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?


Meet Kate, YBD Teacher of the Month!

When you meet Kate and her permanent smile, you are filled with lightness and positive energy. She always has an amazing attitude and outlook on life that inspires her classes and the teachers and students of the YBD community. Kate is very generous with her time and dedicates all of her attention wholeheartedly to whatever she is doing, whether it is running marathons, making wholesome homemade foods, working with her pups or sharing her love of yoga with others. Check out Kate’s current schedule:

2pm YBD Hot, Sundays in Wheaton

6am YBD1, Mondays in Elmhurst

4:30pm Yoga Sculpt, Mondays in Wheaton

6pm YBD2, Tuesdays in Wheaton

7:15pm Yoga Sculpt, Tuesdays in Wheaton

6am YBD2, Wednesdays in Downers Grove

10am Sculpt Fusion, Wednesdays in Wheaton

9:30am YBD1, Thursdays in Downers Grove

4:30pm Sculpt Fusion, Thursdays in Downers Grove

Get to know Kate a little more:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga regularly in 2011 as a way to increase my range of motion. At the time I was training for my first half marathon, and my tight hamstrings needed some extra love. In 2014 I found Yoga By Degrees and it’s been a yoga home ever since!

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I’ve always had a passion for connecting with people, and yoga is a beautiful way to do so. I worked in international education immediately following college and thought that my communication with students would be personally fulfilling, but after a few years I hardly recognized myself. There wasn’t enough yoga and running in the world to counteract the stress of my job. My eating and sleeping habits weren’t healthy, and I quickly found myself feeling on the verge of tears on a regular basis. I’d been thinking for some time about becoming a yoga teacher, but I’d always kept it in my heart as this “one day” desire. But a few weeks later my husband turned to me out of no where said, “You know what? I think you should be a yoga instructor!” Talk about an ‘ah-ha!’ moment. Less than a week later I put in my notice at work and signed up for the Yoga By Degrees 200h YTT program. And as they say, the rest is history!

What is your favorite pose?

That’s like asking me what kind of dessert is my favorite…all of them! But if I had to choose, Camel Pose would be the winner. Funnily enough, Camel Pose used to be my nemesis. Teachers would cue it in class and I’d think, “No! Anything but that!,” because Camel would cause all sorts of emotions to surface which I didn’t want to address. But after purposefully integrating it into my personal practice, I’ve come to welcome the sensations and I particularly love the opening of the heart. There’s something liberating about making yourself open and vulnerable. Now instead of leaving Camel with emotions flailing, I’ve found a way to feel lighter and ready to embrace the feelings it inspires.

Who inspires your teaching?

I don’t want to sound cliche, but I’m truly inspired by everyone who shows up on their mat. As a runner, I’ve always said that the hardest part of any run is just getting out of the door. And I feel the same is true with yoga. The most difficult part of practicing can simply be making the time and commitment to make it to your mat in the first place. It’s so easy when we’re pulled in a million different directions to put the needs of others first, but I’ve learned through personal experience that in order to love and support those around us that we first have to make our personal well being and health a priority. When I come to my mat, I leave a lighter and happier self. It’s my hope that I can guide students to a similar feeling of self love, acceptance and willingness to then spread that joy to others.

Tips for beginners…

Embrace the newness of it all. It can be scary to try something out of your comfort zone, but instead give yourself permission to have an open mind and heart. I’m a big encourager of laughter, both in and out of class – find joy through laughter and let the rest go!

What’s your favorite quote?

“Whether you think that you can, or think that you cannot, you are right.” – Henry Ford
Who doesn’t love a little self empowerment? This quote reminds me that many boundaries are self imposed, and that once I break them there’s no limit to where I can go.

Mindful Monday: Practicing Non-Attachment

Happy Monday, mindful community!

Last week we looked at non-judgment, and today we’ll look at non-attachment – and we’re all attached, right? We get comfortable, and we take a sometimes-intense liking to those comforts and fight tooth and nail to keep them. I love looking at this attachment vs. non-attachment dynamic because it’s a reminder of this collective global energy that we’re all in this mistake-making world of imperfection, and we’re all rocking it! So, even when you feel like everyone around you is holding a microscope up to you and questioning your motives or behaviors, just change your perspective. Maybe to your encouragers, support system, allies, and enemies, you say: Thank you for your questions! Why? Because questions keep us on our toes.

