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Mindful Monday: Yoga is the Answer

Yoga is like the surface of water. When our minds are calm and still, our practice reflects back to us life exactly as it is

Happy mindful Monday, y’all! We are starting week two of our summer challenge – those stickers are looking good on those boards! 

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years now.   As I look back on my practice, I can see that it has always met me exactly where I happened to be in my life. Yoga has only one expectation: show up on your mat. Exactly as you are. 

In the beginning, I was a newly divorced mother of a young boy in a high pressure career trying to piece my life back together. Yoga offered me space to build strength and confidence. 
Through the subsequent ups and downs of life, yoga always provided exactly what I needed for myself. During “good” times, my practice was pure joy and lightness. During challenging times, a place of safety and solace. 

No matter what’s going on in my life at any given moment, yoga is always the answer. It is an opportunity to connect deeply within and anchor yourself through the daily fluctuations of life. 

It’s important to remember that yoga is a tree with deep roots and tall branches. We must measure our growth as a whole – our asanas (poses) comprise only 12.5% of our complete practice! 

Whatever you are experiencing in your life, let yoga be your answer. Consistent practice of all eight limbs provides the sweetest fruits and flowers of life. 

Have a great week, yogis! See you on your mat! 

Mindful Monday: Guru Purnima Moon


Happy Monday, oh mindful ones! I do hope you had a lovely weekend. And I especially hope that you were able to enjoy the lovely full moon on Saturday night! 
Our July 2017 full moon brings with it powerful shifting and transforming energy! Whenever we have a full moon, our thoughts, actions, intentions and emotions are magnified. So important this time of the month and always to be very cognizant of your thoughts and attitudes. Mindfully shape your thoughts, words and deeds. This time frame may turn out to be a very productive and transformative shift for you. 

During this time of year in India (and around the world), the Guru Purnima is celebrated. It is observed on the first full moon after the summer solstice. It’s a very significant day devoted to thanking and acknowledging one’s teachers. 

The word Guru is derived from two words, gu and ru. The Sanskrit root gu means darkness or ignorance, and ru denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a Guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. 

While traditionally spiritual and academic teachers are revered during this occasion, in practice, one can honor any person who removes darkness or ignorance. 

This year, even NASA mentioned the Guru Purnima on Twitter in a listing of all of the July full moon’s names. Pretty exciting stuff! 

Have a great week, yogis! See you on your mat. Just a reminder that today is the first day of our Salute the Sun Summer challenge! Go earn  your stickers, friends! 

July Pose of the Month

It’s hard to believe it’s true, but we’re in the thick of the summer already, so poses that are energizing and fulfilling for the entire body are where it’s at! This month, we’re offering a kaleidoscope of warrior II variations. A strong warrior II requires an even stronger foundation, which often has us focusing on the set-up and strength in our legs. With these variations, we’ll keep the hamstrings happy while giving the shoulders, upper back, and wrists something to smile about.

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Building on your Warrior II:

  • Get low in your stance and trust yourself to sink down to stimulate active hamstrings
  • Keeping a solid foundation in your legs, experiment walking your fingertips forward, pausing to linger in the pose when your knee starts caving forward – energize it back!
  • Crawl your hands back, and then switch it up by coming up to your tip toe in your lunge
  • Criss-cross your arms and point your fingertips toward each other
  • Press into your palms to stretch your wrists and forearms
  • Come into a cat back to stretch and strengthen your upper back and shoulders while you’re there

Benefits of Warrior II Variations:

  • Stretches inner thighs, groin, and knees
  • Stretches wrists and forearms
  • Strengthens upper back and shoulders
  • Encourages a strong mind-body connection

Meet Kristin, YBD Teacher of the Month

Happy July yogi friends! This month we are happy to honor our teacher of the month Kristin. She started as a dedicated student at Yoga By Degrees in 2014, completed our 200 hour Teacher Training program in 2015, and is now sharing her love of yoga with so many students as an instructor. Kristin is dedicated to creating a supported, caring space for her students to practice. She pours herself into her sequences and dedicates herself to growing and blossoming as an instructor so that her students have the best experience with her in class. She is a wonderful asset to our YBD team and we are so grateful for her! Here’s where you can find her:

Mondays

8:00 YBD2 105 Wheaton

Tuesdays

8:00 YBD2 105 Western Springs

Thursdays

6:00 YBD2 95 Western Springs

8:00 YBD 105 Western Springs

Saturdays

7:30 YBD 2 Glen Ellyn

10:15 YBD1 Downers Grove

Sundays

12:00 YBD2 95 Downers Grove

1:30 Restorative Downers Grove

4:00 YBD2 95 Western Springs

5:30 Restorative/Meditation Western Springs

When and how did you come to yoga?

