Mindful Monday: Spring has officially Sprung

108 Sangha! Photo credit: Sarah Pogorzelski

Happy, happy, happy Monday, friends! As of 5:29 am today, the Vernal or Spring Equinox commenced! Spring has officially arrived!  This is a powerful time of year! Rapid shedding and releasing; tremendous transformations. The 2017 Equinox is the perfect time to honor all areas and aspects of your life and the circumstances that surround you.

More than 30 of our YBD community gathered together yesterday (a few not pictured) to harness the transformative power of this new season. What an amazing experience!

The sun’s power gives life and allows all things on earth to flourish. As we flowed through 108 sun salutations, we moved and breathed as one. The strength and Grace and power in the room was magnificent.

Four sets of 27 sun salutes.

  1.  Focused and dedicated to releasing what holds us back – Spring cleaning of body mind and soul.
  2. Planting seeds of self-love and self acceptance. Building the foundation for all good things to come.
  3. This set was devoted to people we love. Love is the most powerful energy source.  When we devote our energy to others, we are able to achieve far more  than if it was just for ourselves.
  4. One love. Dedicated to peeling away walls and barriers so that we may find a common ground in all humanity.

Practice ended with some deep yin poses and a guided meditation.

If you were unable to make it last night, no worries! It’s not too late to create your own intentions and plant your own seeds.

Now is the perfect time to bring acceptance to your life no matter the circumstances or the judgements over what is good and what is bad, and to instead honor your unique journey. We are all perfectly in progress!

It is also a time to celebrate how far you have come and how much you have grown over the course of the year. And even last year.

Has 2017 been less than stellar for you ? Well, you can start fresh ! The March Equinox is considered the start of the astrological new year. This is because the Sun shifts into the constellation of Aries, which is regarded as the first of the 12 constellations used in astrology. Never too late to begin again.

The energy of Aries makes it a perfect time to start thinking about what is next and what you would like the next few months to feel like. To think about it but more importantly feel it.

Perhaps make a list of all the feeling words you would like to create in your life moving forward and see if you can start creating those feelings in small ways every single day.

This year’s Equinox is the perfect time to honor the growth and the pain, the light and the darkness and all the experiences that have made you who you are today. It is the perfect time to love yourself and learn to find gratitude and peace with the journey you are taking.

Enjoy this beautiful weather! Make each breath count.

Mindful Monday: Spring Equinox and 108 Sun Salutes

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends!  Living here in Chicago,  we certainly learn to go with the flow –  especially when it comes to the weather!  No shocker when we go from glorious weather in the 60s to snowfall in the same month, right?  So we learn to go with the flow  knowing this is an unchangeable situation and it also impermanent.  Like life it ebbs and flows and is in constant flux and transition.

Regardless  of the weather forecast, our Spring Equinox will be here in a week! Join your YBD community  for a vigorous practice accessible to all levels this Sunday at our Elmhurst studio from 3:30 – 5:30 pm!  The practice itself  should take about 90 minutes.   The final 30 minutes will be a yin and restorative cool down.

While the thought of 108 sun salutes may sound daunting,  the repetitive actions create a meditative experience.  Most people feel a build up of energy as they flow  and leave practice feeling energized!

Each time I’ve been a student for this practice I’ve  experienced an unbelievable freedom  and sense of being unchained.  My practice becomes a devotion and a celebration and a meditation.   It is truly indescribable.

Some common questions are addressed below:

Will the room be heated ?

I will set the room temperature  between 80 to 85°

Do we go through 108 sun salutations nonstop?

I chunk out the practice in four sets of 27

Can anyone do this practice?

Yes I will offer modifications to make this practice accessible to virtually anyone who is in decent physical shape and injury free

What do I need to bring ?

Your mat and a towel and some water

Do I have to count them on my own?  What if I lose track?

I will be counting the sun salutations,  so students have nothing to do but flow

There is still space available!  Sign up at any studio or online!

Have a great week,yogis!  Hope to see you on your mat this week!

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Mindful Monday: Spring Cleaning


Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest yogis! We are slowly inching toward spring, and honestly, I’m so ready! 