People who unconditionally love who I am and sweetly encourage my progress force me to be mindful of why I’m doing what I’m doing. And however unfortunately, people who wish to see me fail (why do we do this to each other?) teach me what grace means. How might I better respond with kindness to people who have proven time and time again that their existence does not help my existence thrive? Maybe, just maybe, every person I encounter doesn’t need to have a forever function in my life. So, when people ask me questions about my wake-up-and-shine attitude and seem kind of perplexed that I’m able to remain bubbly and optimistic despite a brief history of unfortunate life happenings, it gives me the opportunity to be the beacon of light and walking testimony of hope that I feel so called to be. And, as a lovely side effect, it gives me moments of clarity when it comes to people and their purpose in my life.

I have to say that most of my transformation and personal consciousness cleanse is mindfulness. Almost 100%. It’s being aware of when I’m truly tapped in and knowing myself enough to really be able to identify what’s happening when I’m in that place – and it’s not a 24/7 thing. We want it to be though, right?

We love the high we feel when we’re living purposefully and in tune with what’s going on within us. Wouldn’t it just be oh so nice if we could live in that place indefinitely? Someone cuts you off during rush hour and maybe you respond by inhaling deeply and exhaling with radiating love instead of with all of those non-yoga-but-very-human reactions like spewing profanities or a middle finger salute. Or maybe you have a specific plan for how a special evening will go, and instead of reacting from a place of disappointment when the time ends up looking colossally opposite of what you had envisioned, you take a moment to feel gratitude for an experience that really wasn’t that bad after all, albeit not exactly as you had wished.

You can put this into practice in your own life, too! That person you can’t forgive? Why? What might it mean about you that it’s so hard to respond out of love? Is there an opportunity here for personal growth? Are you ready? Of course, it’s okay if you’re not. Transitioning from the ego to the soul is hard stuff.

The thing is though, we’re all human. Well, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience, and so it’s impossible to live in and of this world and to be in a true meditative state all the time. What I’ve learned is that recognizing when you’re there is a huge part of healthy, mindful living. When am I centered? What does it feel like? How am I speaking? I’ve trained myself to become hyperaware of when I’m plugged in and how that enlightened state of being plays out in my everyday life and interactions. On the flip: If you’re not always in that state, if you slip up and fall down (as you sometimes will), where are you when you’re not there? How does it feel? What do your behaviors look like? What needs to change? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my common denominators are. Maybe yours are the same, or maybe they’re uniquely your own.

I’m a professional worrier. I mean, I’m pretty sure I’ve hit professional status. I’ve been practicing and perfecting my biz in the worry world from the time the universe almost ended when I had to choose between whether I wanted glasses or contacts to be my “look” all the way to that one time I gave serious thought into what I’d say to the woman who doesn’t exist that my husband (I’m not even married) would court and seduce in a scandalous love affair that I completely made up in my professional worrier mind.

But let’s just be real here and embrace the very raw truth that again: we’re all just human, and the mind is a wickedly powerful and mysterious tool, and we have nothing to be ashamed about when that atomic bomb of mind sometimes reacts from a place different and darker than that sanctuary of light and love and mindfulness that we know when we’re tapped in and that we strive for when we aren’t.

It took me many months and some really big life changes to come up with an identification system that’s authentic – some practical, honest, working ways to bring me from there to here, in the Now, where we operate more lovingly as the very best version of ourselves:

  1. Know Yourself – Set aside time every day to meditate, and focus on your inside energy and where your thoughts go.There’s no wrong way to meditate, and it looks different for everyone. Become aware of the voice within and the emotions that enter and exit without actually becoming those feelings and reacting out of them. This is the first step to knowing your soul intimately in a way that’ll allow you to make changes where they’re needed.
  1. Embrace the Binaries – If you’re able to recognize when you’re operating from a position of peace in the Now, become equally aware of when your behaviors are counterproductive.When do your fears cause you to dangerously hold on tighter, when does your need to control the things around you hinder your capacity to feel gratitude, and how can you bring yourself back?
  1. Transition from Awareness to Change – Practice non-attachment by allowing yourself to experience all of your feelings and emotions without permitting them to control you or your behaviors.Who cares if it doesn’t go your way? If you know yourself just well enough to know when you’re either plugged in or completely unbalanced, the awareness alone of your personal state of Universal harmony reveals what needs fixing. Be open to hearing these important self-truths. Make the change.

