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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: Today is the BEST day 


Good morning and happy Monday, dear wonderful, beautiful you! 
Today is the perfect day to be alive!  As the warm air moves, let it flow through your body. Expand each precious moment by tuning in to each of your senses. So that each breath engulfs you in the eternal. Let your day be sensual; immerse yourself in the depth and height and width of each teeny, subtle sensation. 

Allow yourself to FEEL. Everything. Pleasure and pain. Excitement and disappoint. Happiness and sadness. Love and fear. The entire gamut. 

Notice what makes you happy and uplifts your energy and feeds your soul, then continue to move in that direction! It’s that simple! 

Be aware of what zaps your energy, causes stress and unhappiness, then evaluate it and find clarity. 

You have a single decision to make today: do I want to be happy? If you choose YES, then the rest of your day is smooth sailing. You’ll find many, many reasons to stay happy!  If you choose NO, you’ll find many, many reasons to be unhappy. 

TODAY is the Best. Day. Ever. Because it’s yours! And it’s here. And it’s NOW. What did you decide? 

Mindful Monday: Light and Dark

I snapped this image a few years ago (while driving – eeeek!) but the sky was soooo amazing I had to capture it!

Happy Mindful Monday, dearest yogi friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Friday was pure magic – so sunny and warm and fresh – it truly felt like Spring! And Saturday and Sunday, IMO, just as magical and beautiful – but for other reasons … the darkness, cloudiness and the pensive chill from the rain. Also an essential part of this season.

The universe always seeks balance: the yin and the yang, the light and the dark, the feminine and the masculine, water and fire. There is a scientific theory on the balance of nature that states that ecological systems naturally exist in equilibrium. It’s a fine balance that is easily affected by any small disturbance, which will then auto-correct itself to come back to its stability.

So it is with us. Within each of us there is yin and yang, light and dark. Most of us, definitely me, struggle with finding and maintaining this balance each day. We shift too far to one side, and we are thrown off balance. We must then look within and steer our way back to center. Our character and ultimately are lives are determined by that which we feed – the dark or the light within.

There is a need for both, as darkness is the absence of light. But without it, how would we understand and appreciate the light? Without loneliness, how can we appreciate companionship? Without hate, how do you know love?

There is an ancient Indian proverb that describes the four paths in life. Which path are you following?

Those in darkness moving toward darkness
Those in darkness moving into the light
Those in the light moving toward darkness
Those in the light moving toward the light

Namaste, dear ones! Hope to see you on your mat this week! 

Mindful Monday: Spring has officially Sprung

108 Sangha! Photo credit: Sarah Pogorzelski

Happy, happy, happy Monday, friends! As of 5:29 am today, the Vernal or Spring Equinox commenced! Spring has officially arrived!  This is a powerful time of year! Rapid shedding and releasing; tremendous transformations. The 2017 Equinox is the perfect time to honor all areas and aspects of your life and the circumstances that surround you.

More than 30 of our YBD community gathered together yesterday (a few not pictured) to harness the transformative power of this new season. What an amazing experience!

The sun’s power gives life and allows all things on earth to flourish. As we flowed through 108 sun salutations, we moved and breathed as one. The strength and Grace and power in the room was magnificent.

Four sets of 27 sun salutes.

  1.  Focused and dedicated to releasing what holds us back – Spring cleaning of body mind and soul.
  2. Planting seeds of self-love and self acceptance. Building the foundation for all good things to come.
  3. This set was devoted to people we love. Love is the most powerful energy source.  When we devote our energy to others, we are able to achieve far more  than if it was just for ourselves.
  4. One love. Dedicated to peeling away walls and barriers so that we may find a common ground in all humanity.

Practice ended with some deep yin poses and a guided meditation.

If you were unable to make it last night, no worries! It’s not too late to create your own intentions and plant your own seeds.

Now is the perfect time to bring acceptance to your life no matter the circumstances or the judgements over what is good and what is bad, and to instead honor your unique journey. We are all perfectly in progress!

It is also a time to celebrate how far you have come and how much you have grown over the course of the year. And even last year.

Has 2017 been less than stellar for you ? Well, you can start fresh ! The March Equinox is considered the start of the astrological new year. This is because the Sun shifts into the constellation of Aries, which is regarded as the first of the 12 constellations used in astrology. Never too late to begin again.

The energy of Aries makes it a perfect time to start thinking about what is next and what you would like the next few months to feel like. To think about it but more importantly feel it.

Perhaps make a list of all the feeling words you would like to create in your life moving forward and see if you can start creating those feelings in small ways every single day.

This year’s Equinox is the perfect time to honor the growth and the pain, the light and the darkness and all the experiences that have made you who you are today. It is the perfect time to love yourself and learn to find gratitude and peace with the journey you are taking.

