Mindful Monday: Stay On Track

Hi there, mindful ones!

This is your weekly reminder to hang in there. While it’s globally most common to set a vision and make goals around the first of the year, it’s smartest to reflect throughout: to reassess, reframe, and “check in” so to speak with your own progress. And sometimes, circumstances change and new benchmarks need to be created along the way. A new lover. The end of one career and the start of another. A diagnosis. A move. Sometimes these things are planned, and sometimes they aren’t. Either way, 9 times out of 10 the timing never seems to be your own. Maybe you’re in the in-between, the space between no longer and not yet, playing the waiting game.

Learn to love it as if you’d chosen it. It’s in the times that feel like they aren’t moving at all that you must remain on track. Stick to your vision, but check in. Don’t be so set on the images and the outcome, but rather cultivate a mind that’s open to some rearranging. Sometimes the in-betweens are a great time to mix things up, to start anew, and to move forward with a fresh perspective altogether.

Crossroad in lavender meadow

Mindful Monday: Dark Before the Dawn

Good morning, mindful ones! And doesn’t this just feel like the most magical Monday after a full weekend of the warmest weather we’ve had in over seven months? Hello, Vitamin D! I’ve missed you.

There’s always lots of symbolism commentary when it comes to the changing of seasons. Our studio’s even playing off of it with our #FlowIntoSpring Instagram yoga challenge. If you’ve ever felt like Mother Nature mocks you with changes in the weather…She does. These sunny days serve as a metaphorical pick-me-up after months of gray skies that match our complaining souls begging for all things shiny and bright. The most important takeaway: Nothing lasts forever.

The never-ending school day.

The lingering cough that might be Bronchitis, that might be just a cold that you’re convinced will never ever go away, that is probably just seasonal allergies.

The dinner with your in-laws.

The Chicago winter.

The commute to work.

The new baby that just won’t sleep through the night.

The most recent argument with your loved one.

The Warrior II you swear you’ve been holding for ten minutes

Nothing last forever. Everything in this world is temporary, and if we’re constantly rushing from one thing to the next, wishing it were summer or wishing it were over or wishing for the next best thing, we miss the lesson. Motion is linear and motion feels good, and we’re taught from the moment that we’re encouraged to take our first steps that the way is one foot in front of the other. We’re urged from our earliest steps to keep it going and keep it moving. But what’s not given enough attention is the fact that this linear movement takes little to no effort on our end. It doesn’t have to be a struggle or a marathon. We don’t have to pour out so much personal effort.

It’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to fall down, sit down, and stay put. Sometimes you’ll find yourself at a standstill and it’s not by choice. The days are long & dark, it feels like it’s been raining forever, and you’re stuck in the mud. But I can assure you: you’re not. If you can re-frame the seasons of your life that seem to go on forever and that are keeping you stuck to just be a place you’ve *chosen* to sit instead of the place you’ve been damned to, you’ll begin to see yourself as the victor instead of the victim. You’ll be able to take a breath and ask: Why am I here? What’s there to learn? Who is the teacher?

Know in your heart that it’s always darkest before the dawn, that everything is temporary, and that you’re exactly who and what and where you need to be…and you’re just lovely.

light at the end of tunnel

Mindful Monday: “I Can” Mantras

Good morning, and happy (what looks like it’s finally going to feel like) spring! What a simple pleasure to walk out of the house without a jacket on in April. Of course, on Monday, maybe it’s a struggle walking out of the door no matter what kind of weather we’re graced with. I read a startling statistic this weekend in an article from the Huffington Post that said 79% of the working population lives for the weekend, and 20% of those will begin to count down until Friday early in the week, making Monday one of the most “dreaded” days of the week.

Our attitude about the day is typically framed from the moment we open our eyes in the morning. And on Mondays, maybe the self talk sounds a lot like this: 5 more minutes. I can’t get out of bed. Can someone at least bring me coffee in bed? OK, I’m getting up. Do I have to?

