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Clear the Clutter

March 27, 2014

Think it’s impossible to see how your brain works? Walk over to a closet or open a drawer in your home. What you see is what you’ve got. While a few of you may be looking at something that could grace the pages of a Martha Stewart publication, chances are most of you are looking at a jumble of products, clothes and knick-knacks that live together for reasons unknown to your rational mind. Coupons, letters, bills and a hand sanitizer shoved into your kitchen junk drawer? Don’t get embarrassed — get organized!

The following room-by-room checklist offers the perfect opportunity to cut through the clutter while staying light on the landfills and giving you peace of mind!

Get room-by-room help for the bathroom, the kitchen, the home office and the clothes closet using this step-by-step green home guide.

Helpful hints for getting started

  • Get a good night’s sleep before any major project and work at the time of day you feel at your physical peak. A tired mind makes tired decisions.
  • Eat a good meal before you start and have lots of water and healthy snacks available.
  • Create an environment that supports your best efforts; music and aromatherapy are a couple simple things that will soothe your soul during the process.
  • Be sure you have set aside a block of time commensurate with the size of the project. The ideal first pass is five hours.
  • Warn family members that you will need some private time, and do not let yourself be interrupted. Nothing is worse than coming back to a disastrous closet when you’ve used all your strength elsewhere.
  • If any aspect of getting organized is outside your comfort zone (for example, if you have a large collection of receipts that need to be sorted and you don’t know what to save for the IRS), hire a professional organizer or call upon an organized good friend or family member for guidance.

The bathroom

If we are indeed spiritual beings having an earthly experience, then it stands to reason that taking care of the body is a sacred task. Yet most of our bathrooms are often neglected and/or abused. Let’s see how we can transform this room to a place of peace.

1. Linen check

What’s the condition of your towels? If they’re faded, threadbare and holey, let them go. Take them to your local vet or animal hospital. They need your old sheets as well.

2. Let go of disappointments

We all invest in products from time to time that disappoint us. We feel too guilty to let them go, letting them live on indefinitely in our cupboards as space hogs. The solution? Host a “Product Swap Party” for your friends. With everyone’s hair and skin having such different needs, what disappointed you might be a great find for a friend.

3. Divest in packaging

Are there products you love so much that you purchase them in multiples? Very often the commercial wrapping that comes with these products takes up a lot of space. Recycle the plastic and cardboard.

4. Detangle your haircare

Take an honest look at your brushes, combs and rollers. Pull out any you might not be using. If they’re in good shape, remove all excess hair and soak them in a solution of water and baking soda before rinsing, air-drying and donating to a shelter. Exceptions are items with wooden handles, which will waterlog, those with boar bristles, which will curl, and those with rubber cushioning, which will split. For these, remove all excess hair and scrub clean with a good shampoo. Rinse under the faucet and let air dry.

5. Face the bacteria

Check the expiration date on your makeup. Separate out anything that is more than six months old, as bacteria likely resides there. Rinse and recycle all recyclable glass and plastic (making sure to check the number of the plastic, so that you don’t put anything on the curb that will ultimately not be recycled).

6. Sort your meds

Take a look at your medicine collection, identify what’s expired, then remove the label, and rinse and save the bottles for travel purposes.

Helpful hints for everyday upkeep:

  • Keep a sponge handy for quick wipes of the counter every time you exit.
  • The mirror gets water and toothpaste splashed at regular intervals. Keep a spray bottle of homemade cleaner and a soft cotton cloth under the sink. Spray and wipe at least once a day.
  • Make your own cleaner for the countertop and the mirror by mixing equal parts vinegar and water. Vinegar has the added benefit of being both a disinfectant and a deodorizer. The smell dissipates the minute it dries.
  • Straight vinegar will clean your bathroom bowl.
  • When your counters need a good scrub, use baking soda! Add a little water and you’ll have a natural cleaning paste.
  • Remove and recycle the plastic wrap from around your soap. Soaps last longer when they’ve been dried out a bit.

 

Find the whole article from our friends at Gaiam.com (including complete checklist) here!

