yoga philosophy

Mindful Monday: Tending to Yourself

Good morning, dearest mindful ones!

It’s so easy to get caught up in a swirl of non-stop activities, isn’t it? In fact, you may even take pride in your perpetual state of busyness and being able to handle so many things at once. But eventually, there’s a tipping point: where stress builds up and burnout creeps in. That’s why tending to yourself is so vital to a true state of wellness and contentment.

What does your Mind conjure up when you think of tending to yourself?

I think of paying attention to myself. Taking time to turn inward and see what’s really going on physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

Noticing what’s really happening and caring for and nourishing myself. Cultivating an overall sense of well-being and contentment.

Today, begin your week by deciding to give yourself some well-deserved attention. When you care deeply for yourself, you become the shiniest, best and brightest version of you that you are truly meant to be!

It starts on the physical level. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Your daily mindful practice … of course, take a yoga class at YBD!, but on those days that you just can’t seem to fit one in, still carve out some space to just sit and meditate and tend to yourself.

As the physical body is soothed and loved through proper rest, sleep, nutrition and movement, more awareness of what is happening mentally and emotionally naturally evolves. Notice thoughts and emotions as they arise, and make space for them to move through you. Rather than getting hooked and bogged down and making them mean something, give them so much space to move without attaching or identifying with them.

Take a few moments today to take some deep breaths and just pause. Make this as habitual as brushing your teeth and making your bed!

Take time today to tend to your soul.

Namaste, dearest ones!

Mindful Monday: Reality

Good morning, mindful friends!! Let’s get REAL this morning!

Reality.

Reality AS IT IS, not how you think it could or should be.

Not your opinions of it.

Not your preferences and projections.

Not your thoughts about it.

Reality. As. It. Is.

The truth is that the universe is always conspiring to keep you alive. To make you happy. On so many levels.

Think about all that must take place for you to survive this entire day! Think about it … your body alone must perform tiny miracles each moment: providing enough proteins and lipids to fuel your body, your mental faculties alerting you to dangers, your spleen regulating immune system. And that’s just on the micro level!

At the macro level, you need fresh, clean water; the Sun continues to shine and provide energy and life to everything on the this earth. You maintain a roof over your head and have plenty to eat.

I invite you to meditate on just how interconnected you are to the Earth’s ecosystem and to realize how important you are on this planet.

When we see just how miraculous and amazing each moment actually is, why do we spend so much time being paranoid. Anxious. Annoyed. Upset. Envious. Disdainful. Sad. Lonely. Depressed. Dissatisfied. Bored. Down on ourselves and those around us? Living in the past …

The universe has and always will provide you with exactly what you need in each moment. You are enough. You are sufficient.

The next time you start to feel anything but grounded in the present, in your body, in reality, take three deep, deep breaths and ask yourself ….

What in this moment is lacking?

Right here, right now, what is lacking in this moment?

As you close your eyes and deepen your breath, you come to the realization that there’s nothing lacking right now. You have and always will receive exactly what you need to get through each moment of your life.

Now that doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but you will always get what you need.

And the more we understand that all of life is this moment and each moment, the less we have the need to project and judge life. As we relax into each moment, we accept life as it unfolds with so much gratitude.

Expectations begin to fall away, thus freeing us from heartache and disappointment.

We truly have the opportunity to embrace life and all its lessons.

Your life is right now. Reality is your next breath.

Mindful Monday: Smile

Good morning! Happy Monday, mindful ones.

There are millions of reasons to smile each day! Even in the midst of tragedy and loss, there’s always space for a smile.

One of my very favorite emotions is laughter shining through in the midst of tears.

But it doesn’t have to be so dramatic!

As we focus so consciously on breath work in our yoga and meditation practices, a very simple addition is to layer in a smile.

Inhale

Exhale

Smile

It’s the first time I do each morning.

Wake up

Stretch

Smile

Smiling can become a habit, much like all of our other conditioned and learned responses.

Start practicing on the easy stuff.

Today it’s pretty easy to smile at the sun and mild, springlike weather!

Smile at your barista.

Smile at your coworkers – especially the crabby ones! It annoys them and makes you smile even harder.

Smile when your friend texts you.

Smile at a funny meme.

Smile for no reason at all.

Then start practicing smiling at the harder stuff.

Just smile when your son spills his milk.

Smile when the person in the car in front of you is going under the speed limit.

Smile when the person next to you beeps their horn.

Smile when you really don’t feel like it.

When things are really rough, start digging deeply for one measly reason to smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Smile.

Choose happiness. Choose gratitude.

Smile.

Mindful Monday: Zanshin

Aloha and good morning, my yogi friends! I’m writing this blog from our 50th state, Hawaii, and I’m overflowing with gratitude for simply being alive in this moment. And while it’s still pretty early morning here, I should really be wishing you a good afternoon! Here is my early morning view as I write this blog.

We are on the fourth week of a series about four Zen states of mind. It’s important to note that there are many other Zen mind training techniques and mental states than the four I’ve focused on these past weeks. I’ve chosen to highlight these particular states, because we can begin to apply them to our yoga practice and daily lives. This is in no way an exhaustive list!