I’ve never liked the idea of non-attachment. Probably because I take things too personally and I’m notorious for getting my undies all in a bundle when my flaws are exposed. If there are two things about me that you should know and know well, it’s that I don’t like change, and that I’m borderline psychotic about needing to be in control. And, while I’m working on these things with great perseverance, sometimes bits of advice that are intended to be positive and encouraging, like Buddha’s “You only lose what you cling to,” hits an out-of-tune chord with me, and I become irritated. So, I’ll read something like that and then think to myself, “Oh, of course. This is totally referring to me. Because I’m just sooooooo attached to everything.”

Knowing myself and acknowledging the ego-soul binary has helped me to do many hard things, but amongst the most important: my newfound ability to decipher between the two. My ego rolls her eyes. My ego gets defensive. My pissed off ego will actually believe that the Buddha himself coined those seven words specifically to torment me…Carla. My soul asks questions: What is it about detachment that’s so upsetting to me? What’s the lesson to be learned here? How might I read this differently with a perspective that can bloom into something self-serving?

When I work with my flaws honestly and compassionately instead of defensively and with way too much sensitivity, I create room for my own expansion. The irony of it all: that’s exactly what non-attachment is. Letting go. Opening up. Keeping calm. Carrying on. Smile, sparkle, shine. Every time. No matter the outcome.

Bing, bang, boom! Shine on, lovelies!


October Pose of the Month

Wowie! We’re slowly but surely recovering from that epic full moon + eclipse hangover, and we’re ready to build some fire in our bodies to keep us cozy and warm all season. We’re kicking off the month with some juicy cat / cow stretches. And, if all of the fall décor and Halloween decorations have you inspired to befriend your own internal Mr. Skeleton, know that your spine adores this one!

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  • From a neutral tabletop position, stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees
  • On an inhale, drop your belly and draw the crown of your head up toward the ceiling
  • On an exhale, send your gaze to your navel and round your spine as you press energetically into your palms

Benefits of Cat-Cow Stretching:

  • Prevents back pain
  • Improves spinal flexibility and abdominal strength
  • Stretches the hips, abdomen, back, and shoulders
  • Increases coordination and improved balance
  • Massages organs in the belly like your kidneys and adrenal glands

Each of these postures are linked with breath, making this combination a sweet and simple vinyasa. You can put each of these postures in your body slowly, and then flow through the movements for about 5-6 rounds at your own pace. For an extra juicy stretch, add in some organic movements like maybe shifting back into a child’s pose while you’re in your cat before coming back to an arched back. You can move your spine from flexion (rounded spine) to extension (arched back) in numerous other postures, too! The variations are endless!

Implementing Yoga in Physical Education Training

Let’s take a look one of our ALL-NEW trainings coming up. If you’re a PE teacher, health teacher, current yoga instructor, social worker or school counselor, or a classroom teacher, get excited!

This program is designed to teach physical education teachers how to add a yoga program to their curriculum.  During this 20-hour workshop, you will learn how to confidently lead and teach a multi-level traditional yoga class modified to suit physical education curriculum, needs, environment, and standards.  Yoga classes offered in Physical Education can give students the tools they need to build confidence and self esteem, relieve stress and anxiety, and practice the 5 health-related fitness components throughout their lives.

The training includes:

  • How to teach and give modifications of basic postures
  • Partner and group poses
  • Breathing exercises
  • Lesson planning tools
  • Understanding the benefits of yoga
  • Learning different styles of yoga
  • Alignment strategies
  • Examples of yoga as a course/unit curriculum in a high school physical education program


Yoga By Degrees
1042 S. York St.
Elmhurst, IL 60126


2 Day Option:

Saturday, October 17 & 24, 8:00am-6:00pm


3 Day Option:

Thursday, October 22 4:00-9:00pm
Friday, October 23, 4:00-9:00pm
Saturday, October 24, 8:00am-6:00pm

Details to Know:

Space is limited! Payment can be in the forms of cash, check (payable to Jennifer Thiede), credit card at Yoga By Degrees or over the phone at 630-782-9642. Once payment is received, your spot will be held and you will receive confirmation.

Did you know… Many of our attendees have been able to get financial support from their districts!

Upon completion of the 20 hour workshop, you will receive a certificate of participation.  CPDUs may be available through your employer or credentialing organization.  As each credentialing organization has their own requirements, you should confirm with them that your training hours will apply toward your degree or continuing education requirements.  Application for accreditation from these organizations is your responsibility.

