grateful

April 2019 Pose of the Month: Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana: Revolved Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

Our lovely student Zoe Justh embodies our pose of the month

Happy, happy April, dearest yogis!

Our April pose of the month is a big one! Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana or revolved extended hand to big toe pose.

Here’s how!

1 Start Revolved Hand to Big Toe pose from Mountain pose at the front end of your mat. Shift your weight into your right leg, finding all four corners of the foot and lifting energetically up through the sole. Begin drawing the left foot away from the floor while finding your balance.

2 Once you’re balancing on your right foot, draw your left knee into your chest. Take your time to breathe here, lengthening the spine and strengthening your standing leg. Use your index and middle fingers of your right hand to hold the big toe of your left foot. Continue rooting down through your tailbone as you start to extend out your left leg. The left thigh should be parallel to the floor and your spine should be perpendicular.

3 Reach through your heart and broaden across the collarbones to counter the tendency to slouch forward when extending the left leg. Take your left hand to your hip, level your pelvis, then begin to reach the hand toward the back of your mat. Deepen the twist by rooting the femur of your left leg into the hip joint as you draw your right ribs forward.

4 If you can remain balanced, slowly start to move your gaze back towards your left hand. Do this movement slowly and intentionally to avoid losing balance. Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before untwisting and slowly lowering the lifted leg down to the floor. Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

Mindful Monday: Checkpoint

Good morning, mindful ones!

Have you ever heard the saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything”?

Let’s look into that one as it applies to the weather.

How did you react to the big snow we had yesterday? In the middle of April?

Did you immediately act shocked and dismayed?

Did you start to complain and say how unfair it was?

Did you feel victimized and that you couldn’t take it anymore?

Did you wake up pleasantly surprised?

Did you think to yourself: Snow in the middle of April? Yes! Absolutely! It happened last year around this time, too!

Did you acknowledge the sublime power of Mother Nature and admire her work?

Whatever your thoughts were, they created an emotional reaction. They then became your words. You expressed those words to your friends, family and social media platforms.

How we react to random weather events can give us great insight into how we react to all of life’s experiences.

When something happens unexpectedly or in a way that you hadn’t anticipated, you will once again react in a very similar way to how you reacted to the weather.

So you may be thinking: yeah, so what? Which is another habitual pattern of thinking.

Well, it matters. It all matters.

Your conditioned patterns of thinking and reacting create your attitudes, emotions and behavior patterns. Your behavior patterns create your habits and lifestyle. Your habits and lifestyle attract people in your life vibrating at that same energy level. Literally your thoughts, words and actions in each small, trivial moment in life is how you live your life.

And how you reacted to yesterday’s weather, if you look honestly at your patterns, is how you react if someone cuts you off in traffic or doesn’t respond to an email or text as quickly as you’d like.

Are you a victim? Is it easy for others to steal your joy and peace of mind? Do you thoughtlessly give away your personal power every time there’s a little hiccup in your day?

Do you consciously cultivate positive thoughts and energy? Do you practice gratitude? Do you commit to your inner peace and equanimity regardless of what’s happening externally?

The truth is, any moment of any day is the perfect checkpoint of awareness of how we are doing anything in life.

Take moments to pause during your day and check in with yourself: are my thoughts and actions in this moment drawing me closer to my goals or pulling me away? There are only two directions we are moving with each thought and action.

We can’t affect shifts in our lives without awareness of our current vibrational levels. With that awareness, we have all the information that we need to decide whether we are ready to vibe up or if we’re content with our current circumstances.

Have a beautiful, mindful Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Level Up

Happy Monday, Mindful Ones!

For me, 2019 has been about leveling up many aspects of my life. My practice. My teaching. My wellness and self-care routines. Reading and writing more. Expanding my knowledge base and deepening my current interests.

With the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, I am coming to terms with the impending arrival of my biggest level up opportunity, hands down. Leveling up my non-attachment game.

