yoga class

Mindful Monday: Letting Go

Good morning, yogis! Happy Monday! Happy Columbus Day! I’ve been loving our rainy weather we had last week! Rain is so cleansing and renewing, doncha think?

Especially this time of year — watching the waning of summer into autumn and eventually winter. Observing the trees graciously surrendering their foliage, one leaf and bud at a time. 

As we age, we go through the same process. One by one surrendering the things of our youth. The goal is to age as naturally as possible. To embrace anicca, the impermanence of life. To appreciate what we have while we have it; so when the time arrives to relinquish, we can do it with an open heart filled with love, gratitude and acceptance. 

As I have grown older, some things have been fairly easy to yield to my youth: competitiveness, worrying what people think, focusing on superficial things, equating status with success. 

Some things, however, are more of a struggle. Particularly, watching my baby boy grow into an amazing young man. Of course my heart bursts with so much pride at what a talented, hard working, compassionate human being he has become. Each stage of his life has been preparing me for the inevitable time that he will fly from my nest. 

The latest stage is too quickly approaching. I’m writing this blog from the Purdue campus in West Lafayette – we are actually on our second college campus visit. 

Purdue campus visit, Sunday, October 8, 2017


Even in this picture, you can see him pulling away from me. ūüė≠

As parents, regardless of race, gender, social or economic status, we all feel the same thrills and pangs of parenthood. Some of you are young parents, struggling with getting a full night of sleep. Or spending each and every weekend watching your kids play sports. Some of you are empty nesters, learning to rebuild a life not dominated by incessant demands of your time. 

Like the trees, we parents are all on the same path of letting go. Each milestone in our children’s lives is another practice of releasing. In order to be a successful parent, our children should walk away from us, fully equipped to function and thrive in life.  

I’m so grateful for all of the moments I have with my son. And thankful for all of the strong, brave parents showing me the art of letting go. 

Anicca. Anicca. Anicca. Be happy. Be happy. Be happy. 

Mindful Monday: Continuous Improvement


Good morning, mindful ones! Do you feel the change in the air this morning? That lovely chill of fall and a glimpse of all beautiful things to follow. 
For many many many years, I would wake up on Monday mornings with a jolt. My eyes would pop open and my heart rate would immediately elevate as I grabbed my blackberry and quickly scanned the news and read emails. 

But the anxious energy didn’t start there. It started Sunday afternoon. I would be in a frenzy trying to get laundry done and the house spotless to start the week fresh and ready. 

This was my normal. I didn’t really know anything else. I was conditioned to operate at this high level of “busyness” and self-importance. I was pretty serious and intense back then. 

Then I would get Julian up and ready, I rushed him through breakfast and drop off at school. Then the mad rush to get to the office for a day filled with meetings and directing projects and managing a staff of professionals. 

And I would count the hours until I could get on my mat! Some days I’d rise before dawn to squeeze in a 5:30 am class. I would block my calendar off and sneak out to class during the day. And I would practice at night after work. 

On my mat, I began to get to know myself. Underneath the stress and drama and rushing around, I found a sense of peace, calmness and FREEDOM. Playfulness that didn’t involve heavy drinking or power shopping. Ease. Flow. Movement. Mindfulness. 

I felt such a dichotomy in my life: which Nadja was really ME? There was such a sharp contrast between the two different sides. 

I began to like myself so much more when I was practicing. So I made the leap of faith and “retired” from the public sector. 

Five years later, I am still deconstructing from that lifestyle. It’s definitely a process to reprogram from lifelong habits and patterns. We are either continually growing or progressively dying. To coin a buzz phase from my former career, continuous improvement model. 

Let’s keep growing and figuring this thing out! We’re all in this together!

Have a great week, yogis

Anicca! Be happy! 

Mindful Monday: Ugh. A painful truth 

Happy happiest of Mondays, friends! Wow! I dont know about you, but I have been so enjoying this scorching weather lately! Maybe it’s my Indian Filipino genetics. But I loooovvvvve the heat! 

Todays blog focus is on a painful truth: We can’t outwork a bad diet. We just can’t do it. Trust me. I know. 

Now mind you, I was able to do it in my 20s and even my 30s. But that’s no longer how it works. The fact is, if you play, you pay. 

Early in my career as a yoga teacher, I was teaching seven days a week. Something crazy like 25 classes and 6 of them were Sculpt classes! Talk about working out! Oh my poor body was so tired, but I used the rationale that I could eat whatever I wanted since I taught so much. And naturally, the  foods I craved were simple carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar, sugar, sugar. Right? Because my body was looking for quick energy. 