Enjoy this beautiful weather! Make each breath count.

Mindful Monday: Spring Equinox and 108 Sun Salutes

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends!  Living here in Chicago,  we certainly learn to go with the flow –  especially when it comes to the weather!  No shocker when we go from glorious weather in the 60s to snowfall in the same month, right?  So we learn to go with the flow  knowing this is an unchangeable situation and it also impermanent.  Like life it ebbs and flows and is in constant flux and transition.

Regardless  of the weather forecast, our Spring Equinox will be here in a week! Join your YBD community  for a vigorous practice accessible to all levels this Sunday at our Elmhurst studio from 3:30 – 5:30 pm!  The practice itself  should take about 90 minutes.   The final 30 minutes will be a yin and restorative cool down.

While the thought of 108 sun salutes may sound daunting,  the repetitive actions create a meditative experience.  Most people feel a build up of energy as they flow  and leave practice feeling energized!

Each time I’ve been a student for this practice I’ve  experienced an unbelievable freedom  and sense of being unchained.  My practice becomes a devotion and a celebration and a meditation.   It is truly indescribable.

Some common questions are addressed below:

Will the room be heated ?

I will set the room temperature  between 80 to 85°

Do we go through 108 sun salutations nonstop?

I chunk out the practice in four sets of 27

Can anyone do this practice?

Yes I will offer modifications to make this practice accessible to virtually anyone who is in decent physical shape and injury free

What do I need to bring ?

Your mat and a towel and some water

Do I have to count them on my own?  What if I lose track?

I will be counting the sun salutations,  so students have nothing to do but flow

There is still space available!  Sign up at any studio or online!

Have a great week,yogis!  Hope to see you on your mat this week!

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Meet Geraldina, YBD Teacher of the Month

This sweet soul has been such a huge part of Yoga By Degrees for years. We are so blessed to have her as part of our team. She will greet you with her warm smile while working the front desk, and fills her class with love while instructing. In addition to her permanent schedule below, she always helps out by subbing when she can. Hopefully you get a chance to check out one of Geraldina’s classes soon!

Mondays
1:30pm, YBD 2, Western Springs
7:15pm, YBD 1, Downers Grove
Tuesdays
8:00pm, YBD 2, Elmhurst
Wednesdays
9:30am,  YBD1, Western Springs
Fridays
12:00pm, Restorative, Elmhurst
4:00pm,  YBD 1, Elmhurst
When and how did you come to yoga?
Compleatly by accident! I was dragged by my friend to yoga class at  local gym…and that changed my life.
Why did you start teaching yoga?
Practicing yoga felt so good! It shifted my life in such positive and joyful experience, that I wanted to share that with as many people as I could.
What is your favorite pose?
Side crow or parsva bakasana
Who inspires your teaching?
Mostly my students. Also, Hindu philosophers and working at YBD.  Being in such a positive environment, surrounded by amazing staff and learning new things everyday.
Tips for beginners…
Practicing Ahimsa (non violence) while doing yoga-not overdoing, or pushing too hard. Take it slowly and make it a pleasant experience.
What’s your favorite quote?
“The river that flows in you also flows in me.” Kabir

Yoga??!! Why you (or someone you love) should come to a FREE workshop on 3/8

Written by YBD Teacher, Shaun Emerson: A little less than four years ago, my wife, Lisa, suggested that I join her at this new Hot Yoga place near our home. In a marriage, a “suggestion” can take on a variety of connotations. In this instance, I didn’t detect any secondary intention so was free to assess the offer for what it was.

Yoga???!! I was a former football player, weight lifter, and runner. My body was worse than tight. Rigid, inflexible, compact. What I thought I knew about yoga (I knew nothing) intimidated me. Goofy stretching, right? The longest I ever really stretched was pushing against the garage in a weak lunge for a millisecond before I hit the street for my jog. If I went to this class, it was going to be ugly.

She offered, “It is 105 degrees. You’ll sweat your ass off.”

I was in. All the other stuff be damned. Despite some fear, I love a new adventure and I love to sweat more.

A little less than four years later, I am still pretty tight. I have creaky hips (right, Lara?). And I am an actual yoga instructor. Really, I am a yoga instructor/nerd (though my kids would omit the qualifier…just nerd). How can you not be a nerd about something that changed your life (will save the sappy stuff and how I got here for another time)?

Anyway, I think yoga and asana can be daunting for first timers. We, at YBD, want to make it less so. Therefore, we are putting on a free workshop in Downers Grove on March 8th to demystify, educate and flow. The class will be an opportunity for folks to get into a studio, on a mat without the pressure or concern of walking into a live class. We’ll talk about what yoga is, how a typical class is structured, introduce some of the common postures and have time for questions throughout.

