manifestation

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

Happy Monday, mindful ones. Well Chicago is definitely living up to its name. Wow! That brisk wind blasting my face this morning is exhilarating. Like a double shot of espresso!

It’s getting colder and darker, and I keep reminding myself that it’s OK. In fact, it’s necessary. So I really try to catch myself before I go on auto pilot and just start complaining about it. Practicing mindfulness with my thoughts and my words is a lifelong practice.

I’m really excited to begin preparations for Yoga by Degrees’ winter solstice celebration. We will observe this auspicious time of year by completing a yoga mala – 108 sun salutations!

According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, each vinyasa (sun salutation) is like a bead to be counted and each asana (pose) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. The garland of yoga adorns us with peace, health, knowledge and self-awareness

While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a practice that is super energizing. Sun salutations are the perfect way to lengthen, strengthen and flex the main muscles of the body while distributing prana throughout your whole system. Anyone can complete a yoga mala, regardless of physical limitations. Some will modify and some students actually intensify the practice!

When you begin your YBD classes with a handful of sun salutes, you right away feel your heart rate increasing, right? Sun salutes improve circulation, purify your blood and strengthen your physical body. Your lungs, digestive system, as well as your muscles and joints all benefit from this ancient practice. The more you do, the more vital prana circulation is increased, removing energy blockages and unlocking pathways for more energy to flow through you. The natural high you experience from the yoga mala is indescribable.

Our practice together will focus on the shortest day of the year as a turning point – emerging from a place of darkness to a place of light mentally, physically and even emotionally.

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

• Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles through alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs.

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

• Rids body of enormous quantity of carbon dioxide & other toxic gases.

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

• Normalizes the activity of the endocrine glands – especially the thyroid gland.

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at your studio today! I guarantee you will not regret honoring the changing of the season in this way. Plus it’ll be a great way to blow off some pent up holiday stress and pressure!

Have a great week, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

We have hit the jackpot with all of this bonus sunny, warm weather lately! How on earth is it even December?!

Of course, all of the homes adorned with Christmas decorations, a digital overload from advertisers, busy stores and the heavy mall traffic ground us firmly back into the season. Am I right?

And the shorter days and looooonger nights remind us we are smack dab in the middle of that time of year where we continue moving towards darkness.

What are your thoughts and feelings when you think of darkness? Sometimes I think it gets a bum rap.

We become so obsessed with lightness that we can easily overlook the depth and beauty of darkness. Yet we cannot have one without the other!

Popular culture overemphasizes reaching for the light: positivity and affirmations are ubiquitous. And obviously that’s all good! But learning to connect to our “dark side” is essential for a full, rich and complete Life experience.

Our yoga practice is a dance between light and darkness. We arrive on our mats on a quest toward lightness and moksha, and along the way we encounter and get acquainted with our own darkness.

Our darkness or shadow selves encompasses the parts of us we avoid, repress and even suppress: the not so pretty stuff; painful and messy stuff; shame; unhealed wounds; raw and disowned fragments of ourselves.

It’s very understandable that instinctually we avoid the dark aspects of ourselves. But when we do this, our chances for true happiness and joy are in serious jeopardy.

What? Why?!?

Well…. because light and dark are both sides of the same coin. The only exist in relationship to one another. So as you embrace the dark side of yourself, you are paradoxically supporting the lightest and brightest and most authentic you.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, depressed, jealous, uncomfortable and confused or even to be unclear about what you’re feeling! But whatever it is, allow yourself to feel it and experience it. Sharpen your awareness. Move boldly to the depth of these dark feelings. Once you work through them, you are moving directly back towards the light.

See darkness isn’t so bad after all! Yoga teaches us to embrace the full spectrum: light and dark, expansion and contraction, ease and effort.

Trust your own complexity. Embrace your shadows. Say yes please and thank you to all of life’s experiences. Especially the challenging ones! Graditude for the opportunity to grow and transform.

I will be leading a very special practice where we will explore darkness through a moving meditation on Saturday, December 23 at 2:30 pm at our Western Springs location. Please talk to any of our locations for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week, beautiful ones!

Mindful Monday: Know Your Mind

Hello Dear Ones!

Another Monday has arrived. A beautiful fresh clean slate.

Remember that your mind doesn’t control you; you control your mind!

So fill your thoughts with abundance, acceptance, love, happiness, joy, prosperity. Fill your heart with compassion, laughter, tolerance.

Look for the goodness in every single person you meet. Even if you may need to look really, really long and hard.

Happiness is a choice. Entirely 100% up to you and you alone.