Change your attitude and change your Monday mindset with these 10 “I Can” mantras first thing in the morning:

I can get out of bed without lingering.

I can drink 72-100 ounces of water per day.

I can prepare homemade meals for myself and my family on my own.

I can discipline myself to at least 30 minutes of movement per day.

I can reduce my stress levels.

I can improve my sleep habits.

I can reduce my medications.

I can reduce inflammation in my body.

I can create my own joy.

I can experience new adventures.

One small positive thought in the morning can change the dynamic of your entire day. It really is that simple. Who’s with me?

Meet Alisa, Teacher of the Month!

We are so refreshed by Alisa’s positive efforts and attitude, constant presence at the studio as a teacher, subber, and student, and her enormous support and love for the YBD community. Get to know her better below:

Permanent teaching schedule:
Sunday: 1:30pm restorative in Western Springs
Monday: 8pm level 2 – 105 in Elmhurst
Thursday: 6pm level 2 – 95 in Elmhurst
Friday: 8:30am Sculpt in Elmhurst
Saturday: 7:30am level 2 – 95 in Glen Ellyn
9am Sculpt in Glen Ellyn
1:15pm restorative in Elmhurst

When and how did you come to yoga?
I first discovered yoga on PBS Chicago television. I would come from grade school and Wai Lana Yoga would do 30 minute sessions on the beach in Hawaii. I lost touch with it for a while but then in 2013 yoga found me again and I have been addicted ever since. It’s so much fun!!!

Why did you start teaching yoga?
I want to help heal the world from pain and suffering; to make others know that peace love and joy are accessible to everyone. The feeling of freedom I get at the end of every practice is something that all of us deserve and should feel every day.

What is your favorite pose?
I can’t choose just one. That’s impossible – they all make me happy… Do I have to? Let’s say bakasana, crow pose.

Who inspires your teaching?
My students. Every time I show up to teach a class and see another familiar smiling face walk in & say hello, I know something special is about to happen. They’re the reason I can’t wait to teach every day.

Tips for beginners…
Try all kinds of classes with an open mind & heart! Be gentle with yourself and don’t be afraid to talk to your teacher & fellow yogis! Yoga is about meeting you where you are at. We all come to our mat with different strengths, needs and intentions but we are still part of one community. If yoga feels hard, just keep showing up. Rome wasn’t built overnight so it may take a while to see any progress in your body, mind and spirit.:)

What’s your favorite quote?
I have so many but the two resonating with me lately are “don’t push the river, it flows by itself” and “let go or be dragged.”

Mindful Monday: Aim True & Bloom

Another manic Monday! Except we’re officially experiencing spring (what, that snowstorm this weekend wasn’t warm & green?) and so hopefully it’s less manic and more mellow. Late last week I attended a special event and book signing downtown with yogalebrity Kathryn Budig. Kathryn is a favorite teacher to so many because she’s probably the most authentic of the bunch. She shares her unfiltered journey as means of inspiring yoga bodies from all walks, her playful cueing and fiery female energy is contagious, and she’s so dang cute to boot.

Our warrior flow had a bit of everything. There was space for flailing limbs, temper tantrums, and kicking and screaming. We built goddess abs before archery practice as we flowed through the warriors like femme BOSSES. In a room of hundreds of people, we experienced connection like never before with opportunity after opportunity to touch our neighbors, to fuel up off the collective energy in the room, and to truly embody one breath / one people. It was magical.


At the end, a small Q&A revealed a couple humble takeaways for us all:

Adopt a “Who Cares” Attitude. This doesn’t mean to lose your sense of compassion and to be apathetic toward your personal practice and your life. Kathryn was asked if there was a particular pose she’s always struggled with. I’m always all ears when instructors I admire are asked this, because although we’re supposed to practice non-attachment when it comes to asana, having a “nemesis” pose is fairly common. First she admitted that she’s always hated shoulder stand, and I giggled slightly as my personal fears and visions of being decapitated re-surfaced. Yikes. Then she talked about handstand press and this overwhelming pressure she gets when logging into Instagram and seeing babies nailing yoga tricks like it ain’t no thang. And we’ve all been there, right? We’ve all turned green with envy scrolling social media and seeing postures we only dream of executing with grace. Kathryn’s advice? There’s over 4,000 yoga postures. If there’s one you can’t do, one you don’t like, one that surfaces some emotions you don’t ever care to feel, one that you just find plain silly, one that physically pains part of your body, or one that’s awakening a demon Ego that you need to shut down immediately…DON’T DO IT. 4,000 postures, people! Pick a different one. WHO CARES.

