intention

Mindful Monday: More Perspective

Good morning beautiful mindful socially distanced ones!

We are starting week five of our transition to online practicing! It just illustrates that time and life continue to move forward. That’s happening. But we get to control how we think and process all that is happening around us and for us. Yes for us, not to us.

Many of us observe Easter as a religious holiday; others may approach it as more of a cultural experience for our kids. Either way, it was certainly an entire shift. Much like almost everything that’s unfolded over the past several weeks.

Through our yoga practice we learn to observe the inner dialogue and the inner self in relation to external circumstances.

Never before in history have we as an entire species had this opportunity for introspection and healing.

However we have experienced these new circumstances tell us so much about what’s going on internally. The quarantine and social distancing are the stimuli to surface our inner mechanisms of coping and to show us where we have been ‘stuck.’

Remember, dear soul, that it is not circumstances that cause stress, anxiety, fear, resistance, compassion, love, acceptance and gratitude. These qualities exist within each of us. It is how we choose to think about a situation that creates an emotional reaction.

One exactly identical situation will be processed differently by people based on their vibrational level.

Say you are driving in traffic and someone cuts you off. Your reaction to that situation will vary based on your current mood or vibrational energy.

One vibrating from fear or shame may immediately blame himself or herself for driving too slowly and being in the way. Someone in an angry or egoic space will flash with anger and self-righteousness. Someone in a stable space of courage and acceptance will acknowledge that this is a good example of the need for driving defensively. One in an elevated state of love, gratitude and hope will think this person needs to be somewhere important; I’ll create space for him and pray he gets where he needs to be safely.

And this is how it is with life. Like the rude driver, we cannot control much of external circumstances. The work and effort is internal: how do I want to feel? Do I want to feel happy and safe? Then let me seek out those thoughts and circumstances that allow me to feel this way.

Let me look around at all of the beauty: every positive social media post; every Zoom yoga class; every face mask donated. And look within yourself: how strong you are; how authentic you are; how kind and compassionate to yourself and to others you are learning to be.

And remember, your Yoga By Degrees teachers and community are HERE for you every day with classes, giggles, nuggets of wisdom and an overwhelming realization that we are all in this together. We are ONE!!!

Click HERE from your computer or open your YBD or Mindbody App for our Virtual Class Schedule!

We are so grateful for this community! And overwhelmed with your generosity that allows us to continue to teach on this new platform!

Mindful Monday: Vijnanamaya Kosha

Good morning and happy Monday dearest mindful ones.

We are definitely in a situation right now. Remember that calm minds will always prevail! And the universe is always working directly on our behalf, but we may not always see the bigger picture immediately.

How interesting that the next kosha in our study is about the intellect and discernment part of our mind!

The fourth of the koshas is Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means knowing. It is the sheath of wisdom that is underneath the processing, thinking, reactionary aspects of the mind or the Manomaya kosha, our third kosha.

Vijnanamaya is pure awareness. It encompasses intuition and intellect. It is that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. It serves as an impartial witness.

Have you ever experienced a moment in your yoga practice where you are much less distracted by random thoughts or occurrences and much less caught up in the anticipation of the next posture?

From this deeper practice, you find that you are more able to feel the pose. You know what is happening deeply within your body and your mind as you settle into the posture, noticing the subtle nuances. This awareness is achieved when vijnanamaya kosha is properly developed and activated.

As we discussed last week, the manomaya kosha can be either useful or detrimental, depending on how we train the mind. We use our yoga practice to become more aware of the auto pilot responses and knee-jerk reactions and judgments.

Vijnanamaya builds on the foundation of the previous, outer sheath—manomaya kosha. Manomaya lays the groundwork for reaching vijnanamaya. We must first navigate the seas of our turbulent and busy minds before we are able to rise above the waves of thoughts that pull us away from our center. With this practice, we develop a steady mind and are able to view ourselves from a distance. Vijnanamaya allows us to step back from our current situation and view it from a better perspective. This is where insight comes from.

The lessons on our mats can always be applied off of our mats! In fact that is truly the point of practice. We can apply this lesson to our current situation. How easy it is to react to all of the fear and uncertainty around us!

Vijnanamaya navigates through those thoughts and finds an island of stillness where we sit in our hearts and observe. From this vantage point, we clearly see how temporary the waves are.

So over the uncertainty of the next couple of weeks, observe your mind and notice when you let it take over with fear

Yogis: have a great week! Use this involuntary vacation as a time to study the deeper limbs of your yoga practice. To allow yourself to rest, relax and reset. What a gift of extra time we have to work on all of our organization and cleaning and purging projects that we’ve been putting off!

Make it a great week of self-love and self-care, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Manomaya Kosha

Good morning and happy Monday, Mindful ones!

