Mindful Monday: Weekly Reminder

This is your Monday morning reminder that you can handle whatever this week throws at you!

Important deadline gets moved? No problem.

5 minutes late to yoga class? We forgive you.

Caught at every red light? Make a wish every time you’re at a pause. You’re okay.

Spill your drink on the floor? Happens all the time.

Accidentally scream at your kids when they’re misbehaving? Have you been told this week what a rockstar parent you are? Because you are.

Someone cuts you off in the parking lot? You meant to let them through anyway.

Major headache and the start of a change-in-seasons cold? This too shall pass.

Friend cancels plans? Hey, didn’t you need to do that other thing anyway?

Today is Monday, and a beautiful, glorious, new start for us all. Who knows what this week will bring, and why does it really matter? Wake up and think for just a moment what a gift it is to be alive. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are doing the best you can. You are worthy. You can do it!

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Mindful Monday: Rev the Engine

The end of summer is time for adventure. Like yoga in the park, or visiting an old friend, or taking a daytime trip to the dunes. But what happens when you set out for a fun adventure and it doesn’t go quite as planned? You’re off-roading through the mud and screaming in delight one second, and the next you’re stuck in the mud.

If your car gets stuck in the mud, you immediately try to get out. You rev the engine, and the wheels spin and spin and spin. Sometimes you have to rev the engine and spin the wheels a bit to get some motion going. It may seem like you’re still exactly where you were, but the acceleration starts the process of getting unstuck.

That’s how it is for us, too. You might find yourself in a situation that kills your vibe, or one that you just don’t know how to handle whatsoever. So you become annoyed or upset or afraid or confused. The engine is revving, the wheels are spinning, and you want out. Let ’em spin. Sometimes we need to get through that time of accelerating in order to get to the next place…the place where we slow down and figure out what we’re doing next. Let your frustration and tiny annoyances and fear get the momentum going in the direction of solving the problem. Keep moving.

P.S. Here are more happy faces creating summertime memories, and there’s still time to share your #slowdownsummer photos with us!❤

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Mindful Monday: Slow Down Summer

In sanskrit, Sangha means community. And not just like the community where your address happens to be, home of public service stations and a bustling local coffee shop. Sangha is the community we crave, and because we crave it, we create it. At Yoga By Degrees, each of us participates actively in the creation of Sangha. We all play an important part. It’s like when you walk into the studio to take your routine 9am sculpt class and you’re greeted by first name, not because we’ve checked you in a million times, but because we’re expecting you. Or when you’re all in your head about an argument you just had at work, and as your instructor reads a quote that seems cosmically meant just for you, her gentle hip massage in pigeon confirms that she actually does know just what you need. Or when you spread your arms and roll over in supine twist and your fingertips accidentally touch your sweaty neighbor who you’ve never before spoken to before, and you actually don’t mind at all.

One of the greatest gifts of working for a yoga studio is the built-in community. Whether you’re a veteran teacher, or a teacher trainee, or a 5-classes-a-week-no-exceptions Platinum Member, or on your complimentary free week of classes, you’ll fall willingly victim to our happy home and energetic embrace. Our Sangha.

Our studio’s summer challenge to take 30 classes within 40 days is wrapping up quickly, and we’re all reminded that nothing lasts forever. It’s something to mourn and celebrate at the same time. The changing seasons reminds us of our size, and also of our courage to surrender. On a day to day level, we are huge. Our problems, and similarly, our joys, are everything. We’ll feel so helpless about a bad day that really just stemmed from one bad moment that we’ll expunge hours or maybe even multiple days in an all-out pity party for one, because we are that big. And, before you start thinking “Yeah, that’s me” and start feeling badly about having bad days, let a gentleness hug you tight and know that every single one of us does this. It’s the scale from which we operate.