Contact Information:

Jenny Thiede

Mindful Monday: A Lesson in Non-Judgement for Us Eyebrow Raisers and Finger Pointers

Good afternoon, oh beautiful ones! It’s Monday again, and another fresh start. Isn’t it so freeing knowing that we can wake up every day and decide to release whoever we are and whatever we’ve done to step into who we’re capable of becoming? And if we fall short of that, we can choose to start over again, and again, and again. Part of this feels really liberating, and the other part that can turn into a slippery slope if we’re not careful makes it easy to justify our repeated behaviors by saying: I can do this thing that’s not in line with my values today, and then just become the person I should be tomorrow. Tricky, right? How can we be gentle and compassionate to ourselves without making excuses for the not-always-honorable things that we really should be making a more conscious effort to stop doing?

Good question. I’ll shed some light on this by sharing a personal experience:

Just the other day, I had an encounter with a friend that I’m not extremely proud of. I might not have even noticed that my behavior wasn’t cool, except that this friend called me out right away – leaving me feeling 50 shades of yucky. My encounter went a little something like this: I was perusing my SnapChat stories and came across some videos of my friend enjoying himself on no particular Saturday evening – drinking, smoking, girls, clubs, et cetera. In other words, he was just having fun and enjoying the weekend. The consciously compassionate person would pause before interjecting and ask: Is it kind? Is it honest? Is it necessary? But no, not this girl. Since I’m perfect and have never gone out making less-than-honorable Saturday night decisions (Riiiiiight), I felt compelled to contact him and say: Whoa dude, party much? No wonder so-and-so went “crazy” on you. With that behavior, I would too.

Then, I set my phone down. Devilishly satisfied.

The next morning I got a message from him calling me out on my unfair judgments: Who am I to point fingers? What did he do to wrong me? How did his Saturday night have anything to do with me at all?

And well, the truth is that it didn’t. It had nothing to do with me. Like so many of us are conditioned to do, my own expectations of this person weren’t met, and my personal invested interest left me disappointed, to say the least. When we attach expectations to people, judgments flow easily:

“Have you seen her social media? She’s begging for attention.”

“He keeps saying he wants to make a career change, but anytime I freely offer the help and support it’s going to take to get there, it goes in one ear and out the other. What’s wrong with this person?”

“Her energy level is way up there, and it needs to be way down here.”

“Really? You’re my waitress and you’re going to give me attitude? Isn’t is your job to put a smile on your face and serve me?”

“Do you need a rules of the road handbook? How do you even have a driver’s license?”

And so on. The list can go on forever. So how might we be stronger forces of love for one another on a daily basis? How can we let go of expectations, create a greater capacity for empathy, and start living in a way that establishes a safe space for people to be exactly who they are?

  1. Condition yourself to find slivers of space between action and reaction

Often, we can put a stop to our judgmental behaviors by adding a simple mindful pause between the stimulus of that thought that creeps in, and the response of however we choose to react: eyerolls, gossiping with others, a direct comment. What if the next time our stream of consciousness is one unfair opinion of someone after another, we just stop, label it as “judgment” and then drop it entirely before reacting? Maybe instead, we think of the various scenarios that Person A or Person B might be dealing with that we have no idea about. Doesn’t everyone have a bad day? If we want to be entitled to our own bad days, shouldn’t we give others that same grace? Maybe we admit that we were just road-raging hard last week, and so today this particular driver gets a free pass while we get a lesson in patience.

  1. Apologize

If you get to the point where you can be a mindful witness of your silent judgments before projecting, then you’re ready to admit fault. It’s hard to release our expectations of people, and everyone’s guilty. It doesn’t feel good to be judged, and on the flip, it doesn’t feel good to be the person who is then labeled as elitist and judgmental. Neither party feels good. Label the judgment, extend sincerest apologies for casting stones without warrant, and sweetly let the recipient know that you’re working on being more mindful of reacting from a place of compassion and kindness. I guarantee you’ll be heard, and it might even open the door for a conversation about holding each other accountable, where constructive criticism is welcomed.

  1. Set a new intention to become more introspective

Introspection brings us into the realm of another favorite 8-limb, svadhyaya. Sit down, and write down your core values. What do you stand for? How do you want to be perceived? Are your thoughts, speech, and actions in harmony? What are you doing to propel yourself even closer to living your very best life? It’s unlikely that your judgments will dissipate entirely, but if you can train yourself to become aware of when you’re maybe being unfair, you’re heading toward a shift in consciousness where authenticity is on point and interactions are received with lightness and the ability to LOVE people without stopping to inquire whether or not they’re worthy.

