reality

Mindful Monday: Balance

Good morning, friends! Happy Monday!

We work a lot on balance in our yoga practice. Balancing on one one leg, one arm, upside down. Even balancing on our heads and hands. And in acroyoga, we balance on other peoples’ bodies!

We learn that it takes focus and concentration to maintain balancing poses on our mats. And we see that these poses are dynamic, not static. Within the stillness of a pose, tiny shifts and adjustments are made to maintain balance. Sometimes we see visible shaking, other time it’s imperceptible to anyone else. The body makes corrections to help maintain itself.

And of course lessons that we learn on the mat are meant to be integrated into daily life.

There are so many things that can throw us off balance in life. Major life changes and transitions. Shocking news can literally knock you off of your feet. Even smaller, every day stuff. A major traffic jam can throw off your entire morning. One person on a team not managing their time effectively can throw an entire project out of whack. We’re constantly making these small adjustments as we seek stability.

And then there’s the challenge of balancing work, time with friends and family, and self-care. It’s so easy to fall out of balance in these areas. Overwhelmed with projects at work often leaves little time for rest. Or maybe every weekend is filled with social obligations with little free time to do what we want. When we burn it at both ends for too long, trying to please everyone and “do it all,” our bodies shut down with illness and we’re forced to rest and recover and do little else. Again the body is adjusting itself towards equilibrium.

Yoga has helped me immeasurably in learning the importance of working with mindfulness and awareness towards balance and stability. It constantly reminds me that it’s perfectly natural to fall sometimes! And the only option is to get back up and try again with as much grace and humor as I can muster.

Yoga demands discipline and satya, truthfulness with yourself. It clears the maya, illusions, and helps one to truly center. And it reminds us so much that it’s a daily practice.

And remember, dear ones, it’s yoga practice not yoga perfect!!!

Have an amazing week!

Mindful Monday: HB, America!

Happy Monday and hulllllooooooo July!!!

Boom! Just like that 2018 is half over!

This is a great touch point to pause and check in with yourself. Where are you in terms of New Year’s resolutions and goals? Yoga reminds us that it’s never too late to begin again!

This is also the time of year where we pause and celebrate the birth day of our beloved nation. We remember that, just like us, America has seen its shares of up-and-down’s. Times of prosperity and times of struggle. Times of war and strife and times of peace and harmony. Times of civil unrest and times, like the Fourth of July, that we put aside our ideological differences and stand together as one strong, proud America filled with love of country and national pride.

On a smaller scale, our lives are also filled with peaks and valleys. We get caught up in the day-to-day fluctuations that life throws at us. It’s so important to step back and check out the bigger picture to see how far we’ve come and how all that we have overcome has made us stronger, wiser and more compassionate.

For me, yoga is that opportunity for pausing and reflecting. It allows me to step away from the immediate demands and create enough space to take a higher level viewpoint. Things that may initially seem so urgent are proportioned. Situations are looked at from an entirely different perspective. And as I roll up my mat after practice, I tap back in with a fresh new start each and every time.

I hope that you enjoy your mid-week holiday, friends! All six of studios will be open with a limited morning schedule on Wednesday, July 4. So come in to detox before your big retox!

Mindful Monday: Are you Happy?

Happy Monday, dear ones!

How happy are you at this very moment? Hah! Excellent question, n’est pas?

It’s not a trick question. It’s pretty simple, actually. And the truth is, you are as happy as you want to be. So super simple and straightforward. But …. not even the teeniest bit easy!

We’ve been conditioned to think of happiness as a commodity; a valuable product to be purchased or at least earned through hard work and sacrifice. Buy this face cream and you’ll be beautiful and happy. Buy these hundred dollar yoga pants and you’ll be happy and chic on your yoga mat. Swathe your body head to toe in nothing but the finest fabrics and designer labels. Push yourself hard each day in beast mode – super happy! Don’t ever ingest another animal protein, that will do it! Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee. Do a 10 day silent meditation retreat. Get married. Get divorced. Quit your big job and become a full-time yoga teacher.

Now there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing any of those things listed above. At all. I’ve done all of them and many, many more! (A whole other blog’s worth.) But let’s not confuse those things with happiness, as I did for many decades.

As it turns out, happiness is an inside job.

So… Do you want to be happy? It’s a simple question, in fact, the only question that matters the rest of your life.

And the truth is, you are already so worthy of happiness. There’s no need to chase it or earn it. No certain race or religion has a monopoly on it. Like the sun shining on every living creature, happiness shines on all of us. It is essentially your birthright. Just by being born, you have every right to be happy.

So if you answer yes, it has to be an unconditional yes. Life will still happen to you. People will leave you. You’ll get a flat tire. You’ll be late for work because of traffic. Your teenager will say mean things to you. And many many many more things of that nature going to happen. But you have decided to be happy; those things will not veer you off your course of happiness, unless you let them.

There’s really great reasons to be happy.

I mean you practice yoga religiously to be strong and fit and flexible and healthy. So it’s kind of silly to do all of that and still remain unhappy, isn’t it?

The happier you are, more happy vibrations will be attracted to you. It has a compound effect.

And according to the Dalai Lama, it’s a pretty simple first step.

Perhaps the only step. And while you’re treating every other human with kindness, sprinkle some of that good stuff onto yourself!

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

Mindful Monday: Harmony

Happy Monday, friends!

During my meditation this morning, the word harmony surfaced, and an immediate sense of well-being and peace washed through my body.

Such a lovely, fluid word! In music and art, harmony is a blend of various, individual elements to create a pleasing integrated composition.

According to Sri B.K.S. Iyengar, “Any action done with beauty and purity, and in complete harmony of body, mind and soul, is art.”

I’ve experienced those fleeting moments on my mat; when my breath is dominating my mind and I have a hyper awareness of my body balancing on my mat with a sense of ease and lightness. A feeling of effortless effort. Allowing my muscles to engage without any tension or resistance. For those few breaths, time slows down and expands. I am aware of all the energy surrounding me, and I can feel a single bead of sweat trickle down my back. And then a single thought enters my mind, and I waver and my balance shifts and the moment vanishes.

With that awareness of perfect harmony on my mat, I am able to recognize those moments off of my mat as well. Moments walking in nature. That perfect, elusive golf swing. Watching the sun rise and set each day. Sitting in the sun at an outdoor beer garden. Listening and dancing to music. Moments of complete, comfortable silence with a loved one. A few solid breaths of mental stillness during meditation. They are few and far between. But glorious and sublime and perfect.

And the truth is that each moment of life is perfect unto itself. And the human challenge is to cultivate that acute level of awareness and mindfulness to appreciate the full spectrum of life experience. Sadness, happiness, tragedy, good fortune, failure, success, love, fear, profit and loss.

Health refers to the physical body; wellness refers to our state of being. When body, mind and spirit are in harmony, we experience perfect health. I strongly believe that truth health is an integration of how we treat our bodies, but also so much more important is how our minds live in a state of wellness.

The thought of living in harmony with others is perfectly expressed in chapter 49 of the Tao Te Ching.

– 49 –

The Sage has no fixed mind; she understands the mind of the people.

She treats those who are good with goodness.

She also treats those who are bad with goodness

because goodness is the nature of her being.

~

She is kind to the kind.

She is also kind to the unkind

because kindness is the nature of her being.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.

She also trusts people who are not trustworthy.

This is how she gains true trust.

~

The Sage lives in harmony with all below heaven.

Her mind is like space.

People don’t understand her.

They look to her and wait.

She sees everything as her own self;

she loves everyone as her own child.

Of course, these moments are also so fleeting and rare. But such a lovely ideal to move toward!

Harmony in nature was another thought that arose in my sitting today. I believe that to be another complete topic for another time.

It’s imperative to live in harmony within your own body and mind as the initial step to harmonizing with others and nature. Practice and all is coming.

Have the best week ever, friends!

Mindful Monday: Pivot and Go With the Flow

Happy Monday, y’all! I had the loveliest of all weekends! Hope you’re enjoying this weather and my favorite time of year as much as I am.

A few days ago I had about an hour of downtime between classes. It was such a spectacular day, so I went to my local forest preserve area with my trusty sidekick Coco.

My plan was to do some much needed grounding work. Summertime with its flurry of activities can really unground me as I have a vata dosha. So quiet, solo journaling in the warmth of the sun was my agenda. And so much what I need to balance and recharge myself.

As I was writing in my journal, Coco made friends with another Yorkshire terrier; and the dog’s mother wanted to make friends with me!

My initial reaction was resistance to being drawn away from my contemplative activities. I only had an hour between classes. I’d been hustling for the past few days. I hadn’t had much downtime. I’d been outputting so much, and I really needed some time to refill my tank. I was on a roll developing such a great thought in my journal. And it would have been pretty easy to shut down the conversation and carry on with my original plan.

But rather than react to my initial resistance, I responded to the woman and her dog. I put my journal down, and I ended up having the loveliest time with Alice and her dog Missy.

Alice is 79 years old, and we talked about everything from God to yoga (of course!) and I got some really great insight on parenting. Coco and I also got invited to her family reunion in July. Heck yeah we’re going!!!

It was such a strong reminder to me how easy it can be to just pivot and go with the flow! It’s definitely important to know the direction you’re heading, and to have somewhat of a plan to get there. It’s also so important to be open to detours. Enjoy those moments where you are seemingly off-track, because that’s where you get the little nuggets from life.

This week, let’s really cue into all of the subtle indicators and reminders from the universe that let us know we’re still on the right path.

Hope to see you on your mat this week as we kick off our Summer Challenge!

Anicca! Be happy, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Memorial Day

Good morning and Happy Memorial Day, friends.

This holiday weekend always brings me right back to my public sector roots. I worked more than a dozen years in state and then municipal government. My former bosses State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and later Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel were both huge advocates of the military. Treasurer’s son Pepe serves as a JAG officer in the Army and Mayor Pradel himself served as a Marine.

So I spent many memorial days walking in parades and attending memorial services.

Memorial Day is the time to show honor and reflect upon those that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the name of our nation. Officially declared by Congress in 1968 as the final Monday of May; Memorial Day exists to honor our countries fallen.

Whether relaxing by a pool side barbecue or taking that out of town trip, Memorial Day weekend has evolved into a celebratory and festive time and an unofficial kickoff to summer vacation.

Many will argue that the weekend has lost its value and meaning amongst Americans today. We may not all visit a burial site or attend a ceremony for the fallen, but we should all take a personal moment to reflect and remember those that were lost. I can think of no better way to honor those that have fallen in the name of this country, than to live the greatest life that we can within our communities. I hope you live today in remembrance of those that have fallen, respectfully honoring their self-sacrifice that give us the freedoms we enjoy each day.

I always take a moment to remember the families of those who gave their lives in the support of the ideals of our nation as well.

Our studios are open today with a holiday schedule with last classes at most locations at noon today. 11 am in South Naperville. Please check the schedule at all of our locations to find the time and format that works for you!

Happy memorial day, friends!

Mindful Monday: Blessings Counted

Good morning, mindful ones!

As I lie here in my warm, cozy bed admiring the sounds of rain and thunder, I am overcome with the feeling that today is a great day to be alive!

Right now is the perfect moment to count my blessings.

  • It’s a blessing that I woke up this morning.
  • That I am able to hear all of the sounds of nature.
  • That I am in a warm bed sheltered from the rain.
  • That my hands can hold my phone and I have fingers to type.
  • It’s a blessing that both of my parents are still alive and healthy and strong.
  • My son Julian is my blessing and my teacher.
  • It’s a blessing to have a brother and nieces and nephews. And cousins. And uncles and aunties.
  • I’m blessed to be healthy, happy and so darn clever 😜
  • I’m blessed to have amazing friends in my life; old and new, gold and silver. Some since kindergarten!
  • I’m so blessed to have my yoga practice.
  • It’s a blessing to have so many talented and wise yoga teachers and students.
  • I am blessed to have all of my hurts, disappointments and sadness for all of the wisdom and experiences they’ve brought.
  • I am blessed to experience the full range of human emotions in this life experience.
  • I am blessed to work at yoga by degrees and actually make my passion a career.
  • I am blessed my little Coco is in my life.
  • I am blessed to be surrounded by love always. And to finally see it and appreciate it.
  • It’s a blessing to have running water and access to clean drinking water.
  • It’s a blessing to have electricity.
  • I am blessed to have a vehicle to get me through my day safely with ease and comfort.
  • I’m blessed to be able to share my thoughts with you through this blog.

Won’t you take a few moments this morning to count your blessings?

You are a blessing to me and so many others.

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

Mindful Monday: Self-Compassion

Happy Monday, dear, dear friends! And still the snow is falling as I begin writing this blog! I’m practicing gratitude and acceptance so much right now!

Today let’s explore the idea of self-compassion. What does it mean to be compassionate toward yourself? Basically, it means treating yourself the same way you would treat your best friend and/or someone you love.

This is more challenging than it seems! I still struggle with being less judgmental towards myself and more loving and accepting. I am certainly my own biggest critic!

On the other end of this spectrum is self-pity. This is when we become so self-absorbed in our own troubles and woes. We vibrate from a low level of energy and get caught up in the feeling that we have an unfair share of burdens and problems.

The middle ground between being overly critical and overly pitying toward oneself is self-compassion. Like life and yoga, this is a tough balancing act!

To find that middle ground, remember that you are a part of common humanity. And that part of our shared human experience encompasses all of our mistakes, struggles and imperfections. So, compassion isn’t a ‘poor me’ feeling, it’s just recognizing that life is difficult for everyone at some points.

Coupled with remembering our deep connection to humanity (and all other living things part of planet Earth), is the practice of mindfulness. It refers to the ability to step outside yourself and see what’s happening, see that things may be difficult or you’re struggling, and hold that suffering in mindful awareness as opposed to getting lost in it or overly identifying with it.

Like yoga and life, self-compassion is a lifelong practice. Here are some ways you can begin to be kinder to yourself and ultimately kinder and more compassionate toward every living creature that you meet.

1. Stop taking yourself so seriously! Remember you’re doing the best you can, and that will always be enough. That certainly doesn’t mean stop trying; it means give your best in each moment and trust in the process. I certainly use humor as a way to cope with the madness that life brings my way. I strongly believe that laughter is truly the best medicine!

2. Carve out time for self-care every day! If we’re lucky, we get a whole hour to practice yoga at our favorite YBD studio! Some days that simply isn’t feasible. Then spend 15 minutes meditating or journaling. Treat yourself to a bubble bath. Go for a short walk. Drop down and do 10 burpees. Do one small thing that will elevate your spirit and help you de-stress.

3. Start practicing gratitude! When we are grateful for what we have, we realize that everything is enough. What we have is enough. Who we are is enough.

4. Perform random acts of kindness toward perfect strangers! Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Allow that person in the seeming hurry to cut you off in traffic with a wave.

Make eye contact and genuinely smile at someone passing by. I do that all the time, and I find it interesting how people react to it! It becomes a social experiment, and I can readily see how open or closed off people are!

As we practice kindness towards others, it becomes easier to be kind to ourselves. It also shift our focus from ‘poor me’ to how good it feels to connect with others.

5. Take a couple minutes each morning and evening or even before and after your yoga practice to tell yourself that you love yourself. And remind yourself of the reasons why.

And most importantly, remember we’re looking for progress not perfection. Like yoga, it’s consistency and dedication to the practice that yields the greatest transformation. And we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

Can’t wait to see you on your mat this week!

PS Another round of our 21 day cleanse is coming up in a couple of weeks!!!!

Mindful Monday: the Cycle of Life

Happy Mindful Monday! And welcome back, April! We are looking forward to your spring showers and all of the beautiful blossoms that will result.

For those of you that take my class regularly, you know that I recently lost a dear friend of mine. I’ve been sharing so much about my experience with death, and I’ve received a great deal of feedback after class. Many people have found some comfort as they deal with their own losses, so I wanted to share my thoughts here.

Our savasana pose literally means corpse pose. “Sava” = corpse. “Asana” = pose. And it comes at the end of our practice.

This reminds us of the natural order of things; there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If something exists, at some point it will cease to exist, at least in its physical form.

When we make it to Savasana pose, we are pretty happy to arrive, am I right? We enjoy the peacefulness and stillness, because we know we have spent the better part of an hour moving and sweating and working!

In this way we can familiarize ourselves with the concept each time we come to our mats. See that it is a quiet and tranquil place. There is no pain or suffering. Just an awareness of peace.

Death becomes our greatest teacher of LIFE. It reminds us of the sanctity of each moment. How lucky we are to be breathing. We are reminded that everything is temporary, so we can practice non-attachment. We realize how precious our time is and we learn not to squander it.

Regardless of how rich or famous one is, death reminds us that we are all equal here on this Earth. Time is the most valuable commodity we’ve been allotted. It’s the only currency that matters.

In thinking of death as a natural part of life each and every time we climb on our mats, we can be familiar with its inevitable visit. And hopefully this perspective will help us cope with any suffering we must endure.

You have been blessed with 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds today. How will you spend your precious currency? Because you can’t save it for later. You must spend it today.

Anicca! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Open Your Heart

Good morning, dearest mindful ones! I hope you had a lovely weekend.

On Saturday, we had a memorial service for my dearest friend who left us way too early. Of course it was heart wrenching and so very sad. But there’s something about pausing from our day to day routines to drill down that allows us to connect to the bigger picture.

It was a heart achingly beautiful day surrounded by so many loved ones. It really shifted my perspective and opened my heart immensely. Death is the greatest teacher about life. Here are my thoughts.

When we move from FEAR, we live in a state of anxiety, anger, confusion, malcontent, discontent, greed, jealousy, hatred; we feel disconnected and unhappy. We then seek physical pleasures and material possessions to find temporary reprieve from the negative spiral of emotions.

When we move from LOVE, we realize that there is nothing stronger than kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, graciousness and forgiveness. There is nothing to fix or change or recover. We realize that we are ALL connected to every living being, both great and small. When others hurt us, we try to find ourselves in that person. We seek to understand. We will, inevitably, be hurt. As we sit with our pain, we are reminded that it is part of the deal of being HUMAN. It’s inescapable. We feel it and feel it and feel it until it passes. And it ALWAYS passes. And we take the lesson and move on. We seek to destroy barriers. We seek to liberate others from their wheel of misery as we work arduously each day to free ourselves.

We remember that everything is temporary and so fleeting. And we try not to attach. We practice releasing our expectations of how life should be, and we work really hard to appreciate what we have when we have it.

And as life inevitably shifts, we work so hard to open our hands and our hearts and let everything go.

I’ll definitely be seeking some serious mat time this week to support myself as I work on letting go and opening up.

Make it a great week, yogis! Remember that whatever you may be going through, it is so temporary. And that you are never, ever alone in our YBD community.

Anicca! Be happy!