Month: February 2016

Mindful Monday: A Calming Evening Routine

Back to the Monday grind! Yahoooooooooooo! I’ve heard that a Sunday well spent brings a week of content more than a handful of times, and my current energy levels couldn’t prove it more true after particularly lovely Sunday. It’s easy when the weather’s absolutely perfect and spring fever starts kicking in to have productive days that lead to productive evenings, but lately I’ve been doing that crawl-into-a-corner-in-shame kind of reflection over the evening routine I’ve fallen into that goes kind of like this: Get home, binge watch Netflix while eating dinner, sleep. Literally nothing in between. Maybe you’re thinking…so uhhhh, what’s wrong with that? And with so many entertaining shows to choose from this month, I can hardly blame us. But try this new mindful evening routine on for  fit, and maybe you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was:

  • Make your space fresh: Light a candle, burn some incense, or diffuse essential oils. In the earlier evening hours, stick with something energizing to motivate, and before bed, calm down your senses with a soothing lavender or grounding blend.
  • Cook a meal from scratch: Ask friends for a favorite recipe as a bonus!
  • Take up a hobby that allows you to disengage from social media and TV: Knitting, crafting, brewing your own batch of kombucha, a new DIY piece of furniture?
  • Read for at least 20 minutes.
  • Record the day’s blessings, or start a gratitude journal.


Mindful Monday: Nature Heals

Happy Monday, mindful ones!

Holy moly! Did anyone get outside this weekend to enjoy the beautiful warmth and sunshiny skies? Weather is always that go-to topic that people can connect on (mostly because we can usually collectively complain about it). I’ve tried to be more conscious to not dump on the weather, because I feel we’ve had a pretty mild winter for Chicago, and truth be told that I don’t really hate the snow anyway.

What’s really special about weather though is that no matter what it’s like—rainy, snowy, hazy, sunny—you can always connect. Slip your bare toes into the soil. Feel the sun beat down on your face. Taste the snowflakes as they float down into your mouth. Let the rain cleanse whatever impurities are weighing heavy and keeping you emotionally stagnant.

We might not be getting 60 degrees back again for some time, but no matter what kind of weather we’re graced with this week, let it heal. Go outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Take a walk. Watch the sunset. Be still amidst the grandeur.


Mindful Monday: Connection as a Basic Need

Good morning, and Happy Presidents’ Day (or day off…)

Have you ever thought about what it is that makes you operate? Maybe it’s just the basic things that come to mind, like a job that keeps you motivated and helps pay the bills, or your house that gives you shelter and physically keeps you safe. But what happens when you dig a little bit deeper and venture beyond the tangible?

Researchers are becoming more and more fascinated by the idea that it’s not our physical features and bodies that make us human; yes, we’re human because of the many characteristics that define us, but we’re uniquely our own because of our ability to hear and be heard, to touch and be touched, to give and receive without judgement, to empathize, to heal, to connect. At the root of it all, we’re actually hard-wired for connection. Think about the first time you stepped into a yoga class. Your teacher offers that (s)he will be walking around to give some light hands on assists and adjustments, and maybe immediately you became vulnerable and a little uncomfortable: Whhhhat? This person I’ve never met before wants to put their hands on me and adjust my practice that I’m already self-conscious about? Gulp.

And yet, if we’re honest, what keeps us coming back?

Connection is everything.

image1 (3).JPG

Mindful Monday: Unconditional Kindness

Happy Monday!


Let’s get mindful this week. This is a message that’s been following me all week long, and a great reminder for us all: kindness without conditions. Often, we keep our compassion and kindness close. We dangle it on a string we’re holding tight in front of faces like: “Yeah, this is the good stuff. And you can have it…so long as you’re nice to me first.” So then, when someone is unkind to us, we operate on this points system. I didn’t deserve that, minus two for you. That’s how you’re going to treat me? Minus five. And so on.
When we do this, kindness becomes conditional. We hand out kindness for the deserving (and we’re the judge) and hold it hostage when we’re wronged. And maybe we even take it a step further and when someone treats us poorly, our Ego wants to retaliate. Revenge. Payback. Stick it to ’em.
This week, consider unconditional kindness. The more you give of it to the LEAST deserving on your list, the more your life will begin to change. Go within, and find the light that already exists. It’s for everyone, right? It should be. Be kind.  To the people who did you wrong, the people with hard hearts, the hypocrites, the naysayers, the ones waiting on the edges of their seats for you to fail at something / anything. To the people who challenge you, who can’t seem to ever wish you well, the ones who can offer you absolutely nothing in return. Without pausing to consider whether or not the recipient is worthy, always be kind.

YBD Teacher Making Headlines!

Senior Teacher, Lara Devine has been a dedicated Yoga by Degrees teacher for years.   In addition to her intelligently taught and sought after classes, through compassion, warmth and thoughtfulness, she touches the lives of her students on a regular basis.  It’s for these reasons and more, that Lara has become a cherished YBD teacher, and why now, she’s making headlines!  Check out this beautiful article for yourself!  (Article and permission to post courtesy of Suburban Life Magazine)  




Meet Nikki, Teacher of the Month

We love Nikki! What an inspiring soul and skilled yoga instructor and fab Feb Teacher of the Month. Thank you for sharing your gifts, your authenticity and your spiritual energy with our community. Check out her class schedule to heal, purify, let go and leave feeling strong and serene:

4:30pm YBD Hot, Wednesdays in Downers Grove

5:45pm YBD2, Wednesdays (or temporarily Fridays) in Downers Grove

8:30am YBD Hot, Saturdays in Downers Grove

10:15am YBD1, Saturdays in Downers Grove

11:30am FREE Intro to Yoga, every other Saturday in Downers Grove


Inspiring words from Nikki, get to know her better below:

When did you first come to yoga?