If you are YBD regular and reading this, I am sure you have people close to you that are curious about your yoga practice, but not curious enough to willingly jump into a class with you. Maybe, you want to make a “suggestion” that they come to this workshop. Whether you place any secondary significance on the suggestions is up to you.

Peace.

About The Author/Blog Contributor:shaun  Shaun Emerson is a Teacher at YBD. He says he was encouraged by his wife, Lisa to start his yoga journey three years ago in the heat of a Bikram studio. After an eight-month love affair and four month long breakup with Bikram, Shaun found himself at Yoga by Degrees. YBD Sculpt became a family affair often attending classes with his wife and two daughters. Prompted by his girls and curious to learn more, Shaun entered and completed the YBD 200 hour Teacher Training program. During his training, Shaun shifted from sculpt to flow and found, not only his breath, but a love for it’s quiet, yet vigorous, elegance.

Change Your Mind – Start Your Practice

Your friends all gather to go together, you see people in great shape toting mats wherever you turn and even your own doctor has suggested it to help you with your stress levels.

So, finally you commit. You set out to buy your first real pair of yoga pants and go online to find a class that’s right for you but discover there are literally hundreds to chose from in just your area alone! With the popularity of yoga skyrocketing, choosing the right level and style of yoga, as well studio and teacher can be daunting.

It’s easy for a new practitioner to become discouraged after stumbling in to a class that was too challenging or easy.

The good news is: You don’t have to go far to start your yoga practice. In fact, you don’t need to go anywhere! The one thing that will guarantee your success is your mindset. Therefore, you may need to change it as the first step to finding the right class for you.

Even classes labeled “Beginner” could be too challenging for some people, in turn, an “Advanced” class could be too easy. Therefore, both beginner and advanced practitioners alike must always be willing to accept “where they are” in their practice.

Everyday is different, and change is inevitable, both in our lives and on our mats. Therefore, to stay engaged, we must be willing to accept modifications if things get too difficult and keep challenging our selves with harder variations if it’s too easy.

So now that you’re ready to accept where you are, now what? After you have the “right” mind-set you need to find teachers who look after their students to see what they need, i.e., if they are struggling or they seem bored and offer both easier and harder modifications as they teach each pose.

Most teachers do offers modifications and variations but there are some that don’t or only offer a few due to lack of experience or perhaps, preference. So how can you know if your teacher is in the majority? Ask. When you come to your first class with a new teacher. You can ask them if they offer beginner and advanced modifications and variations. This will also serve as a good reminder for them to do so. (If they say yes, chances are you are in good hands.)

As long as you’re willing to take modifications and variations, not only will your practice flourish, you will begin to learn them yourself and not have worry if a teacher offers them. You will confidently be able to take any class, join your group of friends, stroll along with your mat and tell you’re doctor you’re on the right path to reaping all the benefits of yoga, including knowing you are perfect where you are!

The secret to a “perfect” yoga practice: follow the â€ślimbs”

With so many different types of yoga, studios and teachers to pick from these days, discovering a class that involves much more than the physical side of yoga and which is neither too hard nor too easy can sometimes seem elusive.

Yet teachers at some studios like Yoga by Degrees still know the importance and effectiveness of a traditional and balanced yoga class experience.

So what constitutes this experience? Just as every reliable structure must be constructed with time-tested rules and regulations, every yoga class should be built in accordance with the first book of yoga teachings called the Yoga Sutras. Its a compilation of one hundred and ninety six aphorisms based on the ancient Vedic texts.

The Indian sage Sri Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras approximately two thousand years ago. Sutra 2.9 lists the “Eight Limbs of Yoga”.

The Yoga Sutras, by nature, imply that as many of the eight limbs of yoga as possible need to be practiced in order to gain all of the benefits that yoga has to offer.

In a yoga class, using the eight limbs can serve as a powerful tool in encouraging students to challenge themselves but also accept where they are. The eight limbs are as follows:

  1. Yama :  Morality
  2. Niyama :  Personal observances
  3. Asanas :  Physical postures
  4. Pranayama :  Breath control, i.e. breath exercises
  5. Pratyahara :  Sensory control
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and inner awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Meditation on a higher power
  8. Samadhi :  Union with a higher power

It is possible for well-educated and skilled teachers to “weave” all of the above limbs of yoga in to a class. (Except perhaps the last one, then you no longer need yoga!) For example, a teacher could instruct students to turn their awareness inward, noticing what they are “feeling” and by encouraging them to practice with truthfulness (Yama number two) and contentment (Niyama number two).

While it is the yoga teacher’s responsibility to make sure he or she instructs a well-rounded class, as a yoga practitioner, once learned, you can be mindful and creatively weave the eight limbs of yoga in to your practice yourself both on and off the mat!