Today we are studying our third kosha: manomaya kosha.

To quickly review, the first kosha -Annamaya – is the outermost sheath, literally the physical body comprised of muscles and bones. The second kosha -Pranamaya -is the energetic layer.

The next of the koshas is Manamaya kosha. This sheath can be described as the mental layer. It is the connection point of the first two and last two koshas.

Manomaya encompasses the processing of thoughts and emotions. It involves the functions of the mind that relate to everyday living and our individual interpretation of life, our physical senses. The manomaya kosha can be either useful or detrimental, depending on how we train the mind. We use our yoga practice to become more aware of the auto pilot responses and knee-jerk reactions and judgments.


During your practice, your mind will come up with all sorts of thoughts about your practice—your ability, your strength, your balance, what your pose looks like. It will also judge the postures of other people. It will comment on the teacher or the teaching. You will make assumptions, you will judge, and at times you may be overcome with emotion. Getting caught up the mind’s constant commentary is a sure way to end up frustrated or unhappy!

But it is all part of the process. This is how the mind works.
Now we can see how important the concentration we place on the breath, postures, and gazing point during yoga all help to train the mind to stay present. Instead of being pulled into the stories we tell ourselves about our experiences, by keeping the attention on the breath, the asana, and the gaze, we become more able to simply notice the commentary as it arises, and to let it fall away as we remain steady.

The next time you find yourself getting caught up in the stories you tell yourself, notice that you’ve done so, and bring your attention back to the breath. This constant return of focus to the breath takes work, but eventually it will become an inherent practice that allows us to be more of a witness to our mind rather than held in the grips of our crazy, irrational thoughts.


If you have ever used your breath to help you calm your mind from an overwhelming experience or difficult emotion (on or off the mat), you have felt the two aspects of manomaya kosha.

The ability to rise out of thought patterns that do not serve us is perhaps the most valuable aspect of this practice we call yoga. The mind is a powerful force, and we have the ability to train the mind as a way to find ease in life. This is the potential of manomaya kosha.

Have a great week, yogis! See you on your mats!

Mindful Monday: Meditation

Happy Monday, dearest mindful ones!

This week’s topic is one near and dear to my heart: meditation.

Did you know that the reason we practice our physical poses is to prepare mind and body to sit easily in meditation?

Yes! So interesting, right? Our asanas allow us to develop more awareness of reality; they discipline our mind and body for stillness; we learn not to react to sensations in the body; we learn to calm mind and body when the urge to run away is overpowering; we become mindful of how our thoughts can be mastered.

Physically, asanas prepare the body, especially hips and spine, to endure staying seated and upright without distractions from physical discomfort. Poses also identify and flush out energetic and muscular stress, tension and resistance. The physical practice paves the way for pranyama, breath awareness, which deepens the focus and slows the mind.

So the ideal opportunity to meditate is directly following asana and pranayama practice.

So what is meditation, exactly? Meditation is a habitual practice of training your mind to focus, redirect and eventually to still your thoughts altogether. Like all things worthwhile in life: it is hard work and it requires discipline and accountability.

“But I don’t have time!” This is not even an original excuse. We make time in our lives for things we prioritize. Wake up five minutes earlier. Cut into your social media time. Take just five minutes at the end of your day.

There are numerous studies and entire books, blogs and documentaries devoted to all of the benefits of a meditation practice. Here are some of the quick and dirty major benefits:

1. Stress release

2. Anxiety reduction

3. Increases focus

4. Decreases blood pressure

5. Promotes better sleep

Just like any new habit/discipline, start out slow and steady!

1. Try to get to yoga class a little early so you can sit and practice mindfulness! You’ll notice a definite shift in your vinyasa practice. This is exactly why we hold quiet space before and after classes.

2. Stay just a few minutes after class to sit quietly. If you’re on a tight timeline, forgo savasana for a seated meditation.

3. Wake up five minutes early and just sit (or lie in bed!) and notice sensations in your body and begin your day with a positive and clear mindset.

4. Take a few minutes right before bed to practice mindfulness. You can sit and observe or you can even do legs up the wall as you release your day and prepare for deep, healing sleep!

5. You can even practice mindfulness when you’re standing in line or sitting in traffic in your car! Or performing daily rituals and repetitive, habitual tasks, e.g.: vacuuming, doing dishes, cleaning bathtub.

Set yourself up for success. Have some short term goals and discipline yourself to stick to them! Not only will you get all the benefits of mindfulness practice, but you’ll get a boost to your self-esteem knowing you are supporting the development of your best and highest self.

Have a great, mindful week, dearest ones! I’d love to hear how your mindfulness practice is developing!

Mindful Monday: Ajna Chakra

The Ajna Chakra or the Third Eye chakra is associated with the LIGHT element and the color INDIGO.

