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Student Spotlight: Read Why Former NFL Player and YBD Member Chris Watt Hits the Mat

Those who practice yoga have all begun their yoga journey for different reasons. Among the many reasons, some start off by being dragged by a friend, some heard it can help with stress, some came to try something new, and others just came because they were curious. Retired NFL player, Chris Watt started his practice via DVDs watched during college football practice but really found his true enjoyment of yoga, and in turn his habitual practice of yoga, following major injuries acquired during his lifelong sport play. Born and raised in Glen Ellyn, Chris went on to play offensive line at Notre Dame. He was then drafted by the San Diego Chargers where he continued to play offensive line for three years before tearing his PCL and stepping down from his NFL career. His focus on healing his body took him to his yoga mat with us at YBD.

What got you started practicing yoga?

I felt like my injuries combined with finishing my career in football, I felt a little lost. A former teammate of mine had told me about the benefits he had experienced. His neck was so compressed until he started practicing and actually grew a half inch taller. He had benefited from an injury standpoint so I thought I would give it a try.

How has your practice benefited you?

I love practicing in the heat. I feel it loosens up my joints so I try to get to class early to move on my mat. There are definitely postures my range of motion prevents me from moving into. But it’s definitely helped with improving my range of motion thus far. I’ve seen changes in my sleep, my stress levels have lowered. I’ve been able to get out of my own head and focus more. My flexibility has improved and I do feel a lot better in general.

What advice do you have for athletes hesitant to try yoga?

I think that you should always do something that’s going to benefit you as an athlete. More people are starting to realize the benefits of yoga. It’s not just for women it’s for men too. You can get so many benefits out of it like flexibility and better sleep, all of these things so important to staying healthy and healthy on the field. I wish I would’ve done it sooner! Don’t worry about being judged on your skill level. Everyone is different and teachers are encouraging.

What is your favorite style of yoga to practice?

I like the 105 YBD HOT class and I occasionally do the sculpt classes which is tough! It’s definitely humbling as well. When I first started I had to go into child’s pose four or five times. Slowly I’ve built up my practice.

What is your favorite pose?

Going into downward dog feels good, especially as my flexibility has improved. Chair pose is probably my best pose that I’ve focused on improving on. I couldn’t do it at first because of my knee but now that it’s getting better I feel that I’ve been able to improve.

 

Mindful Monday: Just Breathe

Good morning, dearest ones!

As we launch into this new work week, remember to breathe!

If you’re running late, just breathe

If your kids are moving at less than optimal speed, just breathe

If there’s a long line in front of you at your local coffee shop, just breathe

If you catch every single red light, just breathe

If the person next to you on the train is loudly talking on their phone, just breathe

If your meetings are filled with long-winded monologues, just breathe

If the IT person is taking forever to look at your machine, just breathe

If on the way to yoga class today you’re stuck behind the slowest driving person in the history of mankind, just breathe

And as you breathe, remember to count your blessings. One by one.

I always count you among my many many blessings.

Make it a great week, yogis!

November Pose of the Month

Half Moon Pose; Ardha Chandrasana (ARD-uh chan-DRAHS-uh-nuh) 

* Ardha – Half  * Chandr – Moon * Asana – Pose * 

In the body Ardha Chandrasana strengthens the thighs, ankles, abdomen, and buttocks. It opens the chest, shoulders, and torso, while lengthening the spine. This pose also stretches the groins, hamstrings, & calves.

Therapeutically Ardha Chandrasana helps to relieve anxiety, backache, menstrual pain, Sciatica, & is very energizing helping to fight off fatigue. This pose is not one to practice right before bed, but bright & early in the morning or to rev up during the 3pm lull in the day.

Most of all Ardha Chandrasana improves your sense of full body coordination, increasing body awareness & proprioception (your sense of your body’s position in space). Ardha Chandrasana brings a new found grace & poise to your life making you more aware of your body’s movements & that can help prevent injury. So as the sidewalks get slippery with cool autumn rains that lead to snow & ice of winter you will be prepared to weather the weather the most balanced you that you can be!