Choosing the right cycling shoes.

March 3, 2014

Question:  Can you give me some advice on purchasing cycling shoes for your cycling classes? Image

Answer: A stiff-soled, breathable shoe with a recessed Shimano Pedaling Dynamics (SPD) cleat is compatible with our bikes and is the best choice for indoor cycling. Wearing a shoe that clips into the pedal improves efficiency and allows you to power your pedaling during the full circle of a pedal stroke. Spinning.com notes, “Indoor cycling shoes are specially fitted to clip into the pedals of a bicycle. This allows the feet to remain firmly affixed to the pedal, and ultimately works more muscle groups and ensures greater control.”

In addition, spinning.com recommends purchasing shoes with “strong Velcro straps to prevent slipping and to aid the upward movement of the pedal stroke,” while paying specific attention to the sole. “A stiff sole is essential as it allows a greater transfer of power between the leg and the bike.”

Adapted from this article.

Yoga Amidst Stress and Chaos – A Dispath from O’Hare Airport

February 24, 2014

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Like some other major travel hubs, O’Hare Airport in Chicago now has a yoga room. Located in a rotunda a floor above the movement between Unknown terminals, and next to the indoor garden, the little room is an amazing oasis amidst the stress of the airport.
I had been stuck at O’Hare for almost 36 hours when I finally decided to visit the yoga room.  It is small but quiet and observes yoga space etiquette like removal of shoes, silencing electronica and wiping down the mats that are available for use.
I was skeptical, ‘though it must be said that after being trapped for that long in my least favorite environment – a large, loud space filled with a great many angry, sad, frustrated people – I was feeling skeptical about a great deal more than the yoga room at that point.
In any event, meditative music was playing from a screen with soothing images, and there was a large mirror on one side of the room, along with a basket of mats to use.
I decided to “vinyasa-fy” the hot yoga sequence and just flow through what I normally do in class.  My skepticism quickly faded.
The power of yoga, with intention and breath, is truly transformative.
For a few moments I wasn’t stuck at O’Hare. I wasn’t getting ripped off from the day I had planned with my sweetie. I wasn’t homesick – okay, that’s a lie, I was still homesick, but for a few moments, I was my yoga self, not the aggravated, sleep starved, ill-fed lunatic who has been stuck at O’Hare.
I focused a lot on postures that open the heart, especially back bends and breathing, and on just enjoying doing one of my favorite things: prayer through movement, breathing, being present.Unknown-1
I gave myself permission to just do yoga for a half hour or so, and it completely shifted how I felt, and how I now feel about the remaining several hour wait until I get to try again to get home.
Earlier in the day I had one of those nice confluences of sacred reading: reading totally unrelated texts from different traditions which ended up making the same point.  The confluence was around the concept of expanding the mind and perspective to allow for the fact that our small perception of things is not the whole story, the big picture, or the ultimate reality of a situation.
My time on the mat at O’Hare brought me to the very same place: yes this is inconvenient, yes, I am sad to once again lose a day with my honey, yes I am home sick, but it is possible to relax the grip on all that a little and realize, sitting here in front of some sprouting cilantro, that life does indeed go on.

Day 3 Interfaith Harmony Week & Yoga: A Cheerful Countenance

February 4, 2014

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Rabbi Shammai said, “Greet everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
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On this 3rd Day of United Nations Interfaith Harmony week, let’s focus on greeting everyone -including that beautiful yogi facing you in the mirror – with a cheerful countenance.  I cannot remember which Sufi poet said, “If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, you are looking in the wrong mirror.”

What if we were to take this a couple of steps further: what if we began every encounter with another person with a gentle smile?
What if we cultivated a cheerful emotional countenance – that is, an inner attitude of friendliness – to our moment by moment experience?

When you get to the yoga studio, greet the front desk folks with some extra warmth.  Say a quiet hello to folks in the changing room.  Greet and thank your teacher and her/his teachers.  Face yourself and bow with warmth and appreciation for that brave, sweet yogi facing you with readiness and warmth this day.