As I write this post, my son is in Providence, Rhode Island on his first of four college visits. He chose to go without his dad or me. Let that one sink in for a few minutes.

I am fully prepared for the next two months to swiftly fly by as he visits three more schools and prepares for high school graduation. And he actually turns 18 on the day he graduates. I’ll let that one sit there for a few moments also.

These days I constantly bring my awareness back to the present moment. Right here. Right now.

And I remind myself that I’ve been preparing for this inevitable moment since before my son was even born. Each milestone that we celebrate in his life is another teeny, tiny act of learning to letting go.

To be a good parent means to prepare your child to leave the nest and fly away and thrive. Everything that we have taught him and tried to nurture within him was always going to be so that he will eventually leave us.

I have been meditating on the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment. You can only lose what you cling to.

And then I focus so much on what a magical and exhilarating time it is for him. And that it might also be overwhelming.

My role as a parent will never end. But my relationship with my son will level up. Transitioning from parent to mentor and perhaps even friend!

What are some things you’re currently struggling with in terms of non-attachment and clinging?

Each moment of each day, Life tries to teach us. And we can only move in two directions: toward or away from growth.

Let’s always choose growth. And love. Let’s always choose love.

Have a great week, friends.

Mindful Monday: Day One or One Day?

Good morning, mindful ones!!!

It’s day one! The first day of another round of our 21 day detox.

For the next 21 days, our dedicated yogis will restrain from the following substances:

Sugar (processed and added)

Gluten

Caffeine

Alcohol

Animal products, meat, fish, dairy and eggs = essentially eating vegan for 21 days

On this journey together, we learn to take extremely great care of our bodies, and we experience real, discernible breakthroughs in mind, body and spirit.

Fasting and cleansing has been used throughout the centuries for physical healing and as a path toward enlightenment. Even the fathers of modern medicine Hippocrates and Galen learned that occasionally refraining from food was a proven way to cure disease and heal the body.

And the great philosophers Plato and Socrates regularly gave up certain foods to enhance the sense of physical well-being and to improve mental clarity.

It’s imperative to challenge yourself to let go of certain things you seemingly cannot live without.

All of our mindfulness practices: meditation, yoga, fasting and cleansing allow us to observe the deeper levels of our unconscious mind and uproot deep-seated complexes; current patterns; and fears. We may reveal a deeper sense of clarity within and break from the habit of instant gratification.

Removing these five substances will create space to observe a deeper connection to the role food plays in our lives and how it affects us on deeper levels. We give ourselves the opportunity to break from artificial stimulants and depressants and return to the natural rhythm and flow of the body thereby ending the vicious cycle of self- indulgence followed by self-flagellation.

Keep in mind that there are many ways to practice self-restraints according to our Buddhist teachings.

If you were unable to join our group this round, there are some other behaviors that you can observe and try to abstain from.

Gossip

Judging yourself and others

Over-scheduling yourself

Reacting to every feeling that you have or to the actions of others

Your day one could be anything that you want to observe and improve within your own life. And yoga reminds us that day one can start at any moment of any day. With each new breath that you draw into your body, you can begin again.

How will you use this precious gift of today to improve yourself and thereby elevating the entire universe?

March 2019 Pose of the Month: Grasshopper

Happy March and Happy almost Spring! But we are here in the Midwest, so most likely there’s snow on the ground right now as you are reading this. 🤣

Our March 2019 pose of the month is Grasshopper pose! Here you can see this lovely arm balance in various expressions.

And here are five simple (not easy) steps to nail it, young grasshopper. < see what I just did?

1. Start out in Chair Pose, Utkatasana. Bring your feet together, zipper from your ankles all the way to your inner thighs as you bend your knees. Press weight towards your heels and lift your belly off of your lap.

2. Figure four pose. Shift weight to your right foot, lift your left knee towards your chest and place your left heel on top of your right thigh externally rotating left hip while flexing left toes towards left knee.

