Month: December 2017

Mindful Monday: Merry Christmas!

Good morning and Merry Christmas, dearest yogis!

Not all of us observe Christmas as a religious holiday, but we can all appreciate the spirit of this day.

My father is from India and is Hindu; my mother is from the Philippines and is Catholic. I was raised in both faiths and we celebrated Christmas mainly from a cultural perspective.

Whatever your faith, we can all appreciate a day off from work! and of course precious time to spend with family creating lifelong memories.

Some among us may be struggling during this time of year – missing their loved ones or facing financial challenges. It’s so important for us to be especially kind and compassionate to those around us. While this is “the most wonderful time of year,” for some it is quite lonely or particularly stressful.

This is a great opportunity to count our blessings and cultivate gratitude for all the abundance in our lives. We all face challenges, and looking through the lens of gratitude gives us a lovely perspective on what we may be experiencing. This is not to diminish the trials we face, but to realize it could be worse. And to recognize a chance to grow and evolve.

May today be filled with peace and joy for you, my friend.

On behalf of all of us at Yoga by Degrees, happy holidays to you and your loved ones.

Mindful Monday: Intentions

Good morning and happy Monday, yoga loves! We are in the home stretch here … sliding into Christmas as we wind down 2017.

Such a great time for reflection and introspection. And of course, with each new breath that we take in, always an opportunity for mindfulness and focusing on intention.

The truth is we don’t have to wait for the advent of a new year to commit to big changes or even little tweaks. But something about the shiny, fresh slate of the new year makes it more exciting and seemingly more possible to really begin to live the life we were meant to.

Before I practice my asanas (or begin meditation), I ask myself a few questions to authentically figure out where I am in my life physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Here are a few questions that I ask to be more open and honest with myself.

What do I need to address to be healthy in my body and mind?

How do I need to practice in order to see myself, to understand and feel myself better?

How can I move in a way that opens tightness in my body and strengthens where I feel weak?

How can I be more open, kind, loving and understanding and less self-absorbed?

What do I need from my practice to find balance off of my mat?

The answers to these questions are different each time I come to my mat. Which is why it’s so important realize that whatever I’m seeking is also seeking me. And it’s the stillness of my mind which allows the answers to arise from deep within myself. In the quiet I can hear the whispering of my heart. It always centers me and sets me back on track.

With this new clarity, I can create meaningful intentions which provide focus and direct my actions. This is a daily practice.

Well, my fellow yogis, have a beautiful week. Stay centered with intention even when things seem so chaotic around you.

Have a great week!

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

Happy Monday, mindful ones. Well Chicago is definitely living up to its name. Wow! That brisk wind blasting my face this morning is exhilarating. Like a double shot of espresso!

It’s getting colder and darker, and I keep reminding myself that it’s OK. In fact, it’s necessary. So I really try to catch myself before I go on auto pilot and just start complaining about it. Practicing mindfulness with my thoughts and my words is a lifelong practice.

I’m really excited to begin preparations for Yoga by Degrees’ winter solstice celebration. We will observe this auspicious time of year by completing a yoga mala – 108 sun salutations!

According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, each vinyasa (sun salutation) is like a bead to be counted and each asana (pose) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. The garland of yoga adorns us with peace, health, knowledge and self-awareness

While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a practice that is super energizing. Sun salutations are the perfect way to lengthen, strengthen and flex the main muscles of the body while distributing prana throughout your whole system. Anyone can complete a yoga mala, regardless of physical limitations. Some will modify and some students actually intensify the practice!

When you begin your YBD classes with a handful of sun salutes, you right away feel your heart rate increasing, right? Sun salutes improve circulation, purify your blood and strengthen your physical body. Your lungs, digestive system, as well as your muscles and joints all benefit from this ancient practice. The more you do, the more vital prana circulation is increased, removing energy blockages and unlocking pathways for more energy to flow through you. The natural high you experience from the yoga mala is indescribable.

Our practice together will focus on the shortest day of the year as a turning point – emerging from a place of darkness to a place of light mentally, physically and even emotionally.

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

• Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles through alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs.

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

• Rids body of enormous quantity of carbon dioxide & other toxic gases.

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

• Normalizes the activity of the endocrine glands – especially the thyroid gland.

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at your studio today! I guarantee you will not regret honoring the changing of the season in this way. Plus it’ll be a great way to blow off some pent up holiday stress and pressure!

Have a great week, yogis!!!

YBD Family Feeds 16 Children For A Year!

Yoga by Degrees and Feed The World Yoga Tour, in association with Feed My Starving Children, extends a huge thank you to EVERYBODY who made a fundraising event at Yoga by Degrees South Naperville on Thanksgiving morning a huge success!  We are so proud that our YBD family, of both students and staff, stepped up to participate in doing good for our global community.

This event raised $1250, which equals 5,682 meals to feed 16 children for a year!  58 yogis poured through the studio doors on November 24 to practice their yoga on and off their mat, 31 with Lara for Vinyasa/Restorative and 27 with Rachel for the Traditional Hot class.

This was a both an increase in attendance and donations from last year, and people’s generosity was extraordinary!