Springtime means more sunshine, warmer temperatures, that fresh smell in the air! It’s a time for lightness and shedding those dark, heavy layers! 
The official spring kickoff is called the Spring Equinox – the day when the sun aligns directly over the earth’s equator. On this day, twice a year (once in the spring, once in the fall), the length of day and night are the same: equinox means ‘equal night.’  This day has been celebrated throughout history in many different cultures for many different reasons: increased sunlight hours, the shift of the season, restoration of crop supply, Passover, Easter Sunday, baseball’s opening day. 

Many people have spring cleaning rituals this time of year. Opening all the windows to allow the crisp air to flow through and kick up and carry away all that dormant, stale winter energy. Scrubbing floors and purging heavy clothing. It’s definitely a time of renewal and hope and lightness. 

It is the perfect time to do some internal spring cleaning as well! It’s a great opportunity to take an honest look at your life and what you are creating each day. Similar to cleaning our closets, it’s a time to take an inventory of our lives, what needs to be tossed away, and what to hold on to. Through honest and intentional choices, we can see what’s missing, what’s been tossed to the side, and what is holding us back from creating something wonderful.
In observance of this auspicious occasion, yogis worldwide create a Yoga Mala this time of year. It is the practice of 108 Surya Namaskara…Salutations to the Sun, in dedication to and celebration of something bigger than ourselves. Our YBD community will come together to harness this powerful shifting of energies with a Yoga Mala. The practice of completing 108 Sun Salutations is at times physically vigorous but ultimately it is deeply meditative experience.

The number 108 has great significance in many ancient and yogic traditions. The mala that is used in meditation has 108 beads….so let our practice of Surya Namaskara be an affirmation to that which we wish to create and manifest in the new season.

Spring equinox is just a day, of course, but it represents a new start. It is a reminder to check in with our true selves. I use my yoga practice as a guide to bring myself back to center and to reflect on where and what and to whom I am sending my energy. Through my daily practice I choose one clear intention. The intention could be as simple as a word: “clarity”, “peace”, “compassion”, or it could be more detailed, like visualizing your dreams. But the important thing is to CHOOSE. Choose what you want to put into the world, what you want to get back, and use your yoga practice as a pathway to that end. Because once we choose to let go of what is not serving us, choose to move forward with clarity, kindness, faith and a little bit of attitude, well then, we have something to celebrate. Your yoga practice is a guide; a nudge toward your own true self.

So, join me on your mat on Sunday, March 19! Toss out the old stuff that is taking up useful space, open the windows of your view, clean out the foundation. Because then, all that’s left is the celebration of what is possible.
Springtime intentions work like magic seeds that get planted in fertile soil. What is ready to blossom in your life? 

March Pose of the Month

On we March. Into the month. Into the season. Into the storm. Into the thick of it. We keep marching. Whether we’re ready or not, we’re sometimes thrown into circumstances that aren’t necessarily exactly as we’d choose. So we get up, and we move.

In honor of standing tall, feeling powerful, and readying our bodies for whatever comes next, we’re going through Standing Half Moon this month. Not only is this a juicy side body stretch, and the starting posture in our YBD HOT sequence, but it opens and releases the shoulders, which helps to balance perceptions of inner and outer self: how you see the world, and how the world sees you. This balanced notion will help us to march on no matter what’s going on outside of us and around us.

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Accessing the Posture:

  • From Urdhva Hastasana, come to a steeple grip by interlacing your fingers overhead with index fingers pointing up.
  • Keeping your arms at your ears, bump your hips to the left and stretch to the right
  • Open through the chest, and look up to the left with a lifted chin to expose the throat chakra
  • Energetically pull your face through your arms to keep the chest open
  • Focus on using and stretching the hips rather than bending from the torso
  • Repeat on both sides

Benefits of the Posture:

  • Increases flexibility of the spine
  • Corrects poor posture
  • Improves and strengthens every muscle in the central body, especially in the back and abdomen
  • Helps to build will power and strong self-esteem

Meet Geraldina, YBD Teacher of the Month

This sweet soul has been such a huge part of Yoga By Degrees for years. We are so blessed to have her as part of our team. She will greet you with her warm smile while working the front desk, and fills her class with love while instructing. In addition to her permanent schedule below, she always helps out by subbing when she can. Hopefully you get a chance to check out one of Geraldina’s classes soon!