After the birth of my son roughly 10 years ago, I started taking yoga at the gym. I immediately loved the challenge of vinyasa yoga and started noticing the benefits quickly. My balance improved in no time and my pants became easier to put on, not just because I lost a little weight, but because my balance and flexibility had improved. When I moved to the suburbs, yoga was not offered at my gym and I drifted away from vinyasa practice. After suffering from a herniated disc, I returned to yoga. I sought out exercise that was low impact to avoid further injury to my lumbar spine. When I found Yoga by Degrees, I found my new home away from home and was completely hooked.

What is your favorite pose?

Savasana wins hands down. There is nothing like a great savasana after a satisfying practice. My favorite flow posture is Prasarita padottanasana (Wide legged forward fold). Not only does it feel so good on the hamstrings and low back, it is a pose that offers playtime for other poses that I love: inversions and arm balances.

 

Who inspires your teaching?

YBD has a truly remarkable and inspiring community of students and teachers. The well is full, for which I am tremendously grateful. I am continually inspired by students overcoming physical and mental challenges with continued yoga practice.  My husband and kids are a constant source of ideas for dharma themes.  Also, I am inspired by so many books and videos and audio recordings which include offerings from Thich Nhat Hanh, BKS Iyengar, Bernie Clark and Shakti Gawain.

 

Tips for beginners…

When I first walked into yoga, I found it sharpened my listening skills. It is helpful to listen attentively to the cues while focusing on your breath. It helps people to move into and deeply feel a pose. Learn to rely on the cues and your breath, and try to only look at a teacher’s demo if you really need a reference for an unfamiliar pose. Breath is one of the most important primary tools for growth and transformation in practice. Remove your ego as much as you can and awaken your senses within. Honor your intuition (which means skipping postures and adding others in when you need to) to nourish your body in practice.

 

What’s your favorite quote?

A favorite excerpt from Michael A. Singer’s Untethered Soul: “Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. . . letting go allows you to free your energies so that you can free yourself. Right in the midst of your daily life, by untethering yourself from the bondage of your psyche, you actually have the ability to steal freedom for your soul. This freedom is so great it has been given a special name – liberation.”

Mindful Monday: Happy Birthday, America 

Flashback to One of my favorite Fourth of July memories!

Good morning, Mindful Ones! And happy birthday, America! 
Sunmer is my absolutely favorite season, and we are smack dab in the middle of it! This week we celebrate America’s birth with BBQs, fireworks and trips to lakefront destinations. It is such a fun, active, exhilarating time!

What’s so important for me this season is to make sure I’m still committed to my mat! I love the outdoors, and it’s easy to find something to do outside rather than going into a hot yoga studio! 

My practice provides me the opportunity to take a mental vacation for just an hour. It gives me time to balance myself out and check back in with how I’m really doing beneath the surface. 

It also helps me slow down enough to appreciate and acknowledge all of my current blessings. An attitude of gratitude makes my life 1,000 times “richer.”

As I practice mindfulness on my mat, I find myself more present off of my mat living my life! Each breath and each fun moment seems to expand and slow down rather than fly by too quickly. 

Physically, it’s great to sweat out toxins and allow my body to breathe. And it also keeps me in tiptop shape to enjoy being outside and being active. 

What are the reasons you keep coming to your mat during this time of year?

To help us stay on track, don’t forget to sign up for our summer challenge! Runs from July 10 through August 19 – we are challenging you to do 30 classes within 40 days! Sign up at the studio next time you’re there 

If you are not a member, you get unlimited yoga for 40 days for only $129! If you are a member, you’ll receive a free workshop if you complete the challenge!

I’ve already signed up! 