Below are some pics and videos!❤️


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Vinyasa & Restorative Class W/ Lara


Bikram / Traditional Hot Class W/Rachel

Meet Jenny P. YBD Teacher of the Month

Tis the season to sweat! The perfect place to warm up during the chilly days is on your mat in Jenny P.’s sculpt and pilates classes. Jenny’s classes are fun, challenging, and inspiring. Her sequences and playlist are thoughtfully created to cultivate a personal connection to her students in the space. No doubt a great addition to your day and a great way to take time for you this holiday season. Read more about Jenny P here:

Jenny’s Schedule:

Tuesdays in Western Springs

9:30am Sculpt

Wednesdays in Western Springs

12:00 HIIT Pilates

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started yoga years ago in the city ago practicing Bikram. I loved the repetitive nature of the sequence because it forced me to let go of any outside thoughts, stresses and insecurities and focus on the intricacy of each pose. The heat left me feeling cleansed and more limber each time I practiced. Fast forward a few years and I was living in the burbs with babies.

Exhausted and craving that same mental focus I found with Birkam, I found my way back to hot yoga, but this time it was with a yoga sculpt class. You hear this all the time, but it’s true for so many of us. After the first class I was hooked, and never looked back. Each yoga sculpt class is a competition with myself. Before each class I take, I set a goal for myself…do every chaturanga, every push up, or truly surrender at the end of class. I have fallen in love with yoga. The flow with a Level 2, the intensity of sculpt, the release of a restorative class…
Why did you start teaching yoga?

Before I had kids, I was a 5th grade teacher, so the teaching bug has been a part of  me for a long time. I thought about teacher training for a good year and a half before taking the plunge, and I can’t really express how happy I am that I made the decision to do it. Teaching yoga has given me so much joy and satisfaction. Seeing my students leave class happy and refreshed is what it’s all about.

What is your favorite pose?

My favorite pose is child’s pose. I love everything it represents…a clean slate, fresh start, and in class, I like to say a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th chance, because life is full of amazing, wonderful things, and it’s also full of making mistakes and feeling guilt, so to have the opportunity at the end of class to breathe in forgiveness and leave with a fresh start is a beautiful thing.

Who inspires your teaching?

Oh my gosh, where do I start?!

First and foremost, my fellow teachers. I take their classes to feed off their strength and get inspired, and we are so lucky to have a team of amazing teachers who set the bar so high for me week after week. Also, each playlist I make is personal. I choose music that I have a real connection to…a song might take me back to a specific memory of my childhood or remind me of a dear friend or loved one.

Tips for beginners…

I say these things time.. Take class at your own pace. Use weights or don’t. Listen to your body, it knows best. Each day in your body is different, find where you are today and go with it. It’s your class, not mine, I’m just here to guide you through. The point of this class is to leave feeling happy and challenged, not pushed beyond your ma and frustrated…I could go on and on:)

What’s your favorite quote?

‘If you can’t fly then run, If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do keep moving forward.’


Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

We have hit the jackpot with all of this bonus sunny, warm weather lately! How on earth is it even December?!

Of course, all of the homes adorned with Christmas decorations, a digital overload from advertisers, busy stores and the heavy mall traffic ground us firmly back into the season. Am I right?

And the shorter days and looooonger nights remind us we are smack dab in the middle of that time of year where we continue moving towards darkness.

What are your thoughts and feelings when you think of darkness? Sometimes I think it gets a bum rap.

We become so obsessed with lightness that we can easily overlook the depth and beauty of darkness. Yet we cannot have one without the other!

Popular culture overemphasizes reaching for the light: positivity and affirmations are ubiquitous. And obviously that’s all good! But learning to connect to our “dark side” is essential for a full, rich and complete Life experience.

Our yoga practice is a dance between light and darkness. We arrive on our mats on a quest toward lightness and moksha, and along the way we encounter and get acquainted with our own darkness.

Our darkness or shadow selves encompasses the parts of us we avoid, repress and even suppress: the not so pretty stuff; painful and messy stuff; shame; unhealed wounds; raw and disowned fragments of ourselves.

It’s very understandable that instinctually we avoid the dark aspects of ourselves. But when we do this, our chances for true happiness and joy are in serious jeopardy.

What? Why?!?

Well…. because light and dark are both sides of the same coin. The only exist in relationship to one another. So as you embrace the dark side of yourself, you are paradoxically supporting the lightest and brightest and most authentic you.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, depressed, jealous, uncomfortable and confused or even to be unclear about what you’re feeling! But whatever it is, allow yourself to feel it and experience it. Sharpen your awareness. Move boldly to the depth of these dark feelings. Once you work through them, you are moving directly back towards the light.

See darkness isn’t so bad after all! Yoga teaches us to embrace the full spectrum: light and dark, expansion and contraction, ease and effort.

Trust your own complexity. Embrace your shadows. Say yes please and thank you to all of life’s experiences. Especially the challenging ones! Graditude for the opportunity to grow and transform.

I will be leading a very special practice where we will explore darkness through a moving meditation on Saturday, December 23 at 2:30 pm at our Western Springs location. Please talk to any of our locations for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week, beautiful ones!