Yoga??!! Why you (or someone you love) should come to a FREE workshop on 3/8

Written by YBD Teacher, Shaun Emerson: A little less than four years ago, my wife, Lisa, suggested that I join her at this new Hot Yoga place near our home. In a marriage, a “suggestion” can take on a variety of connotations. In this instance, I didn’t detect any secondary intention so was free to assess the offer for what it was.

Yoga???!! I was a former football player, weight lifter, and runner. My body was worse than tight. Rigid, inflexible, compact. What I thought I knew about yoga (I knew nothing) intimidated me. Goofy stretching, right? The longest I ever really stretched was pushing against the garage in a weak lunge for a millisecond before I hit the street for my jog. If I went to this class, it was going to be ugly.

She offered, “It is 105 degrees. You’ll sweat your ass off.”

I was in. All the other stuff be damned. Despite some fear, I love a new adventure and I love to sweat more.

A little less than four years later, I am still pretty tight. I have creaky hips (right, Lara?). And I am an actual yoga instructor. Really, I am a yoga instructor/nerd (though my kids would omit the qualifier…just nerd). How can you not be a nerd about something that changed your life (will save the sappy stuff and how I got here for another time)?

Anyway, I think yoga and asana can be daunting for first timers. We, at YBD, want to make it less so. Therefore, we are putting on a free workshop in Downers Grove on March 8th to demystify, educate and flow. The class will be an opportunity for folks to get into a studio, on a mat without the pressure or concern of walking into a live class. We’ll talk about what yoga is, how a typical class is structured, introduce some of the common postures and have time for questions throughout.

If you are YBD regular and reading this, I am sure you have people close to you that are curious about your yoga practice, but not curious enough to willingly jump into a class with you. Maybe, you want to make a “suggestion” that they come to this workshop. Whether you place any secondary significance on the suggestions is up to you.


About The Author/Blog Contributor:shaun  Shaun Emerson is a Teacher at YBD. He says he was encouraged by his wife, Lisa to start his yoga journey three years ago in the heat of a Bikram studio. After an eight-month love affair and four month long breakup with Bikram, Shaun found himself at Yoga by Degrees. YBD Sculpt became a family affair often attending classes with his wife and two daughters. Prompted by his girls and curious to learn more, Shaun entered and completed the YBD 200 hour Teacher Training program. During his training, Shaun shifted from sculpt to flow and found, not only his breath, but a love for it’s quiet, yet vigorous, elegance.

February Pose of the Month

It’s that time of year where hearts open and we should be filled with LOVE!  This month Julie demonstrates a variation of Anjaneyasana (aka low lunge).  This pose is not only great for the hips but opens the heart as you lift through your chest while you enter spinal extension.

1) Releases tension in your hips.
2) Helps build mental focus.
3) Stretches the hips, quads, and hamstrings.
4) Helps to improve the strength and flexibility in your hips, legs, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back and knees.
5) If you suffer from sciatica pain, this pose is also good for you as it stretches and soothes the hamstrings and leg muscles.
6) As a heart-opening exercise, this pose is of course also beneficial for the heart chakra and stimulates the Anahata energy.
7) This pose is especially good and recommended for athletes and runners as it gives a beneficial stretch and stimulation to the lower

Meet Teresa, Teacher of the Month!

Teresa in her favorite pose, fire log.

Teresa in her favorite pose, fire log.

Yoga by Degrees truly cherishes this Teacher of the Month, Teresa. She is an loyal asset to our teaching staff and is a positive ray as a mentor in our teacher training programs. She humbles us all by juggling a busy schedule, being amazing with so much subbing and last minute bail outs. All the while, carrying a calm composure and definitely a giant smile. Get to know her a little better with the answers below. Here is her permanent teaching schedule:

Tuesdays, 6am YBD2 Elmhurst

Tuesdays, 8pm YBD2 105 Western Springs

Wednesdays, 6am YBD1 Elmhurst

Thursdays, 4:30pm YBD1 Western Springs

Thursdays, 8pm YBD2 Elmhurst

Friday, 6am YBD1 Elmhurst

Saturdays, 4pm YBD2 105 Downers Grove

Sundays, 12pm YBD2 Western Springs

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started to give yoga a halfhearted chance in my early 20’s to help combat stress and to try something new . After practicing on and off for a year or two  I started going to yoga regularly and began to see  positive changes off the mat. I was less stressed, confident, happier and more myself than ever.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

Yoga has changed my life so much-  I want to share yoga with anyone and everyone I can! I love helping people feel good.  I also truly enjoy teaching- Even at 6 am!