Through mindfulness practices like yoga, we begin to ascertain the deeply seeded thought patterns and reactions we’ve supplanted into our own minds. How easy it is to go on auto pilot and just react to situations that appear to be similar to those we’ve experienced in the past.

These samskaras become so deeply embedded into our subconscious that we are unaware of its effects on our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

We become trapped in this karmic wheel which keeps spinning around and around as we continue to react again and again.

These patterns are deeply rooted into our psyche. It takes deep awareness and dedication to acknowledge and uproot the samskaras.

To truly know your mind, you must find mental stillness in order to observe. From this place of observation and non-judgment, slowly one moment at a time our samskaras will reveal themselves.

Your yoga practice is such an amazing place to explore and familiarize.

Practicing yoga at least three times a week will have a profound effect in your life physically, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically.

Let’s commit to our mats during this crazy stressful and awesome holiday season.

This week Will be only as awesome as you decide to make it.

So much gratitude for you! Namaste.

Mindful Monday: Thanks

Happy chilly Monday dearest loveliest ones!

How on earth is it the week of Thanksgiving is my question. 2017 has flown on wings it seems.

Here we officially kick-off the season where yoga pants come in really handy for the serious meals heading our way! I’m so darn thankful for yoga pants.

Through yoga, we know that being grateful is a daily practice. We train our minds to reframe the tendency to focus from lacking to abundance. It starts to become a habit.

And this single daily habit has the power to vastly transform your life. The practice of gratitude makes everything Whole and complete and perfect. Gradually we begin to see and understand that what we have and who we are is enough.

It always has been. We just couldn’t see it because our lens was clouded with tendencies to compare ourselves to others; to crave what we don’t have; this constant compulsion to upgrade.

Or that thing we do where we project future happiness and contentment based on a specific set of circumstances.

All of it is really pretty silly when we stop and observe ourselves. This constant spinning and circumventing and projecting and dreaming and regretting and blaming and being down on ourselves. On and on and on our monkey minds whirl.

Then we pause, unroll our mats and climb on. And all of that mental activity is paused. And we take a deep breath and let it go. And we do that again and again and again. And we fill our minds up with the sound and sensation and miracle of our breath.

And there it is. Sitting quietly. Waiting for us. Whatever the heck it was we were spinning around frantically searching for. In the stillness and the silence of our minds, we can finally hear the quiet almost inaudible whisper of our hearts.

Sigh. How lovely is it to feel the strength and flexibility of our own bodies? How lucky are we that we woke up this morning and have the opportunity to read this blog? There’s food in our refrigerator that’s powered by electricity. We have warm clothes to protect us from the harsh wind. We actually have an overabundance of anything that we need. We have the luxury to give away our excess to those less fortunate. This list continues endlessly.

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Fill your heart to overflowing with gratitude. And from this space, devote yourself to service. It can be anything! Just make someone around you smile. Go out of your way to help someone who can never repay you. Be kind and tolerant even when you are irritated. I know you, my dearest sweetest Yogi friend, already do so much to uplift those around you!

When we talk about service to others, we are talking about the ultimate high in terms of happiness. Nothing is more gratifying and soul feeding than that.

For the past 30 years, my family and I have served meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. Honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else on that day. Please contact me if you’re interested in this service opportunity. Kids love it!

And the bonus for all of us? Each of our studios will offer yoga classes on Thanksgiving day. Check the schedule! Morning classes, all formats. Schedules will vary by studio.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mindful Monday: Just Breathe

Good morning, dearest ones!

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

If you’re running late, just breathe

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

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

If you catch every single red light, just breathe

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

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

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

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

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

I always count you among my many many blessings.

Make it a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Go With the Flow 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do I even have to mention teenage rebelliousness here?

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

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

And this is just the little stuff, right? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindful Monday: Turn Yourself Upside Down 

Happy Monday, friends! Well — it’s getting real! Is it time to bust out our winter finery? Hats, gloves, scarves, winter coats? Yes. Yes, it is. 

As we are transitioning to colder weather and less daylight, it’s natural for our bodies to start to slow down. It’s a time for warmth and reflection as we wind down the year and prepare for the upcoming holiday season. 

With this natural tendency to hibernate, it’s so important to be mindful of our mental and emotional states. Many of us are susceptible to feeling the “blues” during this cold, darker season. 

Now more than ever a consistent yoga practice is crucial in keeping mind and body supple, happy and healthy.  A great pick me up is your inversion practice!

Dont think you have an inversion practice? Well. You definitely don’t have to balance on your head to invert. A simple child’s pose, legs up the wall, plow or standing forward fold can do the trick!

Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar believes that inversions allow the body to purge impurities, which facilitates strength, firmness, calmness and clarity of mind.

Ayurveda promotes the regular practice of inversions based upon the theory that many of the impurities in our body are held in the lower abdominal area. When you invert the body and raise your feet above your head or have your head beneath your heart, you allow gravity to move these impurities towards the agni (fire), which is located in our digestive tract (just above lower abdomen). By allowing these impurities (which were previously stuck) to move to your agni (which will burn them off), you’ll be able to breathe deeper and improve your health.

The benefits of inverting are plentiful! Here are some of the main reasons to get upside down:

1. Glowing skin

Reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, stimulates the facial capillaries and hair follicles of the scalp, and helps remove visual signs of toxicity (including acne), giving your skin a natural “face lift” and healthy glow. It’s also great for overall circulation in your body. 

 I definitely walk out from a great YBD class feeling like I’ve gotten a great facial treatment! Have you? 

2. Natural anti-depressant

Inversions literally turn your frown upside down!  Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder. 

Getting upside down makes you happy!

3. Boosts your brain

When the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness. 

Shazam!

4. Aids digestion

When you invert your body you allow the stool that is moving from the ileocecal valve through the ascending colon to move with the force of gravity. The pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls also encourages movement and the pressure on the walls of the digestive tract stimulates a stronger peristalsis (muscle contractions that occur in your digestive tract).

Yoga helps you poop regularly!

5. Strengthen immunity 

Inversions help to stimulate lymphatic cleansing and drainage which clears toxins from the tissues and plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the immune system. 

Yogis never (ok, rarely) get sick!

6.  Improves sleep 

A study conducted by LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension) declined by more than 35 percent within 10 seconds of inverting. Muscle tension can contribute to feelings of anxiety as well as insomnia so it’s important to flush it from your body. 

Inversions also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing feelings of relaxation and wellness, which also aids in reducing stress, tension and anxiety. 

Nothing beats a great night of sleep for a healthy, happy body. 

You guys, these are just a few of the endless inversion benefits! Get upside down to shift your perspective, improve back pain, give your heart a break and to have some fun!

Make it a great, upside down week, friends!


Mindful Monday: Thunderstorms and Sunshine

Good morning, beautiful mindful ones! 

Wow, there’s something about a powerful thunderstorm that gives me such a thrill – and reminds me of how little control I actually have of life. I love that perspective! 

The lightning and thunder woke me up early, early Saturday morning, like 5 am. I spent several minutes standing at the window watching with awe and wonder and feeling such a deep sense of peace in my heart. And it felt so good to get back in my warm bed and be lulled back asleep. Best. Feeling. 

When I woke up a couple hours later, I got ready to go teach three classes in Western Springs. This was so significant for me, because for a few years, these classes were my permanent classes:

10:30 Sculpt

Noon YBD2

1:30 Restorative 

And I would also teach an 8 am class at a health club prior to my triple. 

That was my Saturday for many years. I was teaching 7 days a week back then, and I felt so blessed to be hustling and actually making a living doing what I loved – making my own schedule and all in a virtually stress-free environment. The sun was shining every day back then! 

But slowly my life was shifting. I spent less and less time socializing, because I was up so early each day to teach. I was also utterly exhausted. Physically tapped out. Mentally and emotionally fatigued. Which caused me to further withdraw from my life. If the sun was shining, I was too damn tired to notice. 

I wasn’t sure how to help myself. It was like the rain over the weekend: relentless. I didn’t have time to think or heal or even sleep. If I wasn’t teaching, I was storing up energy and preparing to go teach. I would literally collapse at the end of the day and shut down (with lotsa sugar and carbs and crap!)

It went like that for at least a year! Until I finally started dropping some classes. That was rough! Guilt over giving up classes entrusted to me. Attachment to my classes and my students. Fear of losing the income. But I knew I needed some precious time to heal and rest. 

Over the course of the next year, I continued to drop classes. Slowly but surely. First I gave up my Sundays. Then my Thursday nights. Then Tuesday nights. Then Wednesday nights. No more 6 ams either. Finally … my four Saturday classes. And just this year, I dropped my Friday evening class. 16 classes in all. 

It took another year to soothe my circadian rhythm back to some normalcy. I was still pretty much a hermit; exploring my introverted side and still not socializing very much at all. I needed all of my time and energy to process. I’m still processing. 

But last Saturday – driving to Western Springs on a rare Saturday that I was actually working in the middle of a downpour –  felt like pure, unfiltered middle-of-a-heat wave sunshine!!

