Month: May 2017

Mindful Monday: Memorial Day 

Memorial Day on Navy Pier


Good Morning, Mindful Ones! It’s Memorial Day! An extra ‘day off’ for many of us. (Ha! Not for me – I’m teaching 9:30 am sculpt and noon restorative at our Wheaton studio – hope to see you on your mat today!) 
What does Memorial Day conjure up in your mind? It’s the unofficial kick off to summer. BBQs. Beaches. Long weekend out of town. An extra day to sleep in. Picnics. Party time. Pool openings. 

While all of this may be true, it’s important to be mindful of the true meaning of Memorial Day. It is a day set aside to honor all of those who gave their lives during active military service. More than a million Americans who died to protect the ideals we hold so dear as Americans: freedom; liberty; democracy; the ability and right for all of us to pursue happiness, prosperity and success.  

My deep love, appreciation, respect and gratitude for our military began back in my political/governmental days. Working for State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a huge advocate for veterans and a military mom to her JAG officer son ‘Pepi,’ this day was filled with bustling activities. We attended several Memorial Day parades and ceremonies,  and I was able to see firsthand just what we were observing and honoring. 

On this day, I am mindful how hurtful the words ‘Happy Memorial Day’ may be for Gold Star families and others who have lost their loved ones in the line of duty. Remembering that the cost of of our freedom is very dear indeed. 

Today, let’s be mindful of what this day symbolizes. By all means, we should continue to spend the day with family and other loved ones – But with the spirit of gratitude for our fallen. 

Mindful Monday: It’s All Good


Greetings and Monday morning salutations, dearest ones!!! We talk so much about the impermanent nature of life – Annica – which can be so readily evidenced in Chicago weather.  Last Thursday I was literally sweating in my booty shorts at Herrick Lake, and Friday night I was in my winter coat and boots freezing at my son’s sectional track meet! What can we really do but laugh at the absurdity of it all.  (By the way, he qualified for State finals! #proudmommabear). 
As I was driving Saturday evening, I literally gasped as I glanced up to see the sun setting. I immediately stopped my car and pulled over to capture this picture. 

As I was watching with so much awe and wonder, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of ease and peacefulness. And the realization that it truly is ALL GOOD. No matter what transpires during any given day, we can be sure that the day will come to a close in a blaze of fire and glory. And no matter what happens throughout the night, we know FOR SURE that the sun will rise. 

That thought was extremely comforting to me. As much as possible,  I try to witness the sun rising and setting each day, and I also make an effort to notice the sky periodically throughout the day. As I’ve looked up throughout the decades,  I’ve  never once been disappointed. And I’ve never once seen the same sky or the same sunset or sunrise. Even the clouds form into unique, fleeting, never to be seen again shapes and textures. 

Recognizing the impermanence of the sky cultivates a true appreciation for what IS and negates any expectation of what or how it ought to be or should be or is supposed to be. Yatta Butta – reality AS IT IS. Not how we want it to be. 

With the understanding of the impermanent nature of all things, we now have the space and opportunity to appreciate a person, place or thing for what it is in that moment. We learn to cease expecting and be more aware of every moment as it unfolds. Without attachment or expectation.  

As I was sitting for almost 5 hours undeneath cold, windy and rainy skies on Friday night, I reminded myself that this was quite likely the last meet of this season. Of his sophomore year. This meet would never come again. That knowledge awakened a deep sense of gratitude within my heart. 

It truly is all good. 

I hope you have a great week ahead of you! Yatta Butta, baby! 

Mindful Monday: Unconditional Love


Good morning and happy Mindful Monday, dear friends! Yesterday we celebrated the mothers in our lives – something we hopefully observe the other 364 days of the year as well!

It’s important to note that some among us struggled yesterday. Many are missing their mothers each day,  and it was especially felt while others so poignantly posted on social media about their special day. It reminds us of the natural cycle of life. Tempis fugit, carpe diem et memento mori: Time flies, seize the day and remember to die. We are blessed for each and every fleeting moment we bask in our mothers’ love. 

The overall theme of Mother’s Day is to honor our moms as well as the maternal figures in our lives. Any one who has nurtured us, wiped our tears, held our hands, cheered us on from the sidelines, those who have shined unconditional love on our hearts. 

Perhaps you never felt that type of love from your mother and you yearn for it now. You’ve looked for it in other relationships or tried to fill the void through other external sources. And learned that you never quite grasped it. 

The truth is that the fierce, sacrificial, tender and compassionate maternal love already resides within your heart. You don’t have to look anywhere but within yourself to tap into it. And that is the type of love you should lavish on YOURSELF. 

Can you love yourself through the loving, forgiving, proud, gentle, understanding and caring eyes of a mother looking with tenderness as her newborn sleeps in her arms? 

We get to practice that type of love each and every time we unroll our mats! That’s why we refer to it as a ‘practice.’ We are constantly practicing unconditional love toward ourselves on our mats so that we can slowly learn to extend that type of acceptance toward all other living creatures. It must start within. 

Have a great, great week yogis! Congrats to all our of recent college graduates! Thank you to all of our ‘mothers’ out there from our teachers who provide a space for us to explore to our studio attendants who  literally clean up after us to our students to whom I’ve witnessed countless times comforting and supporting and cheering one another! 🙏🏾

Mindful Monday: You are exactly where you have manifested


Good morning, Yogi friends! Happy Mindful Monday! Today is the BEST day of your entire life. You have this entire day to look around at your life; to really see your current situation – physical, mental, financial, emotional – with the realization that you have manifested all of it. 

