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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

Mindful Monday: Spring Into Spring

Good morning, lovelies! Happy Monday!

Yoga is a discipline that makes our lives work.But for a practice to change our lives and make them better, we have to follow it EVEN WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO. that’s what makes it a discipline. It is easy to be kind when we are in a good mood and with people who are easy for us to get along with. If we can be lovingly kind to people that are difficult, or when we are caffeine deprived or in a state of stress, THEN it transforms our lives. If we choose to practice yoga, then we must practice consistently or else we will not see lasting change. We have to set up reasonable boundaries for ourselves, and let go of expectations for results, but stick to a practice we have chosen even when we’d rather not. We find then that our preferences change and actually align with what ultimately lessens the suffering in our lives .We can take ourselves to the next step and start the process all over again.

Are you ready to kick it up to the next level? Consider my detox starting in May. It takes 21 days to create a new habit. This is the perfect reset for your heart, body and soul. Give yourself the opportunity to truly shine!

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: Spring Fever

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Sunset – no filter! 

Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! I sincerely hope you were able to take advantage of our summery weather this past weekend.  Even if you were outside at a track meet or baseball games/practice,  the silver lining is that you got to bask in all that glorious sunshine while  supporting your loved ones.  How did you enjoy this amazing gift of sunshine and warmth?

This is the time of year where we get ‘spring fever.’ We are shaking off the heaviness of winter and starting to increase activites and rekindle friendships.  It’s so fun to get swept up in this season’s offerings: baseball games; al fresco dining; day drinking; increased interest in romance.  Our bodies may require less sleep and crave lighter fare.  Some experience an overwhelming urge to purge and clean.  You may notice an urge to start jogging and an increase in energy in your yoga practice. 

In this flurry of activities, make sure you balance out with some grounding time for yourself! Start and end each day with a short meditation to focus and settle. This mindfulness practice has the power to enrich and expand the quality of your entire day! 

Have a great week, yogis!

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – frank kafka

 

 

 

April Pose of the Month

Up we go, down we fall. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Up again, down again. Some people might find this frustrating, or pointless altogether. The journey to Handstand is long and tedious, and often an on-again-off-again one due to the up and down nature. I guess it’s just like glass half full versus glass half empty people. You can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and become impatient at a lack of progress, OR you can get on your hands every single day, fall down every single day, and call yourself a handstanding hero. And here’s the thing…you are. This month, we’re bringing you pike handstand at the wall, and reiterating that when you’re on your hands every single day…it doesn’t even matter if you’re up again, down again. It’s the every single day part that matters, and your journey to Handstand *will* be fruitful.

The key to finding your Handstand lies in building a strong core, body awareness to stack your joints, and finding your line. I’ve been leading Handstand workshops (one more coming up on 4/30!) and we go through drills on drills on drills to get there. One of the first Handstands we practice is pike at the wall, and I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s a foundational Handstand for beginners and advanced inverters in that it: 1) fosters proper body alignment with hips over shoulders, 2) helps familiarize bodies with any disorientation that occurs from being inverted, and, 3) the use of the wall as a prop makes it so that we can focus more on engaged muscles, active bandhas, and teeny anatomical refinements instead of solely the balance challenge. Collectively, attention on these prep items as a prerequisite to just kicking up willy nilly is going to set a foundation that you’re less likely to abandon. There are three little piggies, but you’re the one that chooses brick, ya feel me?

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Accessing Pike Handstand at the Wall:

  • Sit with your back against the wall and legs straight out in front to measure out where you’ll place your hands
  • Place your palms exactly where your heels rested on the floor (you can use a partner as a marker, so you don’t accidentally eye out the wrong distance)
  • With hands shoulder-width distance apart, use your feet to walk up the wall until your legs are parallel to the floor
  • Push the earth away from you with your palms
  • Knit your ribs inward and fire up your abdominals
  • Draw your armpits in and shoulder blades together
  • Note your lines
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

*Note: It’s great to practice with a partner to get to this shape, mostly because being upside down can be disorienting and walking “up” the wall can feel a whole lot like giving directions in a room of funhouse mirrors.

Pre- and Post-Handstand Reminders:

  • Always Handstand with a warm body & worked abdominals
  • Take time to warm up your wrists and forearms with proper stretching and massage, and give them the same amount of love when you’re done practicing
  • Strengthen and open up your shoulders to protect your joints

Remember that it’s just a basic law of gravity that whatever goes up, must come down. So just keep going…up, and back down!

*Next Handstand Workshop*

4/30 from 1:30-3:30 at our Downers Grove Yoga By Degrees // $40 for nonmembers and $20 for members // Sign up in advance, online or at any of our locations

Mindful Monday: Do you believe in Abundance?

To receive abundance, I open my heart and let it pour in. I practice staying balanced and grounded, even on one leg with my body turned toward the horizon. I trust in abundance even with my hand bound to my foot. I relinquish the need to control. And I open to receive.

Happy Monday, dear yogis! I don’t know about you, but I had one of the best weekends of my entire life this past weekend! The weather on Saturday lit my soul on fire! And I filled my weekend hours very mindfully and purposefully.

