Mindful Monday: The Space Between

Hi happy people, and top o’ the morning to you!

First we made the space, then we ate the food, and now we get back to it! If you’re still moving slow after all the much-anticipated Thanksgiving feasting (and days of delicious leftovers), move slowly back into your routine with a restorative class. Our restorative flows are slow and gentle and probably exactly what you’re craving. The yin postures are mostly seated and are typically held for 3-5 minutes at a time, as opposed to just a few breaths. This deep stretching works the connective tissue between your joints and we use a variety of props (blocks, straps, and blankets) to aid in this deep stretching while helping you to calm your body from the inside out. Come prepared to challenge both your body and your mind with a lesson in settling into the discomfort.

The meditation and hands-on massage throughout class makes for one blissed-out yogi, but the true lesson is one that can transform your mental behavior both on and off the mat. Imagine stubbing your toe. Immediately, the physical pain is received and you almost instinctively want to yell out loudly with your favorite profanity. Then, imagine stubbing your toe again. But this time, there’s a small child in the room. The physical sensation of stubbing your toe is the same. Still hurts. But with a tiny human in the room, maybe you bite your tongue. You can protect the child by creating a tiny sliver of space between the action of stubbing your toe and the reaction of blurting out your go-to swear word.

The discomfort that surfaces with longer holds in a restorative class tests us in a similar way. After a few minutes in the same posture, maybe your hips start hurting. Your mind starts racing. You wonder how much longer you’re going to be in this position. Maybe you’re cursing your instructor. Or wondering where you’re going next. Maybe you start to fidget. Enter the lesson: Over time, you’ll start learning to be a witness to your own thoughts. The silent observer. When your physical body starts to feel uncomfortable and that little voice in your head tells you to release from the posture, just label that thought “DISCOMFORT” and then settle in. Just as you’re able to feel the sensation of stubbing your toe and make a conscious choice not to react in the same old way, you can begin to create little slivers of space between action and reaction on your yoga mat as well. Start to honor the space between. It’s in those moments that you’re able to create your own calm.


Happy Anniversary, Yoga By Degrees!

Everyone comes to yoga for the very first time with a different intention. In fact, on our new student waiver, we ask first-time patrons to indicate what they hope to achieve with yoga, ranging from physical benefits like flexibility, strength, cardio, and weight loss, to more intangible benefits like stress relief and confidence.

Whether you come to Yoga By Degrees using your free week of unlimited classes or you take the plunge to become a member, most of our students come to find that yoga isn’t a workout – it’s a work-in. And it’s our studio’s mission to cultivate community and a sacred space where all of our mistakes, flaws, insecurities, body image issues, health setbacks, and all that “junk” that’s sometimes hard to work through is celebrated.

This year, we’re celebrating the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of our fourth studio space. Our Downers Grove location is a blooming community. Each of our class formats guides you on a path of self-discovery that enables you to cultivate the strongest and most flexible mind and body so that you’re living your highest potential both on and off the mat.

Downers Grove has a place to discover quiet meditative moments, vigorous exercise, meaningful connections, or whatever yoga medicine you might be craving. Yoga by Degrees offers a wide variety of classes and workshops to accommodate all preferences. Whether you crave the deep stretch of Restorative Yoga, the challenge of a Vinyasa 2, the cardio-driven Yoga Sculpt or Sculpt-Fusion, the set sequence in YBD Hot, or the moderate pace of our Beginner’s Classes, we have a yoga sanctuary here for everyone.

We invite you to join us in celebrating the holiday season and the anniversary of our space on Friday, December 4th from 9am-7pm at the Downers Grove studio. There will be celebration activities as well as regularly scheduled classes all day long.

From 9am-7pm, ENJOY:

  • FREE Chair Massages
  • Raffle w/ Sweet Prizes & Giveaways
  • Boutique Sale (25% off all non-sale retail items)
  • Snacks and Refreshments
  • 4pm FREE YBD1 Class with Colleen
  • Special 5:45pm GLOWGA* Class with Carla

Don’t miss this wonderful event to celebrate the community and our collective love for yoga! For more information stop by the front desk or call the Downers Grove studio at 630-969-0820.

54 Ogden Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Mindful Monday: New Season, New Routine

Top o’ the morning’ to ya, mindful ones! The weather’s changing quickly, the days are shorter, our stack of favorite leg warmers is higher, and vata energy is in the air. It’s cold, it’s dry, and it’s the perfect time to go inward. Just like the squirrels have begun scurrying around collecting nuts, fattening up, and preparing for winter, this change of season forces us into a change in routine as well.

