self love

October 2019 Pose of the Month: Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose

Happy October, yogis!

Our October 2019 POTM is Pincha Mayurasana. You may know Pincha Mayurasana or Feathered Peacock Pose by one of its common aliases: Forearm Stand or Elbow Balance.

Forearm stand is an advanced pose that opens your shoulders for backbends; builds arm strength for more-advanced arm balances; adds an uplifting quality to your spirit and practice and deeply connects to the entire abdominal sheath.

Here’s how:

Bring your mat over to a wall.

1 Come to your hands and knees facing the wall. Your fingertips should be pretty close to the wall. (An inch or two away is good. This is so when you kick up and your heels are on the wall, your spine is as vertical as possible).

2 Bend your elbows to bring your forearms and palms flat against the floor. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to the forearms. Your gaze should be down on your mat throughout this posture. 

3 Curl your toes under and lift your hips to come into a Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) position with your legs. This position is sometimes called Dolphin (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana).

4 Walk your feet in toward your elbows as much as possible. Ideally, your hips will come over your shoulders.

5 Lift your dominant leg (the one you like to lead with) to a Down-Dog Split (Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana) position. 

6 Exhale and bend the knee of the leg that is still on the floor. Swing your lifted leg for a little momentum as your bottom leg hops up. Try to land both heels softly on the wall. Note that the head stays up off the floor. Keep your gaze on the floor between your hands.

7 If you are able to get both legs up and invert fully, begin to work on engaging your core so you can remove your feet from the wall one at a time and balance independently. Remain in the pose one to five minutes, breathing slowly and deeply.

8 Take five breaths in balsana or child’s pose to counter.

Mindful Monday: The Secret to Happiness

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful one!

Would you like to know the secret to happiness?

*keep scrolling

Be happy!

Super simple, right?

You seem disappointed.

Well, it’s certainly not EASY! Who likes easy, anyway? We’re here for maximum growth and transformation! And that kind of magical stuff is never, ever as boring and mundane as … easy.

The truth is our natural state of being is one of happiness. Pure, sublime, delicious and simple happiness.

Here are the top ten ways that we give away our happiness every day. Relinquishing our own power and control of our life experiences. (Seems so insane when you think of it like that, right?)

1. Choosing to be unhappy rather than happy.

2. Fear of anything, especially of being a radiant, shiny rockstar or of falling in love over and over and over again.

3. Waiting for everything to be “just right” and in “perfect order” before jumping off that bridge.

4. Getting caught up in silly, irrelevant trivialities

5. Worrying what others will think and seeking validation from others

6. Attaching happiness to anything external, like: the weather (friendly reminder that you live in the Midwest amidst FOUR seasons); how other people drive, look, breathe, think, and live their lives; life unfolding in its own perfection and timetable

7. Focusing on what you don’t have rather than being eternally grateful for all you DO HAVE right now

8. Thinking of all the different ways things might go wrong rather than trusting and believing that everything is RIGHT, especially the detours and the so-called setbacks

9. Wasting even a single precious second on self-doubt. Please see #2

10. Cultivating negativity in thoughts, words and actions.

Ok, my little dove, go forth and soar like the radiant, creative, gorgeous being we all know you are.

Have a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: the Journey

Getting upside down at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones!!!

It was Family Day at Vanderbilt this past weekend – the first time I’ve seen my baby boy since we said our farewells outside of Murray Hall on Sunday, August 18th.

We had a blast this weekend! Nashville is a thriving and beautiful city with so much to offer. It is overflowing with entertainment, amazing food and lovely people.

And to see my son in his beautiful new life and to hear him say that he made the right choice for himself is an indescribable medley of emotions: pure joy, happiness, pride, gratitude and comfort. He compared Vandy to the other top 15 schools he was accepted to, and said that Vandy students are ranked as among the happiest in the nation!

And I have to remind myself that the road to get here was certainly not a smoothly paved, perfectly straight path. It was far from that!

But the journey was worth it. A billion times over.

