Mindful Monday: Yoga is the Answer


Happy Monday, oh mindful ones! Summer is certainly marching right along. It’s so crazy that my son starts his junior year on Wednesday! And even crazier is this total solar eclipse coming next week! This is such an emotionally and energetically charged time for us. 

I have found throughout my dozen years of practicing yoga that it has been the most stabilizing and therapeutic answer to any life question. 

Each time I unroll my mat, the familiarity of that simple action resonates to the core of my heart! How many thousands of times have I performed that simple action in my life? And in how many dozens of studios throughout the world – from Miami and NYC to LA and Santa Monica. On a rooftop in New Delhi at dawn. In a studio in Ho Chi Min taught entirely in Vietnamese! And so many other corners of our beautiful Earth.

Yet that initial action, and all that follow it, exists in a sacred space, an entire universe, on my beloved mat. When the madness of the world has invaded my lovely precious bubble, and I have allowed others’ negativity and self-loathing and misery to permeate my equanimity, I can ALWAYS roll out my mat and let it all go. 

My mat has supported me through heartbreak, total sublime happiness, guilt, anger, bliss, excitement, fear and self-doubt. The one thing that is consistent is the impermanence of each emotion…whether the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, nothing endures! 

That simple reminder of the nature of life – it goes on! – grounds me firmly back in ‘yathabhuta’ reality ‘as it is’ not how I wish it to be! And the ultimate universal truth: All I need for true happiness can be found ONLY WITHIN and ONLY BY ME.

So whatever your question or  current struggle, go get on your mat, where you will receive all of life’s answers. 

Yoga is the answer. Question is irrelevant. 

Mindful Monday: Yoga off your mat


Good morning, mindful ones! I have a question for you … do you practice yoga off of your mat?  And I don’t mean doing yoga poses in public and taking pictures- though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Our practice isn’t confined to the mat or to the poses we create with our bodies. It’s designed to spill over into our daily lives. 

As we learn kindness, tolerance, compassion and love towards ourselves, naturally these attributes overflow from our hearts and encompass all of those around us.  

As you go about your day today, can you see all the ways yoga has profoundly impacted your life? It’s easy to get focused on the physical practice; I was personally stuck there for many years. When we start to see our  yoga off of our mats, we know that the practice is working. 

Just for today, take interest in everything around you. Observe the sunset. Be a spectator of today’s’ lunar eclipse. Be kind to strangers. Be patient with annoying people. Let that aggressive driver merge front of you. Basically don’t be a jerk. 


Have a great week, friend! See you on your mat. You still have almost 2 weeks to finish the summer challenge!

Namaste 🙏🏾 

August Pose of the Month

Wowie, this weather’s got us tip-toeing into the fall like “NOOOOOOOOO!” It might be chilly out today, but our pose of the month is invigorating and will bring some sure fire back to your body. Tiptoe Fish Pose requires some warm-up, but it’s super fun with lots of juicy benefits. If you love toe stand and/or fish pose, this fusion is for you!

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Accessing Tiptoe Fish Pose:

  • Lie supine, bend both knees, and ground the soles of your feet like you’re preparing for a traditional bridge pose
  • Come up on to your shoulders as you lift your hips
  • Tuck your toes under your heels and shimmy your heels underneath your seat as you would have them in a traditional toe stand
  • Keep your arms long at either side of your torso and use your hands to wrap around the tops of your feet
  • Energize your knees forward until they make contact with your mat
  • Then, ground your elbows and forearms to pop your chest up
  • Let the crown of your head rest on the mat as well so that your throat and neck are fully exposed
  • You may choose to hold your feet and keep your forearms grounded at either side of your body, or you can play around with extending your arms up overhead and bringing your palms together to touch

Benefits of Tiptoe Fish Pose:

  • Intense backbend broadens the chest
  • Stretches and lengthens the abdominal area
  • Stretches the thigh muscles and quadriceps
  • Stimulates and strengthens toe joints
  • Energizes the heart center

