yoga every day

Mindful Monday: Sho Shin

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Sho Shin is a concept in Zen Buddhism that means ‘a beginner’s mind.’ There are four states of mind in Zen Buddhism. This week, we’ll discuss the first state.

Sho Shin is characterized by an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a complete lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or beginning an endeavor.

Think about when you took your first yoga class. Or first 100 for that matter! You were excited and so eager to learn everything about this ancient practice! Your mind was like a sponge, simply and enthusiastically absorbing every thing you could about yoga.

When you are in a state of shoshin you are feeling enthusiastic, creative and above all optimistic.

It’s easy to be fired up about new, exciting endeavors. The practice is to remain open-minded and optimistic when you’ve practiced for many, many years and are considered an ‘expert.’

One of the key aspects of shoshin is an absence of preconceptions and a general sense of optimism. When you are in a state of shoshin you shouldn’t be thinking too much about what you think is going to happen, you should just be eager to accept whatever comes and assured it will all be for the best.

This release of preconceptions and attitude of viewing everything with fresh eyes is one of shoshin’s most valuable qualities. You can work on placing yourself in a state of shoshin even when doing something you’ve done before to keep each experience fresh and to ensure that you aren’t making poor decisions based on preconceived biases. It also helps train you to keep a positive and eager outlook about everything that might come your way.

For this reason, I always try to keep my teaching as well as my personal practice fresh with new and different sequencing and transitions. In order to do this, I MUST continue to practice with new and different teachers. I must continue to expand my knowledge base and work tirelessly to cultivate a state of shoshin. I often see experienced students turn on auto-pilot in class and assume they know where we are going next.

The danger of an ‘expert’s mind’ is that few possibilities exist in this mind. Less aspects of a situation are questioned and more are assumed. This often results in a narrowed perception and performing tasks on autopilot without room for a fresh, new perspective. Things are always done a certain way with no opportunities for improvement.

So how do we cultivate shoshin in our everyday lives and on our mats?

Just like all programs of thoughts in our minds, new thought patterns can be cultivated. Meditating and practicing gratitude are scientifically measurable ways to literally create new gray matter. Cultivating a beginner’s mind is exactly the same.

  • Try to approach situations without assumptions or expectations.
  • Don’t judge as good or bad. Be open to any outcome.
  • Be curious! Question with interest and wonder!
  • Switch things up. Drive a different route. Practice at a different time. Move your mat to a different place in the room.
  • Empty your mind!
  • Have a great week, friends!
  • Mindful Monday: Patience

    Greetings and blessings, Mindful ones.

    In this golden age of Amazon Prime, overnight delivery, and open-24-hour drive throughs … Instant Gratification rules!

    And our classic, good old-fashioned friend Patience gets a really bad rap. I mean, remember what it was like with the AOL dial ups back in the stone ages?

    Enter our practice of yoga! This is where we transform the toe-tapping, teeth grinding, fist-clenching, caffeine-fueled adrenaline rushes into one, unremarkable, slow deep breath of awareness at a time.

    As we work to reverse the tendency to push and do, we slowly learn to soften and BE. For me, yoga at times can be agitatingly slow and boring. It was a very long process for me to even stay for savasana. And it took many years before I would even consider taking a restorative class.

    But there was definitely something that kept me coming back to my mat. It was the sense of total peace. The realization that underneath all of that thrilling and glamorous rushing around, there was a very unglamorous, plain and PATIENT space within.

    I still work hard to cultivate this relationship. Patience is a great friend to have on my mat and off. On my mat, I learn to slow down and feel my body in each pose. To just wait with ease and grace. We have to slow down so much to allow the body to open and heal. And we learn to patiently accept our current limitations and barriers.

    I searched for Patience’s hand at the Cubs game last week when I was trying to nimbly and quickly navigate the crowds to make it to the one place in the whole ball park that sells Rum Chata. I literally had to stop myself and slow myself down, and realize I was not in any hurry at all.

    Throughout my regular, routine days, I find so many opportunities to connect with my dear friend. I may not always listen to her, but I know she’s always there for me.

    Have a great week, my friends!

    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!

    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: Blessings Counted

    Good morning, mindful ones!

