mindfulness

Mindful Monday: Strength 


Happy Mindful  Monday, friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend. 
Yesterday was a special day where we honor and celebrate our fathers. When I think of my father, who I am so blessed is still with us, I think of strength. No, he doesn’t look anything like the dude pictured above.  My dad has a quiet strength that I’ve always leaned on. It’s given me an endless supply of confidence my entire life. When I was younger, my dad knew everything. And he is the most patient, kind, compassionate person I’ve ever met. 
I’m also so blessed that my son has two fathers in his life. His dad and his stepdad. These two special men are so devoted to my son. They are providers of everything my child needs to navigate this world; the most important being love and patience and support. 

When I think of a great father, it is someone who is strong and steady; wise; can fix anything; protector; sets boundaries and expectations. All of these qualities exude fatherly love IMO. It can sometimes seem like a thankless job. 

I was not able to spend the day with my dad yesterday as he is traveling in Asia. I was fortunate to spend part of it with my big brother and his family. And my mother. 

Maybe yesterday was a struggle for you. Perhaps you are missing your dad who is no longer here. I know some of you may not have had the best relationship with your father. He was lacking in some way that still causes your inner child so much pain. Or there was physical distance that separated you, as in my case. For many reasons, yesterday may have not been the happy, shiny image that you saw all over social media. 

The truth is, we give and receive this fatherly type of love to those around us all the time. We’ve all had to fill in as some type of a father figure at some points in our lives. Families pull together to plug in the gaps. Anytime someone has protected you from some external threat or shielded you from some pain. Anytime you have fixed something for someone or even wrapped them in your arms and provided a shoulder to cry upon. Tossed a baseball or football with a child. Even picking up the dinner tab for family and friends. Quietly provided and received strength and confidence. These are the qualities that embody a father – you have received this type of love from some fatherly source in your life. 

Yoga teaches us to understand that everything happens exactly as it should. Whether your childhood relationship with your father was lacking or filled with love, it has shaped you into the amazing, strong, lovely person that you are. So important that we acknowledge exactly how we feel and learn to slowly heal and nurture our own inner child. 

Do you know what the best thing about childhood is? It’s that it’s over. Your safety, security and happiness are now in your hands. Nobody elses. 

Have a great week, yogis! Looking forward to seeing so many of you on your mats this week! 

Mindful Monday: April Showers Bring May Flowers

During a huge downpour between classes at YBD Downers Grove, Bernie, Katie and I did what most normal people do – we did a little yoga in the rain!

Happy Monday, radiant, hydrated, nourished ones! Yes, yes, yes it’s been raining for days! Personally, I love the rain.

The weather is our prime example of the impermanence of all things. Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy! I can still hear the words of my meditation teacher S. N. Goenka.

Without rain, all things in nature would cease to exist. We ourselves can’t survive very long without water. In fact, we are pretty much walking skin bags of water!

There are songs and movies about the rain. It’s a powerful force of nature.  We have entire genres of clothing dedicated to the rain. Poets and photographers and artists try to capture its magnificence.

Your second – chakra – swadhisthana – is the water element: its primary association is emotional health, intimacy and creativity. When swadhisthana is open and balanced, we enjoy life fully and expansively. We live authentically without fear and experience love, intimacy, sensuality honestly and non-judgementally.

Water in its form of rain can be soft and rhythmic or powerful and even destructive. It’s both formidable and without form.

These rainy days won’t last – so put on your galoshes and go jump in puddles! When my son Julian was a little boy,  splashing in the rain (and mud!) was one of his favorite activities.


Have a great week! Stay hydrated! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Light and Dark

I snapped this image a few years ago (while driving – eeeek!) but the sky was soooo amazing I had to capture it!

Happy Mindful Monday, dearest yogi friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Friday was pure magic – so sunny and warm and fresh – it truly felt like Spring! And Saturday and Sunday, IMO, just as magical and beautiful – but for other reasons … the darkness, cloudiness and the pensive chill from the rain. Also an essential part of this season.

The universe always seeks balance: the yin and the yang, the light and the dark, the feminine and the masculine, water and fire. There is a scientific theory on the balance of nature that states that ecological systems naturally exist in equilibrium. It’s a fine balance that is easily affected by any small disturbance, which will then auto-correct itself to come back to its stability.