Have a safe, happy Fourth of July! Remember you can still take class on the Fourth! We have a shortened schedule at each of our locations!  See you on your mat! 

Mindful Monday: Raising our Vibrations 


Good morning and happy Monday, oh mindful ones! 
Last week was such an energetically charged week! We observed the summer solstice, the official first day of summer, which is an ancient phenomena. We also celebrated international yoga day, which is a very modern observance. Eid al Fitr, the festival of  the breaking of the fast, indicating the end of Ramadan, was celebrated all over the world.  Chicago hosted its annual gay pride parade. 

 Each of these events brought thousands and even millions of people together, focused on one sentiment, literally raising humanity’s consciousness and vibration. It really doesn’t matter your religious beliefs; our collective  awareness is still elevated. 

Anytime a group of like-minded people get together focusing movement in one direction, we have an opportunity to get out of the prison of our own minds by enjoying and becoming part of the flow and force of life. 

We move toward higher consciousness – “a state of elevated awareness and perception in which a person has a deeper understanding of the nature of reality, the self and various spiritual aspects of life that play an important role in one’s personal evolution and psychological development.” 

This is the same dynamic energy we experience when we come together on our mats and practice yoga. We are striving to move from the darkness toward the light. From unconsciousness to consciousness. It is a lifelong practice and our purpose here on Earth.

The four stages of spiritual consciousness are outlined below:

1. Life happens to you.

2. Life happens by you.

3. Life happens in you.

4. Life happens for you.

We move from victim to awareness. We realize that judging and intolerance are inner mechanisms of resistance – that a higher level of consciousness allows an opening to all things life provides us. 

 “Life is setup, to bring up, what has been bound up, so it can open up, to be freed up, so you can show up for Life!” – Mary O’Malley

Have a great week, yogis! 

Mindful Monday: Strength 


Happy Mindful  Monday, friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend. 
Yesterday was a special day where we honor and celebrate our fathers. When I think of my father, who I am so blessed is still with us, I think of strength. No, he doesn’t look anything like the dude pictured above.  My dad has a quiet strength that I’ve always leaned on. It’s given me an endless supply of confidence my entire life. When I was younger, my dad knew everything. And he is the most patient, kind, compassionate person I’ve ever met. 
I’m also so blessed that my son has two fathers in his life. His dad and his stepdad. These two special men are so devoted to my son. They are providers of everything my child needs to navigate this world; the most important being love and patience and support. 

When I think of a great father, it is someone who is strong and steady; wise; can fix anything; protector; sets boundaries and expectations. All of these qualities exude fatherly love IMO. It can sometimes seem like a thankless job. 

I was not able to spend the day with my dad yesterday as he is traveling in Asia. I was fortunate to spend part of it with my big brother and his family. And my mother. 

Maybe yesterday was a struggle for you. Perhaps you are missing your dad who is no longer here. I know some of you may not have had the best relationship with your father. He was lacking in some way that still causes your inner child so much pain. Or there was physical distance that separated you, as in my case. For many reasons, yesterday may have not been the happy, shiny image that you saw all over social media. 

The truth is, we give and receive this fatherly type of love to those around us all the time. We’ve all had to fill in as some type of a father figure at some points in our lives. Families pull together to plug in the gaps. Anytime someone has protected you from some external threat or shielded you from some pain. Anytime you have fixed something for someone or even wrapped them in your arms and provided a shoulder to cry upon. Tossed a baseball or football with a child. Even picking up the dinner tab for family and friends. Quietly provided and received strength and confidence. These are the qualities that embody a father – you have received this type of love from some fatherly source in your life. 

Yoga teaches us to understand that everything happens exactly as it should. Whether your childhood relationship with your father was lacking or filled with love, it has shaped you into the amazing, strong, lovely person that you are. So important that we acknowledge exactly how we feel and learn to slowly heal and nurture our own inner child. 

Do you know what the best thing about childhood is? It’s that it’s over. Your safety, security and happiness are now in your hands. Nobody elses. 

Have a great week, yogis! Looking forward to seeing so many of you on your mats this week! 

