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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!

Pose of the Month: July 2018 Garudasana

Garudasana or Eagle pose. Headstand with eagle leg variation.

Our July 2018 pose of the month is Garudasana or Eagle pose. In observance of America’s birthday, it’s appropriate that we feature the pose honoring our national emblem, the bald eagle symbolizing long life, great strength and majestic looks.

Let’s begin in a wide Chair pose. Bring your feet hip width distance apart and bend your knees, pushing weight back into your heels while keeping spine straight.

Lift your right foot off the floor and cross your right thigh over your left thigh. Hug your thighs together. If possible, hook your right foot around your left calf to complete the leg bind. If that doesn’t work, it’s fine to leave your right foot unbound or even to lower your right big toe to the floor to act as a kickstand.

Tee out your arms and cross your right arm under your left at the elbow. Bend both elbows so that the forearms are perpendicular to the floor and bring your palms to touch as much as possible. You can also reach hands to opposite shoulders as an alternative to the bind.

Bring your gaze to a fixed point in front of you to help you maintain balance. Take several breaths in this upright position, wrapping your arms and legs together like vines.

Continue to try to stack shoulders over your hips, left elbow to shoulder height and draw fingers forward as shoulders reach back.

Repeat on the left side.

Mindful Monday

Happy Monday, friends!

Hope you had a lovely Fourth of July last week! It felt strange to have a holiday in the middle of the week, didn’t it? But it certainly made it interesting.

Pauses from our daily grind are such a great opportunity to step back and relax and just have some fun! And it also provides a great vantage point to simply slow down and touch base with what’s really going on.

We tend to go on autopilot as we move through our familiar, mundane daily grind tasks. It’s important to take a step back and make sure our thoughts and vibrations are in sync with our physical efforts.

As you begin this new week, take a few minutes for yourself to adjust your mindset and mentally prepare for your week ahead. Your thought vibrations will make all of your work run smoothly and efficiently with very little effort.

Have a great week, friends!

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: Rise Above

Happy Monday, friends!

My dad always told me growing up, “If you can’t bring someone to your level, don’t lower yourself to meet them at theirs.”

You know how you feel when you leave a yoga class? Lighter. Happier. Kinder. More compassionate. Stronger. More confident. Generous. Exuding positivity. Tolerant. Accepting. Open. Abundant. And beaming love, peace and contentment.

Am I missing anything?

Those are your natural states of being. The work is in maintaining those feelings no matter what happens around us. No matter what someone says or does. Whether teeny, petty things happen or some of the big body blows hit us.

Let’s continue feeding the positive. Don’t waver from it. No matter what happens pivot towards the positive.

Have a great week practicing, yogis!

Pose of the Month: May 2018 Padmasana

April showers bring May flowers, and our pose of the month is Padmasana or Lotus Pose.

Padma= Lotus Asana = Pose

LOTUS is the quintessential yoga pose and probably the most recognizable. It’s deeply associated with meditation and is named after the lotus flower.

In Eastern religions and cultures, the lotus flower is a symbol of purity and enlightenment. It blossoms in stagnant, muddy waters floating pristinely above the surface, untouched by the murk and mire in which it is rooted.

Lotus is considered an advanced pose, as it requires hip flexibility in order to protect the vulnerable knee joints.

Here’s how:

  • Sit on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you, keeping your spine erect.
  • Bend your right knee and cradle your lower leg with your right foot in the crook of your left elbow. Begin to externally rotate your right hip and carefully place your right foot on your left thigh. Make sure that the sole of your foot points upward and your heel is close to your abdomen.
  • Repeat with your left leg.
  • With both legs crossed and feet placed on opposite thighs, place your hands on your knees.
  • Root your sitting bones down and elongate your spine. Draw your head directly above your hips.
  • Lift your shoulders up towards your ears, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lower them down your back.
  • Hold and continue with long, gentle breaths in and out.
  • To come out, gently remove one foot at a time from your thighs.

This can also be practiced in the half lotus position, ardhapadmasana by sitting in sukhasana easy seated pose and only drawing one foot to upper thigh.