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

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

Mindful Monday: Mistakes

Happy Mindful Monday, Dear Ones! Hope you’ve had a great weekend! 

Whether or not you watched the Oscars last night, undoubtedly you’ve already heard about the unfortunate snafu that happened with the Best Picture award. 

If we’re honest, we can admit that we make lots and lots of mistakes. Perhaps even daily. Fortunately our lives aren’t broadcast on live television, and our daily inevitable mistakes aren’t subject to as much exposure and scrutiny. 

The best thing we can do when we make a mistake is to own it, apologize and move on. Make things right. 

Which is exactly what we saw last night, right? A mistake was made and corrected immediately. The correct movie and cast was honored for their efforts with the Best Picture Oscar. And this was all addressed within the moment along with an explanation of what went wrong and how it happened. And a very strong likelihood that that same mistake will not be repeated again. 

And of course, the requisite jokes and memes will follow, but soon the incident will be a mere footnote. 

And so it is with us. If you make a mistake, rather than spending so much energy in denying it; admit it. Apologize. And move forward. Personally, this happens to me almost daily!

When we deny, others will disagree. When we acknowledge, apologize and move on, there’s really no where for someone to go from there. 

It reminds me of a song that I used to sing to my son Julian when he was younger:

“Oops, you made a mistake that’s all. Making mistakes is never fun. Oops, You made a mistake that’s all.  Mistakes can happen to anyone.”

So next time you a mistake, own it, fix it and embrace the wonderful growth opportunity that it brings to your life. 

Mindful Monday: Life is just like the Weather

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Herrick Lake at sunset

Happy happy Monday, oh mindful ones! And what a GREAT Monday it is for most of us – students have the day off from school and many are off from work. Except your friendly, local yoga studios – we will be open for business as usual! Hope to see many of you on your mats today!

We are blessed with continued early Spring weather that started over the weekend and will continue through the beginning of this week! I was able to take advantage of this gorgeous weather by spending as much time as possible outdoors. I’m guessing that you did the same!

The weather always strikes me as the perfect analogy for LIFE. We absolutely cannot control the weather – in fact, oftentimes the weather professionals can get it wrong when even trying to predict the future forecast. No matter how much we wish, petition, pray, meditate and otherwise try to manifest a specific weather forecast, we have zero impact on what is actually going to unfold.

And so it is with life. We like to think we can control so many circumstances and situations and even people and our relationships – but the truth of the matter is, we have so little of an impact on whatever life will bring our way. Yes, for sure, we can create goals and visualize certain outcomes, but there’s definitely no guarantees!

Just like a meteorologist can look at past weather patterns and current weather conditions and make an educated guess on what Mother Nature will bring us, so it is with our lives! We plan and project and strive for a ‘perfect’ life, but so often our lives veer in directions that were totally unanticipated.

We learn from our practice that expectation is the root of all heartache. And that the constant cycle of craving and aversion causes all of our own misery and suffering.

For example, with this amazing gift of BEAUTIFUL weather, we are all very happy and do as much as possible to enjoy it while it’s here! But we must remember that the nature of weather and the nature of life is aniccca – impermanence. So when the inevitable day comes – it’s February in Chicago, friends! – that this weather shifts, it will be foolish to crave for the weather to stay the same. It simply cannot and will not – so anything other than accepting reality AS IT IS, not how we wish it to be, is going to cause suffering.

So when the weather shifts to cold, or snow or thunderstorms or biting winds, we instinctually react with aversion to the weather. Which will also cause suffering, Which seems pretty silly, doesn’t it? Does the weather really have the power to make someone happy or unhappy? If that is the case, we are in for one big roller coaster ride!

Instead, through yoga and other mindfulness practices, we can tap into an inner harmony and an inner source of happiness that is not affected by life’s daily and impermanent fluctuations. The only true and lasting source of happiness is an equanimous mind – a mind undisturbed by the daily ups and downs in life. This is exactly why we challenge ourselves on your mats each practice, we purposely put ourselves in uncomfortable and straining poses so that we can practice BREATHING and calming the mind in spite of the perceived external discomfort.

In this way, we try to break free of misery and suffering. And it is a lifelong practice!

Anicca! Anicca! Anicca! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Radiate LOVE

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Happy Monday, beautiful love bugs! What glorious weather we were blessed with this weekend –  An early Valentine’s gift from Mother Nature! Mild temperatures and just so much light and sunshine! Not to mention the gorgeous and sultry full moon!! ahhhhh… LOVE LOVE LOVE is definitely in the air.

