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Mindful Monday: Tom Brady Credits Six Super Bowl Wins to Regular Yoga and Meditation Practice

Good morning, mindful friends!

I’m not a huge football fan, but I am definitely fascinated by people who excel in their respective fields. The top of the top. The elite.

In Tim S. Grovers book, “Relentless,” he delineates among the professional athletes in the NBA there is good, great and unstoppable. Even in the crème de la crème of professional basketball, there are distinct differences among athletes. And of course this level of achievement can be extrapolated to any area of life.

So. Back to Tom Brady and yoga. Tom Brady is arguably the GOAT – but I’m certainly not here to debate that!

I’m actually here to support my fantastical claim that Brady attributes his success to yoga and meditation. I mean, there are a million different things we could discuss here. One particular thing made it completely evident to me, and it was something that happened off the field.

I watched horrified after the Patriots underwhelming win in Super Bowl LIII (I mean seriously, least exciting Super Bowl ever, except for those kickers!!) and Tom Brady was immediately thronged by a pack of rabid media cameras, reporters, and press handlers. Just watching, I felt so much anxiety and stress, especially witnessing that tiny female CBS reporter getting swallowed up and pushed and jostled in the jockeying to speak to Brady.

I mean, I freak out when there’s more than five people waiting in line to check in to my yoga class. Seriously, my heart palpitates; my breathing gets shallow; I start to sweat a little bit.

I was riveted watching how Tom Brady reacted under all of that pressure, in the midst of that chaos. And he was so calm and relaxed and PRESENT. He politely kept deflecting the reporters as a steady stream of Rams and Patriots broke through the huddle to speak with him. And you could see that he was having genuine moments with players, coaches and even the team’s owner. Genuine moments of true connection and clarity.

Wow! Just wow! I was literally watching yoga in action.

So of course I immediately googled Tom Brady and yoga. And I found a couple images. But it took like 45 minutes, because I ended up looking at tons of images of his gorgeous wife Gisele, and them together (greatest couple of all time) and their beautiful family.

I finally got back on track.

Because truly, our yoga practice doesn’t begin and end on our mat. It’s a practice that’s created so that we can live a life filled with grace, awareness and the ability to stay focused and anchored in each moment of life.

“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.”  – B.K.S. Iyengar

While we most likely will never be in the Super Bowl or married to a supermodel, we will all inevitably feel external stress and pressure on the daily. We will also have projects and tasks that require and deserve our undivided attention.

Fortunately, we won’t be under public scrutiny for each interaction we have with others or while we are actually doing our jobs.

Yoga is not a physical pose. It is a yoking of mind body and spirit. It is an internal state of being.

The practice is in maintaining our perfect inner calmness and stillness in the midst of external chaos. It is not the stress factors crushing us from the outside that creates discord; if there is already discord there, it will be surfaced. If we are filled with peace and inner calmness, that is what will surface from outside pressures.

Yes, of course the rigorous physical practice and training in any arena is required. But it all begins first with the mind. It is through the light of yoga that we understand on a conscious level the divine and inseparable connection of mind and body.

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: Center and Focus

Good morning and happy Monday, friends!

Well we’re quickly sliding into the holiday season and wrapping up the end of 2018.

This week, carve out some contemplative time to ask yourself the questions listed below.

Find a quiet, comfortable space where you will have no interruptions. Your favorite meditation spot or even all cozy in your bed are both excellent places. Just somewhere that has great energy and brings you peace.

Have your journal or a notebook nearby to jot down any thoughts and ideas that surface.

It will serve you to jot the questions down ahead of time, so that you can leave your phone in another room to really be distraction-free.

Before you begin, close your eyes and take several long, deep inhales and exhales to calm your mind and help you focus.

Let’s begin:

1. So far, what kind of year has 2018 been for me? Why?

2. What are some of my accomplishments and successes this year? In my work/career? Personal growth? Relationships? Any other areas?

3. Where have I learned some major lessons? Keep in mind, the biggest lessons are learned through perceived “failures” or “setbacks.”

4. With a full two months still ahead, how will I take advantage of this gift of time to complete any projects or goals that I set for myself this year?