3. Prayer twist. Draw your palms together at heart center, rotate from your left obliques and twist to the right. Place your left elbow into the middle of your left foot, using your elbow as leverage to twist more deeply.

4. Lower to the ground. Keeping your deep twist, lower both of your palms to the right side of the mat bringing them down on the floor. Your left hip will rotate up so that your left knee is pointing towards the ceiling.

5. Fly. Find Chaturanga arms and slowly start to tip your weight into your hands. Engage your shoulders by pressing through your knuckles into the mat. As your weight transitions to your hands, lift your right foot off of the mat, eventually straightening your right leg and pressing through your right heel. Press your left foot into your left tricep for more engagement.

Mindful Monday: Success is an Iceberg

Good morning, successful, mindful ones!

It’s happened to all of us. We go to a yoga class, and there’s a yogi who flows from pose to pose with effortless grace. He practically levitates or she appears to have no bones!

Success is an iceberg. When we look at others (and when others look at us), we are only seeing a very limited representation of the complete picture.

It’s easy for us to think, “oh he must’ve been a gymnast” or “she was clearly a dancer before.”

What we see is a beautiful but tiny snapshot of their practice.

Well, in yoga (and life) things are not what they seem to be. What you see is just the tip of the iceberg.

The truth is sometimes a little bit darker and uglier than most of us think. To achieve excellence or success, years of struggle and sacrifice are precursors.

The “successful” ones know what hard work and dedication are, and most of them had many moments of desperation and failure.

They’ve fallen out of poses innumerable times and will continue to do so. What brought them to their mat likely may have been trauma or depression or unhappiness.

Don’t get fooled by the tip of the iceberg, people! It’s just that. Like many things in life, what you see (what’s visible) is not always, and even in most of the cases, what it actually is.

So whether it’s your yoga practice or any other aspects of your life, look at what’s below the water on the picture; do all of these things, and I guarantee you will achieve success.

Remember, it won’t get any easier, you’ll just get better!

Make it a great week friends!

Mindful Monday: Cultivating Equanimity

Good morning, mindful ones!

We are quite familiar with the concept of mindfulness by now, right?

The dictionary defines mindfulness as:

1 the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2 a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

When we practice mindfulness, we are re-wiring our brains to seek a state of calmness and presence rather than be deeply affected by external circumstances.

Equanimity is defined as:

1 mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

2 even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral)

While the two practices are strongly intertwined, there are certainly distinctions to be made.

Mindfulness corresponds to our higher-level awareness of present-moment sensory, affective, and cognitive experiences. In other words, mindfulness can be described as the ability or process of maintaining an object of attention in working memory, whether this object corresponds to an external sensory stimulus, an internal sensation from inside the body, a chain of rambling thoughts going through the mind, or even a memory from the past.

In the yogic tradition, the term equanimity (or upeksha in Sanskrit) means leading a balanced life, removing intolerance and caring for all equally.

Upeksha teaches the practice of non-attachment, such an important element in our yoga practice both on and off the mat.

Equanimity means staying so calm within oneself that life is experienced fully without judgment or attachment. As life throws us its ups and downs, we are able to experience appropriate emotions and reactions without attaching to them, reacting to them and without judgment.

I always love to use the example of road rage, mainly because I struggle with it quite frequently!

Imagine that you are leaving a yoga class (preferably one of mine 😊), and you are feeling so calm and open and centered and happy! As you are driving home peacefully, with the gentle flow of traffic, some car speeds up, cuts in front of you and slows down quickly. Your reaction is immediate and physical. Your amygdala is stimulated in your brain triggering your fight-or-flight response. Your heart starts pounding, your brain becomes hyper alert and focused, adrenaline and cortisol is dumped into your bloodstream. You quickly slam your brakes on gripping the steering wheel.

Equanimity is how quickly you can bounce back from that jolting experience. How quickly you return to your equanimous mental and physical state.

