Month: October 2015

Mindful Monday: If It Scares You, Do It!

Happy cold + crisp Monday! Fall mornings are our favorite, and this week is particularly thrilling because this weekend is Halloween! Weeeeeeee-hooo! Trick-or-treat, short-and-sweet. Throughout this week of all things scary, think about the things that bring up some fears for you. Fears make us vulnerable, and being vulnerable creates space for growth.

Maybe there’s something you’re afraid to say, or someone you’re afraid to love, or somewhere you’re afraid to go. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt because it matters. Whether it’s a silly superstition or something you avoid doing because you’ve had bad luck in the past, write down your fears, name them, and push on. Push hard. Even if it’s just this week because you’re in the Halloween spirit, DO the things that scare you. Or maybe just do one thing. What’s it going to be for you?


Mindful Monday: A New Morning Routine

Good morning, and happiest Monday!

I once read a quote that said something like: One small positive thought in the morning can change the dynamic of your entire day. I thought immediately about how happy pancakes make me, and then after continuing on with my morning routine of scrolling through my phone for 20 minutes to catch up on everything social media, I stumbled out of bed without making it and headed straight for the kitchen, only to burn my pancakes on one side before spilling syrup all over the counter. B-b-b-b-ut I thought positive thoughts right when I woke up, so why didn’t my breakfast look like a delightful Pinteresting concoction that’d fuel me with buttery cheer all day long? Great concept, wrong intention.

Cultivating a healthy morning routine requires discipline, but it’s quite possibly the best thing you can do for you (and the people with whom you’ll interact throughout the day). Here are 5 easy habits you can adopt every morning to revolutionize your entire day:

  1. Avoid your phone for 30 minutes. As if being a human in 2015 wasn’t overstimulating enough, add in all of our favorite social media platforms to the mix, and our mind goes on autopilot through a world that’s not our own. It’s distracting, and it can also be an unconscious trigger for any disappointments that might surface throughout the day. Comparison is the thief of joy, and so if we could dedicate even 30 minutes to focus on ourselves and our day’s purpose before cluttering our mental space with mindless scrolling, our drive and motivation to wake up inspired could increase exponentially.
  2. Drink water (add a lemon!) Water is water, and if you can gulp down at least a glass before heading straight to the coffee machine, you’re doing your body a great service. If you’re feeling really ambitious, add a lemon. Squeezing a lemon in your water has many benefits, but among my favorites: promoting healthy digestion and rejuvenating your skin. That lovely morning glow you’re wearing on your face? All lemons!
  3. Start a gratitude journal. Waking up a naming the things you’re grateful for is a powerful tool. In addition to helping you learn more about yourself and the things and people in your life you value most, keeping a gratitude journal is a great attitude check, helping us shift perspectives and remain positive even in the storms. Keeping a list of what fills us up and brings us joy often creates MORE of that joy.
  4. Redefine what it means to read the paper. It might be a thing of the past to have the morning paper delivered to your doorstep, but the act of staying on top of current events or to read something inspiring is great soul food. Try getting something short and sweet delivered to your inbox every morning like The Skimm, or keep your favorite self-improvement book next to your bed and make a habit of reading 1-2 pages each morning.
  5. Salute the sun. Putting mindful movements into your body first thing in the morning is so important. And when linking breath to movement, simple sun salutations become a moving meditation. You’ll stimulate your digestive track, stretch out from fingers to toes, and get your mind in the right space to conquer our daily to-do lists with extra energy and oomph!


Start today, start tomorrow, or start right now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling, but start. Start tired. Start reluctant. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just start! Cultivate a new morning routine, and watch the sunshine fill you up from the inside out.

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!