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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!!!

Mindful Monday: Saluting the Sun

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Have you ever really stopped to contemplate Surya Namaskar? It’s such a common part of our practice, that it’s easy to be on autopilot as you flow through.

No worries! I have found myself doing this at times as well.

Yes, sun salutes are the perfect “warm-up” for the physical body. We lengthen and engage all major muscle groups and joints; cardiovascular system increases; lungs, blood circulation and digestive system all benefit. In fact if you don’t have time for a full hour of practice, do 10 to 12 sun salutes for a perfect physical workout!

But we know that Yoga transcends so much more than just the physical.

In our sun salutations, we are yoking mind and body together, creating a pathway to dhyana or meditation, a state of deep contemplation and reception.

In our fast-paced world, we are often ahead of the current moment. The mind has been trained to fast forward in anticipation. Our sun salutes offer the opportunity to pause, return to our center, rekindling our relationship to breath and pure awareness. With this new awareness of breath and movement, we connect to our deeper rhythm and experience a moving meditation. It’s not in fact the physical poses but the deeper awareness of our inner energetic flow that awakens the state of yoga.

The Sun is central to this devotion, as it is the giver of all life on this planet. Without the sun, life on earth would dwindle and slowly die. The Sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, generates our weather patterns, and gives energy to the growing green plants that provide the food and oxygen for life on Earth.

Miraculously, we are the perfect distance from the sun. Any closer, and we would be scorched. Any further away, and we would be in the Ice Ages.

The next time you flow through Surya Namaskar, focus on the miracle of your existence! Use your awareness to honor and notice where your body happens to be at this moment. Take each breath with gratitude.

Namaste, dearest mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: Little moments are the building blocks

Good morning, mindful ones! I’m beginning to feel like we live in Seattle, not the Chicago suburbs!

But I’m not complaining! I love the rain. But it does become a bit of a hindrance during graduation party season!

As you may already know, my son graduated from high school in May and we are well into graduation party season.

As we celebrate this next chapter in our kids’ lives, it’s such a reminder that we’re actually celebrating all of the little, every day mundane moments that brought us to this big one.

Every Saturday morning spent on the (insert sport here) field;

every Cub Scout meeting;

every sleepover;

every pizza party;

every piano recital and martial arts belt test;

every brown bag lunch packed;

every random Wednesday morning;

every spring break and summer vacay;

every Christmas and Easter;

every birthday;

every driving lesson and late-night studying sessions;

Every ACT and SAT prep sessions;

Every single college application and endless essays;

Every college visit;

And every single day since they started kindergarten.

Such a reminder to cherish every moment of each day that we have been gifted.

Life is all of the boring, routine moments that lead us to the big life moments. It’s the daily grind.

It’s remembering that each breath offers an opportunity to grow closer to God or push further away.

So when you wake up on a Monday morning in June and it’s raining, remember that today is still a gift. And it’s up to you to receive it with a full and open heart or bitch and moan about the absence of sunshine.

It’s entirely up to you! But today is a very important day on your journey. One day you will look back with fondness and perhaps a little longing for the good old days. And I don’t want you to have any regrets.

I hope you embrace it all! The rain. The traffic. The slow poke in front of you. The losses. The transitions. The farewells and good byes. The leaky diapers. The late nights with a sick kid. The overbearing room mom.

It’s all so very precious when you look back.

I hope you fill this rainy Monday with memories!

Have a great week, lovelies!

Mindful Monday: From the Mouths of Babes

Good morning and happy Monday, beautiful mindful ones!

Yesterday we celebrated fathers everywhere! They are the strength and providers (traditionally) of our families. Kudos to all of the loving, active, supportive dads everywhere with their corny dad jokes and all of their hard work.

My dad is currently in Barcelona, so I was grateful to speak with him on the phone and wish him a happy Father’s Day!

I spent the day with my mom, brother, son and nephew. What an epic day!

After a delicious meal together, we tossed the Big Kahuna frisbee around. It’s all fun and games until someone gets beaned by that hard plastic flying disc!

Which was me. Right in the shin! I’ll happily show you the bruise if I see you at the studio this week!

I took a bit of a break to nurse my wound while the boys kept playing. After some time, my seven year old nephew told me to get back in the game. Lol.

Which I did. But I was very timid at this point. He had tons and tons of advice for me: “Auntie Nadja, You have to run faster. You have to jump! You have to run towards the frisbee! Don’t look away. Keep your eyes on the frisbee. You closed your hands too soon.” It was a steady steam.

And it was all great advice! When I told him that I was afraid of the frisbee, he told me: “It’s ok Auntie Nadja. Just don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.”

And that little nugget of advice struck me as so deeply profound.

Don’t focus on the pain. Focus on the frisbee.

Boom.

How often do we get stuck focusing on the pain in a situation? Immersing ourselves in it. Sure, we need to pause and evaluate the situation. But then it’s time to move on! Get back in the game and move forward!

Countless situations in life are painful. Divorce. Death. Kids leaving for college. Betrayals from so-called friends or loved ones. We need time to heal and reassess our life perspective.