Read more about the first three Zen states here:

Shoshin

Fudoshin

Mushin

Now, let’s move to our final state of mind called Zanshin.

Zanshin literally translates to “remaining mind” or the “mind with no remainder.”

Zanshin is a general and constant state of relaxed awareness or perceptiveness. This state means that although you’re not actively watching out for things, you are constantly aware of your surroundings and situation. Think of a public safety officer or a first responder: they are always sizing up situations even when off duty. Constant situational awareness.

The concept of Zanshin is that one should be fully present in whatever action is at hand. When eating, eat. The mind is fully engaged in the action of eating. When practicing yoga, practice yoga. When standing, stand. When writing, write. It is being in the here and now, totally immersed in the task at hand, and there is no “remaining mind” to think.

And to take it one step further, every action and every thought in the here and now must be right and harmonious. Every routine, mundane action is important and should be done with Zanshin.

A beautiful example of Zanshin:

Roy Suenaka, the author of Complete Aikido, tells a story about aikido’s founder that is the epitome of this concept. They were seated on the floor face to face having tea and talking when Morihei Ueshiba, without turning his head, casually reached behind himself and then held something out for Suenaka to see. “Ah, a young cockroach,” he said, before gently putting it to the side. Only later did the significance hit Suenaka. How was Ueshiba so aware that even when focused on their conversation could he not only sense the presence of something so small but be able to know exactly were it was so that he was able to pick it up without looking?

There is a samurai saying that roughly translates to: “When the battle is won, tighten your chinstrap.” This means that zanshin should always be practiced, even after a big success or goal has been met. Never rest on your laurels. Be prepared at any moment for another attack (if you’re a samurai). But also that the battle is never over until you stop striving.

If you’ve been working for years on a particular yoga pose, you don’t stop practicing once you achieve it! If you reach your PR in weight lifting or any other competitive sport or arena, it’s not the time to relax and start slacking.

There is a second component to zanshin that can be summarized with this beautiful thought: Everything is aiming.

There is a story of a master archer who consistently hits bullseye after bullseye, even splitting his own arrows in the middle of the bullseye, blindfolded and in complete darkness.

This is attributed to the process being of utmost importance, not the goal! Each and every small detail is preparation for the ultimate goal. But the paradox is that the ultimate goal is not the focus; each and every boring, mundane, repetitive task that is performed thousands of times is where focus lies. Once one has performed every minute detail ad nauseam, the goal is inevitable and can be reached without the luxury of seeing the target.

Have a great week, yogis! As always I love to hear your comments and feedback. And of course if there any topics you’d like covered in our weekly blog please let us know!

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: Self-Compassion

    Happy Monday, dear, dear friends! And still the snow is falling as I begin writing this blog! I’m practicing gratitude and acceptance so much right now!

    Today let’s explore the idea of self-compassion. What does it mean to be compassionate toward yourself? Basically, it means treating yourself the same way you would treat your best friend and/or someone you love.

    This is more challenging than it seems! I still struggle with being less judgmental towards myself and more loving and accepting. I am certainly my own biggest critic!

    On the other end of this spectrum is self-pity. This is when we become so self-absorbed in our own troubles and woes. We vibrate from a low level of energy and get caught up in the feeling that we have an unfair share of burdens and problems.

    The middle ground between being overly critical and overly pitying toward oneself is self-compassion. Like life and yoga, this is a tough balancing act!

    To find that middle ground, remember that you are a part of common humanity. And that part of our shared human experience encompasses all of our mistakes, struggles and imperfections. So, compassion isn’t a ‘poor me’ feeling, it’s just recognizing that life is difficult for everyone at some points.

    Coupled with remembering our deep connection to humanity (and all other living things part of planet Earth), is the practice of mindfulness. It refers to the ability to step outside yourself and see what’s happening, see that things may be difficult or you’re struggling, and hold that suffering in mindful awareness as opposed to getting lost in it or overly identifying with it.

    Like yoga and life, self-compassion is a lifelong practice. Here are some ways you can begin to be kinder to yourself and ultimately kinder and more compassionate toward every living creature that you meet.

    1. Stop taking yourself so seriously! Remember you’re doing the best you can, and that will always be enough. That certainly doesn’t mean stop trying; it means give your best in each moment and trust in the process. I certainly use humor as a way to cope with the madness that life brings my way. I strongly believe that laughter is truly the best medicine!

    2. Carve out time for self-care every day! If we’re lucky, we get a whole hour to practice yoga at our favorite YBD studio! Some days that simply isn’t feasible. Then spend 15 minutes meditating or journaling. Treat yourself to a bubble bath. Go for a short walk. Drop down and do 10 burpees. Do one small thing that will elevate your spirit and help you de-stress.

    3. Start practicing gratitude! When we are grateful for what we have, we realize that everything is enough. What we have is enough. Who we are is enough.

    4. Perform random acts of kindness toward perfect strangers! Pay for the person’s coffee in line behind you. Allow that person in the seeming hurry to cut you off in traffic with a wave.