Mondays
1:30pm, YBD 2, Western Springs
7:15pm, YBD 1, Downers Grove
Tuesdays
8:00pm, YBD 2, Elmhurst
Wednesdays
9:30am,  YBD1, Western Springs
Fridays
12:00pm, Restorative, Elmhurst
4:00pm,  YBD 1, Elmhurst
When and how did you come to yoga?
Compleatly by accident! I was dragged by my friend to yoga class at  local gym…and that changed my life.
Why did you start teaching yoga?
Practicing yoga felt so good! It shifted my life in such positive and joyful experience, that I wanted to share that with as many people as I could.
What is your favorite pose?
Side crow or parsva bakasana
Who inspires your teaching?
Mostly my students. Also, Hindu philosophers and working at YBD.  Being in such a positive environment, surrounded by amazing staff and learning new things everyday.
Tips for beginners…
Practicing Ahimsa (non violence) while doing yoga-not overdoing, or pushing too hard. Take it slowly and make it a pleasant experience.
What’s your favorite quote?
“The river that flows in you also flows in me.” Kabir

Mindful Monday: Mistakes

Happy Mindful Monday, Dear Ones! Hope you’ve had a great weekend! 

Whether or not you watched the Oscars last night, undoubtedly you’ve already heard about the unfortunate snafu that happened with the Best Picture award. 

If we’re honest, we can admit that we make lots and lots of mistakes. Perhaps even daily. Fortunately our lives aren’t broadcast on live television, and our daily inevitable mistakes aren’t subject to as much exposure and scrutiny. 

The best thing we can do when we make a mistake is to own it, apologize and move on. Make things right. 

Which is exactly what we saw last night, right? A mistake was made and corrected immediately. The correct movie and cast was honored for their efforts with the Best Picture Oscar. And this was all addressed within the moment along with an explanation of what went wrong and how it happened. And a very strong likelihood that that same mistake will not be repeated again. 

And of course, the requisite jokes and memes will follow, but soon the incident will be a mere footnote. 

And so it is with us. If you make a mistake, rather than spending so much energy in denying it; admit it. Apologize. And move forward. Personally, this happens to me almost daily!

When we deny, others will disagree. When we acknowledge, apologize and move on, there’s really no where for someone to go from there. 

It reminds me of a song that I used to sing to my son Julian when he was younger:

“Oops, you made a mistake that’s all. Making mistakes is never fun. Oops, You made a mistake that’s all.  Mistakes can happen to anyone.”

So next time you a mistake, own it, fix it and embrace the wonderful growth opportunity that it brings to your life. 

Mindful Monday: Life is just like the Weather

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Herrick Lake at sunset

Happy happy Monday, oh mindful ones! And what a GREAT Monday it is for most of us – students have the day off from school and many are off from work. Except your friendly, local yoga studios – we will be open for business as usual! Hope to see many of you on your mats today!

We are blessed with continued early Spring weather that started over the weekend and will continue through the beginning of this week! I was able to take advantage of this gorgeous weather by spending as much time as possible outdoors. I’m guessing that you did the same!

The weather always strikes me as the perfect analogy for LIFE. We absolutely cannot control the weather – in fact, oftentimes the weather professionals can get it wrong when even trying to predict the future forecast. No matter how much we wish, petition, pray, meditate and otherwise try to manifest a specific weather forecast, we have zero impact on what is actually going to unfold.

And so it is with life. We like to think we can control so many circumstances and situations and even people and our relationships – but the truth of the matter is, we have so little of an impact on whatever life will bring our way. Yes, for sure, we can create goals and visualize certain outcomes, but there’s definitely no guarantees!

Just like a meteorologist can look at past weather patterns and current weather conditions and make an educated guess on what Mother Nature will bring us, so it is with our lives! We plan and project and strive for a ‘perfect’ life, but so often our lives veer in directions that were totally unanticipated.

We learn from our practice that expectation is the root of all heartache. And that the constant cycle of craving and aversion causes all of our own misery and suffering.

For example, with this amazing gift of BEAUTIFUL weather, we are all very happy and do as much as possible to enjoy it while it’s here! But we must remember that the nature of weather and the nature of life is aniccca – impermanence. So when the inevitable day comes – it’s February in Chicago, friends! – that this weather shifts, it will be foolish to crave for the weather to stay the same. It simply cannot and will not – so anything other than accepting reality AS IT IS, not how we wish it to be, is going to cause suffering.

