Month: May 2016

Mindful Monday: Red, White, and Blessed

Happy Memorial Day!

With open palms and hearts full of the sincerest gratitude, we dedicate our practices today to the men and women who protect and serve us, who have braved and continue to brave dharmas that are sometimes scary and uncertain, all in the name of love and comfort and security and land we call home. May we honor you today and always with thankful hearts and stories of courage.

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” ― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried


Mindful Monday: Find Places of Repose

As a yoga teacher, it’s common to have your “weekend” fall sometime during the week instead of on the actual weekend. Last summer I had two free weekdays. I fell in love with my middle-of-the-week weekend, and I dedicated one of my two days off each week to visiting a different Illinois park. I had just finished teacher training, so at first it just started as time outdoors to practice and sequence in nature, which has always proven to be more inspiring than inside at a table or even in a studio. I started with local forest preserves and quickly became addicted to finding new parks, new trails, new spots of beautiful serenity. Did you know that Illinois is home to more natural forest preserves than any other state in Northern American? I know, I was surprised too. Lucky for us!

I found myself alone and sitting in these parks (I had visited a total of 13 by the end of summer) for hours. Species of birds I had never seen before. Up-close and nearly frightening encounters with deer. A family of ducks bathing in the stream to my right. A couple enjoying a picnic in the field adjacent. Untouched limestone. I had found places of peace.

When you become anxious, tense, upset, and reactive…rest. Rest until peace returns. Stop what you’re doing. Take a moment, an hour, or an entire day to find the sweet spot. Take all the time you need to restore peace. Breathe deeply. Look around, and breathe in the quiet and natural beauty of the world around you. Let it be a sanctuary that soothes and calms and heals your soul.

Places of healing and repose can be found everywhere. Find them a couple blocks away. Hop in your car and find them in the town over. Take an afternoon and find them at the end of a road trip. Find them on your patio or in your very own backyard. Then, discover those places in your own heart. Go within, and then go deeper. The universe holds the antidote for all of your anxiety and fears and reactive behaviors. It offers all the healing you need. Healing is right around the corner. Where do you find yourself when you need to restore peace? What are your favorite places of repose? No, really. It’s almost summertime again, and I have new sweet spots to discover! Share with me!


Mindful Monday: Everything is the Guru

It feels good to be a part of a mindful community. Whether you have an at-home practice, meditate regularly, attend group classes at a studio you call home, pay attention to what you’re putting into your body, or have started to surround yourself with people that more closely resemble you & your desire to focus on the positive, there’s something about transitioning into this world of do-gooders that feels good. And, while we’re rarely good all the time, our willingness to try and to hold ourselves accountable feels like we’re winning. And we are. Except for when we’re not. And the thing about being a person who is generally spreading Light, remaining positive, sweetly encouraging, setting an example worth following, and being kind…is that when we mess up, slip up, or find ourselves in a situation where stress is high and we’re not embodying the ideal, it feels a million times worse.

Why do we hurt the people we love the most? How is it possible that we can spend an hour of pure bliss at yoga and then leave & still want to punch someone in the face? How come we meditate in the morning and then still react with rage to the person who clearly just shouldn’t have a driver’s license? It’s not me, it’s them…right? Why do we so deeply desire to be forgiven and understood and taken seriously and then throw grace out the window and gossip behind a friend’s back or contribute at all to conversations where others are judged or being made small? Why do we perpetuate drama? Why am I so easy to anger? Why does this stuff happen? How am I working so genuinely and hard on my personal development and yet still susceptible to this nonsense?

If you’re asking these questions at all, then you’re still on the right track. We aren’t and will never be immune to these things. Raise your hand right now, and repeat: “I, _________________, am enormously flawed. And I, in the very same breath, am insanely beautiful and precisely on track.”

The thing about unwanted interactions are that they’re so necessary. Others will always show you exactly where it is that you are stuck. They say or do something and automatically you get hooked into a familiar way of reacting – shutting down, speeding up, or getting all worked up. When you react in the habitual way, with defense, anger, greed, envy, and so forth, it gives you a chance to see your patterns and then to work with them honestly and compassionately. It puts everything out on the table. It inspires hard but necessary conversations. It keeps us authentic. It allows us to be what only humans and nothing else on the planet can be: thoughtfully retrospective. Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful and sometimes ugly habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.

