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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 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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Mindful Monday: Spring Cleaning


Good morning and Happy Monday, dearest yogis! We are slowly inching toward spring, and honestly, I’m so ready! 

Springtime means more sunshine, warmer temperatures, that fresh smell in the air! It’s a time for lightness and shedding those dark, heavy layers! 
The official spring kickoff is called the Spring Equinox – the day when the sun aligns directly over the earth’s equator. On this day, twice a year (once in the spring, once in the fall), the length of day and night are the same: equinox means ‘equal night.’  This day has been celebrated throughout history in many different cultures for many different reasons: increased sunlight hours, the shift of the season, restoration of crop supply, Passover, Easter Sunday, baseball’s opening day. 

Many people have spring cleaning rituals this time of year. Opening all the windows to allow the crisp air to flow through and kick up and carry away all that dormant, stale winter energy. Scrubbing floors and purging heavy clothing. It’s definitely a time of renewal and hope and lightness. 

It is the perfect time to do some internal spring cleaning as well! It’s a great opportunity to take an honest look at your life and what you are creating each day. Similar to cleaning our closets, it’s a time to take an inventory of our lives, what needs to be tossed away, and what to hold on to. Through honest and intentional choices, we can see what’s missing, what’s been tossed to the side, and what is holding us back from creating something wonderful.
In observance of this auspicious occasion, yogis worldwide create a Yoga Mala this time of year. It is the practice of 108 Surya Namaskara…Salutations to the Sun, in dedication to and celebration of something bigger than ourselves. Our YBD community will come together to harness this powerful shifting of energies with a Yoga Mala. The practice of completing 108 Sun Salutations is at times physically vigorous but ultimately it is deeply meditative experience.

The number 108 has great significance in many ancient and yogic traditions. The mala that is used in meditation has 108 beads….so let our practice of Surya Namaskara be an affirmation to that which we wish to create and manifest in the new season.

Spring equinox is just a day, of course, but it represents a new start. It is a reminder to check in with our true selves. I use my yoga practice as a guide to bring myself back to center and to reflect on where and what and to whom I am sending my energy. Through my daily practice I choose one clear intention. The intention could be as simple as a word: “clarity”, “peace”, “compassion”, or it could be more detailed, like visualizing your dreams. But the important thing is to CHOOSE. Choose what you want to put into the world, what you want to get back, and use your yoga practice as a pathway to that end. Because once we choose to let go of what is not serving us, choose to move forward with clarity, kindness, faith and a little bit of attitude, well then, we have something to celebrate. Your yoga practice is a guide; a nudge toward your own true self.

So, join me on your mat on Sunday, March 19! Toss out the old stuff that is taking up useful space, open the windows of your view, clean out the foundation. Because then, all that’s left is the celebration of what is possible.
Springtime intentions work like magic seeds that get planted in fertile soil. What is ready to blossom in your life? 

Don’t do it alone- Find success with 4 Week Shred in February!

 4 week Shred

Our successful 4 Week Shred nutrition and boot camp program is coming back to Western Springs February 12th!

We are running an amazing promotion, Shred with a Friend and Save through February 12th. Sign up with a friend or family member and save 20% EACH for our February session.

Our unique, customized program offers you 4 nutrition workshops, a meal plan from a registered dietitian, and 4 boot camp workouts. Our program is designed to educate and motivate our clients to achieve their health and fitness goals with the support of a group setting and professional counsel.

4 Week Shred will give you the tools you need to kick start or maintain your goals. You can do it- and we can help!

For more information, please contact Teresa at 4weekshred2017@gmail.com. Please see below for more program information.

What is 4 Week Shred?

4 Week Shred is a food and fitness program designed to support, educate, and motivate. We will meet once a week on Sundays for a boot camp workout and nutrition workshop.

