Mindful Monday: Unconditional Kindness

Happy Monday!


Let’s get mindful this week. This is a message that’s been following me all week long, and a great reminder for us all: kindness without conditions. Often, we keep our compassion and kindness close. We dangle it on a string we’re holding tight in front of faces like: “Yeah, this is the good stuff. And you can have it…so long as you’re nice to me first.” So then, when someone is unkind to us, we operate on this points system. I didn’t deserve that, minus two for you. That’s how you’re going to treat me? Minus five. And so on.
When we do this, kindness becomes conditional. We hand out kindness for the deserving (and we’re the judge) and hold it hostage when we’re wronged. And maybe we even take it a step further and when someone treats us poorly, our Ego wants to retaliate. Revenge. Payback. Stick it to ’em.
This week, consider unconditional kindness. The more you give of it to the LEAST deserving on your list, the more your life will begin to change. Go within, and find the light that already exists. It’s for everyone, right? It should be. Be kind.  To the people who did you wrong, the people with hard hearts, the hypocrites, the naysayers, the ones waiting on the edges of their seats for you to fail at something / anything. To the people who challenge you, who can’t seem to ever wish you well, the ones who can offer you absolutely nothing in return. Without pausing to consider whether or not the recipient is worthy, always be kind.

YBD Teacher Making Headlines!

Senior Teacher, Lara Devine has been a dedicated Yoga by Degrees teacher for years.   In addition to her intelligently taught and sought after classes, through compassion, warmth and thoughtfulness, she touches the lives of her students on a regular basis.  It’s for these reasons and more, that Lara has become a cherished YBD teacher, and why now, she’s making headlines!  Check out this beautiful article for yourself!  (Article and permission to post courtesy of Suburban Life Magazine)  





Meet Nikki, Teacher of the Month

We love Nikki! What an inspiring soul and skilled yoga instructor and fab Feb Teacher of the Month. Thank you for sharing your gifts, your authenticity and your spiritual energy with our community. Check out her class schedule to heal, purify, let go and leave feeling strong and serene:

4:30pm YBD Hot, Wednesdays in Downers Grove

5:45pm YBD2, Wednesdays (or temporarily Fridays) in Downers Grove

8:30am YBD Hot, Saturdays in Downers Grove

10:15am YBD1, Saturdays in Downers Grove

11:30am FREE Intro to Yoga, every other Saturday in Downers Grove


Inspiring words from Nikki, get to know her better below:

When did you first come to yoga?

I came to yoga about four years ago, and originally started with Bikram yoga. There are many reasons that I decided to walk into a yoga studio. For starters, I was recovering from an ACL surgery when I played rugby at Illinois State. I no longer could run, yet alone walk most of the time. I experienced constant pain, inflammation, and because of my lack of mobility my depression and anxiety increased. On the flip side of the coin, I already had issues upstairs. I deal with PTSD on a daily basis, and have been finding stability and healing through my yoga practice, but especially my teaching. Before I practiced asanas, meditation, or breathing techniques I would suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis and could no longer leave my home. It was awful! The first time I found peace, was on my mat, and I realized that there was a better, bigger life out there waiting for me. All I needed to do was be brave enough to take the first step. I found my first vinyasa class to be challenging and it tested my vulnerabilities as well as my ego. But, I kept going back; some attribute this to the ‘yogi high’ we feel post savasana. ;)

Today, I am able to finally look myself in the mirror and LOVE who I have become. The community of teachers and students inspire me to live my yoga every moment. I no longer suffer from panic attacks on the regular, but once in a blue moon. Life is far from perfect, however I am loving all the imperfections, and how they carve my journey.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I am excited to announce that I am going into my third year teaching! This is more special to me than my actual relationship anniversary (luckily my fiance understands); because, in a way, I married myself. For once, I put my mind and body first. My experience teaching yoga has enabled me to make profound connections with other people, gave me a platform to share my struggles and experiences, and allowed me to help others heal as I heal myself.