What is your favorite pose? 

Agnistambhasana- Fire log/ Double Pigeon. It look me a long time to be able to enjoy this pose! It reminds me of how much I have changed in my practice. 

Who inspires your teaching?

My Students! My goal of every class is to connect with them through yoga and help them feel better.  If I can help them feel better even just for 5 minutes, I am happy! And of course the amazing teachers at YBD- I love our community and the wealth of knowledge and love for the practice you can find here. 

Tips for beginners…

Relax! Its just yoga. Don’t be afraid to fly or fall. And seriously, nobody cares if you can’t touch your toes! 

Do your practice and all is coming- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois 

January Pose of the month.

Now that the new year has arrived we wanted to showcase a pose to begin the year with an open heart. Ustrasana aka Camel pose is our pose of the month.  Here is Lara in a variation of that pose.  Benefits of this pose includes.

Strengthening of  the arms and shoulders

  • Relieves mild pain in the back
  • Expands the rib cage
  • Improves blood circulation to brain
  • Respiratory ailments
  • Mild pain in the back
  • Anxiety and fatigue
  • Menstrual discomfort


This pose is not for those suffering from high blood pressure or migraines.

  • Patients suffering from insomnia should also avoid this yoga pose.
  • This pose can cause serious back and neck injuries, so guidance from an experienced instructor is recommended.

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One thing to keep in mind in this pose is as you reach back avoid dumping into the lumbar spine by lifting up your chest as you reach back.  Be sure to keep your hips in line with your knees.  If you have trouble with this place your hips up against the wall to keep them in line with your knees.

Meet Brandon, Teacher of the Month!


Get to know our Teacher of the Month, Brandon! Brandon is a 200 hour certified instructor who teaches vinyasa and sculpt at our Wheaton and Downers Grove locations permanently, and he could be found subbing all around town. Brandon’s classes are lead with his powerful voice, intelligent sequencing, and thorough cueing. See below for more details!

Check out his current teaching schedule:

Mondays, 9:30am YBD2 Wheaton

Tuesdays, 12:00pm YBD2 105 Downers Grove

Saturdays, 2:00pm Yoga Sculpt Wheaton

When and how did you come to yoga?

Yoga came to me, in my living room, on VHS tape. I started out a little over fifteen years ago with my mother.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I was just going with the flow; fresh out of university and in need of fulfillment, I found myself signing up for a 200hr training. It was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.
What is your favorite pose?

Peacock! Whenever I go out and get to talking with people they always ask me if I can do anything cool. I say, “Oh, you wanna see me Peacock?” That usually gets ‘em.

I am currently working on my one handed!

Who inspires your teaching?

I can draw inspiration from almost anything, but the reason I keep coming to my mat; the reason I speak to others who will listen is in hopes that maybe they too will hear, see, feel how beautiful the place we reside is. It’s a shame that we live on a planet where so many people take life for granted, but if I can help one person be reminded that this spinning rock is all there is to it, well, then that makes it worth it. There’s so much to be happy about when pain and suffering are removed. That love for being allowed to live in comfort is what inspires me; I listen intently to and try to share with whoever feels the same or wants the same.

Tips for beginners

There’s no reason to ever be hard on yourself. This life is a growing one and to go without an error is to expect the impossible. Fall down! Be stiff on one day and more open the next. It’s all part of a full understanding. You have to know weakness before strength. Embrace it, every challenge, every step of the way is all something to look back upon and say, “Wow, I came a long way”


What’s your favorite quote?