Program Schedule:         

Sundays 2/12-3/5
3 pm to 5 pm
Nutrition Workshop and Boot Camp
Western Springs YBD

Due to the customized meal plans, nutrition workshops and coaching from the Shred Leads, we will have to limit the number of participants!  Secure your spot today!

Components:

  • Customized meal plan written by Registered Dietitian (RD), Susan Rizzo
  • 4 Nutrition workshops with opportunity for Q+A with RD
  • 4 HIIT boot camp classes customized for maximum results
  • Customized workout plan
  • 1 month unlimited yoga and yoga sculpt at ANY 6 YBD locations
  • Support from fellow Shredders and leads
  • Food and experience journal
  • Hard work and life changing RESULTS!

 

Pricing:

Yoga By Degrees Members: $150- includes 4 HIIT boot camp classes, 4 nutrition workshops and customized meal plan

Non-members: $275 – includes 4 HIIT boot camp classes, 2 nutrition workshops, customized meal plan, one month unlimited yoga and yoga sculpt classes at ANY YBD location

Shred with a Friend discount: $120/$220

Email Teresa at 4weekshred2017@gmail.com for any questions you may have!

Are you ready to sign up? Enroll online, in studio, or over the phone at any YBD location by February 12th!

If you want to read about a Shredders experience in April, please follow this link https://breathesweatsmile.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/4-week-shred-success/

 

Who are the leads?

Susan Rizzo, RD, LDN, CDE

Registered Dietitian susan

Susan has been a Registered Dietitian (RD) for over 30 years. She is passionate about the value of good eating and exercising for its role in health. For the past 15 years she has enjoyed educating clients as nutrition counselor and diabetes educator for AMITA Health-Alexian Brothers. Over the years she has been involved with various weight loss programs including Weight Watchers, the YMCA and The Solution Program.  Recently she has advised clients involved with The Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser competition. Susan holds certifications of training in Adult and Pediatric Weight Management with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her expertise in nutrition has helped many clients individualize their food choices leading to improved weight and health status.  She is dedicated to educating people with the tools needed to self-manage their weight and meet health goals. A long time believer in the powers of physical activity she has enjoyed a variety of pursuits throughout her life including running, walking, yoga, tennis, ice skating, soccer, biking and dancing. She raised 4 children and is sensitive to the needs of busy lifestyles.

Teresa Larem

Yoga Instructor/ Yoga Sculpt Instructor/Shred Facilitator

 Teresa has always been a lifelong athlete, starting with soccer in kindergarten and Teresa 2continuing with tennis, basketball, softball, track, yoga, dance and rock climbing. If it’s active she likes it! Teresa discovered Yoga sculpt in 2013 and has been in love ever since due to the intensity, fun and results she has received from sculpt and fusion.  She began teaching Yoga in 2014 and soon followed with Yoga Sculpt in 2015 and has recently helped train the latest group of teachers at YBD. She loves teaching sculpt and fusion because she loves to have fun and motivate people. She truly believes that being active is the key to a long and healthy life and hopes to make working out fun for her students. Her other hobbies include soccer, CrossFit spin, walking her dog, reading, and yoga.

 

Mindful Monday: Welcome to February 

Happy Mindful Monday, friends! Well we made it through the looooongest month of the year together. We’ve watched the groundhog look for his shadow, and we watched Tom Brady lead his team in an unbelievable comeback in last night’s Super Bowl! Well,  yogis,  it’s smooth sailing from here. The days are longer. We have more sunshine. So much to look forward to. And of course the best moment is THIS one. Right here, right now. Always.

We hope that you had an amazing January! How are you doing with any resolutions that you have made? Remember that if you stumble and fall, let it be forward. We know from our practice that at any moment, we can inhale and BEGIN again.

YBD had TWO programs in January designed to help us kickstart the new year through mindfully looking at HOW we eat. Both groups met together on Sundays in January and supported one another through a community approach.