And it all starts with self-love. Which is really the most challenging, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to love our kids, parents, siblings, cousins and even friends. But why is it so difficult to truly love ourselves?

My yoga practice has really helped me tremendously in this aspect of my love life. What is our practice if not a radical act of self-love? Self- awareness and self-acceptance leads us toward loving ourselves, doesn’t it? Yoga lifts us from the clutches of self-doubt and pain and sadness and reminds us of our true nature – pure loving kindness. It touches our lives at every level – physical, mental and spiritual. It is a method for us to make life purposeful, useful, noble and to radiate LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

As we truly begin to love ourselves, a lifelong practice and a lifelong love affair, we are able to find more depth in all of our external relationships.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always peseveres. Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8

Wishing you the sweetest and happiest of Valentine’s days this year. As you acknowledge all of your loved ones, make sure that you are at the top of your own Valentine list!

May all beings be happy, happy, happy and free!

 

 

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! 

Meet Erica, YBD Teacher of the Month

Erica has been attending classes at YBD since 2011! She started as a dedicated student, then became a loyal studio attendant, and now she is one of our most beloved sculpt and vinyasa teachers. Her classes are fun and always challenging! Here’s where you can find her:

Tuesdays
7:15PM, Yoga Sculpt, Downers Grove
Thursdays
6:00AM, Yoga Sculpt, Glen Ellyn
Fridays
6:00AM, YBD 2, Downers Grove
 
Sundays
4:30PM, YBD 2, Glen Ellyn 

When and how did you come to yoga?

I found yoga during college. I have been an athlete my entire life and after playing volleyball in college I got a job at a gym. The gym offered yoga classes, so I started taking classes, realizing that they were a great workout. In law school I used yoga as a form of stress relief, and started taking hot yoga classes near school my first year. After I started working full time, I settled back into taking yoga more on a daily basis and have enjoyed it ever since as both a great workout and a form of stress relief.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I started teaching yoga sculpt about 2 years ago. After teaching sculpt for a year or so, I decided to take the plunge and do vinyasa teacher training.

What is your favorite pose?

I love any power pose, specifically any arm balance. I’ve always been the yogi that was strong, but not as flexible, so I relish in those moments in the poses that make me feel strong, especially when my arms or hands are holding the weight of my entire body.

Who inspires your teaching?

I’m inspired by any of my favorite teachers. Every teacher brings something different to class. I try to learn from all of the different aspects of my favorite teachers and try to evolve my own teachings in similar ways. I pull some of my best ideas from collaborative collections of poses taken from some of my favorite classes with my favorite teachers.

Tips for beginners…

Do not feel like you have to be “good” at yoga to go to class. Usually when I ask my sculpters why they haven’t tried a vinyasa class yet or why a level 1 student hasn’t tried a level 2 class yet, the typical answer is somewhere along the lines of, “I don’t think I’m good enough at yoga yet,” or “I don’t know all of the poses”. Yoga isn’t about what your neighbor is doing or how deep you can get into a pose. One of my favorite teachers always jokes that when you nail a peak pose in class, you don’t achieve enlightenment. Its the path to get into a pose that makes it yoga. Its how you treat yourself and its how you approach a pose which makes it yoga. Its knowing how your body feels and knowing that sometimes pushing yourself is not what you need that specific day. So, beginners, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks in the class, or even what the teacher thinks. The class is for you and for you to grow.

What’s your favorite quote?

You cannot control anyone but yourself. I have to remind myself that I cannot control how others act, how others perceive me, or how others may react to something. I can only control how I myself, react to others’ actions, and how I react to others’ perceptions of me.

February Pose of the Month: Seated Meditation

This month we’re cultivating a deeper self-love, the kind that transcends giving yourself compliments, nourishing your body with healthy whole foods, and providing your body with energy and movement. While all of these things are so important, and it’s nice to wake up and have a good hair day or see a number on the scale that’s pleasing and to really feel beautiful, we’re talking about a kind of self-love where none of that really matters after all. This month we’re acknowledging that while feeling beautiful is wonderful, knowing you are on a soul level is forever warming.