So when the weather shifts to cold, or snow or thunderstorms or biting winds, we instinctually react with aversion to the weather. Which will also cause suffering, Which seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Does the weather really have the power to make someone happy or unhappy? If that is the case, we are in for one big roller coaster ride!

Instead, through yoga and other mindfulness practices, we can tap into an inner harmony and an inner source of happiness that is not affected by life’s daily and impermanent fluctuations. The only true and lasting source of happiness is an equanimous mind – a mind undisturbed by the daily ups and downs in life. This is exactly why we challenge ourselves on your mats each practice, we purposely put ourselves in uncomfortable and straining poses so that we can practice BREATHING and calming the mind in spite of the perceived external discomfort.

In this way, we try to break free of misery and suffering. And it is a lifelong practice!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Radiate LOVE

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Happy Monday, beautiful love bugs! What glorious weather we were blessed with this weekend –  An early Valentine’s gift from Mother Nature! Mild temperatures and just so much light and sunshine! Not to mention the gorgeous and sultry full moon!! ahhhhh… LOVE LOVE LOVE is definitely in the air.

And it all starts with self-love. Which is really the most challenging, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to love our kids, parents, siblings, cousins and even friends. But why is it so difficult to truly love ourselves?

My yoga practice has really helped me tremendously in this aspect of my love life. What is our practice if not a radical act of self-love? Self- awareness and self-acceptance leads us toward loving ourselves, doesn’t it? Yoga lifts us from the clutches of self-doubt and pain and sadness and reminds us of our true nature – pure loving kindness. It touches our lives at every level – physical, mental and spiritual. It is a method for us to make life purposeful, useful, noble and to radiate LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

As we truly begin to love ourselves, a lifelong practice and a lifelong love affair, we are able to find more depth in all of our external relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always peseveres. Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

Wishing you the sweetest and happiest of Valentine’s days this year. As you acknowledge all of your loved ones, make sure that you are at the top of your own Valentine list!

May all beings be happy, happy, happy and free!

 

 

Don’t do it alone- Find success with 4 Week Shred in February!

 4 week Shred

Our successful 4 Week Shred nutrition and boot camp program is coming back to Western Springs February 12th!

We are running an amazing promotion, Shred with a Friend and Save through February 12th. Sign up with a friend or family member and save 20% EACH for our February session.

Our unique, customized program offers you 4 nutrition workshops, a meal plan from a registered dietitian, and 4 boot camp workouts. Our program is designed to educate and motivate our clients to achieve their health and fitness goals with the support of a group setting and professional counsel.

4 Week Shred will give you the tools you need to kick start or maintain your goals. You can do it- and we can help!

For more information, please contact Teresa at 4weekshred2017@gmail.com. Please see below for more program information.

What is 4 Week Shred?

4 Week Shred is a food and fitness program designed to support, educate, and motivate. We will meet once a week on Sundays for a boot camp workout and nutrition workshop.

Program Schedule:         

Sundays 2/12-3/5
3 pm to 5 pm
Nutrition Workshop and Boot Camp
Western Springs YBD

Due to the customized meal plans, nutrition workshops and coaching from the Shred Leads, we will have to limit the number of participants!  Secure your spot today!

Components:

  • Customized meal plan written by Registered Dietitian (RD), Susan Rizzo
  • 4 Nutrition workshops with opportunity for Q+A with RD
  • 4 HIIT boot camp classes customized for maximum results
  • Customized workout plan
  • 1 month unlimited yoga and yoga sculpt at ANY 6 YBD locations
  • Support from fellow Shredders and leads
  • Food and experience journal
  • Hard work and life changing RESULTS!

 

Pricing:

Yoga By Degrees Members: $150- includes 4 HIIT boot camp classes, 4 nutrition workshops and customized meal plan

Non-members: $275 – includes 4 HIIT boot camp classes, 2 nutrition workshops, customized meal plan, one month unlimited yoga and yoga sculpt classes at ANY YBD location

Shred with a Friend discount: $120/$220

Email Teresa at 4weekshred2017@gmail.com for any questions you may have!

Are you ready to sign up? Enroll online, in studio, or over the phone at any YBD location by February 12th!

