Mindful Monday: Don’t Quit

Happy Monday!

Every once in awhile you need to reroute. And I don’t just mean turning another direction, or getting off the train for a minute to wait for an express, but rather jumping tracks entirely. A new destination.

This can be scary. New faces, new scenery, maybe a fresh intention for living altogether.

Newness sometimes causes us to abandon our soul work. How many projects left unfinished? Slightly broken friendships never tended to? Half-read books? A goal unachieved?

Fresh is good. If you need to hop tracks, do it. You can still keep your integrity on a freshly paved route by bringing unfinished work with you. Take caution not to let a new decision or forward-moving vision cause you to leave really important or unfinished matters in the other lane. Pick a new path with the intention to reroute, but not as an escape route. Dealing with current hurts and pains is difficult, but not impossible. Go slowly & don’t quit.

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Mindful Monday: Soul Work

Happy Labor Day, mindful community!

In spirit of the holiday, it’s the perfect time to reflect not just on your 9-5, or the title on your business card, or how many years of schooling you’ve had, or what you do day in and day out that yields a paycheck. Sure, these things are important, and maybe they even contribute in some way to our sense of being and pride. Today’s a celebration of the working masses, but let’s redefine that a bit.

Who are you?

Odds are, when asked, one of the first ways you’d answer this question is with your work role. Teacher. Mother. Lawyer. Union worker. Athlete. Chef. Nurse. Analyst. Salesperson. Office clerk. Waiter. Customer service rep. And so on…

But, who are you?

If you’re attending weekly classes, or into personal development, or consider yourself spiritual on any level, or have ever contemplated your existence, you’re already probably able to take this question a bit further.

Today, let’s celebrate the fruit of our labor on a deeper level, by the things we do every day that start a ripple of change or make someone smile. This is where the real work comes in. The soul work. Write out your gifts, and then go out and create something. We bring energy to everything we do. The conversations we have, the meals we cook, any big or small task we perform. When it comes to soul work though, merely getting the job done isn’t always enough. Consider the energy you’re putting into everything you do. There is honor in all work, in all tasks, and in all the things we create. Today, make it a labor of love.

And, to celebrate the one week anniversary of my own labor of love, meet the newest addition to our growing Yoga By Degrees family, Baby Malcolm:

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Alex TOM

Meet Alex L., YBD Teacher of the Month!

We are so lucky to have Alex L. teaching at Yoga By Degrees. He comes to our YBD community from teaching in Missouri and we couldn’t be happier about it! He greets everyone he meets with his cheerful smile and kind presence. That positive energy is brought with him into all of the classes he teaches. If you haven’t gotten a chance to take one of his classes, it is a must!

Check out his permanent schedule:

Mondays:

6:00am YBD 1 95 Degrees Elmhurst

12:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

1:30pm YBD HOT 105 Degrees Downers Grove

Tuesdays:

1:30pm YBD 2 95 Glen Ellyn

Thursdays:

6:00am YBD 2 95 Degrees Elmhurst

8:30am YBD 1 85 Degrees Elmhurst

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Downers Grove

8:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

Fridays:

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Western Springs

 

Get to know Alex:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga about 5 years ago when I was going to school in Columbia, Missouri. A hot studio opened in my neighborhood that combined both styles of vinyasa and Bikram, although at the time I had no idea what that meant. None the less, I started practicing regularly and became hooked on the benefits, both physically and mentally. 

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I decided to go through teacher training as a way to deepen my own practice. I had only been practicing about a year and I was eager to learn more. The studio I had been attending was holding a month intensive 200 hour training and things just started to fall in place, so I went with it. I wanted to learn more about yoga philosophy and anatomy so I could guide others on their own yoga journey. 

What is your favorite pose? 

I have many, but my favorite are the warriors. They’re such strong and powerful poses that make me feel grounded and connected to something bigger. 

Who inspires your teaching? 

I pull inspiration from a variety of places including my family, friends, peers, and personal experiences, but my main source is whoever shows up for class. I always have a few things in mind for class, the rest is reading the room and trying to incorporate what each individual student wants for class, or more importantly, what they need. Finding a balance between pushing their limitations and finding comfort and control in each posture. 

Tips for beginners… 

Just keep showing up. Yoga is a life long journey that is different for everyone. Simply by being present on your mat you’ll learn and grow in your own way. 

What’s your favorite quote?

“…and the tree was happy.” –Shell Silverstein, The Giving Tree

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September Pose of the Month: Bridge

Bridge Pose, Setu Bandhasana

September is a great time to open up and prepare the body for seasonal changes. Bridge pose is an amazing place to open the heart and throat chakras. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie on your back
  • Plant the soles of your feet at hips distance
  • Reach your hands toward your feet and raise your hips
  • Clasp your hands under your hips and press them into the earth
  • Lengthen your neck
  • Option to raise your leg!

Benefits include:

  • Extends your thoracic spine
  • Lengthens your hip flexors
  • Opens your shoulders and chest
  • Calms your mind and reduces anxiety

 

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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