Mindful Monday: Summer Solstice 


Good morning, mindful ones!!!! Happy Monday. It feels like summer is in full effect, doesn’t it? This steamy, balmy weather reminds us of why we actually live in the Midwest – because during the harsh winter months, it’s a valid question! But I contend that there’s no better city than Chicago during this time of year!
While it may feel like some summer, the official kick off for summer is the summer solstice which according to the all-knowing internet is on Tuesday, June 20 at 11:24 pm in our Midwest time zone.  So slow your roll over there with your #summer2017 hashtags.  That was directed toward myself. 

Our YBD community will be observing the summer solstice on Saturday, June 17 from 1-3 pm with Ashley (pictured above) at our Downers Grove studio. By doing a Yoga mala together – The auspicious and revered and auspiciously revered 108 sun salutations. 

This practice can be done by most people. While it sounds a bit intimidating, once you get into a rhythm it becomes a deeply meditative experience. It’s certainly something that should be on every yogi’s bucket list! If you’ve been practicing consistently for six months, you should definititey come and try!

Spaces is still available so sign up today! I will see you there!!!

Namaste beautiful yogis. Have a great week!!! 

June Pose of the Month

I’m so happy that the month of summer is finally here! Even if you’re not in the place anymore of enjoying a summer totally off, just the nice weather alone seems to give the body a bit of a reprieve. We’re warmer and therefore less tense, happier and therefore less frantic. Life is busy, so much so that people make memes and t-shirt that say “CAN’T ADULT TODAY” and I gotta tell ya, some days I want one. There’s either so much to do that we just sit on the floor in savasana recounting an endless to-do list, or we overexert ourselves thinking we are Wonder (Wo)Man and then crash and burn. The burnout is real. I’d love to give you a good restorative pose to revive and rejuvenate, but this month is about the comeback. Get up, stand up, feel the burn, move your body. Here’s extended side angle, a core buster and hammie strengthener, and one that’s sure to give you all the stamina you need.

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Accessing Extended Side Angle:

  • Set up in a strong Warrior II by anchoring your back heel to the floor, stacking your front knee on top of ankle, and getting low in your lunge so that your front thigh is near parallel to the floor
  • Lengthen and pull your fingertips and abdomen slightly forward, and then exhale and hinge downward from your hips
  • Keep your arms open so that your bottom arm lowers down and in front of your knee and calf, and your top fingertips extend open and toward the sky
  • Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and rotate your chest open
  • Use your core to try to keep the foundation of your legs strong, and trust yourself to get deep into your lunge

Benefits of Extended Side Angle Pose:

  • Strengthens legs, knees, and ankles
  • Stretches inner thighs, groins, spine, and shoulders
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Increases energy

Meet Hillary, YBD Teacher of the Month

We are so grateful to have Hillary as part of our YBD team! She is such a kind, thoughtful, warm soul and radiates that as she teaches. She is a strong part of our sculpt program and adds such a great energy to our community by leading workshops and events at various YBD locations. As a school teacher, she is off for the summer so will be around the studios subbing and spreading her joy! Come see her!

Mondays Sculpt 6:00pm DG
Mondays Restorative 8:00pm DG
Wednesdays Sculpt 4:30pm GE
Saturdays Sculpy 9:00am DG

When and how did you come to yoga?

About five years ago, my friend Christina brought me to my first yoga class. And I remember I didn’t really want to go because I was scared and nervous. But I soon fell in love with how it made me feel physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

For years I never felt strong, graceful, or flexible. And when I started practicing yoga, I started to feel all of those things and more. I couldn’t believe all of the benefits and how great I felt. I felt calmer yet stronger, relaxed yet invigorated. I was in love with yoga! And because of this, I wanted to share my passion and love for yoga with others.

What is your favorite pose?

Savasana is definitely on the list. I also love pigeon, half moon, crow, and tripod headstand.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everything inspires me. My boyfriend inspires me to take on new challenges and reminds me when I am strong (especially when I feel everything but that). My parents inspire me to believe in myself. My dog inspires me to stay in the moment and love everyone. My cats inspire me to rest when I need it. Nature reminds me that life is a beautiful gift. My friends, family, students, and fellow yogis inspire me to try new things, tap into my inner strength, laugh, and keep learning and growing.

Tips for beginners…

Keep coming back!

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote of all time is from Shakespeare. “And this above all: to thine own self be true.”