December 2018 Pose of the Month: Five Pointed Star

Our December 2018 pose of the month is Uttihita Tadasana or Five Pointed Star pose.

Literal translation:

Utthita – extended

Tada – mountain

Asana – pose

We love this pose for the symbolism of the Star which is always prevalent this holiday season. And also because of the grounding and energizing benefits the pose offers! Exactly what the yoga doctor ordered as we navigate this busy time of year.

This month we’re offering it in two orientations to the earth! Everything is better upside down, am I right?

Here’s how:

1. From a standing pose, step your feet wide apart, with your arms out to the side. Your feet should be under your wrists, facing forward and parallel.

2. Press your weight into your feet, pull up your knee caps and activate your thighs, gently tuck your tailbone, and feel your strong and solid legs rooted into the floor.

3. Reach out through your fingertips, trying to touch the side walls. Relax your shoulders down and back, gently opening your chest towards the front of the room.

4. Inhale and press the crown of your head up towards the ceiling. Look straight ahead with your chin parallel to the floor.

5. Inhale deeply into the belly and chest, exhale press into the feet, fingers and crown, feeling your body expanding out in 5 directions. Option here to walk your gaze up toward the ceiling opening your heart toward the sky.

6. Keep breathing and hold for 4-8 breaths.

7. To release, bend one knee and simply step back into a standing pose.

The handstand variation is exactly the same except your hands replace your feet!

See you next year, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Holiday Stress

Good morning, mindful ones! We are in the home stretch for this holiday season and for this year!

When things are at their most frenetic pace and we find ourselves running around to holiday gatherings and for last minute gifts; it’s more important than ever to pause, breathe and reflect.

We live in the most technologically advanced time in human history. Anything we could possibly need is a phone call or even a click away and can be delivered right to the doorstep. Food is abundant (overly abundant!) We have instant heaters, electric blankets, reliable electricity. We have an endless supply of clean water that can also be warmed to any temperature for a hot cup of cocoa or a warm bubble bath.

There has never been a better time to be a human being. And we live in one of the best countries in the world in terms of economic opportunity, political stability, public safety and quality of life.

Pause. Wow we’re so lucky!!! Gratitude is truly the highest vibration. And it’s pretty darn easy to find a zillion things to be grateful for in this nation, even more so in our communities!

That being said, depression, stress and anxiety are at all time levels in our country! And they are predicted to continue to rise.

Well, that’s pretty puzzling, wouldn’t you say?

Actually, it’s really not … Because stress is an internal condition, not an external one!

Sure there’s tons of things happening right now: overstimulation of all the senses if you step foot in the mall (which I have pretty much successfully avoided this holiday season) or basically even out of your house.

But it’s our reaction that causes the stress! It’s how we process all the external stimuli that bombards us that can potentially create an internal state of stress.

Listen, it’s the holidays. Even the most well-adjusted, “normal”, traditional families will face some type of family drama.

And for the rest of us, it can get much more complicated. Single parents, people who have lost loved ones, those with social anxiety and even people with no family or friends to celebrate with.

“The most wonderful time of year” may be even more challenging for those struggling, because there’s the added expectation that everyone is in a carefree, celebratory state.

So with all of this emotional turmoil many people are facing, it’s really no surprise when people overreact to every day situations like waiting in line or driving in traffic.

People may snap more or react rudely. Let’s be honest, we see this behavior very often, unfortunately. When people are stressed, their fight or flight mode kicks in which can often lead to aggressive and anti-social behavior.

So let’s not pretend to be surprised when we witness this behavior, and be so gentle with yourself if you find yourself getting a little snappish or prickly.

And it always comes back to breathwork.

The reason you sweat it out for endless hours on your yoga mat is training for these very moments in life.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re about to lose your marbles, take a moment to breathe slowly and mindfully and then breathe out. Allow yourself a few moments to pause to give yourself the opportunity to react in a way that you will be proud of and won’t create more anxiety and stress when you think back to that moment.

Reacting to someone else’s stress is your choice. Choosing to take a few breaths and remain stable and grounded is the best thing for your personal health and wellness. And your grounded energy might be just the anchor someone is searching for who may be tail spinning out of control.

In these critical moments in life, there is tremendous opportunity for our personal evolution. And trust me these opportunities are abundant year round! Can we cultivate compassion for ourselves and for one another during this holiday season?

It can make all the difference in someone’s life. We never know the burden they’re carrying.

Remember, kindness and compassion will revolutionize the world.

We got this, you guys!!