Mantra: “I see” or “Aum/Om”

The Ajna is located on the forehead between the eyebrows, just above and between the eye line.

It governs your vision, intuition, illumination, psychic abilities, perception of subtle dimensions and movements of energy, connection to insight, wisdom, inspiration and creativity.

When your Ajna chakra is open and balanced, you clearly see reality without the filters of your ego, expectations, past experiences and other social programming. The gift of your Ajna chakra is the ability to be mindful and live in the present moment. Your third eye chakra is the center of your intuition and wisdom, allowing you to open your mind to deeper understandings and expand your intuition.

When it is blocked, you may feel stuck in the daily grind without being able to look beyond your problems and set a guiding vision for yourself and have a lack of clarity.

When it is overstimulated and without support from the rest of the chakra system, you may indulge in fantasies that appear more real than reality, and experience psychic fantasies and other illusions.

To balance this chakra, try forward folds, shoulder stand and balasana, childs’ pose.

See clearly, my dear yogis!

Mindful Monday: Samadhi

Good morning and happy Monday! We begin the very last month of this decade! Time keeps marching along, doesn’t it?

Last week we covered the difference between Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).

Dharana sets the stage for Samadhi, which means harmony, “to bring together, to merge.”  

These final three limbs are generally studied together: dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These final three are at the most sublime and esoteric level of our study of yoga.

In Samadhi, subject and object merge as one. This eighth and final stage of yoga brings on super conscious awareness. One loses a sense of “I” and enters this Samadhi state where the meditator, the process of meditation and the object of meditation becomes one.

Samadhi is actually a series of states and experiences. Yoga Sutras describes various types of samadhis. One has to go through the different types of this Samadhi experience. Finally the practitioner reaches the highest stage of illumination called ‘Dharma Megha Samadhi’, which liberates the practitioner from all limitations of body and mind.

This identity without differences is a liberated soul that enjoys pure awareness. The mind and the intellect have stopped and there is only the experience of truth and unutterable joy. Which is the ultimate aim of our yoga practice.

Dear friends, wishing you a lovely week filled with mindfulness and increased awareness of all things.

Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Dhyana

Good morning, mindful ones! It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for!

Let’s move onward in our study of the eight limbs of yoga.

Last week, we covered dharana, our sixth limb of yoga. Dharana sets the stage for dhyana, the perfect contemplation of meditation.

Dhyana is total absorption into the object being focused on. This uninterrupted flow of concentration creates devotion. Dhyana distinctly differs from the one-pointed concentration of dharana in that it is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. In this quiet stillness the brain produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. In dhyana we dissolve separateness and experience the deep river of peace.

As you cultivate a consistent meditation practice, you will derive both mental and physical benefits in your life. Modern science and medicine are just now measuring the benefits of this ancient practice to explain how the body physiologically changes and how each of the trillions of body cells are charged with more prana (energy). Increased life force or prana results in joy, peace, and enthusiasm. Below I’ve listed a small percentage of the vast  benefits of mediation.

Physical Benefits

▪ Lowers high blood pressure

▪ Reduces anxiety

▪ Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems

▪ Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior

▪ Improves the immune system

▪ Increases energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy

▪ Can assist with weight loss and other physical goals

▪ Improved athletic performance

▪ Can provide significant relief from asthma and allergies

Mental Benefits of Meditation

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into a relaxed state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation:

▪ Emotional stability improves

▪ Creativity increases

▪ Happiness increases

▪ Intuition develops

▪ Increase in mental clarity

▪ Sharpens the mind by increasing focus

▪ Slows aging of your mind

▪ Can help with improving relationships

How do you tell the difference between concentration and meditation? If there is awareness of distraction, you are concentrating and not meditating. The calm achieved in meditation spills over into all aspects of your life. Try practicing meditation during a hectic day at work, shopping for groceries, attempting to return/exchange holiday gifts, or even waiting in a busy queue of traffic!

Start small; set your timer for five minutes each day and build from there. Imagine yourself at this time next year after a full year of meditating! You are 100 percent pure potential, my friend! Let’s talk more next year… On behalf of all of us at YBD, wishing you and your family a safe, healthy and prosperous new year filled with love, happiness, success,  yoga and meditation!

Mindful Monday: Pratyahara

Happy Mindful, snowy Monday, darling ones!

We’ve swiftly arrived at our fifth yogic limb: pratyahara.

Our conscious breathing -pranayama- sets the stage for Pratayhara, where we transcend sensory stimulation and draw focus inward. We stay fully aware of the five senses, but we observe objectively and therefore the mind can rest. We stop living off the things that stimulate; we dispassionately observe the cycle of stimulation and reaction and are no longer a slave to the senses. No longer functioning in their usual manner, the senses become extraordinarily sharp.