5. Looking forward a bit to 2019, what are some seeds I want to plant now to see grow to fruition next year?

With this information, create some clear affirmations for yourself to stay focused and aligned with what’s important to you.

Also, create a plan to take just five minutes each morning and evening to quietly meditate on your affirmations.

Make sure you schedule your yoga practices with yourself for the remainder of the year and plan to stick as closely as possible to your much needed self-tending time. When things start to amp up, you’ll certainly feel much more grounded and stable!

Remember, you can handle anything that comes your way with grace and composure when you tend to yourself first and foremost! With that being said, also be flexible so that you don’t miss out on all of life’s fun surprises and tiny moments.

Make it a great week, friends!

Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Fly Into Fall

Good morning, mindful ones! It’s the first day of October, and it definitely feels like fall.

After the autumnal equinox, our days get shorter and shorter and the nights become darker and longer.

This is the time for dramatic and drastic transitions evidenced by how quickly Starbucks started peddling their pumpkin spice lattes (end of August!) to all of the Christmas decorations retailers are already selling!!!! Can we please at least get through Halloween?!

Personally, I prefer to take my cues from Mother Earth. The lush greenery surrounding us turns to vibrant hues of orange, red and gold; a biting Vata wind flows through; trees slowly demonstrate the process of non-attachment, one by one eventually letting go of each and every one of their leaves.

Right now, as we transition into fall, we can capitalize on the light, clear, and moving Vata energies in our practice! Join me for an arm balance and inversion workshop this Friday in Elmhurst!

We will begin with a stabilizing and grounding warm-up, and we will spend the majority of the practice actually practicing poses like crow, one-legged crow, side crow, headstand, forearm stand and handstand!

You can sign up at any location or even online! Let’s fly!

Have a great week, yogis! Namaste 🙏🏾and aloha 🤙🏽

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: Fudoshin

Good morning and happy Monday!

Last week, we covered the first state of mind in Zen Buddhism known as Sho Shin or Beginner’s Mind. You can read more here.

Today, we move on to the second state of mind in Zen Buddhism, Fudoshin which means “Immovable Mind.

Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is determined to win, and that is filled with courage, endurance and determination to surmount every obstacle that comes in its way. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by confusion, hesitation, doubt, or fear.

It is when your mind is in a total state of equanimity, characterized by mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

Fudoshin is most commonly associated with martial arts, particularly the samurai warriors in feudal Japan. These warriors displayed a steadfast determination and absolute control over themselves. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean one in a state of fudoshin is being stubborn or angry. Rather a person in fudoshin is calmly resolute and cannot be swayed, tempted or concerned.

We channel fudoshin when we are holding our more challenging yoga poses. Visualize your strength, balance, determination and focus when you’re holding a Warrior III pose or an inversion! Total concentration, muscular engagement and a calm and peaceful countenance. No thoughts, just your breath and bodily sensations evoking a powerful sense of peace and stability within yourself.

In modern Zen practice, Fudoshin is the protection against the “Shikai” or four sicknesses of the mind: anger, doubt, fear and surprise. Through the disciplined practice of meditation, we learn implicitly to center ourselves and clear our minds, thus developing a Fudoshin mind.

There are so many opportunities each day to implement Fudoshin in our lives! Hopefully you won’t be facing a life or death situation, but one can never know what life is sending our way!

In this era of random acts of violence, road rage, bad behavior and other losses of self-control, development of fudoshin can contribute to a peaceful, more compassionate world.

Fudoshin means “unmoving mind/heart”or “immovable mind,” and connotes the imperturbability as well as courage of the truly mastered self. It is the mind/heart from which have been purged all impurities and weaknesses in the resolute process of forging artistic and self-mastery.

Have a great week, friends! Remember that fudoshin is just a few, slow deep breaths away.

Mindful Monday: Back to School – Another Lesson in Letting Go

Happy Monday, friends!

I’m incredulous that the 2018/2019 school year starts this Wednesday! I mean it’s not even the middle of August yet!

Such is the nature of life! In constant flux and movement. Which is why it’s so important to practice being present for each and every moment of life. The days can seem so long, but the years fly by on wings. I so clearly remember my son’s first day of pre-school. This week, he begins his senior year!