And so when we wake up and ask someone what today’s date is and can hardly believe that we’re already approaching the middle of August, let it shrink us back down to proportion. Our Egos are big, but we are so, so, so small. The world didn’t stop when we spent that full day practicing couch-asana with a pint of chocolate ice cream. It didn’t stop when your son jumped in the swimming pool for the first time, or when you saw the look on your daughter’s face when she opened the letter that said she’d been accepted into her top-choice school. Even though we sometimes wish that time would just speed up to get us out of our darkest holes, or that time could stop just long enough for us to savor our sweetest moments, it doesn’t. We are here, in August…so small, but with a courage big enough to surrender even to this moving timeline we have no control over.

We’ve decided to start a #slowdownsummer movement to remind us of this when we’ve forgotten. We can’t stop time, but we can create our Sangha. And together, our Sangha can share stories and still-frames and memories of the moments that make us most alive. We’ve asked our staff at Yoga By Degrees to share their favorite summer memories with the hashtag #slowdownsummer, and now we’re opening it up to the rest of our community whom we love so much.

Share your favorite summer memory using #slowdownsummer and follow & tag us on Instagram @yogabydegrees for your chance to be featured! Collages will be shared all month long!

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August Pose of the Month

We’re officially in our last “summer” month already! It came so quick that I nearly forgot it was August entirely…anyone else? When life seems like it’s spiraling a little quickly, I’m reminded to come back to my favorite trifecta mantra: Smile, breathe, and go slowly! Appropriately, then, this month’s pose is extended triangle pose:

  • From Warrior II, straighten your front leg and bump your opposite hip backwards
  • Keep your arms at a “T” and hinge forward from your hips over your front straight leg
  • Rotate your top arm up and back to keep your chest open
  • Lower your bottom hand to your ankle as you continue hinging from your hips, avoiding bending from the waist and dumping your top shoulder
  • Keep your neck neutral or gaze up toward your lifted fingertips

Benefits of Triangle Pose:

  • Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles
  • Stretches hips, groin, hamstrings, and calves
  • Improves digestion and helps relieve stress

Remember the trifecta, yogis! Relax into triangle pose this month, modifying or adding an extra hands-free challenge depending on what your body needs. Smile, breathe, and go slowly!❤

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Mindful Monday: The Scenery Changes

It’s easy to get stuck in your feelings. Whenever you’re feeling like you might be feeling this way or that way forever, take note at how quickly the scenery changes. From the weather outside to our physical surroundings, sometimes every step can create a new vantage point. And on that note, HELLO AUGUST!

Even in Illinois, hop on the highway in any direction and watch how quickly the scenery changes. In the space of a few hours,  you can go from your quiet suburban driveway to the bustling city, or in the opposite direction to miles of cornfields, and wind turbines creating enough energy to power entire towns.

In the space of one day we can see hope, faith, anger, desolation, healing, and overwhelming joy. If we can remember one thing: Everything is temporary. The universe is always changes, propelling us sometimes quicker than we’d even like from one season into the next. Pay attention. As the scenery around you changes, watch how each piece leads into the next. I remember as a little kid sitting in the back seat on road trips, looking out the window, and getting lost in the montage of everything passing by. Begin to think of the changing scenes in your life as a deliberate journey, each frame bringing you to some place worth going and being. Enjoy the view.

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Mindful Monday: Choose Joy

Choice. It’s our greatest source of power. Are you willing to be in constant pain for even one moment longer? I’m not. Are you willing to continue needlessly worrying through distressing situations? I’m not. Do you really, truly want spend energy fretting about the millions of things you have absolutely no control over? I don’t.

We’re here and it’s our life’s purpose to feel joy and absorb all of the beauty we possibly can. If pain comes, let it come and let it pass just as quickly. Then move on to joy.