Interfaith Harmony Week & Yoga Days 1 and 2

February 3, 2014

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Friends this is United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week so I have decided to post a very short blog each day, so those of us not participating in formal events can still be part of the interconnected web of learning and good will the week is intended to create.

Day One: The Platinum Rule (Saturday)YogaLeafMan
Yesterday was Shabbat so I didn’t blog, but the thought for the day was to explore the implications of the Platinum Rule. We know the Golden Rule, “do unto others” of course. The Platinum Rule asks us to go a step farther:

Treat others the way they wish to be treated.

This is an invitation to go beyond even the great goodness of  “do unto others what you would have them do into you”.  To treat others the way they wish to be treated implies other steps: engagement, friendly curiosity, listening and learning.

Engagement means we take the time to meet one another on deeper levels, past surface impressions.  Friendly curiosity means we acknowledge what we do not yet know, listening means we genuinely want to hear the answers and learning means that we will try new behaviors, sometimes make mistakes and try again based on feedback.

In a way doesn’t that sound like yoga practice? We meet each posture, explore it with friendly curiosity, see what our practice has to teach us and them we try again. And in my case bang into the mirror during Standing Bow. Repeatedly.

What would it mean for us to take this from the mat into world?

Remember: questioning in pursuit of truth and understanding is a sacred act of humility -we have something to learn from and about everyone.

Day Two (Sunday): Three Breaths

The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and peace maker Thich Nhat Hahn teaches that we should begin every interaction with three breaths. I once heard him say that the first breath reminds me that I am mortal, the second that you are mortal and the third reminds us that this makes the moment of interaction and coming together even more precious.

For today, pause often to breath.  When interacting, explain that you are undertaking the practice to slow down  and appreciate the other person, place a gentle smile on your face, breath and then begin whatever it is you are doing.

How different would our interactions be if we more consistently took the time to pause, relax and truly see the person or people in front of us? And when in yoga, that person is none other than our own true Self.

Advantages of using cycling shoes for an indoor cycle class.

January 15, 2014

By Kelley Travis

When using street shoes to participate in an indoor-cycling class, you are putting unnecessary stress on your feet.   Everyday shoes are designed to provide comfort and support for activities such as walking, running, and standing but not bicycling. When you place the soft sole of normal shoes onto a bike pedal, they bend. This causes all of the force and stress to be placed upon a small area of the foot. This in turn can cause pain and discomfort. 

Have you ever had the sensation of the ball of your foot burning, or your toes tingling?

When using shoes designed for bicycling, you will notice that the sole is very stiff. Although this is not desirable for normal activities, it is superb for cycling. The stiff sole causes the force of the pedal to be evenly displaced upon your entire foot. This relives stress and discomfort, in addition to enabling you to exert more force into the bike. In addition to the added power and comfort provided by cycling shoes, they have the capability to use cleats. When using cleats for indoor-cycling classes, you are able to clip into the pedals. No longer will your foot slip off of the pedal. Furthermore, you will have even more power through the upstroke by the ability to pull up on the pedal.  The above benefits will allow you to ride with greater energy and more importantly, you just might find yourself enjoying the ride more. 

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t make one.

January 6, 2014

By Bonnie Alfonso

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t make one.
Seriously, don’t do it.
“But I just joined Yen Yoga and I am inspired!”
Awesome! Welcome, we are glad you are here.
And we want to make sure you are still inspired by Valentine’s Day,
Memorial Day, and the 4th of July.
Let’s be honest, most of us have a hard time committing to a long range plan and your health and well being are a life time plan.
Seems a bit daunting, so let’s break it down into manageable, achievable steps.
Set a goal for the week: I will workout more days than not this week.
Short term commitment, easy to measure and realistic. Fantastic!
Each Sunday evening review how you did and recommit to your goal.
Some weeks you will hit it, some you won’t, some you will do more. But each week is a new beginning and your health and well being will improve.

Bottom line:
A goal is really just a decision to make a consistent choice.
Choose to be inspired, and inspire, week by week.
See you in class!

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