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Mindful Monday: Spring has officially Sprung

108 Sangha! Photo credit: Sarah Pogorzelski

Happy, happy, happy Monday, friends! As of 5:29 am today, the Vernal or Spring Equinox commenced! Spring has officially arrived!  This is a powerful time of year! Rapid shedding and releasing; tremendous transformations. The 2017 Equinox is the perfect time to honor all areas and aspects of your life and the circumstances that surround you.

More than 30 of our YBD community gathered together yesterday (a few not pictured) to harness the transformative power of this new season. What an amazing experience!

The sun’s power gives life and allows all things on earth to flourish. As we flowed through 108 sun salutations, we moved and breathed as one. The strength and Grace and power in the room was magnificent.

Four sets of 27 sun salutes.

  1.  Focused and dedicated to releasing what holds us back – Spring cleaning of body mind and soul.
  2. Planting seeds of self-love and self acceptance. Building the foundation for all good things to come.
  3. This set was devoted to people we love. Love is the most powerful energy source.  When we devote our energy to others, we are able to achieve far more  than if it was just for ourselves.
  4. One love. Dedicated to peeling away walls and barriers so that we may find a common ground in all humanity.

Practice ended with some deep yin poses and a guided meditation.

If you were unable to make it last night, no worries! It’s not too late to create your own intentions and plant your own seeds.

Now is the perfect time to bring acceptance to your life no matter the circumstances or the judgements over what is good and what is bad, and to instead honor your unique journey. We are all perfectly in progress!

It is also a time to celebrate how far you have come and how much you have grown over the course of the year. And even last year.

Has 2017 been less than stellar for you ? Well, you can start fresh ! The March Equinox is considered the start of the astrological new year. This is because the Sun shifts into the constellation of Aries, which is regarded as the first of the 12 constellations used in astrology. Never too late to begin again.

The energy of Aries makes it a perfect time to start thinking about what is next and what you would like the next few months to feel like. To think about it but more importantly feel it.

Perhaps make a list of all the feeling words you would like to create in your life moving forward and see if you can start creating those feelings in small ways every single day.

This year’s Equinox is the perfect time to honor the growth and the pain, the light and the darkness and all the experiences that have made you who you are today. It is the perfect time to love yourself and learn to find gratitude and peace with the journey you are taking.

Enjoy this beautiful weather! Make each breath count.

Mindful Monday: Spring Equinox and 108 Sun Salutes

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends!  Living here in Chicago,  we certainly learn to go with the flow –  especially when it comes to the weather!  No shocker when we go from glorious weather in the 60s to snowfall in the same month, right?  So we learn to go with the flow  knowing this is an unchangeable situation and it also impermanent.  Like life it ebbs and flows and is in constant flux and transition.

Regardless  of the weather forecast, our Spring Equinox will be here in a week! Join your YBD community  for a vigorous practice accessible to all levels this Sunday at our Elmhurst studio from 3:30 – 5:30 pm!  The practice itself  should take about 90 minutes.   The final 30 minutes will be a yin and restorative cool down.

While the thought of 108 sun salutes may sound daunting,  the repetitive actions create a meditative experience.  Most people feel a build up of energy as they flow  and leave practice feeling energized!

Each time I’ve been a student for this practice I’ve  experienced an unbelievable freedom  and sense of being unchained.  My practice becomes a devotion and a celebration and a meditation.   It is truly indescribable.

Some common questions are addressed below:

Will the room be heated ?

I will set the room temperature  between 80 to 85°

Do we go through 108 sun salutations nonstop?

I chunk out the practice in four sets of 27

Can anyone do this practice?

Yes I will offer modifications to make this practice accessible to virtually anyone who is in decent physical shape and injury free

What do I need to bring ?

Your mat and a towel and some water

Do I have to count them on my own?  What if I lose track?

I will be counting the sun salutations,  so students have nothing to do but flow

There is still space available!  Sign up at any studio or online!

Have a great week,yogis!  Hope to see you on your mat this week!

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Mindful Monday: Life is just like the Weather

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Herrick Lake at sunset

Happy happy Monday, oh mindful ones! And what a GREAT Monday it is for most of us – students have the day off from school and many are off from work. Except your friendly, local yoga studios – we will be open for business as usual! Hope to see many of you on your mats today!

We are blessed with continued early Spring weather that started over the weekend and will continue through the beginning of this week! I was able to take advantage of this gorgeous weather by spending as much time as possible outdoors. I’m guessing that you did the same!

The weather always strikes me as the perfect analogy for LIFE. We absolutely cannot control the weather – in fact, oftentimes the weather professionals can get it wrong when even trying to predict the future forecast. No matter how much we wish, petition, pray, meditate and otherwise try to manifest a specific weather forecast, we have zero impact on what is actually going to unfold.

And so it is with life. We like to think we can control so many circumstances and situations and even people and our relationships – but the truth of the matter is, we have so little of an impact on whatever life will bring our way. Yes, for sure, we can create goals and visualize certain outcomes, but there’s definitely no guarantees!

Just like a meteorologist can look at past weather patterns and current weather conditions and make an educated guess on what Mother Nature will bring us, so it is with our lives! We plan and project and strive for a ‘perfect’ life, but so often our lives veer in directions that were totally unanticipated.