Choice is our power, but it’s also our pain. Just last week, I was in an argument with a friend. I was able to acknowledge my part, and at one point I became acutely conscious that my behavior wasn’t serving my highest good. Still, the argument had already started. We were “in it” and I had already committed to my position. Maybe you’ve been there before too. You’ve already committed to being upset, sad, hopeless, and so on, so it’s easier to just stick with your stance. Take caution. Don’t let your choices cripple you in the past or present. The point in which you’re able to acknowledge that your stance or behavior isn’t serving your growth doesn’t matter. Keep moving forward. Let it come, let it pass quickly, and choose joy.

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Mindful Monday: Shattered Pieces

“For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.” -Unknown

May you rise with a fresh perspective today. Of course it’s easy to feel somewhat hopeless when you’re surrounded by your own shattered pieces. Sometimes we look around and the pieces are all we see. Where’s the connecting thread? How can we ever pull our pieces back together into something that makes sense, something with purpose, something new?

Just remember that there are pieces to every whole, and while “whole” infers complete, every single tiny piece has great contributing significance. Don’t worry about how the pieces come together. Think about sitting down to put together a 1000+ piece jigzaw puzzle. Maybe you have a strategy. You group all the border pieces together first, or your start making piles of like colors. I bet even with a strategy in place, you find that pieces start to come together outside of the plan. Stop worrying about how they will come together. Work joyfully and patiently with the piece(s) that are right in front of you…the shattered piece that’s before you right now, begging for your attention and maybe crippling you in the past and hindering you from moving forward at all.

There are so many unique pieces to you, and if they’re shattered and broken, this isn’t the end. It’s not your destruction. Trust that your pieces have a purpose, and let them come together in a timing that might not be your own.

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Mindful Monday: The Art of Nothing

Happy Monday, y’all, and also on a random side note: happy free slurpee day…yep, get yourself on over to 7/11 today for an impromptu freebie!

I say impromptu because that’s my new jam lately, and maybe you want to try it out too. I’m officially 6 weeks away from becoming a mama for the very first time, and I’ve entered that super antsy and excited season where it’s become increasingly hard to find peace in patience. The waiting is the hardest part, right? Naturally, I was talking to my partner the other night about making a pre-parent bucket list, where we’d give life to a super long list of all the things we have to do in the next few weeks before our lives change entirely and irreversibly for the better. This idea came over me like a bright light bulb and I was super amped up about it because I’m someone who loves making plans. Something about always having something to do keeps me relatively “in control” and I’m all over that.

My partner listens with an obligatory smile as I rattle off idea after idea of things to do and places to see and projects to complete. Then he offers, “I have an idea! How about on your list you put absolutely nothing.” And I’m all like, “B-b-b-b-b-ut…”

In reality, while there are a lot of things to do and places to see and projects to complete that we probably won’t be able to put our full energy into doing or accomplishing with a new baby, the times will be very few and far between when we’re actually able to do absolutely nothing. I sat agape for a few minutes, partially in my own disappointment of my own shot-down idea, but mostly in an “Aha! Moment” that eerily brought some peace.

Doing nothing. But how?

Surely I’m not the only one out there who has a hard time sitting idly, even when the season calls for it and the time’s appropriate. We’re hardwired to want some level of control. We love making plans and drawing maps that’ll detail exactly how we’re going to get from Point A to B to C. The problem isn’t in having an ambitious vision or keeping busy with plans, but rather in our way-too-tight grasp on our vision of how things could or should be. What ends up happening when things start to look colossally different from our self-made vision is that we become unfortunate victims to disappointment we created ourselves.

Get excited about the future, but loosen the reigns a bit. This week, be gentle with yourself as you practice the art of doing absolutely nothing.