Change is inevitable. We can’t control it. We can’t fast forward or rewind. Our only sane, viable option is to embrace every single precious second as it unfolds, exactly as it is. As it is. Not how it should be. Or could be. But as it is.

Therein lies our greatest challenge and truest pathway to happiness.

To embrace life in all of its glory and misery, pleasure and pain, love and fear, belief and doubt, failure and success. All of it!

Sure, I could play the game of beating myself up for every mistake I made in raising my son. Or fast forward and suffer in anticipation of next year when he leaves for college. I’m really, really good at both!

But I see that these patterns of thinking create suffering for myself. And I remember that I really have no reason to suffer. And I definitely don’t enjoy it anymore.

And I remind myself that I’ve been in training for the past 17 years in the beautiful and brutal art of letting go. From the day he was born, I had to let go of having him all to myself within my body.

When I stopped breast feeding, I had to let go of being his main source of nourishment.

When I went back to work.

When he moved from his crib to his big boy toddler bed then later his loft/bunk bed.

Watching that tiny little boy walk into first grade all on his own, getting swallowed up into the crowd of much bigger kids.

His first sleepover at a friend’s house.

First time he closed off from me and didn’t need me to fix it.

Graduating from elementary school and starting middle school.

First day of high school.

First time he drove my car (I’m still traumatized by that one).

And now … senior year begins.

And I remind myself, this is all part of the training. And how it’s helped me so much in life.

It’s strengthened and conditioned me. Learning to release and let go of so many things. Learning to let go even when I’m not ready, because it’s time.

So I have one more year to train for the inevitable. And I remind myself that if I’ve done my job well as a parent, he will fly away with confidence and have all the tools he needs for success.

Sigh. Good luck to all of you parents out there! We got this!

Mindful Monday: Morning Mantra

Good morning, mindful ones!

Take a slow deep breath, and exhale completely. Do that two more times.

As you prepare for your day, remind yourself that you are the creator of your life today.

Acknowledge that many things will happen that are outside of your control. But it is always your choice how you react.

Everything that happens today is designed for your growth.

Commit to walk today’s path in gratitude and love.

You are here to learn and grow.

Be gentle and loving with yourself and all those you encounter today.

You are worthy of respect and kindness.

Show up for yourself today and honor the opportunity you have been given to be alive.

Choose to be happy today. No matter what happens, choose happiness today.

Find new things to appreciate in your life today.

Be a light of joy and love. Radiate peace and calmness.

Today will be an extraordinary day.

Mindful Monday: Patience

Greetings and blessings, Mindful ones.

In this golden age of Amazon Prime, overnight delivery, and open-24-hour drive throughs … Instant Gratification rules!

And our classic, good old-fashioned friend Patience gets a really bad rap. I mean, remember what it was like with the AOL dial ups back in the stone ages?

Enter our practice of yoga! This is where we transform the toe-tapping, teeth grinding, fist-clenching, caffeine-fueled adrenaline rushes into one, unremarkable, slow deep breath of awareness at a time.

As we work to reverse the tendency to push and do, we slowly learn to soften and BE. For me, yoga at times can be agitatingly slow and boring. It was a very long process for me to even stay for savasana. And it took many years before I would even consider taking a restorative class.

But there was definitely something that kept me coming back to my mat. It was the sense of total peace. The realization that underneath all of that thrilling and glamorous rushing around, there was a very unglamorous, plain and PATIENT space within.

I still work hard to cultivate this relationship. Patience is a great friend to have on my mat and off. On my mat, I learn to slow down and feel my body in each pose. To just wait with ease and grace. We have to slow down so much to allow the body to open and heal. And we learn to patiently accept our current limitations and barriers.

I searched for Patience’s hand at the Cubs game last week when I was trying to nimbly and quickly navigate the crowds to make it to the one place in the whole ball park that sells Rum Chata. I literally had to stop myself and slow myself down, and realize I was not in any hurry at all.

Throughout my regular, routine days, I find so many opportunities to connect with my dear friend. I may not always listen to her, but I know she’s always there for me.

Have a great week, my 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!