If you want to read about a Shredders experience in April, please follow this link https://breathesweatsmile.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/4-week-shred-success/

 

Who are the leads?

Susan Rizzo, RD, LDN, CDE

Registered Dietitian susan

Susan has been a Registered Dietitian (RD) for over 30 years. She is passionate about the value of good eating and exercising for its role in health. For the past 15 years she has enjoyed educating clients as nutrition counselor and diabetes educator for AMITA Health-Alexian Brothers. Over the years she has been involved with various weight loss programs including Weight Watchers, the YMCA and The Solution Program.  Recently she has advised clients involved with The Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser competition. Susan holds certifications of training in Adult and Pediatric Weight Management with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her expertise in nutrition has helped many clients individualize their food choices leading to improved weight and health status.  She is dedicated to educating people with the tools needed to self-manage their weight and meet health goals. A long time believer in the powers of physical activity she has enjoyed a variety of pursuits throughout her life including running, walking, yoga, tennis, ice skating, soccer, biking and dancing. She raised 4 children and is sensitive to the needs of busy lifestyles.

Teresa Larem

Yoga Instructor/ Yoga Sculpt Instructor/Shred Facilitator

 Teresa has always been a lifelong athlete, starting with soccer in kindergarten and Teresa 2continuing with tennis, basketball, softball, track, yoga, dance and rock climbing. If it’s active she likes it! Teresa discovered Yoga sculpt in 2013 and has been in love ever since due to the intensity, fun and results she has received from sculpt and fusion.  She began teaching Yoga in 2014 and soon followed with Yoga Sculpt in 2015 and has recently helped train the latest group of teachers at YBD. She loves teaching sculpt and fusion because she loves to have fun and motivate people. She truly believes that being active is the key to a long and healthy life and hopes to make working out fun for her students. Her other hobbies include soccer, CrossFit spin, walking her dog, reading, and yoga.

 

Mindful Monday: Welcome to February 

Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Well we made it through the looooongest month of the year together. We’ve watched the groundhog look for his shadow, and we watched Tom Brady lead his team in an unbelievable comeback in last night’s Super Bowl! Well,  yogis,  it’s smooth sailing from here. The days are longer. We have more sunshine. So much to look forward to. And of course the best moment is THIS one. Right here, right now. Always.

We hope that you had an amazing January! How are you doing with any resolutions that you have made? Remember that if you stumble and fall, let it be forward. We know from our practice that at any moment, we can inhale and BEGIN again.

YBD had TWO programs in January designed to help us kickstart the new year through mindfully looking at HOW we eat. Both groups met together on Sundays in January and supported one another through a community approach.

Teresa ran her Shred program which included a high intensity workout together each week, plus participants were  encouraged to take three additional classes during the week. They also worked individually with a certified nutritionist for custom meal plans.   Of the 16 participants, they lost a collective 42 lbs (of those that reported their weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of a three-year-old child! or a 15-foot canoe! or a human leg – wait… what? 

Well maybe not the Rock’s leg … But you’re welcome for that image. 😂 

Congratulations to all of our Shred program graduates! Teresa is leading another group through Shred  beginning on February 12! You can sign up at any of our locations.

I had the privilege to lead 23 students through my annual 21 day detox in January! This program focuses on a mindful lifestyle where we remove caffeine, sugar, gluten, alcohol and all animal proteins. We meet and practice together each week and support eachother with daily messages, touchpoints and encouragement. I am so happy to report that collectively  we lost a total of 95.8 lbs (of the 17 people who reported weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of my dog Rupert, a purebred bloodhound!

A two-month-old foal. A baby hippo! In addition to the weight loss, one of our members Jacky B. , who normally suffers from almost daily migraines, did not experience a SINGLE migraine during the cleanse! And Sandy S. said that the journaling aspect of the cleanse literally transformed her life! More than 125 YBD students and teachers have experienced this life-changing cleanse with me throughout the past few years. Watch for the next opportunity to take this cleanse … coming soon.

We know that we are more successful when we hold ourselves accountable to others. That’s why we are so very blessed to have our YBD community to support, encourage and uplift us. Remember we don’t have to wait till the beginning of the year for  new goal or a fresh start. We just need the willingness to begin again. 

Until next week, friends!