Meet Denice, YBD Teacher of the Month

“Denice S.’s sculpts are amazing. Her PT [Personal Training] really shows, all safe while having fun!” This just one of the many positive notes we’ve received about our new amazing sculpt teacher Denice. You will find her teaching her energetic, motivating, fun sculpt classes at all of our locations as part of her permanent teaching schedule as well as helping out by subbing for other teachers as often as she can. She’s also there to greet you with her kind smile as you enter the studio as one of our most hard working and supportive front desk attendants. She is such an asset to our YBD family we are so grateful to have her. Here’s where you can experience her fun classes:

Tuesdays, Glen Ellyn @ 430pm
Thursdays, Downers Grove @ 6:00am
Thursdays, Wheaton @ 7:15pm
Friday, Elmhurst @ 6:00am
Friday, Downers Grove @ 9:00am
Sunday, Wheaton @ 10:00am

When and how did you come to yoga?

One day I just started feeling really down on myself, full of anxiety and unable to relax.  A good friend of mine took me to a 105 degree room for 90 min and I couldn’t get enough and started practicing Bikram Yoga 5 times per week.  I started practicing Bikram Yoga about 8 years ago and know there was much more to this yoga journey than only practicing one style.  So I ventured out and started taking Vinyasa and Yin classes loving them both.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I was tired and stressed every day coming home from my corporate job as a paralegal.  With also being a personal trainer I knew if I started teaching yoga it would be a perfect fit to my personal training as well as tone down my daily stress and anxiety.  I just wanted to be happy and whenever I was in the studio on my mat I was all smiles.

What is your favorite pose?

My favorite pose would have to be Fallen Angel with Dancer being the runner up.  I love this pose as I feel that I am so exposed to the whole universe and the feeling of this beautiful heart opener is just simply amazing.

Who inspires your teaching?

I would have to say my dad and my students inspire my teaching.  Seeing my students open up and be exactly who they are, no strings attached and leave with a big smile on their face just makes me appreciate my teaching and love for yoga even more.  Before my dad passed away he told me that teaching yoga was what I was meant to do and always wanted me to do dancer pose for him.  His favorite picture was me outside in Dancers Pose.  The smile of disbelief on his face that I could stand on one leg and hold this pose still melts my heart today.

Tips for beginners…

My tips for beginners would be come to your mat with no expectations and no judgments and breathe.  When you are breathing you are doing yoga.  Be who you are don’t worry what anyone one else is doing.  Yoga is all about you and what you need from your mat.  Practice makes progress, you are already perfect.

What’s your favorite quote?

Favorite quote would have to be “Do what you love, love what you do”!

 

Mindful Monday: How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

Good morning, mindful ones! 

Have you ever noticed that how you do anything is how you do everything? Notice how you eat, breathe, move, speak, listen, kiss;  how you walk and move your body. How you greet each morning. 

It’s fascinating to get to know yourself in detail. 

From this space of observation, you will discover your deepest thought patterns. You will uncover and uproot unhealthy habits and patterns from deep within and reconnect with the newness of life. 

You will remember how beautiful and strong and worthy you are. Worthy to love and be loved. Worthy of every single compliment you receive. Worthy of success and hard work. Worthy of your practice. Worthy of each breath you take. 

So give yourself some space to watch yourself. You already know the way; as you pause and notice each breath, each bird chirping outside, each single moment of your life. Here is where all of the answers lie. 

How you change anything is how you change everything. One single breath, one day, one yoga practice at a time. 

Your mat is the perfect place to get to know yourself! The real you. 

Mindful Monday: Storms 

Good morning, Yogi friends! Happy Mindful Monday 🙏🏾

Wow – we witnessed some powerful storms this past weekend! I was driving through what felt like a tornado on Sunday. Visibility was zero; the rain was coming down in huge moving sheets; trees were dancing erratically and shedding huge branches in the middle of the street; the wind was formidable; streets were beginning to flood. 