How to Ardha Chandrasana

1: Begin in Triangle pose; Trikonasana placing your top hand on your hip. Inhale bend your front knee & begin to slide your back foot forward & up. Your bottom hand slides forward as well in front of  your grounded foot.

2: Exhale place your bottom hand & foot firmly onto the floor (block optional & very helpful under your hand). Lift back leg parallel to the earth & extend actively through heal to keep the raised leg strong.

3: Rotate your trunk to the sky, option to raise top hand. Lengthen your spine & keep head in a neutral position, gaze forward.

4: Stay 30 seconds to 1 minute then return softly to Trikonasana & repeat on the opposite side. Feel amazing!

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Mindful Monday: Go With the Flow 

Happy happy Monday, y’all!  How about that extra hour of sleep you got last night? What a perfect way to begin today with a feisty attitude of gratitude!

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

Would you like to be happy for the rest of your life? Then follow that one simple idea by Lao Tzu. It’s truly that simple. Yet … 

We’ve been resisting change literally since birth! Born into a cold, loud world, we start our lives crying and in shock. 

And change continues to happen so rapidly. And we fight it every step of the way … even before we learn to actually articulate the word, “No!”

It continues through childhood. Resisting the rules and expectations first from our parents then our teachers and society at large.  

Do I even have to mention teenage rebelliousness here?

And finally as adults … we continue to resist! Yes, one side of us strives to fulfill our social duties, obligations and expectations in exchange for acceptance from our family, friends  and colleagues. But the other side of us craves to revolt against every belief, dogma and standard that has ever been forced down our throats! We long to throw caution to the wind and live with our own rules and experience freedom. 

Just think of how you react when you show up to yoga and your favorite teacher had to sub out class last minute. Or you open up an app you use every day and it’s been completely updated and it’s super hard to navigate. We simply don’t like change.  Which makes us resistant. Annoyed. Inconvenienced. Not happy. 

And this is just the little stuff, right? 

Some big stuff has happened in my life lately, and I’m struggling to accept and go with the flow. So much easier said than done. A friend of mine who I’ve known for nearly thirty years – my best friend during my rebellious and exploratory, toeing the line 20s – was placed on life support recently.  I’m still reeling from the shock of it. Disbelief. Regret. So much inner resistance. 

Other stuff too. No need for details. You get it. We are all struggling and battling with our own inner turmoil each day. 

So how do I deal with this huge curveball that life has thrown at me?

Each time my feelings and thoughts overwhelm me, I just breathe deeply and allow myself to experience whatever bubbled up. 

I then direct my awareness to so many fond memories and I feel grateful for all the time we had together.  And I dedicate my efforts to her throughout the day. Doing things on her behalf that she may not ever do again.  Or truth be told, she would never do anyway. I could never get that girl on a yoga mat! 

And I remember that despite the lie we all whisper to ourselves, that there is enough time, life is fragile and amazing and each moment is a blessing. Each breath truly a gift. 

My work is non-resistance. To open and accept and laugh and love as much as I can for as long as I am able. 

Let’s stop wasting time complaining about the weather or other things we cannot change. Let’s live with purpose and joy and acceptance. 

Something magical will happen to you today! I feel it coming. Best. Monday. Ever. 🙏🏾

Meet Jill L. YBD’s November Teacher of the Month

On days that feel a little gloomy with the clouds and early sundown, spending an hour with Jill feels like sunshine! She is a warm, kind, and loving soul which very much so translates to her teaching. She completed her teaching training with YBD in 2016, and has been sharing her love of yoga through all of our class formats with others ever since! We are grateful to have her on our YBD team; for her connection to her students and for always showing up with her contagious smile. Here’s where you can find her!