Equanimity is not attaching or judging what just happened, but accepting that it happened. Allowing the surge of anger and panic to slowly dissipate without judging or blaming the other driver. Without dwelling on what just happened. How rapidly can you return to the cultivation of your equanimous mind?

This week, think of everything that happens as a test of your equanimity. As you’re moving peacefully through your day, how quickly will you bounce back from that person slamming their mat down next to you in as you are meditating before class or your loud obnoxious co-worker chewing or speaking loudly? Can you observe those around you speaking negative thoughts, venting and gossiping without judging their behavior and most importantly without being drawn into their negativity?

Life gives us so many opportunities to grow and transform. Remember every moment every experience is the teacher.

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

Mindful Monday: Mindful and Conscious Living

Good morning, my beautiful, dearest mindful ones.

Happy Monday!

How you spend your days is ultimately how you spend your LIFE.

You have been given a precious, priceless gift today: this day.

It cannot be purchased.

Or inherited.

Or borrowed from tomorrow.

It cannot be gifted from a loved one.

It is a precious and finite commodity.

1,440 minutes

86,400 seconds

During this time, experts estimate you’ll think between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts.

That’s between 35 to 50 thoughts each minute.

And when unchecked, 98% are the same thoughts that you had yesterday and are predominantly negative.

With all of these thoughts swirling around in our heads, it’s no wonder that we constantly feel disconnected, anxious, stressed, annoyed and overwhelmed.

This is why yoga and meditation are so critical to not only physical but also our mental health and well-being. Through these practices for short periods of time throughout the day, the mind becomes more calm and serene. When we are thinking less, our awareness of the present moment is sharpened and focused. We are more conscious of breathing. Or physical senses are heightened. We are able to truly connect with one another.

Your conditioned, repetitive thoughts have created your current reality. It’s time to raise your vibration!

Don’t allow your mind to wander undisciplined and randomly. Focus on your breath and on your five senses. Train yourself to be grounded in reality and in the present.

Watch your habits! If you have time to bitch about how cold it is, peruse social media mindlessly, binge watch Netflix, or sit at a bar for an entire afternoon; you have time to meditate, journal, practice yoga and plan nutritious meals for yourself!

Everything is a CHOICE. Being mindless and going through life on auto-pilot is a choice!

Here are some quick and easy choices that we can all make together to raise our vibrations and frequencies.

Drink lots of water

Sweat everyday

Fuel your body with foods that support your body’s natural ability to detox and de-stress

Get enough sleep

Avoid loud, obnoxious people and situations

Speak less, listen more

Don’t interrupt or talk over people when they’re talking to you

Remember that you can learn something from everyone, even if it’s just patience

Be conscious of every thought and every word that you speak

Harness your energy by thinking and speaking much less than you normally do

Spend time in silence and solitude each day

Read more, Watch TV less

Travel!

Take a different route to work

Get upside down every day!

Celebrate the simple things

Declutter your home and your heart

Hey friends, let me know if you have other mindfulness practices that you’d like to share!

Have a mindful week!

February 2019 Pose of the Month: Backbends!

February is the time for ❤️ love. All kinds of love! But personally I’m celebrating sisterly love this month!

And YOU, my lovely friend, get a bonus pose of the month!

Pose One: Urdhva Dhanurasana or Upward Facing Bow (Wheel) Pose:

Step 1

Lie supine on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and spread your palms on the floor beside your head, forearms relatively perpendicular to the floor, fingers pointing toward your shoulders.

Step 2

Pressing your inner feet actively into the floor, exhale and push your tailbone up toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) your buttocks, and lift your buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths. Then firmly press the inner hands into the floor and your shoulder blades against your back and lift up onto the crown of your head. Keep your arms parallel. Take 2 or 3 breaths.

Step 3

Press your feet and hands into the floor, tailbone and shoulder blades against your back, and with an exhalation, lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms. Turn the upper thighs slightly inward and firm the outer thighs. Narrow the hip points and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees, lifting the pubis toward the navel.