We learn from our practice that expectation is the root of all heartache. And that the constant cycle of craving and aversion causes all of our own misery and suffering.

For example, with this amazing gift of BEAUTIFUL weather, we are all very happy and do as much as possible to enjoy it while it’s here! But we must remember that the nature of weather and the nature of life is aniccca – impermanence. So when the inevitable day comes – it’s February in Chicago, friends! – that this weather shifts, it will be foolish to crave for the weather to stay the same. It simply cannot and will not – so anything other than accepting reality AS IT IS, not how we wish it to be, is going to cause suffering.

So when the weather shifts to cold, or snow or thunderstorms or biting winds, we instinctually react with aversion to the weather. Which will also cause suffering, Which seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Does the weather really have the power to make someone happy or unhappy? If that is the case, we are in for one big roller coaster ride!

Instead, through yoga and other mindfulness practices, we can tap into an inner harmony and an inner source of happiness that is not affected by life’s daily and impermanent fluctuations. The only true and lasting source of happiness is an equanimous mind – a mind undisturbed by the daily ups and downs in life. This is exactly why we challenge ourselves on your mats each practice, we purposely put ourselves in uncomfortable and straining poses so that we can practice BREATHING and calming the mind in spite of the perceived external discomfort.

In this way, we try to break free of misery and suffering. And it is a lifelong practice!

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

Mindful Monday: Radiate LOVE

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Happy Monday, beautiful love bugs! What glorious weather we were blessed with this weekend –  An early Valentine’s gift from Mother Nature! Mild temperatures and just so much light and sunshine! Not to mention the gorgeous and sultry full moon!! ahhhhh… LOVE LOVE LOVE is definitely in the air.

And it all starts with self-love. Which is really the most challenging, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to love our kids, parents, siblings, cousins and even friends. But why is it so difficult to truly love ourselves?

My yoga practice has really helped me tremendously in this aspect of my love life. What is our practice if not a radical act of self-love? Self- awareness and self-acceptance leads us toward loving ourselves, doesn’t it? Yoga lifts us from the clutches of self-doubt and pain and sadness and reminds us of our true nature – pure loving kindness. It touches our lives at every level – physical, mental and spiritual. It is a method for us to make life purposeful, useful, noble and to radiate LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

As we truly begin to love ourselves, a lifelong practice and a lifelong love affair, we are able to find more depth in all of our external relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always peseveres. Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

Wishing you the sweetest and happiest of Valentine’s days this year. As you acknowledge all of your loved ones, make sure that you are at the top of your own Valentine list!

May all beings be happy, happy, happy and free!

 

 

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: Samadhi

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Wow have we been blessed with some beautiful spring-like weather these last few days! Such is nature and such is life, right? We never know what’s coming our way – well, sometimes the weatherman does actually get it right! – all we can do is make the very best of whatever life brings us.  Our yoga practice keeps us in tip-top shape physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – so that we have all the tools that we need at our disposal to truly seize each moment as it arises!

We’ve been covering Ashtanga yoga – the eight limbed path of yoga. Below is a quick recap of the previous seven limbs that we’ve discussed.

  1. Yamas – the guidelines for social behavior: clean your home
  2. Niyamas – self-disciplines: reverence for your home
  3. Asanas – yoga poses: start to settle into your home
  4. Pranayama – breath control, life energy: animate your home
  5. Pratyahara – the withdrawal of external senses, to rest in your home.
  6. Dharana – immovable concentration of the mind
  7. Dhyana – perfect contemplation of mediation

Dhyana sets the stage for Samadhi, which means harmony, “to bring together, to merge.”  Here, 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: Happy MLK Jr. Day 

Happy Mindful Monday, friends, yogis, deep thinkers and not-so-deep thinkers, too! 

Most of us have the day off today – from work and our children –  from school. Except us yoga teachers and staff. Yoga doesn’t take federal holidays! 😂

But how many of us truly know exactly WHY the third January of the month is a federal holiday? We all know Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speeches right? And that he was a champion of non-violence. We may know that he gave his very life for his beliefs in racial equality, freedom and justice. 

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of a great American whose inspiring words, vision and the way he lived  continue to uplift us.  He taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King’s character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.

Many of Dr. King’s beliefs and morals mirror the teachings of our Yoga Sutras. His steadfast belief in non-violence aligns with our very first Yama – ahimsa. 

Dr. King dedicated his life to the service of others. And we practice yoga specifically to strengthen mind, body and spirit precisely to be of service to others off of our mats. 

We commemorate his guiding principle of unconditional love and equality for all. Dr. King’s great dream of a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation mirrors the highest ideals we seek when we step on our mats. Yoga becomes the great unifier for us all. It doesn’t matter what your racial, economic, political or social status and beliefs are when we practice moving together,  breathing together, focusing in the same direction, sharing energy as we all move to embody our highest and best manifestations. 

Today, let’s practice yoga together in honor of one of our greatest leaders. If you can’t get to your mat today, make a personal committment to serve and uplift humanity in some small way – karma yoga.  Or practice your breathing while stuck in line or in traffic. Meditate for five minutes today. As we elevate ourselves, we cannot help but to elevate humanity. Move with love.