So it is with us. Within each of us there is yin and yang, light and dark. Most of us, definitely me, struggle with finding and maintaining this balance each day. We shift too far to one side, and we are thrown off balance. We must then look within and steer our way back to center. Our character and ultimately are lives are determined by that which we feed – the dark or the light within.

There is a need for both, as darkness is the absence of light. But without it, how would we understand and appreciate the light? Without loneliness, how can we appreciate companionship? Without hate, how do you know love?

There is an ancient Indian proverb that describes the four paths in life. Which path are you following?

Those in darkness moving toward darkness
Those in darkness moving into the light
Those in the light moving toward darkness
Those in the light moving toward the light

Namaste, dear ones! Hope to see you on your mat this week! 

Mindful Monday: Welcome to February 

Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Well we made it through the looooongest month of the year together. We’ve watched the groundhog look for his shadow, and we watched Tom Brady lead his team in an unbelievable comeback in last night’s Super Bowl! Well,  yogis,  it’s smooth sailing from here. The days are longer. We have more sunshine. So much to look forward to. And of course the best moment is THIS one. Right here, right now. Always.

We hope that you had an amazing January! How are you doing with any resolutions that you have made? Remember that if you stumble and fall, let it be forward. We know from our practice that at any moment, we can inhale and BEGIN again.

YBD had TWO programs in January designed to help us kickstart the new year through mindfully looking at HOW we eat. Both groups met together on Sundays in January and supported one another through a community approach.

Teresa ran her Shred program which included a high intensity workout together each week, plus participants were  encouraged to take three additional classes during the week. They also worked individually with a certified nutritionist for custom meal plans.   Of the 16 participants, they lost a collective 42 lbs (of those that reported their weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of a three-year-old child! or a 15-foot canoe! or a human leg – wait… what? 

Well maybe not the Rock’s leg … But you’re welcome for that image. 😂 

Congratulations to all of our Shred program graduates! Teresa is leading another group through Shred  beginning on February 12! You can sign up at any of our locations.

I had the privilege to lead 23 students through my annual 21 day detox in January! This program focuses on a mindful lifestyle where we remove caffeine, sugar, gluten, alcohol and all animal proteins. We meet and practice together each week and support eachother with daily messages, touchpoints and encouragement. I am so happy to report that collectively  we lost a total of 95.8 lbs (of the 17 people who reported weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of my dog Rupert, a purebred bloodhound!

A two-month-old foal. A baby hippo! In addition to the weight loss, one of our members Jacky B. , who normally suffers from almost daily migraines, did not experience a SINGLE migraine during the cleanse! And Sandy S. said that the journaling aspect of the cleanse literally transformed her life! More than 125 YBD students and teachers have experienced this life-changing cleanse with me throughout the past few years. Watch for the next opportunity to take this cleanse … coming soon.

We know that we are more successful when we hold ourselves accountable to others. That’s why we are so very blessed to have our YBD community to support, encourage and uplift us. Remember we don’t have to wait till the beginning of the year for  new goal or a fresh start. We just need the willingness to begin again. 

Until next week, friends! 

Mindful Monday: Mind Over Matter

Happy Monday, dear ones! We almost have January behind us! Super Bowl Sunday is coming up. Then Valentine’s Day. Spring is not too far behind!

One of my mantras during the winter season is: “I never get sick.” I say it at least once a day as people around me complain about being sick and tired. And ask me how many times I’ve been sick in the past several years. I NEVER get sick. I step in sweat people’s every day. I touch up to 100 people each day, maybe even more! I breathe in people’s carbon dioxide. I go from heated, humid classes to extreme cold temperatures. And I never get sick.

There’s definitely a power to verbalizing clear and precise intentions. When you do that, you set in motion the manifestation of your intention. This is why we start each yoga practice with intention. We merge the conscious with the subconscious. And then we act accordingly. When you speak an intention with conviction, trust and absolute belief, your subconscious mind takes notice and will seek out situations to align you with your wish or dream.

