Month: June 2014

Meet our Teacher of the Month: Bonnie


Bonnie has been an amazing asset to the Yoga by Degrees company since her arrival.  In 2010, she completed her 200-hour teacher training in Vinyasa at Yoga to the People in New York. She teaches at all locations and is constantly bending over backwards to sub whenever she can. Her classes aim to be challenging, but accessible, with a strong emphasis on breath and alignment. She attempts to create a safe space for students to tap into their deepest, truest selves. An avid music fan, Bonnie’s playlists provide an ambiance which promote a challenging flow and rhythmic cadence. In addition to teaching and practicing yoga, she is in medical school training to be a physician.  She is so busy with med school and boards, yet she makes time in our studios an important priority. Thank you so much for going above and beyond being an awesome yoga instructor and integral part of our YBD family!!! Learn more about Bonnie:

When and how did you come to yoga?

When I was a freshman in college, I signed up for a class at the rec center. It was sort of a hatha/Iyengar blend, and I actually found it sort of boring. . . My background was in dance and gym-based fitness, so the slow pace didn’t suit me at the time. It wasn’t until my boyfriend in college brought me with him to his Bikram studio that I fell in love with yoga. I practiced Bikram avidly for about four years before I found vinyasa. Bikram is still my yoga home, but I almost practice vinyasa these days.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I studied biology in college, and every time I had a rough test, I’d convince myself that if I failed out of school, I’d just become a yoga teacher. Now, a decade later and in medical school, I still fantasize about leaving it all behind, moving back to northern California (where I’m from), living by the beach, and being a yoga teacher. I actually applied to a teacher training on a whim in the summer of 2010, and it ended up being one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Now I see my teaching as a parallel to my medical career. . . both are about helping people be their best, healthiest selves. What an amazing thing to be a part of.

What is your favorite pose?

Ustrasana/camel pose. I think it comes from my background in Bikram. I spent the first several years of my practice dreading it (and feeling nauseated and lightheaded every time I did it). A point came soon after my teacher training when I started to enjoy the fact that, even if it was unpleasant, it made me feel intensely. Now when I teach it, I like to have my students come out of the pose and sit on their heels with their hands at their hearts. I like to talk about how valuable it is to maintain a broad, open chest, even after that deep, intense backbend. . . What a beautiful metaphor for staying open and refusing to close oneself off, even after having been vulnerable. One of the many gifts our yoga practice gives us.

Who inspires your teaching?

That’s such a hard question to answer, since I learn so much from everyone at YBD. It’s a rare class where I’m not overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing teachers I get to practice with. I will say, however, that I sometimes feel like I ended up at YBD so that I could absorb some of Lara’s goodness. She’s as close to a spiritual teacher or guide that I’ve ever had.

Tips for beginners…

Be willing to laugh… At yourself if you fall out of something or at us for the ridiculous contortions we ask you to do.

What’s your favorite quote?

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go

-Mary Oliver

Matsyasana: Fish Pose



Fish Pose

“Destroyer of all diseases”



Stretches your hip flexors (psoas) and your muscles (intercostals) between the ribs while stimulating your belly and front and back of your neck. Also helps to improve your posture.



Start lying down on your mat with legs together and arms to your sides.

Roll your forearms and palms underneath your sits bones while pressing up to your elbows.

Press your heart up while dropping the crown of your head back and pointing the toes forward.



If you feel any pinching or pulling at the back of your neck, grab a blanket and place at the base of the neck for extra support.

Use a block or bolster to help support your sternum up and back.


Yoga for Stress Relief


Do you use stress management techniques?  Or does stress manage you?  Yoga can help you manage your reactions to stress and help you control your health and well-being.  Whether you feel pressure from work, family, relationships, busy schedules, you may experience a good deal of stress or anxiety.  Most likely the things that put pressure on you are important to your life so dealing with the stress is a better alternative to deleting one of those valued assets.  Your stress reaction may be energizing—you feel your heart beat quicken and your face flush.  On the other hand, your stress reaction may be exhausting—you feel drained and shut down.  Stress is always a constant guarantee in life so the trick is to manage your reaction to it.  You have the power to dictate exactly how you feel in any situation.

You can navigate through stress by finding the balance between the fiery reaction and the exhausting one.  Let the voice in your head that pushes you be as strong as the voice that nurtures you.  Respond to anxiety with a blend of inner fire and inner calm.  Yoga can be a training ground for lengthening the time between your emotional reaction and a stressor.  You can train with a fiery practice of putting challenging asana into your body but having enough discipline to feel calm and still from within.  When the demanding physical practice is met with mindfulness, breath control, and calm you are able to find that balance.

Studies suggest that yoga conditions our nervous system to bring us into that state of balance. For some we need more fire and others need more calm.  The first step is discovering your reflex to stress through self-study.  There’s no need to activate your fight or flight response to handle most of the day to day challenges.  The fight or flight response kicks your autonomic nervous system into high gear. Your body will pump hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine which will increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and heighten your senses.  This would be great if you were being chased by a lion so you are primed with energy and focus.  However, when you are experiencing it in the form of road rage, the fight or flight response brings on anger, anxiety, and aggression.  On the other hand, you may be able to relax but only if you disengage from your stress.  The trick is to find enough fire to meet the challenge rather than letting it overwhelm you.  Sometimes you have to acknowledge the stress rather than remove yourself from it.

Yoga isn’t about burning your way through stress or escaping from it.  It goes deeper so your mind and body transform the way you approach and react to stress.  This process takes practice and patience.  Retrain your thought patterns and teach your nervous system new ways of coping and navigating through challenging poses both on and off the mat.