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Jenny P

Meet Jen P, Teacher of the Month

July is the time for celebrating our love for our YBD Teacher of the Month, Jenny Penny! Jen P (on the schedule) has a great attitude, strong customer service skills, connection to her students, and her continued effort to grow and evolve in her teaching makes her an exceptional yogi and instructor. Come take her class! See her schedule and Q&A below:

Tuesdays:

YBD Restorative 1:15-2:15pm Elmhurst

Yoga Sculpt 7:15-8:15pm Wheaton

Wednesdays:

YBD 2 95 6:00-7:00am Downers Grove

Yoga Sculpt 6:00-7:00pm Downers Grove

YBD 1 7:15-8:15pm

Fridays:

YBD 1 8:00-9:00am Wheaton

YBD Restorative 1:30-2:30pm Downers Grove

YBD1 4:30-5:30pm Glen Ellyn

Yoga Sculpt 6:00-7:00pm Glen Ellyn

Saturdays:

YBD1 2:00-3:00pm Wheaton

YBD2 105 4:00-5:00pm Wheaton

Sundays:

YBD1 8:30-9:30am Glen Ellyn

Yoga Sculpt 10:00-11:00am Glen Ellyn

YBD Restorative 1:15-2:15pm Elmhurst

When and how did you come to yoga?

Every morning since I can remember I would wake up and go through a set of poses like cat/cows, forward folds, etc. At the time, I didn’t even know I was doing yoga poses. So, I guess since I was in this world I have been doing yoga.  I started taking regular yoga classes in college at a local gym where I fell in love with the mind, body, and spirit connection. I was always active in dance, volleyball, basketball, and running BUT nothing compared to yoga. Once I found it, I was hooked.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I wanted to pass along the power of yoga. I went through some difficult health issues and yoga is where I found solace and vibrancy again.  I wanted to teach yoga to give others a way to relax, rejuvenate, and increase their health and wellness as I had done.Yoga created a peace and awareness in me that changed my life. So, I decided to leave my corporate job last year and pursue yoga teaching and my nursing degree. I jumped into teacher training Fall 2014.

What is your favorite pose? 

Chair pose. This pose challenges my patience, strength, and body awareness.  It allows me to find my fierce side and channel that energy through my breath. You sink into your chair and work through that mental frustration in the intensity to then release into the next pose.  It feels amazing to transition from chair to other more surrendering poses.

Who inspires your teaching?

My mom.  She has been my role model my whole life and has taught first grade for over 20 years.  Her ability to give her whole heart to what she does and her graceful teaching inspires me to shine my light to my students to fully be present. She tells her kids the bumble bee quote “Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” – Mary Kay Ash.  When I teach I try to instill this in my students to look beyond their “limitations”, fears, or routine and allow new space and breath to take them to a place of growth. Also, current books I read inspire me. When words speak to me, I try to make a sequence that embodies that energy and inspiration.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t let fear hold you back from freely flowing and finding your peace. Just breath, smile, and accept yourself exactly as you are on your mat every day. Hakuna Matata –No worries just feel the peace and ease.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And Something you give away. –John Lennon

Mindful Monday: My Favorite Freedoms

Waking up with the luxury of a few private minutes to write down my blessings

Stepping outside to breathe in air that’s fresh and pure and cleansing

Clean water straight from the tap

Having access to and being able to read books of all genres for both knowledge and for pleasure

Hopping in the car and effortlessly crossing state borders to visit parks and beaches and friends at any time that fits my schedule

Having a closet of clothes to wear that are comfortable and enhance my unique style

Meditating to an intention of my choice to a god or power or energy that makes sense to me and that doesn’t have to fit a particular stencil or definition

Not being scorned for doing so

Eating for both sustenance and for enjoyment

Spaces to practice yoga that are pleasing to all senses

Crying in public

Leaving my children with nurturing caregivers I can trust

Being able to leave my doors open and unlocked when it’s appropriate

A private bath tub and shower

Vehicles that allow me to get from point A to point B quickly and safely

Watching HGTV for 3+ hours and feeling only mildly guilty

The choice to be who and what and where we want to be, and the ability to change direction at any time

These are a few of my favorite freedoms. Thanks to everyone who helped make this list so real. Can we add anything else? Contribute in the comments! Happy 4th, mindful ones!❤

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