“Dude, suckin’ at somethin’ is the first step towards being sorta good at something” -Jake the dog

December Pose of the Month

 viparita karani aka Legs up the wall

With the holiday season in full swing it sometimes leaves us stressful and with a feeling of panic. This pose is sure to calm the nerves and senses.The pose is quite simple but yet incredibly powerful. To get into the pose, sit on the floor as close to the wall as possible (outer hip touching). Lie back and swing your legs up the wall. You may notice your sit bones come away a bit. You can stay there or shimmy your bum closer to the wall. We used a few blankets rolled up under the spine as an addition to the pose. By adding rolled blankets under the spine this acts as a chest opener. This variation is just one of many options you can take in this pose. Viparita Karani is that go to pose for almost anything that ails you.
Legs up the wall pose can ease the following:
• Anxiety
• Arthritis
• Digestive problems
• Headache
• High and low blood pressure
• Insomnia
• Migraine
• Mild depression
• Respiratory ailments
• Urinary disorders
• Varicose veins
• Menstrual cramps
• Premenstrual syndrome
• Menopauseimage

“The generosity is incredible this year.” Re: The Giving Tree Program

“The generosity is incredible this year.” Said Alex Gordy of the Humanitarian Services Project’s Database Administrator in regard to the Yoga by Degrees students who participated in this year’s “Giving Tree Program” and food drive.

Both HSP and YBD staff members were overwhelmed by how many students participated in the annual program to provide less fortunate children, seniors and families with gifts and food this holiday season.  On December 8th, HSP volunteers stopped by Yoga by Degrees in Wheaton to collect all of the gifts and food. YBD students had dropped off the gifts at the Wheaton, Western Springs and Elmhurst locations.  The gifts were collected and brought to the Wheaton location for pick up by the HSP.

Each gift donor/YBD student, had picked an ornament off of a Christmas tree at one of the three aforementioned YBD studios.  There were 36 ornaments total. Those who participated, purchased the gifts listed on each ornament, wrapped and labeled them, then placed them under the tree.  (Although all of the approximately five to ten items on the list did not need to be purchased, the suggested minimum donation was $25 per recipient.)

In Wheaton, there was also a large box next to the “Giving Tree” where students could donate non-perishable food items by placing them in the box.

“This is just another reminder of how fortunate we are to be surrounded daily by such caring, warm and thoughtful people in which the Yoga by Degrees community is comprised of.  We are truly touched by our students efforts and generosity and Yoga by Degrees staff along with, no doubt, the recipients of the gifts and food, thank those who donated from the bottom of our hearts.” Said Yoga by Degrees Director of Marketing and Development, Samantha Raphael.

Humanitarian Services Project workers will be distributing the gifts and food to hundreds of children, seniors and families who are in need in the local area this holiday season.

(Please note: For those who picked an ornament but were unable to get their gifts back to a “Giving Tree” by the 12/4 deadline, you can still drop your gifts off at YBD studio (Wheaton if possible) by Thursday, 12/11 and they will be picked up and delivered to HSP on Friday 12/12 at 3PM.)

Waterfall, Stone Showers & More!

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If you haven’t yet, you definitely want to come see Yoga by Degrees fourth and newest location in Downers Grove. With all of the same crisp, clean and serene elements, colors and overall styling’s as the prior three locations, Downers Grove is no exception to YBD’s high esthetic standards. In fact, when you enter the studio you’ll notice some unique touches.

The location at: 54 Ogden Ave. between Caputo’s and Trader Joe’s, boasts some unique designs that help accentuate the YBD experience.  For example, the lighted archway serves as a welcoming beacon to students who enter through the main hallway toward the locker rooms and studios.

You’ll notice custom copper detail throughout the studio; the centerpiece, a floor to ceiling streaming waterfall in the hallway lined with a wooden perch where students can sit, relax and reflect before and after each class.

Glance to your left and right and you’ll notice copper leafed locker room doors adorned with a Sanskrit sign and an artistic geometrical design on each.