To know in your heart of hearts that every burden bears a gift, my friend, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

“You are exactly where you are suppose to be right now in your life.”

Try this affirmation that I use with my cleanse/detox  students and my private lessons. 

Today I accept this truth that I am exactly where I am suppose to be in all of my relationships; my relationship with food, my body, mind and spirit.

It is through this greater understanding that we feel deeper self-acceptance, unconditional love and the freedom to change.

Today I know that with each conscious breath that comes in that I may start again no matter what has happened in the past. I may now come to my breath and begin again.

The secret is that it is truly that simple! All you need is a fresh breath and an unshakable faith that everything is unfolding perfectly. 

Have a week that you want and deserve: it’s up to you to make it amazing or crappy. You alone have that power. 

Namaste. Annica! Be happy!

May Pose of the Month

May the 4th be with You today! Because we speak so much to energy and energy lines in class, yoga and The Force pair together nicely. In Star Wars, Obi Wan explains The Force to Luke as “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” If we think of ourselves as just a small piece on this larger energy grid, we can begin to use energy in our yoga practices to control our behaviors, soothe our emotions, and motivate us to live our very best life both on and off the yoga mat.

This month we’re bringing you flying cobbler’s pose, mostly because when you’re floating on a block in this way, it makes you feel like a little meditating Jedi.

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Accessing Flying Cobbler’s Pose:

  • Start in baddha konasana or “butterfly” with the soles of your feet touching and your knees splayed open to the outsides
  • Warm up your feet and ankles by using your hands to massage your feet open, so that the tops of your feet begin to rotate up toward the ceiling
  • Place a large block on the floor at the flat wide width, and then place your feet on top of the block so that the outside edges of your feet rest directly at the center
  • Come up on to your fingertips with one hand in front of the block and the other hand back behind your hips for support
  • Use your abdominals, the lift of your hips, and the momentum from your arm at the back to launch up and forward with your hips and chest
  • Take a moment to get acclimated as you balance your weight on top of your feet and ankles
  • Your shoulders and chest should be slightly in front of your hips to keep balanced
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

Benefits of Flying Cobbler’s Pose:

  • Stretches inner thighs, groin, and knees
  • Stimulates heart and improves general circulation
  • Conquers fear by being suspended on the block

Meet Julie, YBD teacher of the Month

This May, we are happy to honor our Senior teacher Julie! Julie just celebrated her 5th anniversary teaching at Yoga By Degrees and we couldn’t be more grateful to have her as an integral piece of our puzzle and our May teacher of the month. The moment you enter the studio, you’re greeted by Julie’s warm, infectious smile. Her classes seem to be so effortlessly created yet are so uniquely woven together and always leave you feeling content, challenged, and grounded. We are huge fans of Julie and we know you will be too! Here’s where to find her:

Mondays, 8:00 am YBD-1 – Wheaton
Tuesdays, 6:00 am YBD-2 95 & 9:30 am YBD-Hot – Wheaton
Wednesdays, 6:00 am YBD-2 95 – Glen Ellyn
When and how did you come to yoga?
My yoga journey began about 20 years ago with mindfulness, meditation and the mind-body connection, really starting with the book “Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.” Nearly 15 years ago I stopped running because of pain in my back and knees. After moving to Naperville in 2005, I took my first hot yoga class. As I lay in savasana I thought “Oh…this is what it is like to be calm.” That was the beginning of my addiction to yoga. (It also helped my back and knee pain, as well as all the other aches and pains.)
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I love the therapeutic benefits of yoga and the calming effect it has on the mind-body, which is really what yoga is about. I had thought about teacher training for a while, but was always too busy. Then when the market crashed and I found myself without a job it was the perfect opportunity to start teaching yoga – one of the best decisions of my life.
What is your favorite pose?
How do I choose just one? It would have to be savasana. As I explained to a friend the other day…the entire class prepares you for savasana, that is when the yoga really happens.
Who inspires your teaching?
The students inspire me. They show up to their mat. They make it a priority.
Tips for beginners…
Let go of how you look (or think you look) and tune in to how you feel. Focus on your breath…if you can breathe, you can do yoga.
What’s your favorite quote?
Again, how do I choose just one? One of my favorites is by Edward Teller
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”

Mindful Monday: April Showers Bring May Flowers

During a huge downpour between classes at YBD Downers Grove, Bernie, Katie and I did what most normal people do – we did a little yoga in the rain!

Happy Monday, radiant, hydrated, nourished ones! Yes, yes, yes it’s been raining for days! Personally, I love the rain.

The weather is our prime example of the impermanence of all things. Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy! I can still hear the words of my meditation teacher S. N. Goenka.

Without rain, all things in nature would cease to exist. We ourselves can’t survive very long without water. In fact, we are pretty much walking skin bags of water!

There are songs and movies about the rain. It’s a powerful force of nature.  We have entire genres of clothing dedicated to the rain. Poets and photographers and artists try to capture its magnificence.

Your second – chakra – swadhisthana – is the water element: its primary association is emotional health, intimacy and creativity. When swadhisthana is open and balanced, we enjoy life fully and expansively. We live authentically without fear and experience love, intimacy, sensuality honestly and non-judgementally.

Water in its form of rain can be soft and rhythmic or powerful and even destructive. It’s both formidable and without form.

These rainy days won’t last – so put on your galoshes and go jump in puddles! When my son Julian was a little boy,  splashing in the rain (and mud!) was one of his favorite activities.


Have a great week! Stay hydrated! Be happy!