Teresa ran her Shred program which included a high intensity workout together each week, plus participants were  encouraged to take three additional classes during the week. They also worked individually with a certified nutritionist for custom meal plans.   Of the 16 participants, they lost a collective 42 lbs (of those that reported their weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of a three-year-old child! or a 15-foot canoe! or a human leg – wait… what? 

Well maybe not the Rock’s leg … But you’re welcome for that image. 😂 

Congratulations to all of our Shred program graduates! Teresa is leading another group through Shred  beginning on February 12! You can sign up at any of our locations.

I had the privilege to lead 23 students through my annual 21 day detox in January! This program focuses on a mindful lifestyle where we remove caffeine, sugar, gluten, alcohol and all animal proteins. We meet and practice together each week and support eachother with daily messages, touchpoints and encouragement. I am so happy to report that collectively  we lost a total of 95.8 lbs (of the 17 people who reported weight loss)! That’s the equivalent of my dog Rupert, a purebred bloodhound!

A two-month-old foal. A baby hippo! In addition to the weight loss, one of our members Jacky B. , who normally suffers from almost daily migraines, did not experience a SINGLE migraine during the cleanse! And Sandy S. said that the journaling aspect of the cleanse literally transformed her life! More than 125 YBD students and teachers have experienced this life-changing cleanse with me throughout the past few years. Watch for the next opportunity to take this cleanse … coming soon.

We know that we are more successful when we hold ourselves accountable to others. That’s why we are so very blessed to have our YBD community to support, encourage and uplift us. Remember we don’t have to wait till the beginning of the year for  new goal or a fresh start. We just need the willingness to begin again. 

Until next week, friends! 

Huge thanks to the YBD Community!

We are so thankful to all of the wonderful Yogis who stepped up to participate in the Wounded Warrior Challenge and Register To Be A Match for a member of the Downers Grove, and now YBD community.   Our hearts are so warmed to know that we have so many kind and giving souls that we get the opportunity to spend our time with everyday.  The Jan / Feb 2017 Yoga Chicago article pictured here summarizes these Charity drives and what the results were.   Namaste, thank you again and see you on your mat!

Mindful Monday: Pranayama

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Happy Mindful Monday, YBD friends! What a beautiful winter wonderland we have to feast our eyes on today! As we are moving into full throttle in our holiday preparations, it’s a great time to remember to mindfully BREATHE!

We’ve begun a deeper look into Ashtanga or the Eight-Limbed Path of Yoga as expressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In previous weeks, we’ve discussed the first three limbs: the Yamas or the guidelines for social behavior, the Niyamas which refer to how we discipline ourselves, and the Asanas or the yoga poses that we practice together at YBD.

This brings us to Pranayama, the fourth limb, which means breath restraint. The word prana means “life energy” or “life force,” which is the very essence that keeps us alive. And yama means “restraint,” as we discussed in a previous post in more detail. Our breath literally is our life energy, as we animate the mind and body with it.

According to Patanajali, the goal of pranayama is to regulate the breath to make it slow and subtle to facilitate the steady flow of energy throughout the body. It is believed that through control of the breath, life can be prolonged.

Aside from that, breathing techniques and breath control can also be employed to help us to deepen our physical poses as well as calm us down and keep us centered during chaotic, busy or stressful situations. This is something I’m sure we can all use this holiday season!

We’re halfway through our preliminary study of the eight limbs of our yoga practice. The first four limbs refer to the external practice of yoga. Next week, we’ll discuss the internal yoga practice and the remaining four limbs.

Have a great week, yogis! BREATHE. Sweat. Smile!

 

 

YBD Holding Bone Marrow Drive For Former Downers Grove North Student

Yoga by Degrees is hosting a bone marrow registry drive from 10 AM to 4 PM Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 – 11, at two of Yoga by Degrees’ studios, 54 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove and at 914 Roosevelt Rd., Glen Ellyn and encourages anyone between the ages of 18 to 44 to attend and take part the quick registration process. All it takes is a quick cheek swab to be placed on the Be The Match Registry and find out if you could be a match for Cara Pagels or somebody else.

carapic7Cara grew up in Downers Grove and attended Downers Grove High School. After high school she set out to attend college and ended up going to DePaul University. Cara worked at Sawbuck Productions, helping to create and disseminate multimedia materials concerning matters of public health, poverty, substance use/abuse, and other social concerns, such as inequality and racism.

Meanwhile she landed a job at the South Korean Government run, English Program In Korea (EPIK). Cara was enjoying her life abroad until one day all of that changed.

“In my third year of living abroad in South Korea, the life I love came to a halt. Out of nowhere, my ankles bruised and swelled up! I was absolutely exhausted by simple everyday tasks such as cooking or even walking 15 minutes. What has been a whirlwind month, I moved back to Chicago and I’m preparing for treatment.” Said Cara

After several blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy Cara was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, a rare bone marrow failure disease. A bone marrow transplant may cure Cara of this life-threatening disease. Unfortunately, her three siblings are not matches, so the transplant will need to come from a donor that is on a donor registry called the “Be The Match Registry”.

Loukia Mastrodimos is a friend of Cara’s. She is currently a yoga teacher at Yoga by Degrees, but she used to work at Downers Grove North, where she met Cara. She reached out to the studio managers for help.

“When I learned that Cara was ill, I immediately wanted to do something to help her. Every teacher has a ‘Cara’ in class. The student who engages with you, takes an interest in your subject, and shows kindness and compassion to her fellow students. We’ve kept in contact since she graduated 8 years ago and news of her illness broke my heart. As a teacher, our students are always our students, no matter how old, and we instinctively want to help them. That’s how I feel about Cara.” Said Loukia.

Be The Match Registry Program has been helping patients receive life-saving transplants. They depend on Be The Match to find a match to save their life. A simple cheek swab is all that is needed to determine if you could be a match for Cara or someone else. The power to change lives is in your hands.
 
According to the Be The Match Registry: “Bone marrow transplantation has been a life-saving therapy for more than 30 years and for many patients, offers the only cure. Thanks to our dedicated researchers, bone marrow transplant has evolved from a new procedure to standard treatment for many life-threatening diseases. Today’s researchers are improving transplantation to increase survival, reduce complications, and possibly treat more diseases.”

Research has already delivered results. Over the past five years, the one-year survival rate for unrelated donor transplants has increased from 42% to 60%, a rate that is now comparable to that of transplants with a family member donor. Survival rates are also higher for many patients, as many now receive transplants earlier in the course of their disease. Research has shown that this improves survival outcomes.

 

Meet Lola, YBD Teacher of the Month

Have you gotten to take this beautiful yogi’s class yet? Lola completed her teacher training at Yoga By Degrees in the Winter of 2015. Since then, she’s been sharing the yoga love with all of our studios and students. She fills the room with her loving, grounded, positive energy from the moment she walks in the door. We are so grateful to have her as part of our community! Here’s where you can find her:

Wednesdays – Wheaton

YBD 2 105 8:00pm-9:00pm

Thursdays – Western Springs

YBD 2 105 8:00pm-9:00pm

Saturdays – Wheaton

YBD 1 85 2:00pm-3:00pm

YBD 2 105 4:00pm-5:00pm

Sundays

South Naperville

YBD 1 85 9:00am-10:00am

YBD 2 95 10:30am-11:30am

Wheaton

YBD 2 95 4:00pm-5:00pm

 

Get to know Lola:

*When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing about 10 years ago and consistently 4 years ago at YBD.

*Why did you start teaching yoga?

In the hopes of Inspiring others and to support and promote all the positives that yoga brings to me and those I know.

*Tips for beginners…

Keep practicing and have an open mind!

*What’s your favorite quote?

Osho: You are not accidental. Existence Needs you, without you something would be missing in existence, and nobody could replace it. That’s what gives you dignity that the whole existence will miss you […]