yoga every day

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

Happy Monday, mindful ones. Well Chicago is definitely living up to its name. Wow! That brisk wind blasting my face this morning is exhilarating. Like a double shot of espresso!

It’s getting colder and darker, and I keep reminding myself that it’s OK. In fact, it’s necessary. So I really try to catch myself before I go on auto pilot and just start complaining about it. Practicing mindfulness with my thoughts and my words is a lifelong practice.

I’m really excited to begin preparations for Yoga by Degrees’ winter solstice celebration. We will observe this auspicious time of year by completing a yoga mala – 108 sun salutations!

According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, each vinyasa (sun salutation) is like a bead to be counted and each asana (pose) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. The garland of yoga adorns us with peace, health, knowledge and self-awareness

While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a practice that is super energizing. Sun salutations are the perfect way to lengthen, strengthen and flex the main muscles of the body while distributing prana throughout your whole system. Anyone can complete a yoga mala, regardless of physical limitations. Some will modify and some students actually intensify the practice!

When you begin your YBD classes with a handful of sun salutes, you right away feel your heart rate increasing, right? Sun salutes improve circulation, purify your blood and strengthen your physical body. Your lungs, digestive system, as well as your muscles and joints all benefit from this ancient practice. The more you do, the more vital prana circulation is increased, removing energy blockages and unlocking pathways for more energy to flow through you. The natural high you experience from the yoga mala is indescribable.

Our practice together will focus on the shortest day of the year as a turning point – emerging from a place of darkness to a place of light mentally, physically and even emotionally.

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

• Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles through alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs.

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

• Rids body of enormous quantity of carbon dioxide & other toxic gases.

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

• Normalizes the activity of the endocrine glands – especially the thyroid gland.

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at your studio today! I guarantee you will not regret honoring the changing of the season in this way. Plus it’ll be a great way to blow off some pent up holiday stress and pressure!

Have a great week, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

We have hit the jackpot with all of this bonus sunny, warm weather lately! How on earth is it even December?!

Of course, all of the homes adorned with Christmas decorations, a digital overload from advertisers, busy stores and the heavy mall traffic ground us firmly back into the season. Am I right?

And the shorter days and looooonger nights remind us we are smack dab in the middle of that time of year where we continue moving towards darkness.

What are your thoughts and feelings when you think of darkness? Sometimes I think it gets a bum rap.

We become so obsessed with lightness that we can easily overlook the depth and beauty of darkness. Yet we cannot have one without the other!

Popular culture overemphasizes reaching for the light: positivity and affirmations are ubiquitous. And obviously that’s all good! But learning to connect to our “dark side” is essential for a full, rich and complete Life experience.

Our yoga practice is a dance between light and darkness. We arrive on our mats on a quest toward lightness and moksha, and along the way we encounter and get acquainted with our own darkness.

Our darkness or shadow selves encompasses the parts of us we avoid, repress and even suppress: the not so pretty stuff; painful and messy stuff; shame; unhealed wounds; raw and disowned fragments of ourselves.

It’s very understandable that instinctually we avoid the dark aspects of ourselves. But when we do this, our chances for true happiness and joy are in serious jeopardy.

What? Why?!?

Well…. because light and dark are both sides of the same coin. The only exist in relationship to one another. So as you embrace the dark side of yourself, you are paradoxically supporting the lightest and brightest and most authentic you.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, depressed, jealous, uncomfortable and confused or even to be unclear about what you’re feeling! But whatever it is, allow yourself to feel it and experience it. Sharpen your awareness. Move boldly to the depth of these dark feelings. Once you work through them, you are moving directly back towards the light.

See darkness isn’t so bad after all! Yoga teaches us to embrace the full spectrum: light and dark, expansion and contraction, ease and effort.

Trust your own complexity. Embrace your shadows. Say yes please and thank you to all of life’s experiences. Especially the challenging ones! Graditude for the opportunity to grow and transform.

I will be leading a very special practice where we will explore darkness through a moving meditation on Saturday, December 23 at 2:30 pm at our Western Springs location. Please talk to any of our locations for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week, beautiful ones!

Mindful Monday: Know Your Mind

Hello Dear Ones!

Another Monday has arrived. A beautiful fresh clean slate.

Remember that your mind doesn’t control you; you control your mind!