Know this. Be the yin, and the yang. Be the Light and the Dark. Be the encourager and be the gossip. It’s inevitable anyway. Be the person who is always striving to be better than the person you are today, or tomorrow, or the next day. Be open to evolve. Don’t just be half of this or that or the other thing. Be the whole dang thing. Make mistakes. Be mad when you’re mad. Go to yoga, and then leave and get worked up all over again. Be gentle. Be honest. Be better. Be you.


4 Week Shred Success!

Ann Fehser’s Shred Journey, courtesy of Ann:

“2016 began just as 2015 and 2014 had…overweight, stressed, with little upper body or core strength. Approaching 57 years in age I realized that all my reasons for being overweight and stressed were not going to go away unless I consciously did something about it. Restorative yoga was tremendous in reducing stress and increasing flexibility but did nothing for my other deficiencies and then, I found 4 Week Shred.

4 Week Shred is challenging and hard yet very rewarding. Teresa is a fabulous teacher and motivator who makes you feel comfortable enough to expose your biggest flaws. She takes her students at their present level of performance and modifies exercises for those who need low impact or those who are looking for that extra push. Yes, even burpees can be modified. You can trust her and Teresa’s growth mind set for each of her students was present each and every time we took to our mats or picked up our weights. My biggest obstacle with the experience was my disdain for cardio and jumping. But as the week’s progressed I was able to keep up with 80% of the cardio. Teresa’s modifications made jumping easier to handle and by the beginning of the last week I could do caterpillars and burpees (with modifications) with minimal trouble. Planks will still take time.

4 Week Shred also provided me an additional critical component for weight loss-a nutritional food plan. Recording food intake and the nutritional plan provided me the necessary tools to fuel by body properly. After these weeks I feel stronger, both physically and mentally. I lost weight and inches but it is what I gained from the experience that will have me coming back to 4 Week Shred in June. I gained self-confidence and have a belief that it isn’t about being perfect. It’s about effort.”

-Ann Fehser

We are bringing the 4 Week Shred to Downers Grove Yoga By Degrees! The program will run June 1st to June 26th and will include 2 nutrition workshops, a customized meal plan, and 3 weekly fat burning high intensity interval training workouts (appropriate for all fitness levels)! Come join a group of like-minded people to support, shred fat and find success in achieving your health and fitness goals!

We will have two information meetings on May 18th and May 25th at 7 pm in Yoga By Degrees Downers Grove.

If you cannot make the meetings and would like an information packet, or have any questions please email Teresa at

If you would like to sign up for the June Shred, please click here  for the link, call 630-969-0820 or stop in any YBD studio. Our last program completely sold out, so if you would like to join June Shred, we encourage you to sign up ASAP as we have limited spots available!

For updates, follow 4WeekShred on Facebook

Mindful Monday: People-Admiring

We begin another week. Again and again, we begin.

I’ve been theming my classes this week around the idea of self-intimacy, and I really do think it’s one of the most important lessons to learn. Intimacy as a stand alone word sounds like something reserved for romantic couples: dim lights, candles, soft kisses, snuggling up on the couch. But really, intimacy is something arguably even more important when you can share it with…you. It’s looking deeply within and giving yourself an invitation to open up, become more vulnerable, and know with an unwavering certainty who it is you are, what you stand for, what you like and don’t like, what feels good and what doesn’t. And no one else can tell you these things, even though they’ll try.

We walk around observing. I know we’re all guilty of this because people-watching has become somewhat of a sport. We all do it. I like to call it people-admiring instead because it sounds a little less judgey and a little more lovey. Regardless, we’re all busted. We observe and observe and with every new observation we cast labels and even project our own opinions based upon only what we can see on the outside. Sometimes we do it with perfect strangers, people with whom we’ve never even shared a word. And what happens when we don’t know ourselves intimately is that we start to adopt these labels and projections as truth, believing what we’re told and then holding this kind of jaded and untrue portrait of who we are before drowning in a big fat identity crisis.

When we set our intentions on knowing ourselves more intimately, the profound effect is this: all of the projections and labels and judgements from others about who we are become just background noise. We become less sensitive and stop taking every single thing so seriously because we know intimately & deeply who we are, what we stand on, what we stand for, and how we stand within ourselves and for ourselves. And sometimes, when people make an assumption about us and get it colossally wrong (as they will), we can just chuckle to ourselves with an air of peace and confidence and just say silently: Well, ya got that one wrong.