It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of balancing my life and our favorite yoga buzz word: self-care. 

I walked into the studio (through the downpour!) feeling such a sense of lightness. I remember thinking this is how I should feel teaching my art, my heart and my passion.  I felt grounded and truly present as I checked in my students and taught my classes. It was absolutely sublime. 

And I feel so grateful that I am now in this space where I actually have the energy and time to pick up classes and help out my fellow teachers. 

And I learned that the sun is always there even behind the clouds and rain and thunder. 

Teaching yoga full-time is not an easy path. But I’ve never wanted easy. I want the sun and the rain. The highs and lows. For me, it’s always been about growth, healing, transformation. And so crucial to my happiness is connecting with others in an authentic and significant way. 

Which areas of your life need to be balanced out a bit more? Where can you take better care of you? 

Have the best week ever, you guys! Rain or shine, let’s just show up for each other and for ourselves!

Mindful Monday: Letting Go

Good morning, yogis! Happy Monday! Happy Columbus Day! I’ve been loving our rainy weather we had last week! Rain is so cleansing and renewing, doncha think?

Especially this time of year — watching the waning of summer into autumn and eventually winter. Observing the trees graciously surrendering their foliage, one leaf and bud at a time. 

As we age, we go through the same process. One by one surrendering the things of our youth. The goal is to age as naturally as possible. To embrace anicca, the impermanence of life. To appreciate what we have while we have it; so when the time arrives to relinquish, we can do it with an open heart filled with love, gratitude and acceptance. 

As I have grown older, some things have been fairly easy to yield to my youth: competitiveness, worrying what people think, focusing on superficial things, equating status with success. 

Some things, however, are more of a struggle. Particularly, watching my baby boy grow into an amazing young man. Of course my heart bursts with so much pride at what a talented, hard working, compassionate human being he has become. Each stage of his life has been preparing me for the inevitable time that he will fly from my nest. 

The latest stage is too quickly approaching. I’m writing this blog from the Purdue campus in West Lafayette – we are actually on our second college campus visit. 

Purdue campus visit, Sunday, October 8, 2017


Even in this picture, you can see him pulling away from me. 😭

As parents, regardless of race, gender, social or economic status, we all feel the same thrills and pangs of parenthood. Some of you are young parents, struggling with getting a full night of sleep. Or spending each and every weekend watching your kids play sports. Some of you are empty nesters, learning to rebuild a life not dominated by incessant demands of your time. 

Like the trees, we parents are all on the same path of letting go. Each milestone in our children’s lives is another practice of releasing. In order to be a successful parent, our children should walk away from us, fully equipped to function and thrive in life.  

I’m so grateful for all of the moments I have with my son. And thankful for all of the strong, brave parents showing me the art of letting go. 

Anicca. Anicca. Anicca. Be happy. Be happy. Be happy. 

Mindful Monday: Continuous Improvement


Good morning, mindful ones! Do you feel the change in the air this morning? That lovely chill of fall and a glimpse of all beautiful things to follow. 
For many many many years, I would wake up on Monday mornings with a jolt. My eyes would pop open and my heart rate would immediately elevate as I grabbed my blackberry and quickly scanned the news and read emails. 

But the anxious energy didn’t start there. It started Sunday afternoon. I would be in a frenzy trying to get laundry done and the house spotless to start the week fresh and ready. 

This was my normal. I didn’t really know anything else. I was conditioned to operate at this high level of “busyness” and self-importance. I was pretty serious and intense back then. 

Then I would get Julian up and ready, I rushed him through breakfast and drop off at school. Then the mad rush to get to the office for a day filled with meetings and directing projects and managing a staff of professionals. 

And I would count the hours until I could get on my mat! Some days I’d rise before dawn to squeeze in a 5:30 am class. I would block my calendar off and sneak out to class during the day. And I would practice at night after work. 

On my mat, I began to get to know myself. Underneath the stress and drama and rushing around, I found a sense of peace, calmness and FREEDOM. Playfulness that didn’t involve heavy drinking or power shopping. Ease. Flow. Movement. Mindfulness. 

I felt such a dichotomy in my life: which Nadja was really ME? There was such a sharp contrast between the two different sides. 

I began to like myself so much more when I was practicing. So I made the leap of faith and “retired” from the public sector. 

Five years later, I am still deconstructing from that lifestyle. It’s definitely a process to reprogram from lifelong habits and patterns. We are either continually growing or progressively dying. To coin a buzz phase from my former career, continuous improvement model. 

Let’s keep growing and figuring this thing out! We’re all in this together!

Have a great week, yogis

Anicca! Be happy!