What is your favorite pose?

Honestly, I am not being cliche, but it is savasana. It is always my opportunity to unplug, reconnect with myself, practice staying present, and allowing myself to transcend beyond all of life’s stressors into a deep state of rest. It is very closely connected to transcendental meditation, which is my preference. This posture creates such an in-depth relaxation that our brain waves actually change to mimic that of REM sleep. In addition, this is where we receive all the benefits from our previous postures. As a side note, if you stay with the natural rhythm of your breath while in savasana for at least 5 minutes you reduce the cortisol levels in your body, which decreases inflammation and stress (produced by your adrenal glands). If you are someone who struggles with trauma, present or past, savasana is your best friend, because it settles down the ‘fight or flight’ response messages that are overactive in our bodies.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everyone and everything; authentic experiences. That is what inspires me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and every person you meet has a purpose. The world is my mat, and I absorb the lessons like a sponge. I will say that my students and my teacher trainers tend to be the biggest source for inspiration. I love seeing their vulnerability, strengths, and will power as they test out their limitations (or lack thereof) in life.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t worry about what you look like, how inflexible you are, or what type of shape your beautiful body is in. Be open to mistakes, falling, and the unknown. My favorite reminder, “it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” (Said by many, loved by all.) Also, your chapter one should never be compared to someone else’s chapter eight. Each person on their mat possesses a different anatomy, purpose, and length of time practicing. Some are natural, and some will always be clumsy (me!). We are here for the internal transformation, and the external benefits. Trust in the process, and it will unfold before your very eyes.

Last but not least, leave your ego, expectations, and judgments at the door; always lead with your heart.

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote? I can ONLY choose one?! Okay…”If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

Yoga teaches me to live in the moment, as it comes. Not as it was or how I wish it to be. This is how I have found my peace; by becoming aware of the whirlwind of emotions I feel inside (without judgment), and then asking myself WHY I feel this way. If it is because I have latched on to something where I have little to no control, then I reroute. Santosha, contentment, is my final destination in this lifetime.


February Pose of the Month

February is here! And, since it’s a special month of love & a leap year, we’re dedicating the month to a favorite heart-opener: Anjaneyasana!

  • From runner’s lunge, untuck your back toes and ground down onto your knee
  • Inhale to lift your arms up overhead, rotating your pinky fingers in toward each other
  • Adjust your low lunge so that your front bent knee is stacked directly over your ankle
  • Draw your tailbone down toward the ground as your soften the weight of your body int your hips for a nice stretch along the front thigh and groin
  • Option to pin your shoulder blades together and lead with your gaze and fingertips for a deeper heart-opening backbend


Benefits of Anjaneyasana:

  • Stretches hamstrings, psoas, groin, and hips
  • Strengthens quads and glutes
  • Can relieve sciatica pain or discomfort
  • Improves balance, concentration, and core awareness
  • Ignites heart chakra and a lovely sensation in the chest and abdomen

Invigorate your body and mind with a lunge and a bend, and as your heart expands, send all of your love to someone who needs it most!

Mindful Monday: Do Something For You

laurel sculptWowie, it’s February already! How are those resolutions coming along? So far, energy’s been high, classes have been packed, and it feels overall like there’s a real shift happening where people are genuinely inspired to make a change not only physically, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well.

If you’re thinking about taking your love for yoga to the next level and you’re wanting a little extra challenge in all of these areas, our Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training starts Saturday, February 6th! Yoga Sculpt teacher training will help you reach new heights in your personal practice, while giving you the tools to teach a safe, effective and inspiring Yoga Sculpt class. Stop in to any of our studios for more information on how to get involved before this upcoming winter session begins, and sculpt your way to a new you!