One of my favorite topics these days is ABUNDANCE. I love preaching and teaching and manifesting ABUNDANCE.  I was literally having a deep discussion with my good friend Stanley about abundance early Saturday morning,  as I  was on my way to Chicago where I was meeting an old friend for a yoga class. We talked about how abundance is a mindset – either you are open to abundance or you live in fear of never having enough. It’s pretty simple. But deeply challenging. Most of my life I’ve believed in abundance. I genuinely believe good things will happen, and they generally do.  And I have found that when I try to tackle some of these higher level ideas, the universe always reinforces my philosophical attempts with empirical and experiential evidence.

As I pulled into the parking garage, it slowly dawned on me that I had left my wallet at home. By the way this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  🙄 So here I am almost 30 miles from home with no cash no cards and no Apple Pay.  I didn’t panic. My wheels immediately started turning. I may have to borrow money from Ken. Would they let me take class without paying? I knew I was somehow going to take that yoga class. That somehow I would get my parking paid. The possibility of anything other than that happening never entered my mind. It was not a matter of ‘if’ it was a matter of ‘how.’

Now mind you I had about 10 minutes to make the long trek to the studio, fill out the new student paperwork and pay for class. (No free week at this spot!!!!)  Life as a yoga teacher means we’re on the road a lot and we probably have two or three bags going on at any given moment. I had a busy weekend planned and that was the case for me.

I began to frantically rifle through all of my bags, and I came upon a little gold envelope that a dear, generous student had given to me a couple of months previous that was accompanied by a beautifully written and heartfelt message and a ridiculously generous cash gift.  And there was a $50 bill remaining in that envelope.

How. Crazy. Is. That. How LUCKY was that? How could the timing in this situation have  been any more perfect? How powerful was the synchronicity of this moment?

And I have found that the key to sustaining an abundance mindset is GRATITUDE. Gratitude is such an interesting concept. It’s really kind of hard to feel grateful for the things you’ve always had. Often times, and definitely in my experience, my sense of gratitude has been cultivated and conditioned specifically during those down times when I’ve lost something and realized it’s value too late. Or when I’ve had to go without someone or something that I had previously taken for granted.

Are you aware of all of the abundance surrounding you? Or are you stuck on the lower vibrational level of a scarcity mindset?


To cultivate consciousness of abundance ….

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Have the greatest Monday ever! Expect nothing but abundance and success!

Meet Linda, YBD Teacher of the Month

We’ve had quite the year over here at Yoga By Degrees! One of our most exciting additions to our offerings has been the addition of Traditional Hot classes at our South Naperville and Glen Ellyn locations. With our new locations and class format we’ve been blessed to also gain some amazing instructors to our team. Linda has been such a wonderful addition to our YBD team! She’s has a strong knowledge of the practice and leads her classes seemingly seamlessly. Her students love her kind presence in and out of the studio and we at YBD are so grateful for her. Here’s where you can find Linda:

Wednesdays
9:30am Traditional Hot Glen Ellyn
Sundays
9:30am Traditional Hot Glen Ellyn

When and how did you come to yoga?

I began a serious yoga practice in 2010 after my husband and I both decided to make career changes. We wandered into a Bikram Yoga studio without really understanding what it was. The first class was intense, but by the time I got home I was feeling great and decided to practice a couple a times of week. Very soon, a couple of times a week became almost everyday. It began as a way to relieve stress and evolved into a way of life.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I started teaching because I wanted to share what yoga has brought to my life.

What is your favorite pose?

My favorite pose is continually evolving. I believe the most difficult pose in anyone’s practice is the pose they need the most. As you gain mastery of the pose you open both physically and psychically. Right now, for me, that pose is Salamba Sarvangasana.

Who inspires your teaching?

I am continually inspired by my teachers Tia Little, Surya Little and Gabriel Halpern.

Tips for beginners…

It took a lifetime for your body and mind to come to the place it is today. Be patient, it will take some time for changes to become evident.

What’s your favorite quote?
I am a lover of poetry. This is one of my current favorites:
“Are you looking for me?”
Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat
My shoulder is against yours
You will not find me in the stopes,
Not in the Indian Shrine rooms,
Nor in synagogues,
Nor in cathedrals,
Not in masses,
Nor kirtans,
Not in legs wandering around your own next,
Nor in eating nothiing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
You will see me instantly-
You will find me in the tiniest house of time…
The breath inside the breath.
-Kabir

 

 

 

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.

March Pose of the Month

On we March. Into the month. Into the season. Into the storm. Into the thick of it. We keep marching. Whether we’re ready or not, we’re sometimes thrown into circumstances that aren’t necessarily exactly as we’d choose. So we get up, and we move.

In honor of standing tall, feeling powerful, and readying our bodies for whatever comes next, we’re going through Standing Half Moon this month. Not only is this a juicy side body stretch, and the starting posture in our YBD HOT sequence, but it opens and releases the shoulders, which helps to balance perceptions of inner and outer self: how you see the world, and how the world sees you. This balanced notion will help us to march on no matter what’s going on outside of us and around us.

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Accessing the Posture:

  • From Urdhva Hastasana, come to a steeple grip by interlacing your fingers overhead with index fingers pointing up.
  • Keeping your arms at your ears, bump your hips to the left and stretch to the right
  • Open through the chest, and look up to the left with a lifted chin to expose the throat chakra
  • Energetically pull your face through your arms to keep the chest open
  • Focus on using and stretching the hips rather than bending from the torso
  • Repeat on both sides

Benefits of the Posture:

  • Increases flexibility of the spine
  • Corrects poor posture
  • Improves and strengthens every muscle in the central body, especially in the back and abdomen
  • Helps to build will power and strong self-esteem