I was pretty frightened to be honest. I was unsure about whether to keep driving slowly or to turn around and head back. This patch of weather seemed endless, but I really wanted to get home. So I slowly and steadily continued on my path home. I turned on AM radio try to get some guidance from the weather report,  but it proved unhelpful. 

It took forever to travel a few miles, but the weather started to ease up a bit. Now I could see the damage done but this violent storm. Trees uprooted and branches flung everywhere. I felt a sense of calmness and relief that the storm had passed through. 

Sometimes life gives us these types of  huge thunderstorms – sudden onslaughts that darken the sky and threaten our stability and confidence. They come in many forms: betrayals, financial challenges, losing a loved one, depression, sadness. 

 We absolutely cannot stop or calm these storms that appear.  This is where we learn to calm ourselves, because we know the storm will pass. 

There are so many things we will only learn during the stormy times. And sometimes we need the energy and force of a storm to rip unnecessary things from their roots and carry them away. And the subsequent rains provide such a cleansing effect. And we emerge stronger, wiser and more peaceful. 

The sun is shining brightly as I write this! I definitely appreciate its beauty and warmth so profoundly in this moment. Have a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Yoga is the Answer

Yoga is like the surface of water. When our minds are calm and still, our practice reflects back to us life exactly as it is

Happy mindful Monday, y’all! We are starting week two of our summer challenge – those stickers are looking good on those boards! 

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years now.   As I look back on my practice, I can see that it has always met me exactly where I happened to be in my life. Yoga has only one expectation: show up on your mat. Exactly as you are. 

In the beginning, I was a newly divorced mother of a young boy in a high pressure career trying to piece my life back together. Yoga offered me space to build strength and confidence. 
Through the subsequent ups and downs of life, yoga always provided exactly what I needed for myself. During “good” times, my practice was pure joy and lightness. During challenging times, a place of safety and solace. 

No matter what’s going on in my life at any given moment, yoga is always the answer. It is an opportunity to connect deeply within and anchor yourself through the daily fluctuations of life. 

It’s important to remember that yoga is a tree with deep roots and tall branches. We must measure our growth as a whole – our asanas (poses) comprise only 12.5% of our complete practice! 

Whatever you are experiencing in your life, let yoga be your answer. Consistent practice of all eight limbs provides the sweetest fruits and flowers of life. 

Have a great week, yogis! See you on your mat! 

Mindful Monday: Guru Purnima Moon


Happy Monday, oh mindful ones! I do hope you had a lovely weekend. And I especially hope that you were able to enjoy the lovely full moon on Saturday night! 
Our July 2017 full moon brings with it powerful shifting and transforming energy! Whenever we have a full moon, our thoughts, actions, intentions and emotions are magnified. So important this time of the month and always to be very cognizant of your thoughts and attitudes. Mindfully shape your thoughts, words and deeds. This time frame may turn out to be a very productive and transformative shift for you. 

During this time of year in India (and around the world), the Guru Purnima is celebrated. It is observed on the first full moon after the summer solstice. It’s a very significant day devoted to thanking and acknowledging one’s teachers. 

The word Guru is derived from two words, gu and ru. The Sanskrit root gu means darkness or ignorance, and ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a Guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. 

While traditionally spiritual and academic teachers are revered during this occasion, in practice, one can honor any person who removes darkness or ignorance. 

This year, even NASA mentioned the Guru Purnima on Twitter in a listing of all of the July full moon’s names. Pretty exciting stuff! 

Have a great week, yogis! See you on your mat. Just a reminder that today is the first day of our Salute the Sun Summer challenge! Go earn  your stickers, friends! 

July Pose of the Month

It’s hard to believe it’s true, but we’re in the thick of the summer already, so poses that are energizing and fulfilling for the entire body are where it’s at! This month, we’re offering a kaleidoscope of warrior II variations. A strong warrior II requires an even stronger foundation, which often has us focusing on the set-up and strength in our legs. With these variations, we’ll keep the hamstrings happy while giving the shoulders, upper back, and wrists something to smile about.