But rather than focusing on the pain, we can focus on the lesson. How is this pain an opportunity to grow and strengthen. Or to grow and soften. Let the pain be what wakes you up and gets your attention, but not the focal point.

Brilliance. From a seven year old!

Unbeknownst to me, as I was tending to my poor shin, my son got hit in the face with the frisbee and had a busted lip. This kid is an athlete. He has been since he was four. Which is probably why he didn’t even mention his busted lip for a solid hour to me! He continued playing without a peep.

He had clearly gotten that don’t focus on the pain memo! Lol

Life sometimes hurts us, dear souls. Let’s not focus on the pain. Let’s learn and grow from it. Let’s let the pain transform us and elevate us! (Insert gratuitous image of the Rock. You’re welcome!)

Have a great week, my dearest ones!

June 2019 Pose of the Month: Eka Vrschik Pada Koundinyasana or One Legged Scorpion Pose Dedicated to Sage Kaundinya

Happy June, friends!

Our pose of the month (POTM) is Eka Vrschik Pada Koundinyasana or One Legged Scorpion Pose Dedicated to Sage Kaundinya.

Sometimes this pose is called hurdlers pose – it’s an intermediate level arm balancing asana. This month, we’ll add a fun twist with a scorpion tail leg!

Let’s go!

1. From downward facing dog, lift your right leg up and step it outside of your right hand at the top of your mat.

2. Start to work your right shoulder behind the back of your right thigh, bringing your leg as close to your shoulder as possible.

3. Plant your palms down firmly and activate your core. Extend your left leg straight behind you pressing your toes into your mat and pushing energy through your left heel. Take a few breaths as you breathe from your left heel through your heart chakra.

4. Start to hinge forward onto your left tippy toes as you bend your elbows Chathuranga style. Make a shelf with your right tricep for your right leg as you extend right leg forward and float right foot off of your mat.

5. As you bend your arms push like crazy through your chest and your shoulders into the mat and simultaneously lift your left leg up with your left hamstrings.

6. From here, dip your chest down and hook your left foot toward your head.

7. Smile and take five deep ujayi breaths.

Mindful Monday: Be Happy

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

And just like that …

It’s June!

My son has graduated from high school!

I have moved and purged 85% of my worldly possessions!

Life continues to move forward. And it’s entirely up to us how we choose to flow with life as it unfolds or dig in our heels and resist reality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly five decades on this planet, it is that I have created my own suffering and resistance all of these years. I have made my life exponentially more difficult than it ever needed to be!

I have finally discovered the secret to happiness! And it’s so super duper simple.

And today’s your lucky day because I’m going to share this timeless wisdom with you right here!

Embracing happiness requires only two things. And you, my friend, have both of them in abundance!

The first is the simple mental decision to choose to be happy. Now when I say simple I certainly don’t pretend that it’s easy! But simply make the decision that you truly choose happiness … No. Matter. What.

So choose happiness. Boom! Mic drop and walk away.

But what if …

There are no “what ifs” or “buts”.

It’s a choice to be made in every circumstance and in every single situation. It’s easy to choose happiness when everything is smoothly going your way. Duh! Where is the challenge in that?

Your real test is in choosing happiness even when (fill in the blank here). And don’t get it twisted, there will always be roadblocks. Expect them and count on them. And still choose happiness as you navigate up, over and around.

The greatest tool you have to support this decision is your gratitude practice. There are several studies, articles and publications touting the neuroscientific benefits of gratitude. Blah. Blah. Blah. Thank you medical and scientific community for validating a 5000 year old practice!

We don’t need all of those studies, because we live and feel the benefits and results through our practice.

So decide to be happy. And be grateful for everything.

Each time “cats in the cradle” plays in my head, I direct my energy towards gratitude for every single moment I’ve experienced with my son.

When I start feeling regret for all of the beautiful possessions I’ve sold and given away, I feel grateful that my load is so much lighter now.

When someone cuts me off in traffic or is tailgating me, I feel grateful that I have a beautiful car to drive and that I am safe.

So choose happiness in every situation

Be grateful for everything; especially the opportunities that are disguised as challenges and setbacks

Choose to let go and lighten your load. Always.

Happiest of Mondays, mindful ones!

Mindful Monday: Meditate and Feel Great!

Hey, Mindful Ones!

I’m so happy that more and more people are practicing meditation as they continue to reap the benefits of this life-changing practice.

Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.

People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.

Other benefits include:

*Reduction in stress, anxiety and tension

* Increases immunity

*Lowers blood pressure

*Contributes to an overall sense of well-being

So what are you waiting for? Set your timer for just five minutes today and watch your thoughts as you feel tension and stress melt away.

Let’s make it a great week, friends!

April 2019 Pose of the Month: Parivrtta Hasta Padangusthasana: Revolved Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

Our lovely student Zoe Justh embodies our pose of the month

Happy, happy April, dearest yogis!

Our April pose of the month is a big one! Parivrtta hasta padangusthasana or revolved extended hand to big toe pose.