So you’re probably thinking that I should have been in the best shape of my life! That’s exactly my thought back then! 

Well the truth is I gained 30 pounds that year. Thirty. Pounds. The extra weight didn’t feel good on my body. Which resulted in me not feeling good in my body. And that’s a really yucky feeling to have. 

It took me a while to pull myself back. Drop a dozen classes. Take time to heal and to rest. And to try to rebuild my loving relationship with my body. It’s still a struggle! 

What’s been so helpful is to once (sometimes twice) a year do a 21 day total reset. I pull out the following things from my food intake:

All animal proteins

Gluten

All processed sugar

Alcohol 

Caffeine 

My first thought is always: well what’s the purpose of getting out of bed? Lol. Excellent question!

This detox is absolutely a tremendous challenge. But it becomes a 21 day journey of learning so much more about yourself. What role food plays in your life. And the discovery of how GREAT we can and should feel when we wake up each morning!

There are no supplements to purchase and we eat real food. Whole organic nourishing and yummy food! 

And we do it together. As a YBD community. 

We start soon! Here’s the info!


Please email me for your questions: nadja0914@gmail.com. 

Have a wonderful week my Yogi friends! 

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy! 

Mindful Monday: Receive 


Happy Monday, lovely ones! Another spectacular week and weekend in the books! I hope your week was as lovely as you. 

I celebrated another trip around the sun last week — my birthday is always a time for reflection for me. Another year older and wiser. And a perfect time to check in with myself and to own ALL of my stuff. It’s super easy for me to own the seemingly “bad” and “negative” parts. I tend to dismiss the “good” and “positive.” But I’m practicing owning it all without labels or judgements. Soaking everything in as an opportunity for continued awareness and growth – therefore it’s all good! Painful things help me grow. Amazing blessings soften me with gratitude. 

This year, I worked very hard to practice receiving. A dear friend of mine challenged me to only RECEIVE on my birthday. Wow! That’s a tough gauntlet thrown down!

I realized that so often people try to “give” me a compliment, and it’s so difficult for me to receive it that I end up rejecting the compliment and often times unintentionally offending the giver! How insane is that?! But isn’t it so hard to just smile sincerely, receive the offering and intention, and simply say, “Thank you?”

I had to remind myself that  giving and receiving  is a dynamic universal exchange. It’s part of the yin (receive) and yang (give) of life. You can’t give without someone to receive. And you can’t receive if nothing is offered. We need both. 

So how could I practice truly receiving the tremendous outpouring of love that flooded my life on that day? 

Yes, yes, yes gratitude for sure! But even with gratefulness in my heart, was I truly receiving the offering?

The art of receiving demands some serious yoga discipline. First, we must have the awareness to recognize that something is been offered. Someone is trying to give you something. In my case, each happy birthday greeting and gift was an offering of love and appreciation.  Secondly, we must practice being open to truly hear and see and feel the offering — this requires STILLNESS. Third, we cultivate gratitude for the intention behind the offering. So… you’re all with me so far, right? Seems simple and straightforward. 

The fourth step is the most challenging for me. It’s to actually fully absorb and assimilate and accept what I’m being offered. And that means that I have to feel deserving of love and appreciation. To feel truly worthy to receive the remarkable gifts offered. 

The word “receive” comes from the Latin word recipere, which means “to take back.” This implies that what we receive is already ours in the sense that we do, indeed, deserve it, that it completes something within us, or simply that we’ve attracted it by the nature of our being.

In the picture above, I’m practicing the art of receiving from my dear friend Sarah P. The benefit of being able to receive in this pose is that physically my body can fold more deeply. But Sarah is offering so much more with this adjustment– she’s offering her love and support for my well-being and my practice. The more I opened and received, the more relaxed and truly nourished and fulfilled I felt. 

Receiving is a yoga practice in itself! The more we cultivate the art of receiving, we become more in tuned with the abundance the universe offers us each moment, each day. 

Have a great week, Yogi friends! 

Mindful Monday: Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, friends! Yikes! This three day weekend got me confused. Lol. So this is coming a wee bit later than normal. 

These long weekends are hopefully filled with good times. And that means different things for different people. 

Some of us may enjoy being surrounded by family and friends at the lake or in someone’s backyard. Others may enjoy the downtime to simply get re-grounded and relax. For me, the best is a balance between both. 

Labor Day is meant to honor the laborers, the backbone of our country. The hard working men and women and their contributions to the strength, success and prosperity of our nation. 