Feel What You Feel. This one is just a breath of fresh air. After that last question, someone asked if she’s ever had days when she finds it difficult to “turn it on” and to pour out healing and loving energy to so many people when circumstances aren’t all harmony, rainbows, and butterflies. In other words, how do you make room, as a yoga teacher, for you own struggles? Just like the sweet warrior she is, Kathryn humbly admitted that she’s ridiculously lucky to be doing “work” that allows room for all things. Having a bad day? Use it. She talked about how magical it is that even in a storm that doesn’t feel like it’s going to let up any time soon, she’s never walked into class in a terrible mood and left the same. And ain’t that the truth. If you’re mad, feel mad. If you’re sad, feel sad. If you’re smiling for no reason, sprinkle that sunshine around like confetti on New Year’s Eve. There’s room for everything on your yoga mat. Live it. Breathe it. Use it.

From the mouth of a true warrior! Spend this week being unapologetically yourself. Aim true & bloom!

April Pose of the Month

SPRING IS HERE! Today we bring you Standing Forward Bend, and this is a special pose of the month for us, because it doubles as the first pose for our studio’s Instagram Yoga Challenge! If you want to participate, it’s still not too late to join. Ask for details, or visit our @yogabydegrees IG page and click on the collage for rules.

  • From Mountain Pose, ground into both feet and begin to tilt your weight slightly forward
  • Hinge from your hips (not the waist) and lead with your front torso
  • Melt your heart toward the earth and to your thighs, maybe maintaining a microbend in your knees
  • Allow your arms to dangle freely, or take one of our fun variations by interlacing your fingers behind your back for a yummy chest expansion, or hug your calves for some well-deserved self love.

Benefits of Uttanasana:

  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Calms the mind and can relieve stress and tension in the upper back and shoulders
  • Stimulates kidneys and liver and improves digestion
  • Strengthens thighs and knees

Flow into spring by releasing all the things weighing you down!

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Mindful Monday: Get Off Your Sweet Asana!

Happy Monday, and giddy up! If you’re reading this sitting down or at work, get up, stand up, and stretch out! Today’s all about productivity and the gift of healing movement.

Sure, rushed mornings might turn into spilled coffee and afternoon meetings that run late can segue into an angry after-work commute. And maybe, by the time you finally get done teaching 3 classes or playing Super Mom or spending hours in your car, exhaustion might set in and it’s hard to keep the motivation.

Today, it’s all about 50-10. For every 50 minutes of scheduled, productive, multi-tasking, job-doing time you spend being exactly the type of (insert role here) you’ve been called to be, take 10 minutes of time to move. Stand up. Take a short walk. Lift your arms over head and tip from left to right for a yummy side body stretch. Touch your toes. Shake your head and let your tongue and mouth be absolutely free to make whatever oddball noises you want. However you choose to spend your 10 minutes, spend it moving for you. Your body, your time, your healing. Ready, set, go!

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Mindful Monday: Yoga Sutras & Spring Cleaning

Yesterday was our first official day of Spring, and although the weather’s still inching toward that warmth we’re all craving, there’s plenty of fresh air, chirping birds, and budding greens all around to remind us of what this change in season is all about.

This particular change in season is a great time to start fresh, purge old habits that are no longer serving our highest growth, and do some necessary “spring cleaning” both mentally and materially. A closer look at the yoga sutras might inspire some spring cleaning for the soul.