So you have two forces working toward success; your conscious mind is aware of your intention, so you will purposely do things to support it. For me, I’m aware of taking great care of myself. Getting enough rest. Eating properly. Staying hydrated. Observing saucha – cleanliness and purity. Practicing yoga to stimulate my lymphatic system and flush toxins. Creating an ideal environment for my immune system to do its job. Subconsciously, as well, my mind supports me. Naturally repelling me from the chronic sick and habitual complainers. And I NEVER GET SICK.

I recently tested this theory with my best friend and fellow senior yoga teacher Sarah Pogorzelski. For seven days, she had from one to three sick-as-dogs males home with her. Seven. Days. She was not only exposed to various stages of whatever virus or bacteria had infected her boys and her husband, but she was under increased stress caused from having to take care of them! Stress is the first thing that compromises your immune system! When you are stressed, your fight or flight response kicks in, and all of your body’s detox and repair projects are put on hold while your body responds as if it’s under attack. All hands on deck to fight the perceived threat.

So Sarah kept repeating my mantra: “I’m not going to get sick.” Her sons would questions her: “How do you know?” And “What if you do get sick?” But Sarah repeated the sacred mantra. She took care of them and met their basic needs. But she also took ample time to nourish herself and to get the proper rest her body needed. Normally when an illness would sweep through the Pogorzelski home, she would be the last one standing and then inevitably succumb to the illness.

But not this time! The power of the mantra worked for Sarah! And it will work for you, too! Whatever your mind can conceive, your body will absolutely without a doubt conceive. I can hear the wisecracks now: Well, I want to play in the NBA or the NFL. Who am I to doubt your dream? I know people who have accomplished seemingly impossible feats! My good friend George Hood held the Guinness World Record multiple times for longest time in a forearm plank. Diana Nyad was the first person EVER to swim from Havana to the Florida Keys without a shark tank = a feat she accomplished at the age of 64! After failing four previous times. When my dad was younger and living in his native country of India, he saw with his own eyes a yogi buried alive and dug out the next day – he hadn’t moved an inch! Or breathed a breath! And yes, he was still alive! My dad Prem would be so happy to share this story with you – just let me know and I’ll arrange it.

Bruce Lee says it best:

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Happy Happy Happy Monday, dear ones! What will you manifest for yourself this week?

Mindful Monday: New Year, New YOU

imageHappy First Mindful Monday of 2017, yogi friends! It is truly a blessing that we have an opportunity for a crisp, clean, beautiful slate! The truth is that we ALWAYS have that opportunity – each morning we are reborn. Each new breath carries with it pure potential. Yet the symbolism of a brand-spanking-new, squeaky clean year for a fresh start is simply irresistible!

Often times, it is not the daily increase, but the daily DECREASE where you find significant growth. More than 100 of our YBD teachers and students have participated in my 21 day reset detox over the past four years, and many have described this experience as life-changing. I’ll be leading it once again from our Wheaton studio this month. Continue reading, if you are at all interested in uncovering a brighter, shinier, leaner, healthier and more vibrant version of YOU in 2017.

Why a detox?

We will be removing five potentially harmful substances from our diets in order to observe the deeper levels of our unconscious minds and uproot deep-seated complexes, patterns and fears. We will reveal a deeper sense of clarity within and break from the habit of instant gratification.
Removing these substances will create space to observe a deeper connection to the role food plays in our lives and how it affects us. You will have the opportunity to break from artificial stimulants and depressants and return to the natural rhythm and flow of your body. Ending the vicious cycles of spikes and drops in your blood sugar levels and self-indulgence followed by self-flagellation.
The human body is a brilliant living organism that has the intelligence to heal and rejuvenate itself. This cleanse will allow you to identify and to eliminate your common cravings and triggers – releasing yourself from stale habits and moving you toward a higher level of wellness.
It takes 21 days to shift your tastes and cravings and start to respond to healthier, simpler foods. Your blood sugar will balance out as you are freed from old addictions.
Over these 21 days, you will be performing a hard REBOOT of your habits and routines surrounding food. It is most interesting to see what happens with those substances we cannot “live without” (morning jolt of java, day drinking, evening glass of wine?) I challenge you to LET GO and see what happens. Can you transcend your petty attachments? Aren’t you stronger than your desires? What is it we are covering up with food?
The process will be key during the detox. What comes up? Emotions, struggles, triumphs – you will begin to see exactly how food has affected your moods, body, mental state. You will uncover emotional attachments to food – do you reach for a cookie when you’re unhappy?