Mindful Monday: Give the A

I was recently in a quite thought-altering conversation with someone who is reading The Art of Possibility, a book in which a music teacher starts the semester by giving all of his students As, with one stipulation: each student must write a letter to the teacher dated May (the semester’s end) that explains the story of what will have happened to him or her as a result of this extraordinary grade. It sounds kind of silly on the surface, but what ended up happening was remarkable. And it’s so much more than just giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

When you give someone an A, both the giver and the receiver are transformed. Your expectations of how so and so should measure up against your own standards start to break down, and because you’re operating out of a space of deep respect in which you’re already handing out As to everyone you meet, the recipients have room to realize themselves. The A is not an expectation yo live up to, but a possibility to live into.

The reality is that it’s all ego. Most of who we think we are and what we’re capable of is just a result of the stories we tell ourselves on a daily basis. Today, try transcending. Today, give yourself an A. Today, wake up and tell yourself a story in which at the day’s end, you’ve already succeeded. Start with that, and see where it takes you.


Anyone else getting inspiration from a must-read book? Top 2 favorites: Go!


Mindful Monday: Breakfast for the Win

Good morning, mindful ones! When we first introduced Mindful Monday, we promised a handful of mixups ranging from stories to meditations to yoga to inspiration to recipes to short workouts to literature. Today we give you a special morning treat. And, since breakfast is most certainly the most important meal of the day, we could all use some inspiration. Between kids and careers and dog-walking and everything in between, mornings can be quite frantic and rushed. Maybe you skip breakfast entirely. Try this quick and easy power bowl to give you all the energy you need before you even leave the house:

1 C yogurt (there are some really great soy yogurts out there for those of you participating in the cleanse)

1 fresh fruit of your choice, cut

1/2 C granola (lots of gluten free options)

1 T chia seeds


Copy it, spruce it up, make it your way, let us know if you love it. What are some of your favorite and quick go-to healthy breakfast delights?

Mindful Monday: Everything is Temporary

Sometimes the hardest part about being “stuck” is the lack of sight. But when’s it going to be over? How come I can’t see the light? Why is recovery so long? When will I heal? These questions can ruin us if we let them, and our minds won’t be of much help. It’s at times like these that was must remind ourselves and hold with warm certainty that everything is temporary. The pain. The heartache. The injury. The bad day. The traffic jam. The line at your favorite corner coffee shop. None of it lasts forever. Let that cheer you up today, bright one.


Check Out YBD Sculpt Fusion

Take a peek inside a Sculpt Fusion class by watching the video below!

As we exit the season of indulgence and enter in to our New Year Resolutions, for many of us, it means it’s time to look for a new routine to help us get back in to shape.  If you want a routine that is the “ultimate” mind and body workout, Yoga by Degrees’ signature Sculpt Fusion classes are all you need! Sculpt Fusion is comprised of the perfect blend of an interval cardio, strength and yoga workout! You’ll also discover Sculpt Fusion as the perfect complement to our other life changing class offerings including, Sculpt, Vinyasa (flow) yoga and Restorative yoga classes. Go to our web site to find a class that fits your schedule: http://www.yogabydegrees.net

January Pose of the Month

Guess what day it is? It’s the first Wednesday of 2016, and to kick off hump day, we give you: Camel Pose! This heart-opening and energizing backbend ignites the throat chakra, and it can elicit some fear in some or be a source of fiery power for others. Be gentle with yourself as you approach this one.

  • At the top of your mat, come to standing on your knees so that your shoulders are stacked upon hips and hips on top of knees
  • Bring your palms to your low back
  • Press into your palms as you tip your pelvis forward slightly and lengthen the back pelvis down through your tailbone
  • Energetically pull your shoulderblades together and lead with your gaze as your drop back
  • If your backbend is deep enough for you to see what’s behind you, option to take your hands to your calves or heels

Benefits of Camel Pose:

  • Energizing posture can help nudge you out of bouts of fatigue
  • Stretches the entire front of the body, your deep hip flexors, and back muscles
  • Improves posture
  • Ignites and balances chakras

Get yourself over the hump as we continue on into the New Year! Featured is instructor and manager Heather Avery conquering her fear of deeper backbends.

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