Mindful Monday: Miracles

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones!

Let’s talk about miracles! I totally, 💯 percent, without a shred of doubt in my mind or body, believe in miracles!

That’s a pretty bold statement; but it’s totally true. Well, what is a miracle?

According to the Dictionary:

• a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

• a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

• an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.”a machine which was a miracle of design”

According to me:

It is when the seemingly impossible happens!

• It’s when doctors have given up on a sick child and for no scientific reason, that child gets well.

• It’s when you’re down to your last dollar, have piles of bills to be paid, and a check arrives in the mail from some unknown source or an opportunity arrives out of seemingly nowhere. (This literally happens to me almost every single month!)

• It’s when a huge natural disaster hits and you are somehow spared in the midst of it.

• It’s on 9/11 and you stop to buy cigarettes before going to your job in the World Trade Center, and smoking saved your life.

• It’s when a child is born and you can’t believe how exquisitely miniature this new life appears.

• It’s when my brother was in Mumbai on business back in 2008 and his associate talked him into having one more drink before heading back to his hotel which was attacked by terrorists at that exact moment. Drinking literally saved his life!

• It’s watching the sunset on a deserted beach in Hawaii filled with a sense of awe and wonder and the deepest feeling of gratitude.

• It’s when you’ve prayed for a specific purpose and that prayer is answered.

• It’s when there is no earthly reason something wonderful has happened.

• It’s the sun rising and setting each and every day.

Miracles take place everyday. Sometimes they’re very subtle and quiet, sweeping in like a touch on the face. Other times, it’s very evident and public. It doesn’t matter who you are, miracles can and do happen to all of us!

If you take a moment to pause and reflect, you’ll start to see all of the wonderful miracles that have happened in your life.

Have a miraculous Monday, friends!

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest ones!

It’s a snow day today! What a bonus on the Monday after a long, holiday weekend! Kids all over Chicagoland are rejoicing at their good fortune.

The picture above was taken on a snow day three years ago when I took the day off and took my son and two of his friends sledding.

Snow days are so magical at that age! The awe and wonder at all of the beautiful, pristine snow just waiting to be hurtled into and shaped into snowmen and snow balls.

At some point, we tend to lose that wide eyed appreciation and become more jaded. We complain about having to shovel this beautiful substance off of our driveways. We worry about traffic conditions and find fault in all the other drivers on the road. We are inconvenienced by this majestic winter event; and hell hath no fury like a slightly inconvenienced American. 🤣

As we move about knowing things will be a little slower, let’s think of today as Mother Nature’s way of giving us an extra day to the long weekend. A magical bonus day to stay home and cuddle with loved ones.

Back when I was the spokesperson for the city of Naperville, we would strongly encourage residents to stay home and stay off the streets if possible for their own safety. If you’re not able to take the day off, this is a great opportunity to practice patience, tolerance and moving more slowly and deliberately.

Any opportunity to slow down and cultivate gratitude and appreciation is a productive day!

If you want to really amp it up, get out there and do some snowga or snow salutations!

Count your blessings not your troubles! You are rich beyond measure. Have a great day, beautiful snow yogis!

Mindful Monday: Giving Thanks

Good morning and Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Wow, it’s already Thanksgiving week! The holiday falls a bit early this year, and 2018 has flown by very quickly.

As we wind down for the year, it’s always a great opportunity to pause and reflect on all of the countless blessings that we’ve been given.

Gratitude is definitely a theme I use throughout the year; for me it’s an every day attitude I work on cultivating.

I’ve learned that when I search for things to be grateful for, it definitely impacts my mood positively. It makes me feel lighter and happier for sure.

I’ve also found that when I focus on all that I’m grateful for and what I do have, I can find contentment and appreciation.

It’s a perspective shift to find thankfulness for things we may take for granted because we’ve always had them. Or people who we assume will always be around.

It’s so prevalent in our society to think we need more. Especially as we gear up for the already-here holiday season.

Gratitude is the highest vibration that we can emit as human beings. It attracts more abundance and blessings.

As we gather with friends, family and loved ones this week, what are you truly thankful for?

Can you identify some perceived challenges or setbacks that you’ve experienced this year or even throughout your lifetime, and find gratitude for them? For the opportunity to grow, overcome, strengthen and transform?

Our trials and tribulations ultimately level us up to live with more awareness, compassion, humility and grace.

I’m eternally grateful to you, dear sweet yogis! And for all the yogis who have come before us and for all those who will carry on this sacred tradition when we are all long gone.