I came to yoga about four years ago, and originally started with Bikram yoga. There are many reasons that I decided to walk into a yoga studio. For starters, I was recovering from an ACL surgery when I played rugby at Illinois State. I no longer could run, yet alone walk most of the time. I experienced constant pain, inflammation, and because of my lack of mobility my depression and anxiety increased. On the flip side of the coin, I already had issues upstairs. I deal with PTSD on a daily basis, and have been finding stability and healing through my yoga practice, but especially my teaching. Before I practiced asanas, meditation, or breathing techniques I would suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis and could no longer leave my home. It was awful! The first time I found peace, was on my mat, and I realized that there was a better, bigger life out there waiting for me. All I needed to do was be brave enough to take the first step. I found my first vinyasa class to be challenging and it tested my vulnerabilities as well as my ego. But, I kept going back; some attribute this to the ‘yogi high’ we feel post savasana. 😉

Today, I am able to finally look myself in the mirror and LOVE who I have become. The community of teachers and students inspire me to live my yoga every moment. I no longer suffer from panic attacks on the regular, but once in a blue moon. Life is far from perfect, however I am loving all the imperfections, and how they carve my journey.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I am excited to announce that I am going into my third year teaching! This is more special to me than my actual relationship anniversary (luckily my fiance understands); because, in a way, I married myself. For once, I put my mind and body first. My experience teaching yoga has enabled me to make profound connections with other people, gave me a platform to share my struggles and experiences, and allowed me to help others heal as I heal myself.

What is your favorite pose?

Honestly, I am not being cliche, but it is savasana. It is always my opportunity to unplug, reconnect with myself, practice staying present, and allowing myself to transcend beyond all of life’s stressors into a deep state of rest. It is very closely connected to transcendental meditation, which is my preference. This posture creates such an in-depth relaxation that our brain waves actually change to mimic that of REM sleep. In addition, this is where we receive all the benefits from our previous postures. As a side note, if you stay with the natural rhythm of your breath while in savasana for at least 5 minutes you reduce the cortisol levels in your body, which decreases inflammation and stress (produced by your adrenal glands). If you are someone who struggles with trauma, present or past, savasana is your best friend, because it settles down the ‘fight or flight’ response messages that are overactive in our bodies.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everyone and everything; authentic experiences. That is what inspires me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and every person you meet has a purpose. The world is my mat, and I absorb the lessons like a sponge. I will say that my students and my teacher trainers tend to be the biggest source for inspiration. I love seeing their vulnerability, strengths, and will power as they test out their limitations (or lack thereof) in life.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t worry about what you look like, how inflexible you are, or what type of shape your beautiful body is in. Be open to mistakes, falling, and the unknown. My favorite reminder, “it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” (Said by many, loved by all.) Also, your chapter one should never be compared to someone else’s chapter eight. Each person on their mat possesses a different anatomy, purpose, and length of time practicing. Some are natural, and some will always be clumsy (me!). We are here for the internal transformation, and the external benefits. Trust in the process, and it will unfold before your very eyes.

Last but not least, leave your ego, expectations, and judgments at the door; always lead with your heart.

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote? I can ONLY choose one?! Okay…”If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

Yoga teaches me to live in the moment, as it comes. Not as it was or how I wish it to be. This is how I have found my peace; by becoming aware of the whirlwind of emotions I feel inside (without judgment), and then asking myself WHY I feel this way. If it is because I have latched on to something where I have little to no control, then I reroute. Santosha, contentment, is my final destination in this lifetime.


February Pose of the Month

February is here! And, since it’s a special month of love & a leap year, we’re dedicating the month to a favorite heart-opener: Anjaneyasana!

  • From runner’s lunge, untuck your back toes and ground down onto your knee
  • Inhale to lift your arms up overhead, rotating your pinky fingers in toward each other
  • Adjust your low lunge so that your front bent knee is stacked directly over your ankle
  • Draw your tailbone down toward the ground as your soften the weight of your body int your hips for a nice stretch along the front thigh and groin
  • Option to pin your shoulder blades together and lead with your gaze and fingertips for a deeper heart-opening backbend


Benefits of Anjaneyasana:

  • Stretches hamstrings, psoas, groin, and hips
  • Strengthens quads and glutes
  • Can relieve sciatica pain or discomfort
  • Improves balance, concentration, and core awareness
  • Ignites heart chakra and a lovely sensation in the chest and abdomen

Invigorate your body and mind with a lunge and a bend, and as your heart expands, send all of your love to someone who needs it most!

Mindful Monday: Do Something For You

laurel sculptWowie, it’s February already! How are those resolutions coming along? So far, energy’s been high, classes have been packed, and it feels overall like there’s a real shift happening where people are genuinely inspired to make a change not only physically, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well.

If you’re thinking about taking your love for yoga to the next level and you’re wanting a little extra challenge in all of these areas, our Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training starts Saturday, February 6th! Yoga Sculpt teacher training will help you reach new heights in your personal practice, while giving you the tools to teach a safe, effective and inspiring Yoga Sculpt class. Stop in to any of our studios for more information on how to get involved before this upcoming winter session begins, and sculpt your way to a new you!