As soon as you venture in to the locker room, you’ll notice the intricate and colorful tile work along the walls.

Stroll in to a shower and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to an exotic island as natural stone and sand adorning the base of each shower provide gentle massages to your feet.

Come check out our Downers Grove location, it’s a beautiful serene showpiece that is sure to guarantee you continue to feel right at home…and never want to leave Yoga by Degrees.

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Sarah Kay’s Personal Yoga Journey

We were so inspired by this YBD student’s heart-felt story about her yoga journey
we just had to share it with you:

“Safe Haven”

By: Dr. Sarah Kay Welch, DO

My heart pounded against my ribcage. Sweat beaded on my forehead. Fear seeped
into my chest. I knew what was coming. In a matter of seconds, I transported to
a personal hell from twelve years prior. I knew this response was not logical;
it did not make any sense. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing stopped
the flashbacks. As a physician, I worked endlessly to treat patients, yet I could
not cure myself.

As a result of sexual abuse as a teenager, I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD). Associated with it, I experienced uncontrollable flashbacks and nightmares.
During those flashbacks I could see, hear, feel, and smell sensations from tragedies
of times long ago, even when I was somewhere completely safe, like reading in my
office. My mind incessantly ruminated on thoughts of what happened in the past.
I dissociated completely from my body. I felt like a failure because I felt out
of control and blamed myself for what happened so many years before.

I tried many avenues of healing, including medication and psychotherapy, which helped,
but my symptoms still tortured me. I poured over research on PTSD and anxiety by
the Justice Resource Institute and other sources. Inspired by the research, I walked
into a yoga studio. Finally, I found some relief. I started to feel at home in
my body. During my practice in the studio, the flashbacks ceased. However, they
restarted when I left the practice space. The style I practiced was too rigid and
I needed something more. My search began again.

Then I tried Yoga By Degrees and found my safe haven. From the beginning, the instructors
embraced me as a member of their community. They invited me to feel the sensations
in my body and do what felt right. They encouraged me to listen to my own body
and turn my yoga practice into what I needed. My aggressor stripped me of my choice
on how to use my body and even how to feel. Class by class, I regained control
of my sensations and emotions. My confidence increased as I learned to focus on
the present moment. The flashbacks and nightmares significantly decreased in intensity
and frequency. When the flashbacks did occasionally occur, I utilized the meditation
techniques I learned at Yoga By Degrees to cope and soon the dissociations stopped.
I thrived in the positive energy created by the compassionate students and dedicated
instructors as their constant encouragement kept me motivated to continually deepen
my practice mentally, emotionally, and physically.

As I glided through the poses, instructors uttered soothing encouragements such
as, “You are enough, just as you are.” As I stretched on my mat, my body and mind
became open to this new idea. I was neither the PTSD nor the trauma from my past.
Instead of a failure, I transformed into a survivor with the ability to heal myself.
Under the guidance of the well-grounded and always accepting instructors, I learned
to accept myself as I am. My personal and professional life improved as I became
more focused, calm, and compassionate towards the many family members and patients
I am lucky enough to have in my life.

Now, I hope to give others the safe haven I was given by the amazing teachers at
Yoga By Degrees. Fortunately, the studio runs a training program. I am learning
to lead safe classes that offer students the opportunity to find their own transformative
experiences. Soon, I hope to help trauma victims and anyone else seeking their
own peace of mind just as Yoga By Degrees helped me turn a terrifying and horrific
situation into a future of hope, peace, and contentment.”


Yoga by Degrees Mission:

“To cultivate peace, joy, and community in a compassionate environment by promoting
a balance between courage and acceptance. We make yoga accessible to everyone,
through linking breath with movement. We guide you on a path of self-discovery
that enables you to cultivate the strongest most flexible mind and body to live
each moment to the fullest on and off the mat.”

With this mission in mind, Yoga by Degrees asked its community to share their yoga
story in order to share the word about the highs and lows, breakdowns and breakthroughs,
and transformative powers of the yogi path. There was an outpouring of inspiring
responses. Stay tuned for more stories on our blog, coming soon.