And those times where we struggled (he’s more stubborn than me!!) are now funny stories. And the big, significant milestone moments are precious memories that warm the heart.

And the every day grind times are the memories most cherished. The mundane, every day stuff that at the time felt routine and tedious and sometimes boring and annoying are what I miss the most during the course of my day.

But I certainly don’t dwell on that! I shift my focus and awareness to Julian, and we are so excited to see the amazing things unfolding in this young man’s future.

After only a month, he seems taller and he’s definitely filling out his frame with wider shoulders and more meat on his bones! 🤣😍

And watching his journey is a constant reminder to me to stay grounded in the present. To anchor my awareness to right now. And that it’s OK to feel whatever it is I’m feeling in each moment, as long as it’s honest and authentic.

Family day was experienced with my parents and my ex-husband. Just like the 18 year journey to get Julian settled into “the Harvard of the South” was rocky and less than smooth; this weekend also had its ups and downs. Lol.

The majority of ups! But a few instances where we were annoyed with one another. Lol. That’s called family living or just life itself!

The trick is to anchor down (<<< see what I did there?) into the present and love and accept every single moment. Even when you want to strangle someone. Or wrap them in your arms and never let go. It’s all good stuff. All of it!

Have a great week, my lovely friends! Embrace all of it!

Make it the best week ever!

September 2019 POTM: Anahatasana or Melting Heart Pose

Happy September, yogis!

Our POTM is Anahatasana, or Melting Heart pose (sometimes referred to as Extended Puppy pose). This beautiful backbend deeply opens the shoulders, pectoral muscles of the chest, thoracic spine, neck and lower back. Heart and lung meridians receive a fresh burst of prana. Try this yoga pose first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day ahead!

Here’s how:

From table top (hands and knees) position, slide your arms forward and begin to melt your heart towards the earth.

Listen carefully to your heart and body and move only to the degree that feels appropriate.

You can always layer a block under your sternum to help your heart meet the earth.

You can bring your forehead to your mat (or a block if necessary) and gently rock your forehead side to side, massaging your ajna or third eye chakra.

Ultimately your chest may lay on the ground, with the chin tilting up. This will compress and massage the back on the neck and must only be done if comfortable.

If your chest, throat and chin easily rest on your mat, you can tuck your toes, lift your knees off the mat and straighten your legs. Please note that this is an advanced variation, and should only be done if your chest can remain pinned to the earth.

Hold for 3-5 minutes, breathing deeply into the shoulders, neck, spine, chest and lower back. Always remember where your attention goes, energy flows and it is important in these more vulnerable yin, backbending poses to remain focused inwards and on your pranayama.

Observe the emotions rising in this yoga pose. Melting heart is particularly effective in releasing heavy, stagnant or sad feelings. It may trigger an emotional reaction and release, including the need to cry! By the end of the pose, you will feel joy and lightness.

Follow with Balasana, Child’s Pose.

Mindful Monday:

Good morning, beautiful mindful ones!

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

Here’s a short story about life.

There was once a man who had been wounded by a poisoned arrow. And when his family wanted to find a doctor to help him, the man said no.

The mortally wounded man said that before any doctor tried to help him, he wanted to know who had attacked him. What was his caste and where was he from?

He also wanted to know this other man’s height, strength, skin tone, the kind of bow he used, and whether its string was made of hemp, silk, or bamboo.

So, as he wondered if the arrow’s feathers came from a vulture, peacock, or falcon, and whether the bow was common, curved, or made of oleander, he ended up dying before getting an answer to any of his questions. 

How often do we this? Focusing so much on every myriad, irrevelant detail of the past, that we literally sacrifice our future?

Focusing on the past robs us of our ability to fully experience the present, to enjoy every moment of the journey and to appreciate the beauty of life. Through yoga, we continually practice staying present in the moment. To focus, breathe, observe as we empty the mind of everything but right now.

That’s exactly why we practice balancing poses! We are forced to feel the entire body and stay super focused – it’s hard enough balancing on two feet, let alone one!