The word Labor is also applied to any hard work, especially that requiring physical exertion. Like childbirth. Or teaching yoga. ūüėú

I think of Labor as an expression of love. Anything that we undertake that challenges us, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally takes focus and dedication. It IS work. But within that work carries the seeds of  growth and transformation. 

We get to witness the fruits of our own Labor. And we experience the pure joy of time spent doing, feeling, contributing, giving and just being alive. 

However you have chosen to spend this weekend, perhaps you even worked today, I hope it is something that feeds your soul, honors your spirit and makes your heart happy. 

In case you’re wondering why the image of the Rock was selected for Labor Day … the pic should speak for itself. ‚̧ԳŹ

 

Mindful Monday: Keep Your Head Up 


Good morning, my lovely mindful ones! Happiest of Mondays to you. I hope you had a lovely week and weekend. 

Last Monday I shared with you the erratic emotional swings I experienced leading up to the eclipse. This past week was filled with moments of pure sublime joy and happiness. I had such moments of clarity and peace that I was truly present for. 

That’s not to say that each and every moment was like that. On the contrary, I had the usual “ups and downs.” Whatever I’m feeling, I feel it so very deeply! Heartbreak is a physical pain in my chest. Happiness makes my heart want to leap out through my sternum. I literally lose my vision when I’m angry! I can’t see straight. And sadness, it overwhelms me to my core. When I miss someone (and there is someone in my life I miss terribly) my entire body weeps. But then life will send me something to laugh about and my body will vibrate with it. And when I feel love …. ahhhhhh. My heart belts out an opera solo. 


Last week, I was somehow able to pull myself back and stay a little more connected to this underlying current of endless peace and happiness.  It’s so different than the roller coaster of moment to moment emotions. It’s steady. It’s always there. Just beneath the surface. It’s your soul. 

It’s why we love yoga so much.  Yoga gives us a taste of our authentic state of being. Even while we struggle to hold a challenging pose, we connect to sense of beauty in the struggle. We feel without a doubt that we can endure anything for five breaths. 

In my my moments of sadness and despair last week, I reminded myself that I could only feel the depth of such sadness because I know the incredible highs of happiness. My despair was because of my extreme optimism. My loneliness was because of my deep connections in my relationships. We simply cannot have one without the other, can we?

Whatever you’re suffering through my friend, you can always use the tools of our yoga practice to find stability. Just keep your head up. 

Or. This. 

What does a nosy pepper do?

Get jalape√Īo business! 

Have a great week!! See you on your mat!

Mindful Monday: the American eclipse

Good morning, mindful ones! Wow!  Today’s the big day! Total solar eclipse! This is such a significant event astrologically, astronomically, scientifically and spiritually. On all levels of our human existence. 

This is an electrically charged time in our lives. Perhaps you’ve been feeling it over the past week building up to today?

I certainly had an interesting week. I was super edgy and agitated all of last week. I spent a lot of time trying to stay grounded and rooted. Even with my calming practices, I was supersensitive to a sense of chaos surrounding me. Many things came into my life to “trigger” some of my deep-seated and outdated mental and emotional patterns. 

Emotionally I vacillated between old patterns of anger and hostility to overwhelming sadness and despair. Many times last week I was caught off guard with straight up sobbing and ugly crying every time I went into a forward fold on my mat. I practiced being gentle  and being so compassionate with myself. And I also felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love and support surrounding and enfolding me. 

Which makes so much sense! This total  solar eclipse is comparable to the beginning of a new year. The energy of change and transformation is so abundant right now! We must feel and experience stale patterns in order to facilitate letting them go. 

Here are a few things you can do to take full advantage of this rare phenomenon. 

This is the time to write down new intentions and goals. Harness  this energy for self-transformation. 

If you have malas, let them sit outside and soak in this powerful energy. You can do the same thing with water and any healing stones you have.  I have mine all set to go today!

Meditate during this powerful time.  Get synced within yourself. And then sync up with the universe. 

Be safe! Only look at the sun with protective glasses on, please!

Connect with others. Truly meaningfully connect  with those around you. 

Take great care of yourself today. Stay hydrated. Protect yourself from stressful situations and people. Get a massage. Make sure you have enough downtime. Definitely take a yoga class!

Practice forgiveness. This is a fresh start for you. Release any resentments you’re harboring. This is for YOU to feel light and happy and free. That other person will deal with his or her own karma. It’s not for you to administer karma, right? 

Get grounded. Spend some time with your butt directly on the earth. Walk barefoot in the grass. 


I would love to hear from you about any rituals you performed during this auspicious time! 