This is a stage of yoga practice just beyond the physical where internal yoga practice begins.  Practicing pratyahara takes place when your individual consciousness is turned inward so you can master the flow of prana, or energy, in your body.  Specifically, pratyahara is the withdrawing yourself away from anything unwholesome, excessive, or distracting for the mind. 

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the ability to withdraw into seclusion in the mountains to meditate without distractions. It is so much easier to harmonize with prana when you can renounce the distractions of the world to focus on controlling the senses!

However, in our reality, we have temptations of money, sex, fame, gossip, overindulgence in food, shopping, alcohol, etc. If you can overcome the temptations here and now then you have really mastered your senses.

Concentration, in the yoga room or the boardroom, begins as a battle with the distracting senses. In mastering pratyahara, you no longer unnecessarily respond to the itch on your nose or hear the baby crying in the restaurant. You are able to fix your focus on your main objective.

According to Patanjali, the eight limbs work together: The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of building the foundation for  a spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain. The last three, which we will cover in subsequent posts,  are concerned with reconditioning the mind.

So it becomes clearer that yoga is nothing more than a process which enables us to stop and look at the habits of our own minds; only in this way can we understand the nature of happiness and unhappiness, and thus transcend them both.

Yoga provides an opportunity to ultimately attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with Spirit.

Have a great week, friends!!!

Mindful Monday: Pranayama

Happy Mindful Monday, YBD friends! November has arrived! As we are slowly winding down this decade, it’s a great time to remember to mindfully BREATHE!

We’ve begun a deeper look into Ashtanga or the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga as expressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the first three limbs: the Yamas or the guidelines for social behavior, the Niyamas which refer to how we discipline ourselves, and the Asanas or the yoga poses that we practice together at YBD.

This brings us to Pranayama, the fourth limb, which means breath restraint. The word prana means “life energy” or “life force,” which is the very essence that keeps us alive. And yama means “restraint,” as we discussed in a previous post in more detail. Our breath literally is our life energy, as we animate the mind and body with it.

According to Patanajali, the goal of pranayama is to regulate the breath to make it slow and subtle to facilitate the steady flow of energy throughout the body. It is believed that through control of the breath, life can be prolonged.

Aside from that, breathing techniques and breath control can also be employed to help us to deepen our physical poses as well as calm us down and keep us centered during chaotic, busy or stressful situations. This is something I’m sure we can all use this holiday season!

We’re halfway through our preliminary study of the eight limbs of our yoga practice. The first four limbs refer to the external practice of yoga. Next week, we’ll discuss the internal yoga practice and the remaining four limbs.

Have a great week, yogis! BREATHE. Sweat. Smile!

 

 

Mindful Monday: the Journey

Getting upside down at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones!!!

It was Family Day at Vanderbilt this past weekend – the first time I’ve seen my baby boy since we said our farewells outside of Murray Hall on Sunday, August 18th.

We had a blast this weekend! Nashville is a thriving and beautiful city with so much to offer. It is overflowing with entertainment, amazing food and lovely people.

And to see my son in his beautiful new life and to hear him say that he made the right choice for himself is an indescribable medley of emotions: pure joy, happiness, pride, gratitude and comfort. He compared Vandy to the other top 15 schools he was accepted to, and said that Vandy students are ranked as among the happiest in the nation!

And I have to remind myself that the road to get here was certainly not a smoothly paved, perfectly straight path. It was far from that!

But the journey was worth it. A billion times over.

And those times where we struggled (he’s more stubborn than me!!) are now funny stories. And the big, significant milestone moments are precious memories that warm the heart.

And the every day grind times are the memories most cherished. The mundane, every day stuff that at the time felt routine and tedious and sometimes boring and annoying are what I miss the most during the course of my day.

But I certainly don’t dwell on that! I shift my focus and awareness to Julian, and we are so excited to see the amazing things unfolding in this young man’s future.

After only a month, he seems taller and he’s definitely filling out his frame with wider shoulders and more meat on his bones! 🤣😍

And watching his journey is a constant reminder to me to stay grounded in the present. To anchor my awareness to right now. And that it’s OK to feel whatever it is I’m feeling in each moment, as long as it’s honest and authentic.

Family day was experienced with my parents and my ex-husband. Just like the 18 year journey to get Julian settled into “the Harvard of the South” was rocky and less than smooth; this weekend also had its ups and downs. Lol.

The majority of ups! But a few instances where we were annoyed with one another. Lol. That’s called family living or just life itself!

The trick is to anchor down (<<< see what I did there?) into the present and love and accept every single moment. Even when you want to strangle someone. Or wrap them in your arms and never let go. It’s all good stuff. All of it!

Have a great week, my lovely friends! Embrace all of it!

Make it the best week ever!