Kickstart your change in routine by warming yourself up from the inside out:

  • Cozy up in a space that suits you: Reset, realign, restart! It’s a great time to clean up your space, pack the sandals and summer clothes away for awhile, and take up a new hobby that’ll keep you busy before cabin fever sets in: knit a pair of socks for a friend, or get yourself an adult coloring book (this is actually a pretty popular thing right now, and there are meet-ups for those of you seeking a fun date night or new adventure).

  • Try a hot yoga class: Nothing screams summer feels in the midst of a fast-approaching winter like 105 degrees. We just added a brand new format to our schedule that strengthens and detoxifies. Try our all-new YBD Hot classes! This format is traditional hot style and is a set sequence of 26 postures. It also happens to regulate your sleep-wake cycle, so it’s the perfect class to foster a healthy cold-weather routine.

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  • Perfect a favorite wintertime recipe: I made stuffed acorn squash a week ago with freshly picked apples from the orchard and turkey sausage, and my dad loved the recipe so much that he had to re-make it last night (better than me, of course) with mushrooms and an entirely different flavor. Anyone else have any favorite recipes for this time of year that keep the body healthy and smell like comfort? Please share below!!!

Mindful Monday: Be Gentle With Yourself

Good morning, Lightworkers!

Life can be a lot of pressure sometimes, huh? I was just having a conversation with a friend the other night about how scary and confusing it can be when you finally realize that you have control over everything and nothing at the same time. Of course, if you have a big calling and a bold spirit, it’s important to prioritize your values, name your goals, and begin taking the necessary steps to manifest your deepest desires into existence. And even then, sometimes it’s only in retrospect that we’re able to truly feel our power. Hindsight is 20/20 because we naturally act in the heat of the moment until we condition ourselves otherwise. It’s hard to detach from the strong emotional connection we feel when the storm lasts a wee bit longer than what the forecast called for.

Remember from last week that there is no either/or. If you’re a believer in manifestation and the very real power of the law of attraction, you might feel pressured to force things and stick to a rigid game plan. I used to do this, and it’s easy to fall into a trap of your own expectations: “If it’s on my vision board, IT IS HAPPENING!” But be gentle with yourselves, sweet souls. You don’t have to orchestrate every move or plan out precisely what needs to happen and by when. And likewise, life won’t move you if you sit idly and wait for everything to fall into place. The beauty in this is that you don’t have to have everything figured out to move forward. Know your worth, have a vision, and do a behavior check every once in awhile to make sure that the way you’re living is propelling you closer and closer to your divine purpose. The pathway might be broken, the signs might be unclear, and A, B, and C might not be in your back pocket as quickly as you had hoped, but you’re being led (and maybe you’re even leading the way) toward exactly what you need. Watch with satisfaction how beautifully things unfold in your favor when you just let it be. Any unexpected gifts surface in your life recently after you’ve surrendered to a timing that’s not your own?

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Meet Andrea, Teacher of the Month!

Andrea TOTMThis November, we salute Andrea as our YBD Teacher of the Month! Andrea is young in her teaching career with Yoga by Degrees but has already made such an impact on our community. We are so inspired by Andrea’s passion for Yoga Sculpt and her drive to build confidence. She is a team-player–always eager to help out at every chance possible. Thank you, Andrea, for being consistently early, enthusiastic, energetic, and excited to be at Yoga by Degrees!

Sundays, 8:30am Sculpt Fusion in Downers Grove

Sundays, 10:15am Yoga Sculpt in Downers Grove

Mondays, 6pm Yoga Sculpt in Downers Grove

Wednesdays, 12pm Yoga Sculpt in Western Springs

Wednesdays, 7:15pm Yoga Sculpt in Western Springs

Thursdays, 6am Sculpt Fusion in Downers Grove

Fridays, 12pm Yoga Sculpt in Western Springs

Saturdays, 9am Yoga Sculpt in Wheaton

Get to know Andrea more:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I first came to yoga March 2nd 2014 (I looked it up in our computer system because I was curious of what the exact date was).  I started like many people do; I did the free week, bought the groupon, and then I was hooked and signed up for the unlimited membership. Yoga By Degrees was my very first experience with yoga.  I was so burnt out on my current exercise routine, I needed a break, and I needed a change.  Never in a million years would I have thought that yoga would be for me, but it turned out to be exactly what my body and soul needed.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I started teaching yoga because I became addicted to the way I felt after a class.  That raw, blissful, anxiety-free “yoga high” is REAL and I wanted to make other people feel how I felt.

What is your favorite pose, and why?