One of the strengths of our teaching training program at Yoga By Degrees is the emphasis and further education on the 8 Limb Path. The 8 Limbs are divided into the yams and niyamas, which are essentially translated into guidelines for living a meaningful life of purpose and intention. This Monday we’ll focus on some much-needed springtime Saucha.

Saucha is the practice of cleanliness. As with all of the yamas and niyamas, there is an inner as well as an outer aspect. Yoga is highly transformative, and when we choose to take the path, we’re moved from the world of form and all of the fears and attachments and neuroses that we identify with to this realization of the formless self that resides within us as Spirit. To make it simple and to use Saucha as a way to clean out the clutter, start with the outside and then, if you’re ready, go a bit deeper.

Take a look at your surroundings: What kind of conditions do you live in? Is your space calming and a place of sanctuary? Does the room in your home where you spend the most time bring feelings of joy and contentment? Do you keep your home, work space, and vehicle clean and tidy, or is it time for some serious tidying, organizing, sorting, and maybe even trashing things that are really of no great use to you? This week, take some time to evaluate your home and body. Do the dishes right after your meal, take a bag of clothes you no longer wear to your local donation center, clear out the leftovers from your fridge, and spend 30 minutes of uninterrupted bliss in a hot bath with bubbles & your favorite essential oil.

Spring cleaning with Saucha is simple, and once you tackle the external like home and body, you can start asking yourself what kind of mental garbage is crippling you in the past, perpetuating unnecessary fears, and cluttering your mindset with questions and inadequacies and made-up stories.

Practice Saucha & simplify.


“YBD Lite” Studio Comes To Glen Ellyn!


Yoga by Degrees is proud to announce “YBD Lite”!  Our newest concept and location is coming to Glen Ellyn in April!  The Grand Opening date is April 29. 2016.

The new location is at 914 East Roosevelt Road, in the Baker Hill Shopping Center, next to I-355.  And, there’s plenty of parking!

Experience the same beautiful, serene ambiance, amenities and experienced staff but in a more intimate space with a cool urban feel. You’ll enjoy all of the classes you’ve come to love at our other locations, but in a single 1800 square foot expansive studio space!  (Stay tuned for photos!)

Also, we’re kicking off a new, incredibly economical and convenient membership for the location called: “Gold Glen Ellyn Only Monthly Unlimited Membership”.  If you live or work in the Glen Ellyn area and plan mostly to come only to this location, a Gold Membership may be the perfect fit for you!

This membership, as the name suggests, can only be used at the Glen Ellyn location.  However, if you do want to take class at any other YBD location, no problem! Pay just $7 per class and you’re in!

For a limited time, you can purchase a Glen Ellyn Only Gold membership for just $78 dollars a month through our web site or from you at any studio!  But hurry!  We’re limiting this amazing price to the first 108 people who sign up. (After that, the price will most likely increase.)

Plus, great news for Platinum Members!  The new Gold Membership means that your Platinum Membership is now a: “Platinum All Access Monthly Unlimited Membership” and you can continue to use it at all YBD locations…including the YBD Lite Glen Ellyn location!


For more information about both our Platinum and Gold membership or to purchase one or the other, click here:  http://yogabydegrees.net/customize-platinum-membership.aspx

Mindful Monday: An Irish Blessing

Good morning, mindful ones! As we enter this week that means something different to most of us, we can find some common ground with a blessing for the journey! Serve. Be grateful. Be kind. Give no fear!

Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life,
realizing the completeness of each and every thing.
Embracing our differences,
I shall know myself as you, and you as myself.
May we serve each other for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life.
Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you,
for the trees and stars, as treasures of my very own.
May we be grateful for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

Let us vow to forgive all hurt caused by ourselves and others,
and to never condone hurtful ways.
Being responsible for my actions, I shall free myself and you.
Will you free me, too?
May we be kind for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear.
In the midst of uncertainty, I shall sow love.
Here! Now! I call to you:
Let us together live
The Great Peace that we are.
May we give no fear for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.

— Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao.