Relax

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: Yoga as a Healing Modality

Good morning, friends! Another Monday is here for you to write your own ticket. A fresh slate for you to create your own destiny. Of course yoga will play some role in that narrative, yes?

Think about the last time you had a paper cut. You didn’t have to think about your blood creating platelets to clot and close the wound or to send neutrophils and macrophages to the site to protect against germs and infection, right? Your body just did what it was made to do: heal itself.

When we practice yoga, we create an ideal environment for our minds and bodies to heal. Through the physical practice, we aid circulation, digestion, lymphatic release as we strengthen our muscles and create more flexibility in our joints and other connective tissues. Through the mindfulness practice, we forge new neural pathways and literally rewire our brains toward more peace and happiness.

One of the simplest ways to enhance every physical and cognitive function in your body is through your diet. What you put into your body can greatly strengthen all of the body’s systems. Or it can tax your body and create more work.

At least once a year, I cleanse my body with a 21 day detox. It’s a hard reset physically, mentally and emotionally. By removing foods that create inflammation and unduly stress our digestive systems and replacing them with foods that are easily digested and absorbed, we allow our bodies to focus on more important tasks like cellular repair processes.

Since 2012, I’ve literally led about 150 YBD yogis through this process. Some of those people have adopted this program as a lifestyle. It’s perfectly safe and medically unassailable. Others have taken one or two habits along with them on their path. Many have gone through this cleanse multiple times with me.

Personally I’ve experienced this detox nine times. Each time is different, and I continuously learn more and more about myself throughout the process.

Are you ready for an incredible challenge? Is food your final frontier? Do you want to take your yoga lifestyle to the next level?

If so, sign up today for this 21 day reset!

But don’t just take my word for it. Chances are, you’ve taken a class with a YBD instructor and/or practiced next to a yoga student who has undergone this process with me!

Here’s what yoga teacher Shaun Emerson said:

“Nadja calls it a detox, a cleanse, but for me, it was deeper than that. With Nadja’s guidance, the 21 day period was an opportunity to be thoughtful about what I was putting into my body. Participating in past cleanses, detoxes, and diets, the energy was negative: lose weight, deny, and be miserable. With Nadja’s positive energy shared on a daily basis, the attention is on the transformative impact food can have on our self-awareness and our relationship with others and the world around us. For me, the 21 days was a detox and cleanse, but more importantly, the 21 days was the first 21 days restart in a healthier body, clearer mind and deeper sense of awareness.”

So … what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

Mindful Monday: Get Grounded

Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! Let’s take advantage of this lovely weather and get grounded!

No, not the kind of grounded where you’re stuck at home with no contact with friends, no TV or electronics. (Although that may also prove beneficial! And actually sounds pretty lovely to me in moderate doses.)

I’m referring to connecting with Mother Earth by walking barefoot! Ideally on the beach, but until spring break, we’ll have to make do with the wet grass. Or even in the mud! It’s called “earthing,” and aside from being a super yogi thing to do; it has amazing mental, emotional and physical health benefits!

Here are just a few of the amazing and maybe even surprising benefits of this practice.

Rejuvenates your senses and calms your mind

Earthing is usually done in the morning or evening – but fit it in wherever you can!

Taking deep breaths of fresh air provides oxygen for your entire body to function more efficiently.

The calm atmosphere and brief moments of unplugging from the matrix and plugging directly into Mother Nature helps relax your entire body and mind, allowing you to release your stress.

The green color of grass helps stimulate your body to produce calming hormones that help you relax.

The feeling of cool grass beneath your feet, the calm stillness of early morning or early evening, connecting with nature and feeling the warmth of the sun will certainly boost your mood!

Connects you to the earth and neutralizes your electrical field

When we walk barefoot on grass, we are directly connected to the magnetic field of the earth, which affects the entire electrical and magnetic field of the human body.

This exchange of energies helps neutralize negative electrical impulses in our body which are known to cause certain ailments.

It is said to also neutralize the effects of spending hours in front of our computer, TV and smart phone screens.

Cleansing our bodies of negative electrical energies can definitely have a positive effect on our overall health.

Provides your body with the precious properties of sun energy

The sunlight warms your winter body to the bone and naturally replenishes your essential vitamin D stores.

Sun energy is a great source of healing our energies and restorative powers. In Naturopathy, it is referred to as the source of life and energy.

Studies show that it helps disinfect the body, tones muscles and nerves and supplies the entire body with energy!

According to experts, we can get the maximum sun energy benefits between 6:30 to 9 in the morning and between 4:30 to about 6:30 in the evening. Be mindful of over exposure to the sun in the harsh afternoon sun hours.

So get off the pavement, take off your stuffy shoes, and go get grounded!

Have a great week, my earthy, grounded yogis! See you on your mat this week!

Mindful Monday: Spring Ahead!

Happy Mindful Monday, friends!

When we changed the clocks early Sunday morning, we didn’t magically create extra daylight … we just shifted the time that the sun rises and sets. This affects your circadian rhythm, your 24 hour body clock.

Setting your clock forward 1 hour for Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the spring means losing an hour of sleep on the morning after the change. For most people, this may just be a minor annoyance. However, for others it can be quite disruptive.

Some studies show that tiredness induced by the clock change contributes to an increase in traffic accidents on the first Monday after the clock switch.

Other studies show an increase in heart attacks and even triggers for mental illness and depression due to that one hour of less sleep.

Even though disrupting the circadian rhythm can have some serious effects, most studies find that they pass during the days following a DST change.

Interestingly, during the fall when we gain an hour, the opposite effects have been measured and observed. A decrease in traffic accidents and even a decrease in heart attack rates!

Being tired can decrease productivity, concentration, and general well-being. It can also make you feel crabby, unmotivated and even depressed!

There are some simple ways of making it easier to handle the clock change, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

• Eat a healthy breakfast first thing. Food tells your body it is the start of the day.

• Go for a walk. Light, and especially sunlight, helps to adjust your internal body clock.

• Use the light wisely. Head outside early to get sunlight and wake up, and dim your lights in the evening to get your body ready for sleep.

• Adjust evening activities. To fall asleep more easily (particularly when losing an hour in spring) limit caffeine and alcohol before bed, and avoid strenuous nighttime workouts. Yoga is fine!

Well here’s to Monday! We got this, y’all; we are yogis! Getting proper rest and self-care are our top priorities.

Have a great week my friends. See you on your mat!

Mindful Monday: Expectation is the root of all heartache

Good morning, mindful ones!

Think about the last time you felt hurt, disappointed or let down. If you examine that situation, you’ll see that it was your expectation not being met that caused your disappointment, not what actually happened.

If you didn’t expect a certain outcome, there would be nothing to react to!

It’s pretty darn simple but so very challenging. I mean how can we go through life without expectations? We expect things to go in a logical, linear direction. We expect to work hard toward a specific goal or outcome. We expect those we love to treat us in a loving, respectful way. We expect to go to the market and find the items we need and purchase them. We expect our cars to start when we push the ignition button. We expect someone to call when he/she says he/she will. We expect our friends to have our back. We expect our children to behave in a certain way. We expect our parents to love us. We expect to pay our bills and have our utilities work. We expect to wake up in the morning and the sun will be shining. The list goes on and on and on of our expectations. I mean they are all pretty reasonable, right?

Sure they are! And when one of our reasonable expectations is not met, how does that make us feel? Resentful. Disappointed. Downright pissed! Sad. Betrayed. Hurt. These feelings can fester in a relationship. All caused by certain expectations.

It’s so important to turn our attention inward when feeling that bitter sting of disappointment. Rather than project it outward and blame the easy target, look within and see where the disappointment is rooted.

We cannot control others. We cannot control life. This is a lifelong lesson we continue to resist. The more we resist it, the more painful these lessons can become.

So we continue to practice our yoga and meditation to use for self-introspection. It should never be about the other person or outside factor. What am I doing today about my anger? Jealously? Self-doubt? Expectations?

Can I give and love more freely? What was my motivation when I did x, y or z? Was it pure or was I doing it to get something in return?

For me, it’s always about shifting my perspective back to gratitude. Focusing so much on all of the abundance of blessings and love that surrounds me each day. Giving for the sake of giving. Loving because it’s my true nature. Accepting because it’s my only way to stay sane!

Have a great week, dearest ones! Hope to see you on your mat this week – but I won’t be mad at you if you don’t show up!! ❤️

Mindful Monday: Yoga Etiquette

Good morning, mindful ones! This is the time of year that our classes can be pretty crowded. You may have already noticed that. So it’s a great time to brush up on our yoga etiquette.

The word “etiquette” is derived from the French word “estique” meaning to attach or stick. It describes proper conduct established by community, such as our YBD community.

It’s important to remember that the essence of etiquette begins by showing respect for others, putting others at ease, and showing kindness and courtesy to others. If we follow these mindful guidelines, we are truly practicing the ancient art of yoga.

So here goes! A few tips to make yourself and those around you at ease and comfortable:

1. Arrive on time – We are all familiar with that feeling of rushing into the yoga studio. It’s stressful to you and your classmates. Be sure to arrive on time, allowing for time to check-in, put away your personal belongings, set up your mat and grab your props. This will contribute to a more relaxing and focused experience for you. And if you arrive really early, you have a few moments to meditate or practice pranayama (breath work).

2. Leave your shoes at the door – Please remove your boots or shoes at the front door and place them in the designated trays. Especially during this time of year when our footwear is covered in snow, salt and slush. Not only are you contributing to the cleanliness of our studios, but you’re helping to create a welcoming space for all of us.

3. Revel in the silence – Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind. Once you step inside the studio, please respect the quiet space we cultivate for you and others. Take conversations to the locker room or lobby area. Many of our students arrive early to practice meditation or to just relax in the warm and silent room. For many, this may be the only time they have all day for themselves. Please be mindful and respectful of that. This of course means please leave your cell phone in the locker room. If there is a specific situation where you need to have your phone with you in the studio, please inform the teacher about it.

4. Practice personal hygiene – The majority of our classes are heated, so smells can be amplified and overwhelming in the hot room. Please come to class odor-free, meaning sans heavy perfumes and other odors.

5. Be aware of your space – Once in the studio, please be aware of your space. Our classes are very popular and can get pretty crowded this time of year, so being mindful about how much space we’re taking is important. Sometimes it is a luxury to have endless space around your mat.

If you notice a late straggler rushing into the room frantically looking for a spot, practice embodying yoga by moving your mat and creating space. This is how world peace begins. One mat at a time.

We don’t have a ton of rules at YBD, but following these few, simple guidelines will enrich our practice tremendously.

As always my yoga lovelies, so looking forward to seeing you on your mat this week!

Onward and upward, always!

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

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

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

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

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

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

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

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

Have a great week, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What? Why?!?

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week, beautiful ones!

Mindful Monday: Know Your Mind

Hello Dear Ones!

Another Monday has arrived. A beautiful fresh clean slate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much gratitude for you! Namaste.