My favorite pose is half-moon.  When I first began yoga I was that person that refused to use props.  I would twist and force myself into positions that my body really didn’t want to be in just to “get into a pose.” Funny thing was, forcing my hand to the floor or my arm around my back was doing the exact opposite of what I thought it was.  My alignment was all off, my postures were a disaster, but I thought they were great because “Wow! My foot is so high, or my hand is all the way to the ground!” It wasn’t until a teacher at YBD brought me a block in half-moon that I really felt the pose for the first time.  My chest was open, my hips were open; I needed that block, and still use a block in half-moon (and a variety of other poses) to this day.  Learning not to force my body into postures, and that it’s ok to be where I’m at has taken my yoga practice to a whole new level, and I learned that in half-moon.

Who inspires your teaching?

My mom inspires me daily, on and off my mat.  She is an amazing mother, woman and role model.  She is also the most supportive person in my entire life.  She has been there to celebrate with me at the highest of highest and also there to help me pick up the pieces at the lowest of lows.  I would not be where I am today without her continuous love and support.  And while she cannot take any of my classes (she has been in a wheelchair since she was 13) I dedicate almost every practice to her so she’s always there in my heart.

Tips for beginners…

My best recommendation for beginners is to try every class.  It was nearly 6 months until I tried a restorative class because “that just wasn’t for me.” Wow was I wrong! You really don’t know what’s going to resonate with your body and soul until you try it.  So use that free week to try as many styles as possible.  Also know that you are perfect exactly where you are.  Your downward dog might not look like your neighbor’s downward dog, but who cares!? A very wise YBD teacher once told me, “what happens when your heels touch the ground in that pose? Absolutely nothing.” That really resonated with me.  Made me realize that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and that’s perfect.  My hope would be that every beginner could learn that a lot sooner than I did.

What is your favorite quote?

“Get your fire back, its not over until God says its over. Start believing again, start dreaming again, start pursuing what God puts in your heart.” I absolutely love that quote! You don’t need to be religious for that to resonate with you.  Its basically saying, you may be down, but you’re not out.  As long as your heart is beating and there is air in your lungs, you are still in this!  Get out there and be the “you” you’ve always dreamed about being.  It’s never too late!

Mindful Monday: There is No Either/Or


“Life is about balance. Be kind, but don’t let people abuse you. Trust, but don’t be deceived. Be content, but never stop improving yourself.” ~Nishan Panwar

Balance. Our brains can easily conceptualize this idea, right?

Bonnie and Clyde. Apples and oranges. The yin to your yang. Dualities. Opposites. Q&A. B&W. Balance.

I’ve had many experiences in life, and all the while I’ve had a pretty clear grasp on this idea of balance, mostly because I’ve always refused to be an either/or type of woman. Often I can’t decide which label to occupy, and so I happily settle embodying a walking oxymoron. I’m an introverted extrovert. My practice is both strong and soft. I crave solitude and I crave people, equally. Half of me loves to feel life as a woman unafraid of the dark places on this earth and within my own Spirit, satisfied with the uncomfortable, and able to unapologetically open to the rush of the primal within – and the other half of me is logical, grounded, a puppet, so to speak, of my own (over)thinking. I’m all of these women. There is no either/or.

This week, set your intention on opening to your own dualities. See it all. Even when the crisp change of the weather mocks what feels like your own personal shift into darkness, look for the light. There’s beauty in letting the dead things go. Examine your light and your dark. Look at both your wins and your losses, your blessings as well as your disappointments. Your greatest hurts can become your greatest teachers if you point your perspective toward balance. And yes, we really are that powerful!

November Pose of the Month

Hi there, November! I can’t believe you’re here already, but I welcome you with the snuggliest arms! Is that a word? If you dare to fly, we’re starting this month with Flying Lizard. Think of this one as Lizard and Eka Pada Koundinyasana II shacking up and having a baby, and that’s Flying Lizard! There are a few ways to approach this one, and we’ll outline the stages so you can play around and just see where your body’s at and what kind of fears (and faceplants) you’ll need to check off as you go.


  • Begin in lizard lunge with your palm on the inside of your bent front leg. You’ll need open hips for this one, so be sure you’re warmed up and then experiment deepening the lunge by maybe coming down to your forearms
  • If that’s accessible, start to shimmy your shoulder underneath your armpit and leg so that your mid-thigh is as high up your arm as you can get it
  • Clamp your leg around your bicep (or even higher if you’re able, since it will undoubtedly fall or slip down slightly as you’re entering the full expression)
  • Begin to lean forward slightly as you activate your core and lift your back leg
  • Because what’s working and stretching mimics Eka Pada Koundinyasana II, keep that same alignment in mind. Maintain a 90 degree angle in your arms, and for an added challenge, shift your weight slightly forward and bend your back leg to make it a flying lizard scorpion baby!