So fill your thoughts with abundance, acceptance, love, happiness, joy, prosperity. Fill your heart with compassion, laughter, tolerance.

Look for the goodness in every single person you meet. Even if you may need to look really, really long and hard.

Happiness is a choice. Entirely 100% up to you and you alone.

Through mindfulness practices like yoga, we begin to ascertain the deeply seeded thought patterns and reactions we’ve supplanted into our own minds. How easy it is to go on auto pilot and just react to situations that appear to be similar to those we’ve experienced in the past.

These samskaras become so deeply embedded into our subconscious that we are unaware of its effects on our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

We become trapped in this karmic wheel which keeps spinning around and around as we continue to react again and again.

These patterns are deeply rooted into our psyche. It takes deep awareness and dedication to acknowledge and uproot the samskaras.

To truly know your mind, you must find mental stillness in order to observe. From this place of observation and non-judgment, slowly one moment at a time our samskaras will reveal themselves.

Your yoga practice is such an amazing place to explore and familiarize.

Practicing yoga at least three times a week will have a profound effect in your life physically, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically.

Let’s commit to our mats during this crazy stressful and awesome holiday season.

This week Will be only as awesome as you decide to make it.

So much gratitude for you! Namaste.

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. 😭

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: 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: 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. 😜

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. ❤️

 

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 jalapeño 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!

JANUARY POSE OF THE MONTH: SIDE PLANK

Side Plank, Vasisthasana

Have you set an intention for the new year? If you’re like many of us, you may set resolutions in January but by the following December realize they haven’t come to fruition. Often times that happens because we have big, audacious dreams but forget to put into place the mechanisms to achieve these goals. Big dreams start small. So today, think about your final goal and then dial it all the way back to the daily or weekly things you’ll need to accomplish in order to get there.

Perhaps this year you work towards a strong vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna), side plank! This is a terrific posture to focus on because it’s accessible at all levels of practice; it’s modifications and variations are nearly endless! You can start with your bottom knee grounded for more support, as you feel more comfortable you may choose to stack your legs, and ultimately you may decide to float your top leg up to challenge your balance. Just like goals outside of the studio, there’s little steps you can take along the way to reach your final destination. Give it a try today!

To find your side plank:

  • Press your left palm into your mat
  • Shift weight to the knife edge of your left foot
  • Stack your right shoulder over the left and reach your right hand to the sky
  • Engage your bottom tricep
  • Draw your low belly in and up
  • Strengthen into your thighs and keep your legs active and engaged

Playful modifications and variations:

  • For a grounded modification, drop your left knee to your mat and stack it directly below your left hip for support
  • As you feel more stable, firm into your right leg and hover it parallel to your mat
  • If you’re feeling playful, then this can be taken all the way to your Wild Thing by dropping the ball of your right foot behind you and spiraling the barrel of your chest towards the ceiling

Benefits of vasisthasana:

  • Strengthens your arms, core and legs
  • A great posture for your wrists as it both strengthens and stretches them
  • Improves your focus as your balance is tested

“Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.” – Dave Ramsey

DECEMBER POSE OF THE MONTH: FIVE POINTED STAR POSE

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to forget to give yourself the gift of self care. Take 3 minutes out of your busy day to practice Five Pointed Star, and afterwards you’ll find yourself feeling more energized, confident and ready to greet your day with a smile!

Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Spread your arms wide and hover them at shoulder height
  • Step your legs apart so that your feet are in line with your wrists
  • Turn your toes out and keep your heels in
  • Make yourself strong and rooted by pressing into the outside edges of your feet, engage your thighs and feel your kneecaps lift
  • Gently tuck your tailbone
  • Soften your shoulders down your back away from your ears

To find even more joy in this posture, you might take it a step further:

  • Lift your gaze
  • Raise your arms high
  • Turn your palms to shine towards the sky
  • Fan your fingers wide

Benefits of Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Lengthens and realigns the spinal column
  • Opens and energizes the entire body
  • Improves circulation and respiration

“You are responsible of your own space. Your own well being. Your own light. Take care of yourself first! Heal your own heart and cherish your own body and celebrate your own soul. Then go out there and live. Love. Make a difference! Use the magnificence you’ve created by celebrating who you are, bring it out into the world and make it a better place. It all begins with you.” – Rachel Brathen