This process is a GIFT to yourself and to your body. Removing processed foods and alcohol gives a break to your liver and kidneys; your body will release stored junk (toxins, emotions, habits). You will experience more clarity about yourself and within your relationships as you begin to confront your own defenses and barriers.

Please remember that we are working toward progress and NOT perfection! If you’re ready to jumpstart your path to a healthier body, clearer mind and a deeper sense of conscious awareness, then this cleanse is definitely for you!
ANYONE can do this cleanse for 21 days. It is medically unassailable, and you will literally feel your body and mind vibrating from their highest levels. But it is definitely not for EVERYONE. This cleanse is HARD WORK. You will be forced to your uncomfortable edges. It is a way of living and eating SIMPLY for 21 days. Where MINDFULNESS reigns in every moment of your day. How much are you willing to WORK to begin to truly unlock your POTENTIAL?
Sign up at any of our YBD locations or online! We will meet Sundays 3- 5 p.m. in our Wheaton studio on January 8, 15, 22 and 29.
Wishing you and your family a new year filled with happiness, good health, success and prosperity!

 

 

Mindful Monday: Let’s Give Thanks

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Happy Monday, YBD Tribe! So hard to believe that this is the week of Thanksgiving! The Universe has given us so very much to appreciate this holiday season. As the days finally begin to get colder, and we start to wind down the year 2016, it’s natural to take some time to reflect on all of the ups and downs we’ve experienced.

Yoga helps us to understand that there really are no ups and downs; there is life and its natural cycle and infinite wisdom. It’s in constant motion and transition and transformation. It is our misguided need to control and judge life’s ever unfolding  epic that causes our own suffering.

What we slowly begin to see is that every moment is a blessing and a gift and a tremendous opportunity for true growth.  When things don’t go our way, we learn humility and acceptance. When things do go our way, we learn gratitude and graciousness. When we taste sadness and anger and bitterness and pain, we learn we are human; we realize we must grow in a direction that is uncomfortable. When we taste the sweetness of love, joy, pleasure and sublime happiness, we experience the true purpose of our presence here on Earth.

So as we prepare for the feast of Thanksgiving, whether you are surrounded by family and friends or you are serving complete strangers who are down on their luck, count your blessings. What are you so grateful for in your life? And remember, there’s no real challenge in being grateful for the obvious things; the challenge is in identifying the perceived lows and finding the lesson of gratitude within it.

I certainly count each and every one of you in my blessings! Especially those of you who challenge me into re-thinking and into opening and growing in ways I never expected.

Happiest of Thanksgivings to you, friends!

Mindful Monday: What Is Yoga?

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Whether you’re new to your mat or a seasoned practitioner, you’ve undoubtedly pondered this question: What is Yoga?

Is it being really calm and not eating meat? Or is it buying expensive yoga pants and learning to twist your body into pretzel like shapes? Maybe it’s juice cleansing and chakra aligning. Or going to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica and subscribing to Yoga Journal. Wearing mala beads and patchouli essential oil. Is yoga doing my 21 day cleanse and Jenny B’s sound healing? I know –  It’s drinking kombucha and balancing on your head! Does going to Burning Man officially make me a yogi?

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which translates to “yoke” or “union.” The practice of yoga is both an art and science dedicated to creating this union between body, mind and spirit. It’s a tool for us to learn how to use our breath and bodies to foster a deep awareness of ourselves as beautiful, individualized beings intimately connected to the unified whole of creation. In short, it is about making balance and creating equanimity so we may live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

This art of right living was perfected and practiced in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of yoga philosophy were recorded in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, in approximately 200 AD. This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an eight-step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so we enjoy  lasting peace off of our mats.

The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.

In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

  1. Yama :  Universal morality
  2. Niyama :  Personal observances
  3. Asanas :  Body postures
  4. Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana
  5. Pratyahara :  Control of the senses
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
  8. Samadhi :  Union with the Divine

So you can see that the asanas or poses we practice equate to only 12.5 percent of a complete yoga practice! It’s an integral part of our holistic practice, but it cannot stand alone.