And most remember, dear yogis, that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in your journey!

Make it the best week ever!

Namaste

Mindful Monday: Sangha

Good morning and happy Monday, dearest mindful ones!

I’m so grateful to be part of the Yoga By Degrees sangha. I’m so grateful for each and every one of YOU! 🙏🏾

Sangha is a Sanskrit term meaning association, company or community.

In Buddhism, sangha has two meanings: 1. A community of Buddhist monastic monks and nuns, or 2. a community of awakened beings.

When I refer to our YBD sangha, I’m acknowledging that you are all my TRIBE! My peoples.

I’m appreciating the fact that through all of my life transitions over the past eight plus years, YOU my dearest mindful one, have walked by my side; grabbed my hand and pulled me when I needed it; kicked me in my booty at times; pushed; cheered and supported me through ALL of it.

And I sincerely hope that you feel I’ve been able to do the same for you.

How lucky are we to have a sacred space to go and hide, heal, cry, laugh and receive love, compassion, support and understanding?!

I am particularly grateful for all of the love, support, wisdom and much-needed advice as I’ve navigated the turbulent years of parenting a brilliant, talented and very stubborn (not sure where he got that from!) teenager!

And yesterday was a successful launch into his brand new, bright, shiny future as a college freshman in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

It truly takes a village or a sangha to raise a child.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you my dearest mindful ones.

Namaste.

Mindful Monday: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Good Mindful Monday morning, friends!

“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”

This has been my mantra this summer, as I prepare to say farewell to my soon-to-be college-bound son. He is a “rising” freshman as I’ve been told they are now referred to.

I’ve been holding on to the preciousness and sanctity of each blessed breath and moment.

And letting go of all of the thoughts of how I could have been a better mom.

I’ve been learning to hang on dearly to memories of all of the laughter and fun and lightness.

To release all of the disappointments and hurts that inevitably happen within a family and a personal relationship.

And to grasp the nuggets of wisdom that result in learning the tough lessons of life.

To hang on to the significance of each “last” before he leaves. Last weekend. Last family dinner. Last Sunday lunch. Last night before he embarks on his new adventure.

And to leave behind the expectations and “shouldas” and “couldas.”

To embrace with gratitude this gift of motherhood.

And to acknowledge that this entire journey has always been about preparing to let go.

To continue to trust in the brilliance of life’s plans.

To relinquish the thought that I ever really had much control over any of it.

To accept in my heart that we all did our best.

And to surrender to the belief that this is exactly how it should unfold.

This morning, I found a brand new park to sit in and write today’s post. It seemed fitting to write my last Mindful Monday before my heart and soul is ripped out and transplanted to another city and state. (Not dramatic at all!)

As I sit on a bench with all the sounds of nature enveloping me, one of these birds flew directly towards me then looped around and flew away! So symbolic. I was completely engrossed in watching the flight. As an afterthought I snapped this picture of that bird with one of his bird friends.

While I am well aware that I’m not the only mother in the history of the world to experience this deep, bittersweet sense of loss; I am definitely feeling connected to every human soul who has, for whatever reason, ever had to say a tough, gut wrenching, totally scary and absolutely necessary farewell.

So when the time comes, I pray for the strength to be able to turn around and paddle away, knowing I’ve done all I can and trusting he will be surrounded with love, support and guidance always.

Mindful Monday: Patience

Good morning, Mindful Ones!

“Patience is not about waiting, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

Boy, did I have an awesome lesson in patience on Saturday morning!

I left my house early to take one of my favorite yoga classes. En route, I stopped to get my iced coffee. I buy my coffee from a spot that is a hidden gem – it’s never very busy because it’s kind of off the beaten path.

Well when I got there, I knew right away things seemed odd. There was a long line for the drive-through.

Simple enough. I parked my car and headed in. And that’s when I saw the long line of customers waiting agitatedly.

I caught the attention of my lovely barista Mârché, and she explained that there was only two people working that morning rather than the scheduled four people.