May this Thanksgiving season be filled with love, gratitude and continued blessings on your journey.

All 6 of our locations will be open Thanksgiving morning, so please check the schedule!

November 2018 Pose of the Month: Virasana

For our November 2018 pose of the month, we are featuring Virasana or Hero Pose to honor all of the veterans that sacrifice so much personally so that we can enjoy the freedoms and opportunities of our wonderful nation.

Hero pose can be quite challenging for many, so we will offer several suitable variations.

There are numerous benefits in practicing this pose:

▪ Stretches the hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet

▪ Improves circulation and relieves tired legs

▪ Strengthens foot arches, relieving flat feet

▪ Improves digestion and relieves gas

▪ Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause

▪ Improves posture

▪ Therapeutic for asthma and high blood pressure

▪ Great alternative to lotus or easy seated pose during mediation.

▪ During pregnancy it helps to reduce swelling of the legs (through second trimester).

▪ Useful in Asthma and high blood pressure.

To get into Virasana:

Start from a tabletop position; bring your knees together and splay your heels apart.

Begin to ease your sitting bones back, trying to keep your knees together.

When you’re about halfway down to seated, reach back and externally rotate the fleshy part of your calves.

Ease back and down into a seated and upright position.

Straighten your spine: stack head over shoulders, shoulders over hips with a lift through the crown of your head. Puff through your chest, drawing shoulder blades down your back away from your ears.

You can always place a block between your feet and sit on the block.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. You can gradually build up the time.

If you’re not feeling much sensation, and only if you’re not sitting on a block, you can start to ease onto your elbows, keeping chest uplifted and shoulder blades down your back.

For a deep expression, lower all the way onto your back and extend your arms overhead catching opposite elbows for Supta Virasana or reclined hero pose.

Your full expression is an advanced posture requiring very open quadriceps and flexibility in knees and ankles. This final expression is entered through bridge pose or setu bandha sarvangasana.

From bridge pose, walk your heels in closer to your back and tuck your toes underneath you lifting your heels. From here, gently ease your knees to the floor gently rolling to the crown of your head. Energetically extend your arms overhead and breathe deeply into chest and throat chakras!

Workshops this weekend!

Workshops are specialty classes that go beyond our regular classes & allow you to dive deeper into an area of your interest. YBD offers workshops each month with many different topics from Acro Yoga, Blindfold yoga, Sound Therapy, & even a New Years Eve Fire & Flow!
If you are looking for some plans this weekend join Paula in a playful AcroYoga Workshop or immerse yourself in Jenny’s use of  Sound Healing to connect sound to your body’s natural vibration.
***Space is limited, sign up in any studio or online***
with Paula G

Location: Downers Grove

Saturday 11/17/2018
2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Acro Yoga is a form of body movement which playfully mixes yoga with the power of acrobatics and the therapeutic benefits of massage. Working with partners, you will develop better body awareness, as well as a deepened capacity to trust yourself and others in a safe and fun environment. This workshop will introduce you to the basics of Acro Yoga. It is accessible to all levels, and no partner is needed!
Sunday 11/18/2018
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Immerse yourself in the healing sounds of the gong tuned to the planet Uranus and healing the Sacral Chakra, balancing emotions.The gong is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world. Based on ancient wisdom, the gong vibrates at the same frequency as the body allowing the body to heal itself. The gong balances the central nervous system and aids in deep meditation. Singing crystal and Tibetan bowls, harmonium, drums, and flute will be added to raise the vibration and heighten the experience. No yoga practice, all relaxation.

 

Mindful Monday: Thank you, Veterans

Good morning and happy Monday, friends!

Veterans have such a huge place in my heart. Back in my political days, I would spend the day advancing my former bosses at local Veterans Day ceremonies and observances.

I worked closely with Lt. Col Jim O’Rourke as he advised the state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka on military affairs. Judy’s son Pepi is a JAG officer in the U.S. Army. And Naperville Mayor George A. Pradel proudly served in the U.S. Marine Corps. It was during those times that I truly understood the magnitude of what veterans actually sacrifice for our country.

Let’s remember that veterans are defending us 365 days a year. So often the heroism of our veterans from the American Revolution to the Global War on Terrorism is sometimes unnoticed by those of us who enjoy the security that their sacrifice has provided.

I was in the airport a couple of months ago, and I saw many groups of various military in uniform ready to be shipped off to their respective new homes – they were all barely out of high school. Just babies! Imagine leaving your home and every comfort you’ve ever known at the tender age of 18 to be subjected to a drill sergeant who will yell at you, humiliate you and push you to your physical limits.