Here’s how!

1 Start Revolved Hand to Big Toe pose from Mountain pose at the front end of your mat. Shift your weight into your right leg, finding all four corners of the foot and lifting energetically up through the sole. Begin drawing the left foot away from the floor while finding your balance.

2 Once you’re balancing on your right foot, draw your left knee into your chest. Take your time to breathe here, lengthening the spine and strengthening your standing leg. Use your index and middle fingers of your right hand to hold the big toe of your left foot. Continue rooting down through your tailbone as you start to extend out your left leg. The left thigh should be parallel to the floor and your spine should be perpendicular.

3 Reach through your heart and broaden across the collarbones to counter the tendency to slouch forward when extending the left leg. Take your left hand to your hip, level your pelvis, then begin to reach the hand toward the back of your mat. Deepen the twist by rooting the femur of your left leg into the hip joint as you draw your right ribs forward.

4 If you can remain balanced, slowly start to move your gaze back towards your left hand. Do this movement slowly and intentionally to avoid losing balance. Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before untwisting and slowly lowering the lifted leg down to the floor. Stay in Tadasana for a few breaths before repeating on the other side.

Mindful Monday: Checkpoint

Good morning, mindful ones!

Have you ever heard the saying, “How you do anything is how you do everything”?

Let’s look into that one as it applies to the weather.

How did you react to the big snow we had yesterday? In the middle of April?

Did you immediately act shocked and dismayed?

Did you start to complain and say how unfair it was?

Did you feel victimized and that you couldn’t take it anymore?

Did you wake up pleasantly surprised?

Did you think to yourself: Snow in the middle of April? Yes! Absolutely! It happened last year around this time, too!

Did you acknowledge the sublime power of Mother Nature and admire her work?

Whatever your thoughts were, they created an emotional reaction. They then became your words. You expressed those words to your friends, family and social media platforms.

How we react to random weather events can give us great insight into how we react to all of life’s experiences.

When something happens unexpectedly or in a way that you hadn’t anticipated, you will once again react in a very similar way to how you reacted to the weather.

So you may be thinking: yeah, so what? Which is another habitual pattern of thinking.

Well, it matters. It all matters.

Your conditioned patterns of thinking and reacting create your attitudes, emotions and behavior patterns. Your behavior patterns create your habits and lifestyle. Your habits and lifestyle attract people in your life vibrating at that same energy level. Literally your thoughts, words and actions in each small, trivial moment in life is how you live your life.

And how you reacted to yesterday’s weather, if you look honestly at your patterns, is how you react if someone cuts you off in traffic or doesn’t respond to an email or text as quickly as you’d like.

Are you a victim? Is it easy for others to steal your joy and peace of mind? Do you thoughtlessly give away your personal power every time there’s a little hiccup in your day?

Do you consciously cultivate positive thoughts and energy? Do you practice gratitude? Do you commit to your inner peace and equanimity regardless of what’s happening externally?

The truth is, any moment of any day is the perfect checkpoint of awareness of how we are doing anything in life.

Take moments to pause during your day and check in with yourself: are my thoughts and actions in this moment drawing me closer to my goals or pulling me away? There are only two directions we are moving with each thought and action.

We can’t affect shifts in our lives without awareness of our current vibrational levels. With that awareness, we have all the information that we need to decide whether we are ready to vibe up or if we’re content with our current circumstances.

Have a beautiful, mindful Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Level Up

Happy Monday, Mindful Ones!

For me, 2019 has been about leveling up many aspects of my life. My practice. My teaching. My wellness and self-care routines. Reading and writing more. Expanding my knowledge base and deepening my current interests.

With the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, I am coming to terms with the impending arrival of my biggest level up opportunity, hands down. Leveling up my non-attachment game.

As I write this post, my son is in Providence, Rhode Island on his first of four college visits. He chose to go without his dad or me. Let that one sink in for a few minutes.

I am fully prepared for the next two months to swiftly fly by as he visits three more schools and prepares for high school graduation. And he actually turns 18 on the day he graduates. I’ll let that one sit there for a few moments also.

These days I constantly bring my awareness back to the present moment. Right here. Right now.

And I remind myself that I’ve been preparing for this inevitable moment since before my son was even born. Each milestone that we celebrate in his life is another teeny, tiny act of learning to letting go.

To be a good parent means to prepare your child to leave the nest and fly away and thrive. Everything that we have taught him and tried to nurture within him was always going to be so that he will eventually leave us.

I have been meditating on the Buddha’s teachings on non-attachment. You can only lose what you cling to.

And then I focus so much on what a magical and exhilarating time it is for him. And that it might also be overwhelming.

My role as a parent will never end. But my relationship with my son will level up. Transitioning from parent to mentor and perhaps even friend!

What are some things you’re currently struggling with in terms of non-attachment and clinging?

Each moment of each day, Life tries to teach us. And we can only move in two directions: toward or away from growth.

Let’s always choose growth. And love. Let’s always choose love.

Have a great week, friends.