So, I understood very clearly why there was a longer than normal wait. I had compassion for the two girls working, because they were dealing with two long lines of inconvenienced customers.

And still, a well of annoyance, irritation and entitlement kept trying to bubble to the surface. And I kept breathing deeply and reminding myself of the perfectly logical reason why I was waiting. It was definitely a struggle.

And because I frequent that location, and I have had dozens upon dozens of great experiences there, I was able to restrain myself from behaving badly. Lol.

I had to wait so long, however, that I was now in danger of being late for class! Fortunately I had left quite early that morning, which in itself was a tiny miracle. 🤣 Had I left at my regular time, which generally gives me about a five minute window, I would have absolutely missed my class.

So about 12 minutes later (who was counting?) i’m in my car and speeding off with focus and determination to get to my yoga class.

Wouldn’t that be the morning that I caught every single red light? And not just regular red lights; Red lights that literally lasted like two minutes each.

And why was every driver in front of me the slowest in the history of driving?

Again, that hot flame of annoyance began to rise and build! It was growing into full blown road rage. I was clutching the steering wheel and hunching forward over it. I felt my shoulders tense upward toward my ears; my jaw was clenching. I was agitatedly pounding on my steering wheel!

And I kept reminding myself to breathe. That this was most definitely a first world problem. That I had already texted the teacher and she had put a mat down for me. That if I missed my yoga class there was 32 others during the day that I could take.

It was a constant back and forth struggle the entire drive.

I made it to class with two minutes to spare. I dramatically rushed in and got myself set up. I said hello to my fellow students and other teachers. And finally, landed on my mat filled with gratitude and joy.

Sigh. It’s always great to be back home.

Let’s remember together, dear ones, that patience is a sign of STRENGTH and anger is the hallmark of weakness.

Have a great week, great souls! And be so grateful if the universe sends you many, many opportunities this week to practice your patience!

Mindful Monday: Summer is Slipping Away

Good morning and happy Monday, dearest ones!

Summer is slip sliding away so quickly!

And isn’t time such a relative perspective?

For parents with young, loud, messy, high-energy, easily bored little ones, the advent of a new school year can’t come quickly enough!

For one of my dearest friends whose daughter is in her last two weeks of Beast basic training for the United States Military Academy aka West Point, time seems interminable.

For me? I’d love to slow down the clock because my son Julian leaves for Vanderbilt in less than three weeks! Not to mention summer is hands down (legs up) my absolute best time of year!

Thus is our human nature. Trying to cherry pick life’s moments and experiences. Attaching to and desiring what we perceive to be “good” and resisting and averting from what we deem as “bad.”

We can never achieve permanent, authentic happiness and inner peace if we are constantly defining the conditions for it.

I will be happy if he brings me flowers.

I can’t be happy if she keeps smacking her gum.

I will be happy once I can get my leg behind my head.

I can’t be happy unless I get married again.

I’ll be happy if my mother-in-law doesn’t criticize me.

Whether or not these (temporary) conditions come to pass, we can still choose happiness if we don’t expect or depend on them.

Think about why you take a vinyasa class at your favorite studio: it’s awesome specifically because you don’t know what the teacher had planned! You are a student: open, eager and ready for whatever unfolds on your mat! Especially when you first began practicing, right?

It was all shiny and new and challenging and intoxicating. You didn’t second guess the instructor or try to anticipate what was coming up next. You listened, tried, experienced it.

You learned how to try new things.

How to fall. And get back up with a giggle.

You learned how strong you are!

You learned where you had areas and potential for growth.

You learned to breathe

To listen to your heart.

To accept wherever you happen to be on your journey.

And the entire point of yoga is to transpose all of those lessons off of the mat into real life.

So, rather than trying to make time slow down or speed up, we breathe in fully and deeply each and every moment. We trust in the higher intelligence of LIFE. We surrender to being such a beautiful, integral part of the greater universe.

Of course, it ain’t easy! Lol. Where would the fun be in that?!