We’ll explore each of the limbs in a bit more detail for the next eight weeks! So make sure to check back in with Mindful Monday each week!

Namaste, my fellow yogis!

“Practice and all is coming.”  – K. Pattabhi Jois

Mindful Monday: It’s OK to Have a Bad Day

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I had a really crappy day last Monday. I didn’t wake up late and sleep through my alarm. I didn’t spill my coffee. I wasn’t late for work. I didn’t get into any disagreements with friends or co-workers. Traffic was just fine. The weather was gorgeous. It wasn’t hormonal. My teenager was at his standard level of disdain for me.

I couldn’t attribute my “blues” to anything external. It was just a rare day where I was feeling a bit down and depressed and hopeless. And the universe didn’t even afford me the luxury of having someone or something to blame it on!

But this is LIFE. Nobody ever promised us that all days would be happy and sunny and perfect. That would be great, but wouldn’t that get a teeny bit boring? How would we ever find opportunities to grow and to learn and to experience a full spectrum of human emotions and experiences?

And most importantly, how else could we experience REALITY – exactly as it is, not how we think it SHOULD be or COULD be or HAS to be. Reality exactly as it is, with each breath and each moment.

Our yoga practice is unfortunately not a magic elixir to make life become PERFECT, filled with rainbows and unicorns. It is a tool that we can use to get better at living life. It helps us learn to be more accepting and more aware and more compassionate, first with ourselves and then with those we love, those who challenge us, those who hurt and annoy us, even those who are strangers to us.

Yoga teaches us to accept that some days we may feel a little blue. The work is in finding equilibrium – working so hard to stay grounded through the constant fluctuations life throws at us! Working so hard to be compassionate with ourselves during those days. And remembering we don’t have to fix it or change it or manipulate it or force it into something else.

So I am very grateful when those blue days come along. Grateful that they are few and far between. Grateful that they help me appreciate the sunny, joyful days even more. Grateful that they teach me humility and compassion and a way to connect to others when they walk through the doors having a “bad” day.

The truth is there is no such thing as a bad day – waking up and being able to move and love and feel and practice yoga is always a great day. Some days we are challenged to grow. Some days we get to sit back and experience the sweetness of life. But each and every day is a blessing. So the next time you have one of those days, be kind to yourself! It’s not the day to make major life decisions; it’s a day to slow down, be more mindful and look for things to be grateful for.

Happy (or maybe not so happy) Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Learning to Let Go

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Why is it so difficult to detach? From things, situations, people. Walking away is always hard because you don’t know what lies ahead. It’s a big risk!! You could be leaving “good enough” for “way worse”!!!

However, in choosing to stay in a less than ideal, uplifting, nurturing, inspiring situation, fear is your captor. And the greater risk is in never having tried; never having had the courage; and most importantly, never trusting in a higher power and purpose to lead and support you.

It may seem safer to remain in a known environment than risk the possibility of ending up with less than you started with. You may feel more in control of your life and feel you have more certainty and stability. Unfortunately, security and safety are states of mind – intangible concepts that are not guaranteed to any human being walking this earth. We all know life can change in an instant – and the mediocrity that we have been clinging to can be snatched from our grasp, leaving us empty handed.

On the flip side, being willing to trade in all you have and all that you have become for just a shot at the opportunity for true fulfillment, purpose, motivation, passion and freedom seems less of a gamble in the bigger picture! Look at your life backwards; how do you want your children and grandchildren to remember you and eulogize you? What will your legacy be? How will you explain your life to your Source after all is said and done?

We are all magnificent, unique manifestations of God’s purpose for us. Yet we spend so much time conforming: seeking approval from others, trying to impress them, wanting their acceptance, that we stifle the very uniqueness that makes us special and relevant.

Your journey has led you to exactly where you are destined to be right now. While you cannot predict the future,  security comes from within and is not attached to what you possess. As we continually listen to our inner voices, we can focus on fulfillment rather than “success.” And you will never look back with regret and longing for what might have been. Trust in the power and beauty of your dreams.