I’m so very grateful for our veterans who endure long separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs, and, far too often, lose their lives.

And special thanks are due to the military spouses who must endure career interruptions, frequent changes of address, and a disproportionate share of parental responsibilities.

And my heart belongs to the children of active military who deal with frequent changes in schools, separation from friends and, hardest of all, the uncertainty of whether or not Mom or Dad will live through their next combat tour.

Thank you so much to all who have served and all who serve this day. Your sacrifices are so deeply appreciated. You are our true heroes!

At Yoga By Degrees, we offer special military pricing so that our veterans know how much we deeply love and respect them and all of their sacrifices. It is always an absolute honor to share our beloved yoga practice with them. Many of our students have shared with me their myriad of injuries sustained in the line of duty, including shrapnel still lodged in their bodies! To say we are deeply humbled is an understatement.

Have a great week, yogi friends. Let’s remember and honor our heroes each and every day.

Mindful Monday: Daylight Savings

Good morning and happy Monday!

Well it’s my favorite weekend between Halloween and Thanksgiving … the weekend where we gain an hour of extra time!

Time is the most precious of all commodities. Money flows in abundance all around us. Fortunes can be lost and made and lost once again. But once we lose time, we can’t get it back. We can’t order it on Amazon or earn it back in exchange for a job well done. Once time flees, it’s gone.

Each day, every single person is given the exact same amount of time for the day.

24 hours

1,440 minutes

86,400 seconds

You get that quantity, just the same as Beyonce and the Rock.

Oh gosh, sorry … where was I?

Oh yes! We all get that same amount of time, except when we Fall Back and gain an extra hour, 60 minutes or 3,600 seconds!

What can one do with an extra hour?!?

Sleep in

Take an extra yoga class

Write Mindful Monday early

Figure out November pose of the month

Read a book

An extra hour out on Saturday night

Wake up early for a 6 am class on Monday

Organize closets

Watch the sunset

Get a massage

Watch the sunrise

Update expense spreadsheet

Watch Netflix

Drive to the city for brunch/lunch/drinks

Nap

Meditate

Post some items to sell online

Go through garage and donate a bag of unused sports equipment

Laundry

Practice handstands

Go for a run

Go for a walk

Go for a run/walk

Search up archived pics of the Rock

Learn the dance for Keke by Drake

Go shopping

Meet a friend for coffee

Get a facial

Play with your dog

Play with your kids

Practice piano

Play video games

Play candy crush on your phone

Organize photos on your phone

Journal

Plan upcoming week

Christmas shopping list

Prepare for thanksgiving

Volunteer

Whatever you did or did not do with your bonus hour, hope it was great!

Have a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: Center and Focus

Good morning and happy Monday, friends!

Well we’re quickly sliding into the holiday season and wrapping up the end of 2018.

This week, carve out some contemplative time to ask yourself the questions listed below.

Find a quiet, comfortable space where you will have no interruptions. Your favorite meditation spot or even all cozy in your bed are both excellent places. Just somewhere that has great energy and brings you peace.

Have your journal or a notebook nearby to jot down any thoughts and ideas that surface.

It will serve you to jot the questions down ahead of time, so that you can leave your phone in another room to really be distraction-free.

Before you begin, close your eyes and take several long, deep inhales and exhales to calm your mind and help you focus.

Let’s begin:

1. So far, what kind of year has 2018 been for me? Why?

2. What are some of my accomplishments and successes this year? In my work/career? Personal growth? Relationships? Any other areas?

3. Where have I learned some major lessons? Keep in mind, the biggest lessons are learned through perceived “failures” or “setbacks.”

4. With a full two months still ahead, how will I take advantage of this gift of time to complete any projects or goals that I set for myself this year?

5. Looking forward a bit to 2019, what are some seeds I want to plant now to see grow to fruition next year?

With this information, create some clear affirmations for yourself to stay focused and aligned with what’s important to you.

Also, create a plan to take just five minutes each morning and evening to quietly meditate on your affirmations.

Make sure you schedule your yoga practices with yourself for the remainder of the year and plan to stick as closely as possible to your much needed self-tending time. When things start to amp up, you’ll certainly feel much more grounded and stable!

Remember, you can handle anything that comes your way with grace and composure when you tend to yourself first and foremost! With that being said, also be flexible so that you don’t miss out on all of life’s fun surprises and tiny moments.

Make it a great week, friends!

Be happy!