recharge myself.

    As I was writing in my journal, Coco made friends with another Yorkshire terrier; and the dog’s mother wanted to make friends with me!

    My initial reaction was resistance to being drawn away from my contemplative activities. I only had an hour between classes. I’d been hustling for the past few days. I hadn’t had much downtime. I’d been outputting so much, and I really needed some time to refill my tank. I was on a roll developing such a great thought in my journal. And it would have been pretty easy to shut down the conversation and carry on with my original plan.

    But rather than react to my initial resistance, I responded to the woman and her dog. I put my journal down, and I ended up having the loveliest time with Alice and her dog Missy.

    Alice is 79 years old, and we talked about everything from God to yoga (of course!) and I got some really great insight on parenting. Coco and I also got invited to her family reunion in July. Heck yeah we’re going!!!

    It was such a strong reminder to me how easy it can be to just pivot and go with the flow! It’s definitely important to know the direction you’re heading, and to have somewhat of a plan to get there. It’s also so important to be open to detours. Enjoy those moments where you are seemingly off-track, because that’s where you get the little nuggets from life.

    This week, let’s really cue into all of the subtle indicators and reminders from the universe that let us know we’re still on the right path.

    Hope to see you on your mat this week as we kick off our Summer Challenge!

    Anicca! Be happy, yogis!

    Mindful Monday: Rise Above

    Happy Monday, friends!

    My dad always told me growing up, “If you can’t bring someone to your level, don’t lower yourself to meet them at theirs.”

    You know how you feel when you leave a yoga class? Lighter. Happier. Kinder. More compassionate. Stronger. More confident. Generous. Exuding positivity. Tolerant. Accepting. Open. Abundant. And beaming love, peace and contentment.

    Am I missing anything?

    Those are your natural states of being. The work is in maintaining those feelings no matter what happens around us. No matter what someone says or does. Whether teeny, petty things happen or some of the big body blows hit us.

    Let’s continue feeding the positive. Don’t waver from it. No matter what happens pivot towards the positive.

    Have a great week practicing, yogis!

    Mindful Monday: Yoga as a Healing Modality

    Good morning, friends! Another Monday is here for you to write your own ticket. A fresh slate for you to create your own destiny. Of course yoga will play some role in that narrative, yes?

    Think about the last time you had a paper cut. You didn’t have to think about your blood creating platelets to clot and close the wound or to send neutrophils and macrophages to the site to protect against germs and infection, right? Your body just did what it was made to do: heal itself.

    When we practice yoga, we create an ideal environment for our minds and bodies to heal. Through the physical practice, we aid circulation, digestion, lymphatic release as we strengthen our muscles and create more flexibility in our joints and other connective tissues. Through the mindfulness practice, we forge new neural pathways and literally rewire our brains toward more peace and happiness.

    One of the simplest ways to enhance every physical and cognitive function in your body is through your diet. What you put into your body can greatly strengthen all of the body’s systems. Or it can tax your body and create more work.

    At least once a year, I cleanse my body with a 21 day detox. It’s a hard reset physically, mentally and emotionally. By removing foods that create inflammation and unduly stress our digestive systems and replacing them with foods that are easily digested and absorbed, we allow our bodies to focus on more important tasks like cellular repair processes.

    Since 2012, I’ve literally led about 150 YBD yogis through this process. Some of those people have adopted this program as a lifestyle. It’s perfectly safe and medically unassailable. Others have taken one or two habits along with them on their path. Many have gone through this cleanse multiple times with me.

    Personally I’ve experienced this detox nine times. Each time is different, and I continuously learn more and more about myself throughout the process.

    Are you ready for an incredible challenge? Is food your final frontier? Do you want to take your yoga lifestyle to the next level?

    If so, sign up today for this 21 day reset!

    But don’t just take my word for it. Chances are, you’ve taken a class with a YBD instructor and/or practiced next to a yoga student who has undergone this process with me!

    Here’s what yoga teacher Shaun Emerson said:

    “Nadja calls it a detox, a cleanse, but for me, it was deeper than that. With Nadja’s guidance, the 21 day period was an opportunity to be thoughtful about what I was putting into my body. Participating in past cleanses, detoxes, and diets, the energy was negative: lose weight, deny, and be miserable. With Nadja’s positive energy shared on a daily basis, the attention is on the transformative impact food can have on our self-awareness and our relationship with others and the world around us. For me, the 21 days was a detox and cleanse, but more importantly, the 21 days was the first 21 days restart in a healthier body, clearer mind and deeper sense of awareness.”

    So … what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

    Mindful Monday: Get Grounded

    Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! Let’s take advantage of this lovely weather and get grounded!

    No, not the kind of grounded where you’re stuck at home with no contact with friends, no TV or electronics. (Although that may also prove beneficial! And actually sounds pretty lovely to me in moderate doses.)

    I’m referring to connecting with Mother Earth by walking barefoot! Ideally on the beach, but until spring break, we’ll have to make do with the wet grass. Or even in the mud! It’s called “earthing,” and aside from being a super yogi thing to do; it has amazing mental, emotional and physical health benefits!

    Here are just a few of the amazing and maybe even surprising benefits of this practice.

    Rejuvenates your senses and calms your mind

    Earthing is usually done in the morning or evening – but fit it in wherever you can!

