mindfulness

Mindful Monday: Power of Mind Cultivation

Good morning, dearest yogis!

First of all, I want to express to you how grateful all of us are for your continued support and participation in our online community classes! It certainly gives all of us something to look forward to. And it provides a sense of continuity and stability during this interesting time.

I’ve been reconnecting with the lovely yoga sutras during this time, which lends a larger and broader perspective and also provides a play book on how we might navigate life’s challenges.

One sutra is particularly resonating with me.

Sutra 2.33: vitarka-bādhane pratipakṣa-bhāvanam

It simply means:
When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite -positive- ones should be thought of.

Super simple but extremely challenging, am I right?

Basically, this ancient text is reminding us that happiness is a choice that we have to power to make in every moment.

And with pratipaksa bhavanam, we are learning to stop negative thoughts in the moment and immediately balance the fearfulness with positive thoughts based in love and abundance.

We see how this is merely an extension of our eight limbed practice of yoga, which have been covered in depth in previous posts! I encourage you to go back and re-read from the beginning!

The practice is not a basic: “I want a donut” “I do not want a donut”

It is watching the craving (or other negative thought cycle of fear, anger, greed, jealousy, depression, etc) without judgement and then replacing with thoughts of higher level positivity.

In the donut example, the oppositional thought may be focused on how good your body will feel if you eat something more nourishing and satisfying over the long term.

This oppositional thought process is prevalent in all aspects of the practice. From the do’s and don’ts of yamas and niyamas to the juxtaposition of our bodies in inversions!

Our practice is designed to be vigilant of our minds at all times and train the mind like we train the body.

Please share your thoughts and questions with me! See you on your mat in a virtual class soon!

Mindful Monday: Anandamaya Kosha

Love is all we need

Good morning, mindful ones! As we begin week two of self quarantine, it is so serendipitous that we have reached the bliss kosha in our studies.

The final of the five koshas is anandamaya kosha—the bliss sheath. Anandamaya encompasses not the feeling of bliss, but rather, the experience of bliss.

At this innermost layer we feel bliss which in my fleeting experiences is simply feeling more alive as we are freed of blocks on a physical or energetic level. Each breath is in acute focus, everything around is experienced in Technicolor and surround sound audio.

When we are in a state of bliss we are feeling happy, full of purpose and able to experience unconditional love for self and for others. We are liberated from suffering.

The anandamaya kosha is referred to as the true self. Connection to this layer can be described as “coming home.” It is the state of samadhi. 

In contrast to vijnanamaya kosha, you do not witness the bliss sheath, you are the bliss. Bliss can be thought of not as an ecstatic happiness or even joy, but a steady state of being, no matter what circumstance arises.

It’s so important to note that it is a state of wholeness and completeness with the moment and it is completely independent of any external circumstances.

Anandamaya is still a sheath, or an illusion, a layer that can be peeled back. When anandamaya is peeled away, we reach atman—our very center. Atman is our direct connection with the divine, with the essence of all that is. It is our pure consciousness. The soul.

Striving to reach anandamaya kosha is a futile attempt, for it is only revealed when we release any form of mind control over it. Anandamaya is not of the mind. It is a deeper experience than that which can be contemplated. Even describing it in words is not completely accurate. The bliss of a child fully immersed in the moment—that is anandamaya.

Yet, even this bliss, however wonderful it is, is still a covering, a sheath, a lampshade covering the pure light of consciousness. It is the subtle most of the five koshas. In the silence of deep meditation, this too is let go of, so as to experience the center.

Atman is the Self, the eternal center of consciousness, which was never born and never dies.

Atman, the Self, has been best described as indescribable. The realization of that, in direct experience, is the goal of Yoga. Both on and off our mats.

Have a great week, my mindful ones! Stay connected with us through our virtual classes! You can sign up online or on the app via our Elmhurst studio. All classes are streamed via the Zoom app.

I’m so proud of you for using this time as an opportunity for self-care and self-reflection. ❤️🙏🏾

March 2020 POTM: Hanumanasana

Good morning dearest yogis! Our March 2020 POTM is Hanumanasa or full front splits.

Hanunanasana Pose

We’ve intentionally curated this pose during this challenging and unprecedented time, because it embodies the spirit of trust, devotion, a belief in miracles and a willingness to do what needs to be done to serve others.

Hanuman was a half monkey avatar of Lord Shiva. Out of devotion, he leapt from India across the ocean to Sri Lanka to comfort Lord Shiva’s wife who had been kidnapped. He also delivered Shiva’s ring to let her know she would soon be rescued.

In another instance, Hanuman leapt to the mountain to obtain a special healing herb for Lakshmanan. Because he’s a monkey, he wasn’t sure which herb it was! To save precious time, he just carried the entire mountain back down to save his life.

So as you can see, this is a very beautiful pose representing valor and devotion.

Here’s how!

1. From a kneeling lunge, start to straighten your front leg as you slide your back leg behind you.

2. You may use blocks on either side of your mat to help position yourself.

3. Lift the ball of your front foot up and slide you front leg as far as your hamstrings will allow. You might first want to stop at Ardha Hanumanasana, the Half Split Pose, take a few breaths there, and then continue.

4. As your front leg straightens, start pushing your back knee backwards so your back thigh is getting closer towards the floor. Make sure your back leg remains straight from the hip and is not extending towards either side.

5. Keep your hips square towards the front of the mat (warrior one hips) and focus on leveling your pelvis rather than reaching it to the ground. Press your inner thighs towards each other to help support your pelvis.

6. Once you become stable, recruit your core and adductors as you lift your arms to the sky. Hold for 5-20 breaths.

7. Remember yoga is a process not a destination!

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: Pranamaya Kosha

Good morning and happy Monday, oh mindful ones!

