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Mindful Monday: Graceful Acceptance

Happy Monday, yogis!

It’s happening again, isn’t it? That final rallying that summer’s not really over.

Scoffing at pumpkin spice’s far too premature appearance. I mean seriously, my birthday is in September (oh, the 14th if you were wondering), and my birthday is literally always warm, bright and sunny. And I’m positive I saw pumpkin even before Labor Day!

Wearing shorts and tank tops, because, it’s like the first week of September! (Thank goodness I had my son’s track hoodie in my trunk for these early mornings.)

Still ordering iced chai rather than hot chai because I don’t need to warm my fingers – cold is like a mini Cryo treatment to my hands.

Then the realization that resisting the natural cycles of nature is just the same as complaining about the weather, which is my greatest pet peeve. Complaining about something that you have zero control or input over is an exercise in futility, frustration and insanity.

So today I ordered a hot coffee for myself and my friend Gina (not pumpkin) and felt gratitude for the chill breeze early this morning.

I admired how the trees are preparing for their big color show and inevitable release to bareness by slowly shedding extra leaves.

And I acknowledged the energetic effects of this transitional time on my body. It’s starting to slow down. It wants more rest and grounding.

The fall is characterized by vata dosha: airy, windy, cold, light, moving and dry.

As long as these qualities are in balance, a person whose dosha is predominantly vata (like me) will be healthy, creative, and exuberant. But when too much vata accumulates in the body and mind, the imbalance may manifest as physical or emotional disorders, including insomnia, dry skin, arthritis, constipation, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

Many of us naturally and subconsciously move toward grounding ourselves during this windy, moving energy time. We move toward heavier, cooked foods that are filling and warming. We may see an increase in our appetites; be intuitive and take cues from your body on what it needs.

Tending toward softer, heavier fabrics in earth tones will ground and calm vata.

  • Even our yoga practice will reflect this transitional time: more stabilizing and grounding poses and flows.
  • As always, taking our cues from intuition and nature are the simplest ways we can gracefully weather life’s shifts and transitions. From the weather to kids back in school to shifts at work, in life and relationships, we learn to stabilize within and be more allowing to whatever flows our way.

    Have a lovely week, friends!

    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: 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!!!

    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.