Benefits of Flying Lizard:

  • Strengthens arms and wrists
  • Tones the belly and spine
  • Stretches and opens hamstrings
  • Increases coordination and improves balance
  • Quiets self-doubt and encourages stepping outside of comfort zones

Try it out, lizards! Start this month by falling (or flying) into something new. Everything you want is on the other side of fear!

Mindful Monday: If It Scares You, Do It!

Happy cold + crisp Monday! Fall mornings are our favorite, and this week is particularly thrilling because this weekend is Halloween! Weeeeeeee-hooo! Trick-or-treat, short-and-sweet. Throughout this week of all things scary, think about the things that bring up some fears for you. Fears make us vulnerable, and being vulnerable creates space for growth.

Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt because it matters. Whether it’s a silly superstition or something you avoid doing because you’ve had bad luck in the past, write down your fears, name them, and push on. Push hard. Even if it’s just this week because you’re in the Halloween spirit, DO the things that scare you. Or maybe just do one thing. What’s it going to be for you?


Mindful Monday: A New Morning Routine

Good morning, and happiest Monday!

I once read a quote that said something like: One small positive thought in the morning can change the dynamic of your entire day. I thought immediately about how happy pancakes make me, and then after continuing on with my morning routine of scrolling through my phone for 20 minutes to catch up on everything social media, I stumbled out of bed without making it and headed straight for the kitchen, only to burn my pancakes on one side before spilling syrup all over the counter. B-b-b-b-ut I thought positive thoughts right when I woke up, so why didn’t my breakfast look like a delightful Pinteresting concoction that’d fuel me with buttery cheer all day long? Great concept, wrong intention.

Cultivating a healthy morning routine requires discipline, but it’s quite possibly the best thing you can do for you (and the people with whom you’ll interact throughout the day). Here are 5 easy habits you can adopt every morning to revolutionize your entire day:

  1. Avoid your phone for 30 minutes. As if being a human in 2015 wasn’t overstimulating enough, add in all of our favorite social media platforms to the mix, and our mind goes on autopilot through a world that’s not our own. It’s distracting, and it can also be an unconscious trigger for any disappointments that might surface throughout the day. Comparison is the thief of joy, and so if we could dedicate even 30 minutes to focus on ourselves and our day’s purpose before cluttering our mental space with mindless scrolling, our drive and motivation to wake up inspired could increase exponentially.
  2. Drink water (add a lemon!) Water is water, and if you can gulp down at least a glass before heading straight to the coffee machine, you’re doing your body a great service. If you’re feeling really ambitious, add a lemon. Squeezing a lemon in your water has many benefits, but among my favorites: promoting healthy digestion and rejuvenating your skin. That lovely morning glow you’re wearing on your face? All lemons!
  3. Start a gratitude journal. Waking up a naming the things you’re grateful for is a powerful tool. In addition to helping you learn more about yourself and the things and people in your life you value most, keeping a gratitude journal is a great attitude check, helping us shift perspectives and remain positive even in the storms. Keeping a list of what fills us up and brings us joy often creates MORE of that joy.
  4. Redefine what it means to read the paper. It might be a thing of the past to have the morning paper delivered to your doorstep, but the act of staying on top of current events or to read something inspiring is great soul food. Try getting something short and sweet delivered to your inbox every morning like The Skimm, or keep your favorite self-improvement book next to your bed and make a habit of reading 1-2 pages each morning.
  5. Salute the sun. Putting mindful movements into your body first thing in the morning is so important. And when linking breath to movement, simple sun salutations become a moving meditation. You’ll stimulate your digestive track, stretch out from fingers to toes, and get your mind in the right space to conquer our daily to-do lists with extra energy and oomph!


Start today, start tomorrow, or start right now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Start tired. Start reluctant. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just start! Cultivate a new morning routine, and watch the sunshine fill you up from the inside out.

Mindful Monday: Hearing vs. Listening and How We Can Be Better


We live in an ego-driven world. We’re selfish. We have a lot to say, and we expect people to listen. In part, this is super empowering that we’re so independent with such strong voices. We follow our dreams and we do what we have to do, but often we don’t pay attention or pause to contemplate how our presence and moreover how our words affect the people with whom we interact. While ‘ego’ and ‘selfish’ typically have a negative connotation, I think that these things can be mostly good if we’re doing what we need to consider and prioritize things and people other than ourselves. I mean, if it weren’t for our strong egos and sometimes selfish behaviors, we wouldn’t have world-class entrepreneurs giving us the newest and greatest, we wouldn’t have all-new yoga formats being developed by all-star instructors all over the globe, and we wouldn’t have the latest update for the iPhone 6s. All of these can’t-live-without and taken-for-granted things come from the person who says: “That’s great, but I can do it better. I have a better idea, and I’m going to deliver.” Which is, at its very core, a pretty ego-strong and selfish declaration, right? So, that’s a great example of good ego and selfishness that evolves into something for the greater good.