The nadis are our energetic irrigation system; in essence, they keep us alive.

Let’s continue our study of the koshas. Last week we discussed the first, outermost kosha: Annamaya which is the physical body.

The second kosha is Pranamaya kosha. Yes, you guessed it! Prana is our life energy.

Simply put, prana is what animates and brings life force to the physical body and the Annamaya kosha.

It allows the invisible indweller, our True Self to be able to manifest in the external, physical world. However, it is easy to misidentify the eternally still, silent center of consciousness as the moving, visible physical body.

The pranamaya kosha is said to be located at the third eye, head and chest. Because it is also related to the aura, it is not simply contained within the physical body – because our aura expands out beyond the body.


To add another layer on to this – the prana is then said to be subdivided into various forms called the vayus. They are: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana.

Yogic texts also tell us that prana moves via the nadis (energy pathways) to the chakras (spinning energy centres that collect, transform and distribute the energy). This might be harder to grasp because we can’t see the vayus, chakras or nadis, not even with an x-ray.

There are said to be 72,000 nadis, and three main ones – the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis.

We’ve covered the main chakras in previous blogs. For purposes of this post, we will stick to the Pranamaya kosha.

Breath is paramount to our yoga practice. It is what grounds us into the present moment.

Noticing the breath automatically triggers us to not only lengthen the breath, but to make sure it is actually happening. Of course breath is automatic, but sometimes we hold the breath or allow it to become shallow.

We equalize it – inhale and notice the count – exhale and notice the count. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response), quieting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This also builds up our capacity of breath and the awareness of it. We can notice if the breath is slow and steady or choppy and quick.

This breath awareness prepares us for meditation as well as for conquering our daily life challenges!

Inhale I’m breathing in

Exhale I’m breathing out

Inhale Let

Exhale Go

Inhale I calm my mind

Exhale I smile

Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Annamaya Kosha

Greetings, mindful ones! Happy Monday.

We are moving into our more deeper and subtler practice of yoga. It’s such an interesting and exciting journey, isn’t it?

The more we start to learn and discover, our realization is that we have just scratched the surface of this deep and ancient practice.

Today we go into more depth of the outermost kosha: the Annamaya. Kosha translates to sheaths or different bodies that cover our true nature/Self. In our ancient texts, “Maya” means illusion. So these sheaths or covers are illusions, skewing our awareness of ultimate self.

An example of maya is if you are looking in the darkness and can just make out the shape of a man standing outside. You are convinced there is a person there because you can see it. Actually, it was the just post of the old fence.

This outer sheath is the literally the body layer—muscles, bones, skin, organs. Anna means food, which is what sustains this level. Asana keeps this kosha healthy and can be used to treat problems that arise in the body.

We exercise this outermost aspect of ourselves, take care of it, nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through the other koshas.

When life is out of balance, we must identify the kosha that is troubled and take on practices to help it come back into harmony with the others. Exploring and integrating each layer brings us closer to a state of bliss.

The Koshas can be imagined as nesting dolls. Each sheath or doll covers the innermost doll which is Atman or Self.

Mindful Monday: Koshas

Good morning dearest mindful ones!

We have covered the eight limbed path of yoga in depth over the past several months. We learned how a complete yoga practice encompasses mind, body and spirit.

We then went on to the chakras, our energy wheels, to make the energetic connection of mind, body and spirit.

With this foundation of knowledge, we move onto the koshas and see where the chakras fit in to a higher perspective of this human experience.

The koshas give us a complete roadmap for the expression of consciousness in physical form. Developed thousands of years ago by the master swamis, rishis and sages of ancient Hindu culture and high thought, the koshas help us to understand the varied and unique aspects of consciousness that give rise to the human experience. The koshas encompass the mind, the body and the spiritual aspects of consciousness manifested in physical form.

Through our yoga practice, we are developing an understanding of health and the chakras. Learning to work with the koshas is the next logical step on the path of greater integration and operation of the mind, body and spirit triad on a practical and metaphysical level.

Koshas are literally translated to sheaths or layers of the body. Often these sheaths are understood as separate bodies. There are five koshas, which we will delve into a bit more deeply over the next five weeks.

Have a great week, mindful ones!

February 2020 Pose of the Month: Utthita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star Pose

Happy February, oh dearest ones!

Do you want to feel like a superstar? Then this pose is for you!

Five pointed star pose or utthita tadasana is a heart opening and very grounding asana.

The five pointed star yoga pose facilitates deep breathing, improves posture and encourages joy. And when we do it in a squad, we feel both confident and connected to the earth and one another.

Here’s how:

1. From a standing position, step your feet out wide with feet either parallel or toes pointing slightly outward.

2. Extend your arms out wide at shoulder-height or slightly higher with your palms facing forward. Your feet and wrists should be about the same distance apart; adjust your stance if needed.

3. Drive down through your heels and straighten your legs fully, but do not lock or hyperextend your knees. Ground your feet firmly into the earth, pressing evenly across all four corners of both feet.

4. Draw the tops of your thighs up and back, engaging the quadriceps. Tuck in your tailbone slightly, but don’t round your lower back. Lift the back of your thighs, but release your buttocks.

5. Bring your pelvis to its neutral position. Do not let your front hip bones point down or up. Instead, point them straight forward. Draw your belly in slightly.

6. As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist.

7. Spread your fingers and reach out energetically through your fingertips as you broaden across your collarbones. 

8. Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don’t squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm. Allow your inner arms to rotate slightly outward.

9. Lengthen your neck. Your ears, shoulders, and hips should all be in one line.

10. Keep your breath smooth and even. With each exhalation, feel your body elongating in all directions: Up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. Softly gaze forward toward the horizon.

This is one of those poses you can do whenever you need a boost of energy or a shot of confidence!

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!