So even though my heart aches down to the deepest level of my soul, I choose to be happy even during my moments of deep sobbing and panic. To feel grateful that I am able to love on the deepest of levels. To be thrilled for this ridiculously bright and amazing future my son is embarking upon.

To know and trust that of course it is all necessary and amazing and beautiful. All of it. Especially those circumstances that break us down; crack us wide open; leave us feeling raw and vulnerable and tender.

For these are the opportunities for true growth. Here we learn compassion, patience, healing, acceptance, depth of love and letting go.

Each moment may seem to last forever, but they are so precious and fleeting.

And one day in retrospect, you’ll look back and those moments you tried to rush through are the ones that you deeply long for!

One more day of summer break with my son

One more afternoon answering endless questions

One more early Saturday morning of baseball/karate/track meet/practice driving/soccer

One more night filled with loud, silly, messy hungry boys sleeping over

One more weekday night after a long day of work to hear the words: “mommy, will you play with me”

Recognizing on the deepest level there’s no going back for do-overs, I know the next best thing is to stay mindfully aware and present for all of the moments of each day.

So take advantage of the gift of these last weeks of summer! What have you been planning to do? Get out there and make it happen! So when you do look back, it’s with a deep, joyful knowing that you appreciated and maximized each moment.

Have a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: Hot Yoga in the High Heat of Summer? Yes, please!

Good morning and happy Monday, my beautiful, mindful ones!

There’s been tons of rain this summer, but summer is finally here!

Summer is hands down my absolutely favorite season! I love being outdoors. And summer in Chicago is literally the best place on the planet to live!

Summer concerts, Cubs games, street festivals, beach days, pool days, breakfast, lunch and dinner al fresco, long walks in nature, fireflies, funnel cakes, Fourth of July… the list is endless!

But when that heavy humidity is blanketing you, and sweat is dripping from virtually everywhere in your body … a hot yoga class may feel like the last place you’d ever want to be.

However, there are so many great reasons to continue your practice in spite of the summer heat!

1. Consistency and discipline.

The height and depth of your yoga practice (and virtually every other aspect of life) is directly related to how often you practice. That means being very consistent with your commitment to your mat. If you truly want to make Yoga an integral part of your life, it becomes habitual. Just like eating and sleeping. It’s a daily practice!

2. Detoxification.

Sweating aids in cleansing your organs, muscles and glands. Whether you’re feeling lethargic or overindulging during weekend barbecues, summer is a great time to detoxify your body! During the warmer summer months people tend to get sluggish. Doing hot yoga re-energizes you and helps you sweat out bad toxins. So go ahead and eat that Andy’s custard! Just work it off on your mat!

3. Training your cardiovascular system.

Your cardiovascular systems helps regulate and control body temperature. In our privileged society, we externally control our environmental temperatures with air-conditioning and heating. This ensures that we are comfortable throughout the changing seasons of the Midwest. However it does not allow us to train the vascular system to regulate body temperature internally.

When practicing yoga in a heated room, it provides a great opportunity for your cardiovascular system to also train and get a workout!

4. Strengthening your brain!

You’re either comfortable or you’re growing. It’s that simple. If you seek safety in life, relationships, career moves, you’ll never find true growth.

Learning to cope in high heat yoga classes teaches valuable coping skills off of your mat! You become much less reactive to external stimuli and become much stronger in mentally focusing and executing your life goals.

Whatever you “think” you are or do, is the absolute truth.

5. Deepen your asana practice.

After a long day sitting at your desk, you feel stiff basically like everywhere! With your body already warm from the outside temperatures, stepping into the heated studio gives your body an opportunity to become more limber and flexible. With the heat, you begin from a space of warmth and may find a depth to your poses not readily accessible in the colder, stiffer months.

I certainly see very clearly how students’ backbends are so much deeper this time of year. So much more space in the upper body when we’re not hunching over and bracing against the cold!

What are some other benefits that you are seeing through your consistent, year-round practice?!

Have a great week, hotties!!!