It’s a fine line, though, and we must be mindful of listening and how we are listened to. And both of these are important to work on; sometimes we’re doing the talking, sometimes we’re doing the listening. Because we live in this ego-driven, sometimes-selfish, super fast-paced and over-stimulating society, we often hear without listening and respond with an ego-tangent. I like to think of ego-tangents as those times when you’re in a conversation with a friend and the audible vibrations of their voice are being received, meaning that you can hear them talking and you know that there are words being strung together purposefully to convey an idea, but you have no idea what they’re actually communicating to you because after the first five words, you already started formulating your response in your own head — completely muting any words that are still coming. You’re not listening. You’re hearing. And if you’re reading this and thinking: Mannnnnn, I do that all the time! Don’t worry. We all do. Or, maybe you actually believe you’re a good listener and this habit of thinking up a response in your own head is so second nature that you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

I did this just the other night while “watching” an episode of The Walking Dead. It was on the TV. I was sitting in front of the TV. The episode was streaming. I was on my phone almost the entire time perusing social media, but I was also *totally* watching the show. Multi-tasking, right? It sounds great in theory. Wouldn’t it be great if we could cook dinner, respond to those five text messages we’ve neglected, catch up on our favorite shows, all while having quality conversation with our spouse?

Sometimes we actually do those four or five or ten things at once, label it “juggling multiple things at the same time,” and file it under our long lists of personal expertise. And so we keep on keepin’ on operating under this really ego-flattering illusion that we’re just extremely skilled at doing it all. In truth, it’s impossible as humans for our brains to participate at full capacity in so many things at once. So, what it ends up looking like is this: kids whining and you volunteering to eat the burnt parts of dinner, shows that need to be re-watched because you missed the introduction of the new character and have no idea why so-and-so is now fighting with what’s-her-name, and totally unnecessary arguments with the people who matter most in your life where you find yourself repeating the same thing a million times and talking over one another in a battle of who can say it louder. I guess what it all comes down to is whether we want to do 20 things poorly, or two things really well. All I know is that from personal experience, it’s just a complete waste of my time to watch the same show twice. It also really, really sucks to feel unheard and misunderstood. We can all agree there, right?

Here are three ways we can all direct our attention more mindfully and become better listeners:

  1. Distinguish between hearing and listening, and start to observe when you’re doing which. Hearing is instinctively automatic. It’s simply the act of perceiving sound. Listening is a choice, and listening eliminates distraction. Start to pay attention to what’s happening with your own inner voice while you’re in a conversation with someone else. Are you concentrating on each of the words being spoken in a way that will allow you to summarize what was just said, in full? Or, did you catch a couple of words that you’d like to comment on, and now you’re formulating a response based on only a piece of what was said? This week, try to merely pay attention to whether you’re a good hearer, or a good listener. Observation first.
  1. Create the ideal conditions for listening well. If you’ve found that you have a bad habit of only half-paying attention (the vast majority of us), you can improve upon this by creating a situation that makes it easier to listen well. This week, or next time you’re in a conversation with someone, turn your phone on silent and place it face down next to you, or away completely. That way, even if your intentions are good and right, you won’t be tempted to instinctively take a peak when you get a text message or a new notification. If a conversation is planned and you’re setting up a time to discuss something important, find a spot that fosters eye contact. Sitting across from someone at the kitchen table is much better than cozying up on the couch or hanging out at a noisy restaurant.
  1. Ask if you got it right. We aren’t all therapists. And odds are, unless you specifically went to school to counsel, you don’t want to sound like one in your natural conversations with friends and loved ones. Yet, how many times are our arguments due in some part to being either unheard or completely misunderstood? This is an important one, especially if you or the person you’re speaking with start sounding like a broken record, conveying the same message five different ways with hopes that it’ll be better understood if you just phrase it another way. Next time you’re in a discussion, listen fully without interjecting an opinion of your own, and only when the other person is finished talking, try responding with: “What I’m understanding from what you just said is ___________________. Is that right?” With this method, the person you’re taking to can other confirm or clarify if it’s needed.

None of us are expert communicators, but being mindful of when you’re asking your brain to do a million things at once and then pausing to reevaluate whether or not it’s working is a step in the right direction. Are you hearing, or are you listening?