If you’re anything like me and you’re wearing a bright scarlet letter that screams: HER! RIGHT THERE! JUDGEMENTAL! Just be gentle with yourself and place the greater importance on your desire to improve. It’s okay to feel sorry, awful, or embarrassed of your behaviors when they aren’t kind. But, if your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete. Be your own teacher. You are not that judgmental thought you had last week. You are not the two mistakes you made yesterday. You are not the ugly words that came out of your mouth when you reacted emotionally and without thinking. Carry on, warriors, and remember: a little less judgey, a little more lovey!

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Mindful Monday: Reinvent Yourself with Our 21-Day Detox

Mindful living is conscious living. It’s making a choice to be introspective and to reevaluate if the decisions you’re making on a daily basis are propelling you into your best and most actualized self, or conversely, if your habits are crippling you in a place of stagnant complacency. Maybe you’re aware that the life you WANT to be living and the life that you actually ARE living aren’t in harmony, but you’re not motivated to make a lasting change. Knowing what’s right for your state of wellness and actually doing what’s right for your state of wellness are not that same.

Our 21-day detox provides the opportunity to reboot your body and mind, to feel calm and focused, and to find a cleaner, lighter, and happier you – all with the accountability you’ve been craving to make your intentions of healthy living a reality.


All positive changes either come from starting something, or stopping something. Committing to a detox is a commitment to purging all negative toxins from the physical space that is your body – releasing and renewing so that you’re able to restart. It’s like hitting your own personal reset button so that your liver, kidney, and colon can start optimally functioning again. And, because everything that’s happening inside of your body is interconnected, internal organs that are healthy and working properly allow you to absorb more of the good nutrients your body needs, which yields a healthy immune system. Happy immune system = happy you!

Give yourself a fresh start! Together we will gently clean our bodies and minds from the inside out using whole, complete, and delicious foods paired with simple lifestyle suggestions.

We’ll meet on four Sundays in October from 3:00-4:30 to develop a personalized health plan that’ll help you experience the mental clarity you need to reinvent yourself from within.

When? October 4, 11, 18, and 25 from 3:00-4:30

Cost? Non-members $125 and Members $100

Questions? Email instructor Nadja Lalvani at nadjal@me.com

Sign up at the studio, over the phone, or at http://www.yogabydegrees.net!

Mindful Monday: Our New Community Space


Good morning, beautiful people! We’re so happy to announce that we’re restructuring our blog a bit so that it’s a community space where you can come to meet our teachers and staff, learn new postures, and nourish your mind, body, and soul with meditations, healthy recipes, short sequences, and personal stories that’ll inspire you to start living your best life.

Everyone comes to yoga for a different reason, and so while we’re collectively gathering to flow-‘til-we-glow, we all bring something to our mats that is uniquely our own. Whether you’re a veteran practitioner or a student entirely new to yoga, a more disciplined practice and a commitment to merely showing up often yields a personal transformation that encourages us all to “live our yoga” both on and off the mat.

So, what does living your yoga look like? Well, that all depends.

Maybe today you live your yoga by waking up one hour early to make a smoothie before work instead of hitting snooze four times before ultimately waking up on the wrong side of the bed anyway.

Maybe you pay a stranger a compliment, or you de-clutter the space in your home where you spend the most time.

Maybe instead of responding with your favorite swear word to the hurried human who cuts you off during rush hour, you take a deep breath, exhale to the count of five, and let it go.

Maybe you’ve been carrying around a lot of resentment and you have someone to forgive. Maybe that person is yourself.

Living your yoga isn’t a place. It’s not a mark to check off on a long list of “Ways I Should Act” or about your level of calm during any given day. Think about living your yoga as more of a process of unlearning than learning. We’re all human. We all have deeply embedded behaviors and personality traits that can either cripple us with labels of untruths or propel us into inspiring models of compassion with a great capacity for love. And you know what? It’s never consistent. One day we’re centered and compassionate and vessels of grace, and the next we’re dropping F-bombs and acting 10 years younger than we really are. We are both the thunderstorm and the sunshine. Living your yoga is less about shedding layers that don’t serve you and more about becoming a silent witness to all of the many strengths and weaknesses that make us so unique. It’s about finding balance.

Maybe you have a tendency to anger easily, and because aggression and anger aren’t positive emotions, you’re made to feel less-than in your mishaps or ugly moments of being a little too reactive. Yoga is the perfect safe space to be curious about your multitudes. So, if you’re the person who easily angers, you’re not going to set out on this journey to become a person who never gets mad, right? No way! Not only does that seem like an impossible feat, but it’s just ludicrous, right? Put your hand on your heart. Feel that? That’s your capacity to feel anger. Your humanness. The thing that connects you, to me, to the rest of the world.

