Month: September 2014

Change Your Mind – Start Your Practice

Your friends all gather to go together, you see people in great shape toting mats wherever you turn and even your own doctor has suggested it to help you with your stress levels.

So, finally you commit. You set out to buy your first real pair of yoga pants and go online to find a class that’s right for you but discover there are literally hundreds to chose from in just your area alone! With the popularity of yoga skyrocketing, choosing the right level and style of yoga, as well studio and teacher can be daunting.

It’s easy for a new practitioner to become discouraged after stumbling in to a class that was too challenging or easy.

The good news is: You don’t have to go far to start your yoga practice. In fact, you don’t need to go anywhere! The one thing that will guarantee your success is your mindset. Therefore, you may need to change it as the first step to finding the right class for you.

Even classes labeled “Beginner” could be too challenging for some people, in turn, an “Advanced” class could be too easy. Therefore, both beginner and advanced practitioners alike must always be willing to accept “where they are” in their practice.

Everyday is different, and change is inevitable, both in our lives and on our mats. Therefore, to stay engaged, we must be willing to accept modifications if things get too difficult and keep challenging our selves with harder variations if it’s too easy.

So now that you’re ready to accept where you are, now what? After you have the “right” mind-set you need to find teachers who look after their students to see what they need, i.e., if they are struggling or they seem bored and offer both easier and harder modifications as they teach each pose.

Most teachers do offers modifications and variations but there are some that don’t or only offer a few due to lack of experience or perhaps, preference. So how can you know if your teacher is in the majority? Ask. When you come to your first class with a new teacher. You can ask them if they offer beginner and advanced modifications and variations. This will also serve as a good reminder for them to do so. (If they say yes, chances are you are in good hands.)

As long as you’re willing to take modifications and variations, not only will your practice flourish, you will begin to learn them yourself and not have worry if a teacher offers them. You will confidently be able to take any class, join your group of friends, stroll along with your mat and tell you’re doctor you’re on the right path to reaping all the benefits of yoga, including knowing you are perfect where you are!

Meet Jenny, Teacher of the Month

Jenny playing her gong, harmonium, and crystal bowls.

Jenny playing her gong, harmonium, and crystal bowls.

This month we feature, Jenny Bergold, as Yoga by Degrees Teacher of the Month. YBD has been lucky enough to have Jenny since the company first came to Wheaton in 2011.  We are grateful that Jenny has shared her extensive knowledge of how yoga affects the mind and body and of course, her talents with her music.  Jenny’s classes and workshops are graced with beautiful vibrations from her gong, crystal bowls, and harmonium. Students have developed such deep connections with Jenny that they have her officiating their weddings! Thank you for all you do and for continuing to share your inspiring teachings and grounded energy.

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga sixteen years ago after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. My doctor recommended it. My first class was in a church in Batavia. It was truly inspirational and heart opening. I had found my passion, my home. I would not be living today if it wasn’t for yoga and the many teachers who believed in me. They truly helped me heal. I am forever grateful.  


Why did you start teaching yoga?

I had my son, Michael, six-and-a-half years ago. I looked at him at three months and decided not to go back to my television production job, so I went to Hatha Yoga school instead:-). I was also a high school teacher in the past, so I feel comfortable working with students. As I said, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my many teachers, so I wanted to give back, especially to people with mental illness. Teaching Hatha & Kundalini Yoga is my path, my purpose in life. I want to uplift people through my teaching and my words. And I want them the know that they are never alone, especially with the amazing Yoga by Degrees community! 


What is your favorite pose?

Savasana! What could be better than resting and relaxing with blankets and a gong!;-)


Who inspires your teaching?

Wow! Where do I start?! My “stand by me through everything” family, my amazing and supportive friends, my Grandma Frieda and my niece Frieda, my son who brings joy and laughter to everyone, my life’s trials and tribulations, other teachers in this inspiring yoga community (especially Lara Devine & Nadja Lalvani), Yogi Bhajan, all the beautiful souls at Spirit Rising Yoga, but most importantly, my students. They show up on their mat even when they feel like staying in bed. They are a miracle and a blessing and inspire me to be a better teacher!    


Tips for beginners…

Have fun, bring an open mind, and keep up!


What’s your favorite quote? 

Let my mind find confidence

Let my soul find peace

Let me fulfill my life’s purpose

Let me live my life with the attitude of gratitude

I love myself

I bless myself

I heal myself

I am myself

~Yogi Bhajan

The secret to a “perfect” yoga practice: follow the “limbs”

With so many different types of yoga, studios and teachers to pick from these days, discovering a class that involves much more than the physical side of yoga and which is neither too hard nor too easy can sometimes seem elusive.

Yet teachers at some studios like Yoga by Degrees still know the importance and effectiveness of a traditional and balanced yoga class experience.

So what constitutes this experience? Just as every reliable structure must be constructed with time-tested rules and regulations, every yoga class should be built in accordance with the first book of yoga teachings called the Yoga Sutras. Its a compilation of one hundred and ninety six aphorisms based on the ancient Vedic texts.

The Indian sage Sri Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras approximately two thousand years ago. Sutra 2.9 lists the “Eight Limbs of Yoga”.

The Yoga Sutras, by nature, imply that as many of the eight limbs of yoga as possible need to be practiced in order to gain all of the benefits that yoga has to offer.

In a yoga class, using the eight limbs can serve as a powerful tool in encouraging students to challenge themselves but also accept where they are. The eight limbs are as follows:

  1. Yama :  Morality
  2. Niyama :  Personal observances
  3. Asanas :  Physical postures
  4. Pranayama :  Breath control, i.e. breath exercises
  5. Pratyahara :  Sensory control
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and inner awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Meditation on a higher power
  8. Samadhi :  Union with a higher power

It is possible for well-educated and skilled teachers to “weave” all of the above limbs of yoga in to a class. (Except perhaps the last one, then you no longer need yoga!) For example, a teacher could instruct students to turn their awareness inward, noticing what they are “feeling” and by encouraging them to practice with truthfulness (Yama number two) and contentment (Niyama number two).

While it is the yoga teacher’s responsibility to make sure he or she instructs a well-rounded class, as a yoga practitioner, once learned, you can be mindful and creatively weave the eight limbs of yoga in to your practice yourself both on and off the mat!