Class Schedule…

Tuesday – Downers Grove
Sculpt Fusion 4:30pm
YBD2 95 6:00pm
Wednesday – Elmhurst
Yoga Sculpt 12:00pm
HIIT Pilates 6:00pm
Saturday – Wheaton
Yoga Sculpt 9:00am
Saturday – Elmhurst
YBD2 105 4:00pm
When & how did you come to yoga?
I have been practicing yoga for over 20 years! Yoga became my primary form of exercise in 2009 after knee & hip surgeries kept me from running. It was then that I truly found my love of yoga. I began feeling strong. Yes, I became physically stronger but, more importantly, I found an inner strength that I had not known before. As I continue to grow in my physical practice of yoga, I also continue to grow mentally and spiritually. This is a very powerful combination! Yoga fuels me and allows me to feel prepared for the ups and downs of life.
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I found YBD in 2014 and quickly felt it was my second home. I was excited every time I went to class, and always looked forward to the next one. I completed YBD’s 200 hour RYT program in 2016 with hopes of sharing this love of the practice with others. I believe in the healing and strengthening powers of yoga and hope that each of my students experience this as well.
What is your favorite pose?
There are many poses that could be favorites but dancer pose comes to my mind first. This pose requires balance, strength, flexibility and patience. It makes me feel calm and graceful yet fierce and strong.
Who inspires your teaching?
My students inspire me! I love to  watch students grow in their own practice and in themselves. And most of all, I love the “yoga bliss” I see in students after class!
Tips for beginners…
Find and hold on to whatever it is that keeps you coming to your mat. Resist the urge to focus on just the physical practice of yoga. Pay attention to how your practice makes you feel inside and out.
What’s your favorite quote?
“Strength and growth come only from continuous effort and struggle”
Napolean Hill

Mindful Monday: Turn Yourself Upside Down 

Happy Monday, friends! Well — it’s getting real! Is it time to bust out our winter finery? Hats, gloves, scarves, winter coats? Yes. Yes, it is. 

As we are transitioning to colder weather and less daylight, it’s natural for our bodies to start to slow down. It’s a time for warmth and reflection as we wind down the year and prepare for the upcoming holiday season. 

With this natural tendency to hibernate, it’s so important to be mindful of our mental and emotional states. Many of us are susceptible to feeling the “blues” during this cold, darker season. 

Now more than ever a consistent yoga practice is crucial in keeping mind and body supple, happy and healthy.  A great pick me up is your inversion practice!

Dont think you have an inversion practice? Well. You definitely don’t have to balance on your head to invert. A simple child’s pose, legs up the wall, plow or standing forward fold can do the trick!

Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar believes that inversions allow the body to purge impurities, which facilitates strength, firmness, calmness and clarity of mind.

Ayurveda promotes the regular practice of inversions based upon the theory that many of the impurities in our body are held in the lower abdominal area. When you invert the body and raise your feet above your head or have your head beneath your heart, you allow gravity to move these impurities towards the agni (fire), which is located in our digestive tract (just above lower abdomen). By allowing these impurities (which were previously stuck) to move to your agni (which will burn them off), you’ll be able to breathe deeper and improve your health.

The benefits of inverting are plentiful! Here are some of the main reasons to get upside down:

1. Glowing skin

Reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, stimulates the facial capillaries and hair follicles of the scalp, and helps remove visual signs of toxicity (including acne), giving your skin a natural “face lift” and healthy glow. It’s also great for overall circulation in your body. 

 I definitely walk out from a great YBD class feeling like I’ve gotten a great facial treatment! Have you? 

2. Natural anti-depressant

Inversions literally turn your frown upside down!  Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder. 

Getting upside down makes you happy!

3. Boosts your brain

When the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish because the brain uses 25 percent of the body’s oxygen. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness. 

Shazam!

4. Aids digestion

When you invert your body you allow the stool that is moving from the ileocecal valve through the ascending colon to move with the force of gravity. The pressing of the stool against the intestinal walls also encourages movement and the pressure on the walls of the digestive tract stimulates a stronger peristalsis (muscle contractions that occur in your digestive tract).

Yoga helps you poop regularly!

5. Strengthen immunity 

Inversions help to stimulate lymphatic cleansing and drainage which clears toxins from the tissues and plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the immune system. 

Yogis never (ok, rarely) get sick!

6.  Improves sleep 

A study conducted by LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension) declined by more than 35 percent within 10 seconds of inverting. Muscle tension can contribute to feelings of anxiety as well as insomnia so it’s important to flush it from your body. 

Inversions also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing feelings of relaxation and wellness, which also aids in reducing stress, tension and anxiety. 

Nothing beats a great night of sleep for a healthy, happy body. 