So, you know all that junk? All your downfalls? All your negative behaviors? Your sensitivity? Your rollercoaster of emotions? All the times when you just can’t get it right?

Yoga draws a circle around all of that and says: “There’s room for that here.”

Yoga meets you where you’re at and trains you to add tiny slivers of space between stimulus and response, or action and reaction. So, if you’re the person with a terrible temper, maybe you watch the anger as it bubbles up. Feel your skin get warm. Acknowledge your rapid heart rate. Allow your fists to clench. It’s counterproductive to not allow yourself to feel emotions as they pop up. You’re in a state of meditation when you see anger, name it, and then release it. You’re watching it instead of acting on it. Say to yourself: “Oh, anger. There you are. Hi, anger. I see you.” Let it come, feel it fully, and then choose to move on.

Smile, breathe, and go slowly!

September Pose of the Month

Happy September, glowing yogis!

As we’re transitioning into a new month and preparing for a change in season, remember that nothing in this sweet life is permanent. Night turns to day and summer morphs into spring without pausing to consider if anyone is ready. Change doesn’t wait for an invitation. Even in our own personal journeys, a path appearing to have taken unexpected twists and turns could really just be a beautiful change in perspective, spiraling you into something that’s even more serving to your personal growth.

Remember that you are exactly who and what and where you need to be, and you are lovely.

Life is full of surprises and serendipity. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns that propel us toward the spaces or destinations we need to inhabit most.

This month, we’re embracing the unexpected twists and turns with Parivrtta Trikonasana, or Twisted Triangle Pose:

revolved triangle

  • From Tadasana, step your right foot 3-4 feet in front of your left, squaring your hips to the front of your mat.
  • Maintaining a flat spine, hinge forward out of your hips to enter Pyramid Pose, or Parsovottanasana.
  • Plant your left palm onto the floor or a block at the inside of your right foot, and then twist from your low belly to the right.
  • Open your chest by drawing your shoulderblades in and down your back, and send your right arm up overhead
  • Allow your gaze to meet your lifted fingertips

Benefits of Parivrtta Trikonasana, or Twisted Triangle Pose:

  • Strengthens and stretches both legs
  • The twist stimulates and rinses the abdominal organs, aiding in healthy digestion
  • Stretches the hips and spine
  • Great twist for mild low back pain

For an added challenge in this posture, bring your left hand to the outside of your right foot. Inhale to lengthen, and exhale to deepen the twist.


Meet Alex, YBD Teacher of the Month

This September, we tip our hats to Alex, our Teacher of the Month! Alex’s fierce energy and motivation that she gives off will blow you away. Alex is a mother who has been teaching for 7 years and was a scientist before that (Who knew? You’ll have to ask her about that one!). We are so grateful to have her as a mentor and leader in our community pushing our sculpt students and teacher trainees out of the comfort zone and into new thresholds of growth and change. Thanks, Alex for all the passion you give in your teaching and presence around Yoga by Degrees!
Here is Alex’s current permanent teaching schedule:
12pm Sculpt on Mondays in Western Springs
9:30am Sculpt on Tuesdays in Elmhurst
9:30am Sculpt on Thursdays in Western Springs
4:30pm Sculpt on Thursdays in Western Springs
6pm Sculpt on Thursdays in Western Springs
9am Sculpt on Fridays in Downers Grove
9am Sculpt on Saturdays in Elmhurst
Get to know our girl a little more below:
When and how did you come to yoga?
I started yoga 7 years ago after the birth of my last son.  Like many avid runners, I used yoga to cross train.  I realized pretty quickly that I loved one thing more than running:  YOGA!
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I started teaching at the urging of my yogi friends who felt I had the form and the heart to teach others.
What is your favorite yoga pose?
My favorite pose is a handstand because it took overcoming lots of fears and a lot of time for me to get there!
Who inspires your teaching?
My children and husband inspire my teaching hands down.  It’s important to be happy at what you do and to feel good about yourself.  That positive karma affects everyone in your life!  Plus I think it’s great for my boys to see their mom work outside of the home doing something she loves.
Tips for beginners?
If you’re just starting out at any of our studios, stop and talk to people…anyone!  Yoga is all about the community and friends you make.  Hop into a class confidently and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Remember :  “The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
What’s your favorite quote?
I am the MUSIC sculptor!!!
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Bob Marley