Here’s to a fresh new start for us all!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: To Everything There is a Season

Happy Mindful Monday, my radiant YBD tribe! I’m stepping in to write our weekly blog post for the time being so that our lovely Carla has more time and energy for her gorgeous son Malcolm.

As always, so much goodness is happening in our yoga community. Nearly 30 dedicated yogis gathered during the Autumn Equinox at our Wheaton studio and busted out 108 sun salutations! What an amazing evening of effort, devotion, sweat, smiles, magic and so much love! And some pretty sore hamstrings and abs the morning after, for sure.

While some of us may mourn the end of summer’s long, sunny days, there is so much to celebrate about Autumn: pumpkin ANYTHING; football; apple picking; apple cider; the advent of the holiday season; haunted houses; fireplaces; hay rides; crisper, cooler air; daylight savings time; boots, sweaters and jackets; and the most breathtaking time of year to witness nature’s¬†final blaze of glory.

As always, we seek to find BALANCE each day, and it’s particularly important to feel rooted and grounded during this blustery¬†season of transition. We are¬†shifting from the fire of summer to the ¬†cooling of fall and winter.

We are moving from:

Sun to Moon
Light to Dark
Yang to Yin
Fire to Water and Air
Growth to Hibernation
Building up to Letting go
Movement to Stillness
Outer Achievements to Inner Reflection
Action to Contemplation

This week, try to carve out some time for inner reflection, perhaps while walking through nature. Some points to contemplate:

Where am I currently? Emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially
Which seeds did I plant in the spring?
What harvest am I currently reaping?
Which seeds never took root?
How will I find balance in these opposites?
Which routines do I have to keep myself nurtured, nourished and grounded?
What must I shed and release? Those things that do not ELEVATE me. Habits, relationships, thought patterns

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” ¬†– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Meet Alex L., YBD Teacher of the Month!

We are so lucky to have Alex L. teaching at Yoga By Degrees. He comes¬†to our YBD community¬†from teaching in Missouri and we couldn’t be happier about it! He greets everyone he meets with his cheerful smile and kind presence. That positive energy is brought with him into all of the classes he teaches. If you haven’t gotten a chance to take one of his classes, it is a must!

Check out his permanent schedule:

Mondays:

6:00am YBD 1 95 Degrees Elmhurst

12:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

1:30pm YBD HOT 105 Degrees Downers Grove

Tuesdays:

1:30pm YBD 2 95 Glen Ellyn

Thursdays:

6:00am YBD 2 95 Degrees Elmhurst

8:30am YBD 1 85 Degrees Elmhurst

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Downers Grove

8:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

Fridays:

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Western Springs

 

Get to know Alex:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga about 5 years ago when I was going to school in Columbia, Missouri. A hot studio opened in my neighborhood that combined both styles of vinyasa and Bikram, although at the time I had no idea what that meant. None the less, I started practicing regularly and became hooked on the benefits, both physically and mentally. 

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I decided to go through teacher training as a way to deepen my own practice. I had only been practicing about a year and I was eager to learn more. The studio I had been attending was holding a month intensive 200 hour training and things just started to fall in place, so I went with it. I wanted to learn more about yoga philosophy and anatomy so I could guide others on their own yoga journey. 

What is your favorite pose? 

I have many, but my favorite are the warriors. They’re such strong and powerful poses that make me feel grounded and connected to something bigger. 

Who inspires your teaching? 

I pull inspiration from a variety of places including my family, friends, peers, and personal experiences, but my main source is whoever shows up for class. I always have a few things in mind for class, the rest is reading the room and trying to incorporate what each individual student wants for class, or more importantly, what they need. Finding a balance between pushing their limitations and finding comfort and control in each posture. 

Tips for beginners… 

Just keep showing up. Yoga is a life long journey that is different for everyone. Simply by being present on your mat you’ll learn and grow in your own way. 

What’s your favorite quote?

‚Äú‚Ķand the tree was happy.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄďShell Silverstein, The Giving Tree

September Pose of the Month: Bridge

Bridge Pose, Setu Bandhasana

September is a great time to open up and prepare the body for seasonal changes. Bridge pose is an amazing place to open the heart and throat chakras. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie on your back
  • Plant the soles of your feet at hips distance
  • Reach your hands toward your feet and raise your hips
  • Clasp your hands under your hips and press them into the earth
  • Lengthen your neck
  • Option to raise your leg!

Benefits include:

  • Extends your thoracic spine
  • Lengthens your hip flexors
  • Opens your shoulders and chest
  • Calms your mind and reduces anxiety