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Building on your Warrior II:

  • Get low in your stance and trust yourself to sink down to stimulate active hamstrings
  • Keeping a solid foundation in your legs, experiment walking your fingertips forward, pausing to linger in the pose when your knee starts caving forward – energize it back!
  • Crawl your hands back, and then switch it up by coming up to your tip toe in your lunge
  • Criss-cross your arms and point your fingertips toward each other
  • Press into your palms to stretch your wrists and forearms
  • Come into a cat back to stretch and strengthen your upper back and shoulders while you’re there

Benefits of Warrior II Variations:

  • Stretches inner thighs, groin, and knees
  • Stretches wrists and forearms
  • Strengthens upper back and shoulders
  • Encourages a strong mind-body connection

Meet Kristin, YBD Teacher of the Month

Happy July yogi friends! This month we are happy to honor our teacher of the month Kristin. She started as a dedicated student at Yoga By Degrees in 2014, completed our 200 hour Teacher Training program in 2015, and is now sharing her love of yoga with so many students as an instructor. Kristin is dedicated to creating a supported, caring space for her students to practice. She pours herself into her sequences and dedicates herself to growing and blossoming as an instructor so that her students have the best experience with her in class. She is a wonderful asset to our YBD team and we are so grateful for her! Here’s where you can find her:

Mondays

8:00 YBD2 105 Wheaton

Tuesdays

8:00 YBD2 105 Western Springs

Thursdays

6:00 YBD2 95 Western Springs

8:00 YBD 105 Western Springs

Saturdays

7:30 YBD 2 Glen Ellyn

10:15 YBD1 Downers Grove

Sundays

12:00 YBD2 95 Downers Grove

1:30 Restorative Downers Grove

4:00 YBD2 95 Western Springs

5:30 Restorative/Meditation Western Springs

When and how did you come to yoga?

After the birth of my son roughly 10 years ago, I started taking yoga at the gym. I immediately loved the challenge of vinyasa yoga and started noticing the benefits quickly. My balance improved in no time and my pants became easier to put on, not just because I lost a little weight, but because my balance and flexibility had improved. When I moved to the suburbs, yoga was not offered at my gym and I drifted away from vinyasa practice. After suffering from a herniated disc, I returned to yoga. I sought out exercise that was low impact to avoid further injury to my lumbar spine. When I found Yoga by Degrees, I found my new home away from home and was completely hooked.

What is your favorite pose?

Savasana wins hands down. There is nothing like a great savasana after a satisfying practice. My favorite flow posture is Prasarita padottanasana (Wide legged forward fold). Not only does it feel so good on the hamstrings and low back, it is a pose that offers playtime for other poses that I love: inversions and arm balances.

 

Who inspires your teaching?

YBD has a truly remarkable and inspiring community of students and teachers. The well is full, for which I am tremendously grateful. I am continually inspired by students overcoming physical and mental challenges with continued yoga practice.  My husband and kids are a constant source of ideas for dharma themes.  Also, I am inspired by so many books and videos and audio recordings which include offerings from Thich Nhat Hanh, BKS Iyengar, Bernie Clark and Shakti Gawain.

 

Tips for beginners…

When I first walked into yoga, I found it sharpened my listening skills. It is helpful to listen attentively to the cues while focusing on your breath. It helps people to move into and deeply feel a pose. Learn to rely on the cues and your breath, and try to only look at a teacher’s demo if you really need a reference for an unfamiliar pose. Breath is one of the most important primary tools for growth and transformation in practice. Remove your ego as much as you can and awaken your senses within. Honor your intuition (which means skipping postures and adding others in when you need to) to nourish your body in practice.

 

What’s your favorite quote?

A favorite excerpt from Michael A. Singer’s Untethered Soul: “Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. . . letting go allows you to free your energies so that you can free yourself. Right in the midst of your daily life, by untethering yourself from the bondage of your psyche, you actually have the ability to steal freedom for your soul. This freedom is so great it has been given a special name – liberation.”