You guys, these are just a few of the endless inversion benefits! Get upside down to shift your perspective, improve back pain, give your heart a break and to have some fun!

Make it a great, upside down week, friends!


Mindful Monday: Yoga and its Benefits 

Good morning, mindful ones! Happy Monday! Well it’s that time of year where it’s pitch black outside as I woke up this morning. It’s rainy and chilly. And it’s dark and still and gorgeously sublime. 

Regardless of the weather outside, this is a beautiful new day filled with endless possibilities to connect with one another. We each have the power to make someone’s day brighter and more meaningful. Including our own. 

And regardless of the weather, we continue to practice yoga. From your own practice, you are already familiar with many of endless benefits of a consistent and dedicated yoga practice. 

There are entire books and numerous articles already on this very topic. All about the physical benefits. And far beyond the physical benefits. 

For me, yoga has 

1. Reconnected me to my body. For many years my former career kept me constantly in my head. Planning. Strategizing. Reading. Meetings — endless, endless meetings. My mat time got me back into my body where I realized all the toll that constant stress had taken on my physically. So I became more aware. More flexible. More limber. Stronger. 

2. Reconnected me to my emotions. Yoga has totally softened me. And it’s an ongoing process. Decades of emotional denial – pretending everything was ok and not really dealing with life as it unfolded. Avoiding. Projecting. And straight up suppressing feelings until they bubbled up and couldn’t be denied. Yoga is a mirror. You must look deeply at yourself in this practice. And if you are not satisfied with your reflection, yoga is the perfect vehicle of transformation. 

3. Eased decades of stress and anxiety. In the beginning, my practice was purely physical. I would push myself physically in order to reach a state of exhaustion.  It was only then that I could reach a place of mental stillness. Was it exhaustion or peace? I don’t know, but it works! 

What are the ways you have observed that yoga has impacted your life? How are you seeing yoga in action off of your mat?

Make it a great week, yogis!

Mindful Monday: Thunderstorms and Sunshine

Good morning, beautiful mindful ones! 

Wow, there’s something about a powerful thunderstorm that gives me such a thrill – and reminds me of how little control I actually have of life. I love that perspective! 

The lightning and thunder woke me up early, early Saturday morning, like 5 am. I spent several minutes standing at the window watching with awe and wonder and feeling such a deep sense of peace in my heart. And it felt so good to get back in my warm bed and be lulled back asleep. Best. Feeling. 

When I woke up a couple hours later, I got ready to go teach three classes in Western Springs. This was so significant for me, because for a few years, these classes were my permanent classes:

10:30 Sculpt

Noon YBD2

1:30 Restorative 

And I would also teach an 8 am class at a health club prior to my triple. 

That was my Saturday for many years. I was teaching 7 days a week back then, and I felt so blessed to be hustling and actually making a living doing what I loved – making my own schedule and all in a virtually stress-free environment. The sun was shining every day back then! 

But slowly my life was shifting. I spent less and less time socializing, because I was up so early each day to teach. I was also utterly exhausted. Physically tapped out. Mentally and emotionally fatigued. Which caused me to further withdraw from my life. If the sun was shining, I was too damn tired to notice. 

I wasn’t sure how to help myself. It was like the rain over the weekend: relentless. I didn’t have time to think or heal or even sleep. If I wasn’t teaching, I was storing up energy and preparing to go teach. I would literally collapse at the end of the day and shut down (with lotsa sugar and carbs and crap!)

It went like that for at least a year! Until I finally started dropping some classes. That was rough! Guilt over giving up classes entrusted to me. Attachment to my classes and my students. Fear of losing the income. But I knew I needed some precious time to heal and rest. 

Over the course of the next year, I continued to drop classes. Slowly but surely. First I gave up my Sundays. Then my Thursday nights. Then Tuesday nights. Then Wednesday nights. No more 6 ams either. Finally … my four Saturday classes. And just this year, I dropped my Friday evening class. 16 classes in all. 

It took another year to soothe my circadian rhythm back to some normalcy. I was still pretty much a hermit; exploring my introverted side and still not socializing very much at all. I needed all of my time and energy to process. I’m still processing. 