Step 4

Turn your upper arms outward but keep the weight on the bases of the index fingers. Spread your shoulder blades across your back and let your head hang, or lift it slightly to look down at the floor.

Step 5

Stay in the pose anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds or more, breathing easily. Repeat anywhere from 3 to 10 times.

Pose Two: Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose

Step 1

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.

Step 2

Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the floor.

Step 3

On an inhalation, begin to straighten your arms to lift your chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and lift your pubis toward your navel. Narrow your hip points. Firm but don’t harden the buttocks.

Step 4

Firm your shoulder blades against your back, puffing your side ribs forward. Lift through the top of your sternum but avoid pushing your front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.

Step 5

Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation. Option to bend your knees and lift your chest hire.

Mindful Monday: Yoga Cure and Endure

Good morning, mindful ones and happy snowy Monday!

Guess what? It’s really, really cold outside and it’s snowing like crazy. And it’s predicted the temperature will continue to drop this week.

That is our current reality.

What was your initial thought and reaction when you first heard about the cold weather continuing? When the cold wind penetrates through your many layers? When you have to walk so cautiously on the slippery surfaces? When the person driving in front of you is moving at a snails’s pace? Did you have to rearrange your entire work day or modify your schedule because your kids don’t have school today?

Isn’t it fascinating how we initially react when we are inconvenienced? We are outraged! Annoyed! Irritated! Impatient! Maybe even pissed off!! Or perhaps you felt victimized? Why did this happen to me? I can’t miss another day of work! I had an important meeting today. Why did the snow plows hit every street but mine? I’m gonna be stuck at home with my kids who are driving me nuts! Of course if you’re one of the kids home from school today, that’s a totally different outlook!

And once we have these thoughts and reactions, of course we articulate them! Maybe you called your girl friend or coworker to complain. A good old-fashioned social media rant. A text to your spouse or partner. Or even a group chat to your entire crew.

Of course, it’s always healthy to vent and blow off a little steam. But it’s rarely productive.

I’m certainly not here to criticize or judge whatever your reaction was! But I do offer you the perspective that how we react to things in life give us such a deep insight into how we live our lives.

How you do anything is how you do everything!

It’s in the small details of our lives that we truly understand ourselves and our mindsets.

Through my intimate practice of yoga, I continue to painstakingly learn that each and every action I take, word I speak and decision I make contributes to the creation of the life I choose to live. It all matters!

Most of our reactions and thoughts are pre-programs. Based on past experiences, observations of our parents and other influential people, we learn behaviors. We go on auto- pilot and mindlessly react. So many of the words we speak to others are also social conditionings. Pleasantries and polite exchanges. Or cultural behaviors: sometimes we get around certain groups of people and it automatically turns into negative, mindless gossip.

I always notice that what people say about the weather gives me such insight into their world viewpoint. Weather is such a great baseline, because it’s something that’s completely out of one’s control.

It seems so futile to me to bitch and moan about something that is completely outside of one’s control (most of life is as well!) Yes, it’s cold outside. I am also aware of that. But I don’t want to spend the next five minutes complaining about something that is not even unexpected since we live in the Midwest.

Yoga teaches us to endure what cannot be cured: as powerfully as we pray, meditate, and all agree that we wish it was warmer, we have zero influence over the temperature.

Yoga teaches us to cure what cannot be endured: if we cannot affect the temperature or the snowfall, we can certainly shift our attitude and approach towards it.

My friend who lives in Hawaii and my best friend who lives in Charlotte (both originally from DuPage County) both called me to apologize that it’s so cold here! Lol. They truly felt so bad for me as they enjoyed 78 degrees and 55 degrees respectively. Personally, I find this weather to be so magical and beautiful! It’s nothing short of a winter wonderland.

The beauty of yoga is not in one’s ability to master a pose – the true beauty is in raising one’s awareness of the beauty and wonder that surround us on a daily basis.

Have a white and wonderful wintry Monday, friends!