    Taking deep breaths of fresh air provides oxygen for your entire body to function more efficiently.

    The calm atmosphere and brief moments of unplugging from the matrix and plugging directly into Mother Nature helps relax your entire body and mind, allowing you to release your stress.

    The green color of grass helps stimulate your body to produce calming hormones that help you relax.

    The feeling of cool grass beneath your feet, the calm stillness of early morning or early evening, connecting with nature and feeling the warmth of the sun will certainly boost your mood!

    Connects you to the earth and neutralizes your electrical field

    When we walk barefoot on grass, we are directly connected to the magnetic field of the earth, which affects the entire electrical and magnetic field of the human body.

    This exchange of energies helps neutralize negative electrical impulses in our body which are known to cause certain ailments.

    It is said to also neutralize the effects of spending hours in front of our computer, TV and smart phone screens.

    Cleansing our bodies of negative electrical energies can definitely have a positive effect on our overall health.

    Provides your body with the precious properties of sun energy

    The sunlight warms your winter body to the bone and naturally replenishes your essential vitamin D stores.

    Sun energy is a great source of healing our energies and restorative powers. In Naturopathy, it is referred to as the source of life and energy.

    Studies show that it helps disinfect the body, tones muscles and nerves and supplies the entire body with energy!

    According to experts, we can get the maximum sun energy benefits between 6:30 to 9 in the morning and between 4:30 to about 6:30 in the evening. Be mindful of over exposure to the sun in the harsh afternoon sun hours.

    So get off the pavement, take off your stuffy shoes, and go get grounded!

    Have a great week, my earthy, grounded yogis! See you on your mat this week!

    Mindful Monday: Expectation is the root of all heartache

    Good morning, mindful ones!

    Think about the last time you felt hurt, disappointed or let down. If you examine that situation, you’ll see that it was your expectation not being met that caused your disappointment, not what actually happened.

    If you didn’t expect a certain outcome, there would be nothing to react to!

    It’s pretty darn simple but so very challenging. I mean how can we go through life without expectations? We expect things to go in a logical, linear direction. We expect to work hard toward a specific goal or outcome. We expect those we love to treat us in a loving, respectful way. We expect to go to the market and find the items we need and purchase them. We expect our cars to start when we push the ignition button. We expect someone to call when he/she says he/she will. We expect our friends to have our back. We expect our children to behave in a certain way. We expect our parents to love us. We expect to pay our bills and have our utilities work. We expect to wake up in the morning and the sun will be shining. The list goes on and on and on of our expectations. I mean they are all pretty reasonable, right?

    Sure they are! And when one of our reasonable expectations is not met, how does that make us feel? Resentful. Disappointed. Downright pissed! Sad. Betrayed. Hurt. These feelings can fester in a relationship. All caused by certain expectations.

    It’s so important to turn our attention inward when feeling that bitter sting of disappointment. Rather than project it outward and blame the easy target, look within and see where the disappointment is rooted.

    We cannot control others. We cannot control life. This is a lifelong lesson we continue to resist. The more we resist it, the more painful these lessons can become.

    So we continue to practice our yoga and meditation to use for self-introspection. It should never be about the other person or outside factor. What am I doing today about my anger? Jealously? Self-doubt? Expectations?

    Can I give and love more freely? What was my motivation when I did x, y or z? Was it pure or was I doing it to get something in return?

    For me, it’s always about shifting my perspective back to gratitude. Focusing so much on all of the abundance of blessings and love that surrounds me each day. Giving for the sake of giving. Loving because it’s my true nature. Accepting because it’s my only way to stay sane!

    Have a great week, dearest ones! Hope to see you on your mat this week – but I won’t be mad at you if you don’t show up!! ❤️

    Mindful Monday: Tempus Fugit

    Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones! Happy President’s Day! You may have the day off today, but all of our studios are open with our regular schedules!

    I was talking to a friend the other day who expressed so much fear surrounding money. She is overworked and overextended, but she continues plodding on at an unsustainable, breakneck speed driven by her fears. I think we’ve all been there. I know that was my reality when I left my role as the spokesperson for the City of Naperville to teach yoga full-time.

    But the reason I left the career that I once loved so much was that I wanted more freedom and flexibility with my time to spend more of it doing what I love.

    And I slowly realized that money is the currency that we use to purchase goods and services. It is a tool to use in the pursuit of a full and fulfilling life. It is not the purpose of life.

    The true currency of life is our tempus TIME. We exchange our precious, limited, finite time for money when we work. It’s a steep price to pay.

    Each day, no matter how good looking you are or how much money you have or how talented you are, you are given 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes. That’s all you get in one day. You can’t bank it, roll it over or save it for later.

    I always think of Steve Jobs and how all the money in the world could not prolong his life. He couldn’t cash in his vast fortune and buy another decade of life. But he certainly spent his seconds, minutes, hours and days in a way that impacted and changed our entire planet.

    Like death, time is our great equalizer. It does not favor the rich or the poor, the believers or non-believers. How you spend or squander your time determines your life, your future, your karma.

    Tempus fugit, carpe diem et memento mori

    “Time flees, seize the day, remember death”

    How will you spend your precious time this day? What will you receive in exchange for this priceless commodity?