    Make eye contact and genuinely smile at someone passing by. I do that all the time, and I find it interesting how people react to it! It becomes a social experiment, and I can readily see how open or closed off people are!

    As we practice kindness towards others, it becomes easier to be kind to ourselves. It also shift our focus from ‘poor me’ to how good it feels to connect with others.

    5. Take a couple minutes each morning and evening or even before and after your yoga practice to tell yourself that you love yourself. And remind yourself of the reasons why.

    And most importantly, remember we’re looking for progress not perfection. Like yoga, it’s consistency and dedication to the practice that yields the greatest transformation. And we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

    Can’t wait to see you on your mat this week!

    PS Another round of our 21 day cleanse is coming up in a couple of weeks!!!!

    Mindful Monday: Tempus Fugit

    Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones! Happy President’s Day! You may have the day off today, but all of our studios are open with our regular schedules!

    I was talking to a friend the other day who expressed so much fear surrounding money. She is overworked and overextended, but she continues plodding on at an unsustainable, breakneck speed driven by her fears. I think we’ve all been there. I know that was my reality when I left my role as the spokesperson for the City of Naperville to teach yoga full-time.

    But the reason I left the career that I once loved so much was that I wanted more freedom and flexibility with my time to spend more of it doing what I love.

    And I slowly realized that money is the currency that we use to purchase goods and services. It is a tool to use in the pursuit of a full and fulfilling life. It is not the purpose of life.

    The true currency of life is our tempus TIME. We exchange our precious, limited, finite time for money when we work. It’s a steep price to pay.

    Each day, no matter how good looking you are or how much money you have or how talented you are, you are given 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes. That’s all you get in one day. You can’t bank it, roll it over or save it for later.

    I always think of Steve Jobs and how all the money in the world could not prolong his life. He couldn’t cash in his vast fortune and buy another decade of life. But he certainly spent his seconds, minutes, hours and days in a way that impacted and changed our entire planet.

    Like death, time is our great equalizer. It does not favor the rich or the poor, the believers or non-believers. How you spend or squander your time determines your life, your future, your karma.

    Tempus fugit, carpe diem et memento mori

    “Time flees, seize the day, remember death”

    How will you spend your precious time this day? What will you receive in exchange for this priceless commodity?

    Mindful Monday: Snow Day

    Good morning, mindful ones!

    Well last week’s blog was called Slow Your Roll, and it was about slowing down our instant-gratification-and-endemic-busyness-plagued-society by releasing expectations. How apropos that we had the very opportunity to incorporate that attitude with the huge snow storm that hit us late last week!

    We were all literally forced to release expectations and slow down, because we had no other choice. Roads were treacherous and many businesses actually closed or opened late morning or early afternoon.

    Things like huge snowstorms give us an opportunity to observe ourselves (without judgement) and to witness our instinctual and also conditioned reactions. And through our yoga practice, we have learned the precious art of finding that space between breaths and pausing before reacting. Then choosing our response.

    One of my all time favorite quotes. Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and several concentration camps, and he used his experience to help others find the beauty of life and the will to live.

    In the most wretched of human circumstances, Frankl observed that some people maintained their deep humanity through simple acts of sharing their last scrap of bread or still finding beauty in nature.

    We, who have so much to be grateful for, can still catch ourselves reacting to unexpected circumstances with annoyance, impatience and even anger. Often we react without thinking. Our behaviors are acted out and reflexive rather than thoughtful.

    Through our yoga practice, we have learned to breathe and pause. In this paused space lies our growth, happiness and freedom. With such awareness of this space, we find the freedom from both internal and external pressures and we choose our response.

    I think of it as a game. I watch a strong reaction arise within, and try to pause and just look at it. And then I know I have a choice: continue on with the emotion or realize that’s it’s temporary so I can choose a less reactive response.

    And we don’t have to wait for a huge act of nature to practice this. We have these opportunities all day long! Sitting at the breakfast table. Walking into a restaurant. Standing in line at the grocery store. Shopping for food before a huge snowstorm hits. Even on our yoga mats, we have sixty minutes to observe, pause and then respond.

    It is in the little every day moments our true character is revealed to us. How we behave on our yoga mats shows us how we will respond off of our mats as well. How we train each day determines how we will handle the big stuff when it arrives.

    Have a great week, friends! Be safe and I can’t wait to see you on your mats this week!

    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: Just Breathe

    Good morning, dearest ones!

    As we launch into this new work week, remember to breathe!

    If you’re running late, just breathe

    If your kids are moving at less than optimal speed, just breathe

    If there’s a long line in front of you at your local coffee shop, just breathe

    If you catch every single red light, just breathe

    If the person next to you on the train is loudly talking on their phone, just breathe

    If your meetings are filled with long-winded monologues, just breathe

    If the IT person is taking forever to look at your machine, just breathe

    If on the way to yoga class today you’re stuck behind the slowest driving person in the history of mankind, just breathe

    And as you breathe, remember to count your blessings. One by one.

    I always count you among my many many blessings.

    Make it a great week, yogis!