    As I lie here in my warm, cozy bed admiring the sounds of rain and thunder, I am overcome with the feeling that today is a great day to be alive!

    Right now is the perfect moment to count my blessings.

    • It’s a blessing that I woke up this morning.
    • That I am able to hear all of the sounds of nature.
    • That I am in a warm bed sheltered from the rain.
    • That my hands can hold my phone and I have fingers to type.
    • It’s a blessing that both of my parents are still alive and healthy and strong.
    • My son Julian is my blessing and my teacher.
    • It’s a blessing to have a brother and nieces and nephews. And cousins. And uncles and aunties.
    • I’m blessed to be healthy, happy and so darn clever 😜
    • I’m blessed to have amazing friends in my life; old and new, gold and silver. Some since kindergarten!
    • I’m so blessed to have my yoga practice.
    • It’s a blessing to have so many talented and wise yoga teachers and students.
    • I am blessed to have all of my hurts, disappointments and sadness for all of the wisdom and experiences they’ve brought.
    • I am blessed to experience the full range of human emotions in this life experience.
    • I am blessed to work at yoga by degrees and actually make my passion a career.
    • I am blessed my little Coco is in my life.
    • I am blessed to be surrounded by love always. And to finally see it and appreciate it.
    • It’s a blessing to have running water and access to clean drinking water.
    • It’s a blessing to have electricity.
    • I am blessed to have a vehicle to get me through my day safely with ease and comfort.
    • I’m blessed to be able to share my thoughts with you through this blog.

    Won’t you take a few moments this morning to count your blessings?

    You are a blessing to me and so many others.

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

    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!

    Mindful Monday: Yoga as a Healing Modality

    Good morning, friends! Another Monday is here for you to write your own ticket. A fresh slate for you to create your own destiny. Of course yoga will play some role in that narrative, yes?

    Think about the last time you had a paper cut. You didn’t have to think about your blood creating platelets to clot and close the wound or to send neutrophils and macrophages to the site to protect against germs and infection, right? Your body just did what it was made to do: heal itself.

    When we practice yoga, we create an ideal environment for our minds and bodies to heal. Through the physical practice, we aid circulation, digestion, lymphatic release as we strengthen our muscles and create more flexibility in our joints and other connective tissues. Through the mindfulness practice, we forge new neural pathways and literally rewire our brains toward more peace and happiness.

    One of the simplest ways to enhance every physical and cognitive function in your body is through your diet. What you put into your body can greatly strengthen all of the body’s systems. Or it can tax your body and create more work.

    At least once a year, I cleanse my body with a 21 day detox. It’s a hard reset physically, mentally and emotionally. By removing foods that create inflammation and unduly stress our digestive systems and replacing them with foods that are easily digested and absorbed, we allow our bodies to focus on more important tasks like cellular repair processes.

    Since 2012, I’ve literally led about 150 YBD yogis through this process. Some of those people have adopted this program as a lifestyle. It’s perfectly safe and medically unassailable. Others have taken one or two habits along with them on their path. Many have gone through this cleanse multiple times with me.

    Personally I’ve experienced this detox nine times. Each time is different, and I continuously learn more and more about myself throughout the process.

    Are you ready for an incredible challenge? Is food your final frontier? Do you want to take your yoga lifestyle to the next level?

    If so, sign up today for this 21 day reset!

    But don’t just take my word for it. Chances are, you’ve taken a class with a YBD instructor and/or practiced next to a yoga student who has undergone this process with me!

    Here’s what yoga teacher Shaun Emerson said:

    “Nadja calls it a detox, a cleanse, but for me, it was deeper than that. With Nadja’s guidance, the 21 day period was an opportunity to be thoughtful about what I was putting into my body. Participating in past cleanses, detoxes, and diets, the energy was negative: lose weight, deny, and be miserable. With Nadja’s positive energy shared on a daily basis, the attention is on the transformative impact food can have on our self-awareness and our relationship with others and the world around us. For me, the 21 days was a detox and cleanse, but more importantly, the 21 days was the first 21 days restart in a healthier body, clearer mind and deeper sense of awareness.”

    So … what are you waiting for? Sign up today!