I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine, and maybe it’ll help pull you closer to a truer and clearer vision of who it is you are and what you’re doing here:

“Do not get stuck in the roles people prescribe for you. You are under no obligation to be who you were yesterday, ten months back, five years, or even five minutes ago. You grow. You forgive. You love. You change. Today you may step into a new role. One you are not sure of, but meant for. Embrace it. We are rarely good all the time, but surely we can do our best. Release judgement regarding your growth and release expectations of who you think you should be. Accept yourself as is in this moment right now.” -Marcella Kroll

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Meet Stacey, YBD Teacher of the Month!

We are super grateful to have this talented yogini in our Yoga by Degrees community. She conducts her well-orchestrated yoga class with grace, power, and confidence. Stacey’s dedication to personal growth and connection is evident when you experience the supportive energy, authenticity and expertise in her classes. She subs often and check out her permanent schedule here:

Mondays, 9:30am YBD2 95 degrees, in Downers Grove

Mondays, 12pm YBD2 85 degrees, in Glen Ellyn

Mondays, 1:30pm Restorative 78 degrees, in Glen Ellyn

Thursdays, 1:30pm YBD2/3 85-90 degrees, in Wheaton


Get to know Stacey:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I starting practicing in early 2000 after my dad let someone talk him into buying some private yoga sessions.  He didn’t want to go alone (or really at all), so I went with him.  Even though we were in a gym setting and practicing in the middle of the weight room, it was love at first feeling.  After he dropped out, I continued to go until I finally got up the nerve to go to my first yoga class at a studio. 

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I started teaching because my teachers kept needing subs! I become an RYT to deepen my knowledge with zero plans of ever teaching. However, I kept hearing songs I thought would sound good for yoga and started to save them . So, when one of my teachers desperately needed a sub, I thought I’d give my playlist and teaching chops a try.  Both were epic fails, by the way.

What is your favorite pose?

To be honest, the only pose that doesn’t feel like pure bliss is eagle.  Eagle feels more like a pure beating.  I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere, I just haven’t found it.

Who inspires your teaching?

Whoa. This could go on forever.  My family, especially my two boys and my husband, my students, nature (human and the outdoorsy kind), Dharma Mittra, Bryan Kest, Dice lida-Klein, Sigmund Freud, John Friend, and of course all the amazing teachers at YBD that I am honored to have been able to practice under and with.

Tips for beginners…

Try, fail, try again.  Repeat.  Also, don’t take anything- including yourself or yoga- too seriously. Oh, and stay safe. Seriously.

What’s your favorite quote?

Laughter is the best medicine.

May Pose of the Month

May I adopt an air of joy in my every day interactions. May I have the courage to rinse away what no longer serves me so that I might enter this new season with renewed vitality. May I begin again. This month we’re bringing you a simple kneeling twist:

  • From Child’s Pose, spider crawl your fingertips back up toward your knees to rise & sit comfortably on your heels
  • Place your right palm on your left knee as you inhale the crown of your head up and lengthen the front shoulders
  • Exhale as you press energy from your palm into your knee and begin to walk your left fingertips back behind your seat
  • Continue twisting the torso left as you lengthen your tailbone down to keep your lower back long
  • Lengthen through the collarbone and shoulders as you deepen the twist with every exhale
  • Turn your gaze to the left looking out over your left shoulder
  • Release and repeat the twist on the opposite side

Benefits of Seated Twists:

  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, and hips
  • Can relieve mild lower back pain, neck pain, and sciatica
  • Rinses and massages abdominal organs
  • Strengthens low back

Easily incorporate this into your vinyasa or hatha practice as you release from Child’s Pose. You can also take this light twist from other seated positions like Sukhasana. Happy May!


Photo By: Sarah Pogorzelski

Mindful Monday: Power to the She

This week, we’re heading toward a very special Mother’s Day Weekend, and as an appropriate tribute, let’s all send vibrations of love and sincere thanks to the women who’ve given us breath. Whether it’s mom, or grandma, or aunt, or sister, or friend, or role model, almost everyone can identify an inspiring female influence who deserves a gratitude shower.

As a token of appreciation, adopt an air of servitude this week that closely resembles this unlike-any-other duo of unconditional support: motherly nourishment & downright tough love. It’s hard to be both. Be stern, but be loving. Be strong, but be soft. It might take eons to master this balance, but we can all take the first step by loving hard and by saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices. Power to the She!