But last Saturday – driving to Western Springs on a rare Saturday that I was actually working in the middle of a downpour –  felt like pure, unfiltered middle-of-a-heat wave sunshine!!

It showed me how far I’ve come in terms of balancing my life and our favorite yoga buzz word: self-care. 

I walked into the studio (through the downpour!) feeling such a sense of lightness. I remember thinking this is how I should feel teaching my art, my heart and my passion.  I felt grounded and truly present as I checked in my students and taught my classes. It was absolutely sublime. 

And I feel so grateful that I am now in this space where I actually have the energy and time to pick up classes and help out my fellow teachers. 

And I learned that the sun is always there even behind the clouds and rain and thunder. 

Teaching yoga full-time is not an easy path. But I’ve never wanted easy. I want the sun and the rain. The highs and lows. For me, it’s always been about growth, healing, transformation. And so crucial to my happiness is connecting with others in an authentic and significant way. 

Which areas of your life need to be balanced out a bit more? Where can you take better care of you? 

Have the best week ever, you guys! Rain or shine, let’s just show up for each other and for ourselves!

Mindful Monday: Letting Go

Good morning, yogis! Happy Monday! Happy Columbus Day! I’ve been loving our rainy weather we had last week! Rain is so cleansing and renewing, doncha think?

Especially this time of year — watching the waning of summer into autumn and eventually winter. Observing the trees graciously surrendering their foliage, one leaf and bud at a time. 

As we age, we go through the same process. One by one surrendering the things of our youth. The goal is to age as naturally as possible. To embrace anicca, the impermanence of life. To appreciate what we have while we have it; so when the time arrives to relinquish, we can do it with an open heart filled with love, gratitude and acceptance. 

As I have grown older, some things have been fairly easy to yield to my youth: competitiveness, worrying what people think, focusing on superficial things, equating status with success. 

Some things, however, are more of a struggle. Particularly, watching my baby boy grow into an amazing young man. Of course my heart bursts with so much pride at what a talented, hard working, compassionate human being he has become. Each stage of his life has been preparing me for the inevitable time that he will fly from my nest. 

The latest stage is too quickly approaching. I’m writing this blog from the Purdue campus in West Lafayette – we are actually on our second college campus visit. 

Purdue campus visit, Sunday, October 8, 2017


Even in this picture, you can see him pulling away from me. 😭

As parents, regardless of race, gender, social or economic status, we all feel the same thrills and pangs of parenthood. Some of you are young parents, struggling with getting a full night of sleep. Or spending each and every weekend watching your kids play sports. Some of you are empty nesters, learning to rebuild a life not dominated by incessant demands of your time. 

Like the trees, we parents are all on the same path of letting go. Each milestone in our children’s lives is another practice of releasing. In order to be a successful parent, our children should walk away from us, fully equipped to function and thrive in life.  

I’m so grateful for all of the moments I have with my son. And thankful for all of the strong, brave parents showing me the art of letting go. 

Anicca. Anicca. Anicca. Be happy. Be happy. Be happy. 

October Pose of the Month

Looking back can be dangerous and even painful, sure, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s a quiet beauty in being mindfully contemplative, and a certain maturity required to learn by looking back, all while staying rooted in progress that’s already been made. With broken hearts and confusion that’s erupted for so many of us surrounding recent tragedies, perhaps we need this soft rewinding contemplation more than ever. So, this month we’re bringing you reverse warrior. Stay rooted at the core of who you are, but know that’s it’s okay to bring it back a bit. Reach back, go back, and learn.

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Accessing Reverse Warrior:

  • From warrior II, keep that same strong foundation in your legs
  • Stack your front knee directly over your ankle, and energetically pull your knee back to open your hip
  • Keep your back leg strong and straight, with the sole of your foot grounded at the back of your mat
  • Inhale your front arm up while your back hand drops down with little to no weight on your back leg
  • Look up and continue energizing through your fingertips as your torso stretches back for a side body stretch
  • Try not to compromise the bend in your front lunge

Benefits of Reverse Warrior:

  • Stretches and strengthens legs, groin, and hips
  • Increases blood flow throughout the body, calming the mind
  • Stretches the torso
  • Builds lower body strength