Seated Meditation with Various Mudras

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  1. Thymus Tapping – We call these “heart” taps and you might have practiced this in a restorative class. Your thymus gland is located right at the center of your chest. The word thymus comes from the Greek work “thymos” which translates to “life energy” and this gland is in charge of keeping your own energy vibrating at high frequency. These thymus taps stimulate the gland and activate a happy hormone that’ll leave you feeling warmer, more energetic, and a little less obsessed with every day stress.
  • Find a comfortable seat
  • Allow one hand to rest on a knee, either with the palm down for grounding, or the palm up to receive energy
  • With the opposite hand, find your chest bone and tap firmly with your hand open or in a fist for two minutes
  • Repeat

 

  1. Anjali Mudra – We use this often in vinyasa classes to draw energy to the heart, but you can also use Anjali mudra to transfer energy up and away as an offering. Anjali mudra is a seal of composure and reminds us to come back to the heart where we gather all of our resources. Lifting the arms up overhead acts as a prayer of sorts, so that we might lead with the heart in every day interactions
  • From standing or seated, bring your palms together to touch
  • Press energy into your palms, and allow your chest to widen so you can feel some space under your armpits

 

  1. Vajrapradama Mudra – Use this for building inner trust and tackling insecurities when it comes to your self-dialogue. This mudra acts as a shield to the heart, and forms the base for healthy self-confidence when you feel like you just cannot deal with an issue at hand.
  • From seated, interlace your fingers and draw your thumbs wide
  • Lift your interlocked fingers right in front of your heart space
  • Begin to find some resistance by pulling outward and creating a long line of energy from elbow to elbow

 

  1. Lotus Mudra – This one purifies and opens the heart chakra. The lotus flower is a symbol of light and beauty emerging from muddy roots, so practicing this mudra in meditation can be helpful in rising from any personal darkness.
  • Spread your fingers wide and bring the base of your palms together to touch
  • Touch your thumbs and pinky fingers together to create a bowl-like shape with your hands
  • Try inhaling and moving the mudra up to your third eye, and then letting your breath go as you draw the mudra back to your heart

 

Some Benefits of Seated Meditation (There Are So Many):

  • Supports emotional well-being
  • Helps to ignore distractions
  • Quiets Ego
  • Improves immune system and energy level
  • Fosters a deep self-love

Mindful Monday: Mind Over Matter

Happy Monday, dear ones! We almost have January behind us! Super Bowl Sunday is coming up. Then Valentine’s Day. Spring is not too far behind!

One of my mantras during the winter season is: “I never get sick.” I say it at least once a day as people around me complain about being sick and tired. And ask me how many times I’ve been sick in the past several years. I NEVER get sick. I step in sweat people’s every day. I touch up to 100 people each day, maybe even more! I breathe in people’s carbon dioxide. I go from heated, humid classes to extreme cold temperatures. And I never get sick.

There’s definitely a power to verbalizing clear and precise intentions. When you do that, you set in motion the manifestation of your intention. This is why we start each yoga practice with intention. We merge the conscious with the subconscious. And then we act accordingly. When you speak an intention with conviction, trust and absolute belief, your subconscious mind takes notice and will seek out situations to align you with your wish or dream.

So you have two forces working toward success; your conscious mind is aware of your intention, so you will purposely do things to support it. For me, I’m aware of taking great care of myself. Getting enough rest. Eating properly. Staying hydrated. Observing saucha – cleanliness and purity. Practicing yoga to stimulate my lymphatic system and flush toxins. Creating an ideal environment for my immune system to do its job. Subconsciously, as well, my mind supports me. Naturally repelling me from the chronic sick and habitual complainers. And I NEVER GET SICK.

I recently tested this theory with my best friend and fellow senior yoga teacher Sarah Pogorzelski. For seven days, she had from one to three sick-as-dogs males home with her. Seven. Days. She was not only exposed to various stages of whatever virus or bacteria had infected her boys and her husband, but she was under increased stress caused from having to take care of them! Stress is the first thing that compromises your immune system! When you are stressed, your fight or flight response kicks in, and all of your body’s detox and repair projects are put on hold while your body responds as if it’s under attack. All hands on deck to fight the perceived threat.

So Sarah kept repeating my mantra: “I’m not going to get sick.” Her sons would questions her: “How do you know?” And “What if you do get sick?” But Sarah repeated the sacred mantra. She took care of them and met their basic needs. But she also took ample time to nourish herself and to get the proper rest her body needed. Normally when an illness would sweep through the Pogorzelski home, she would be the last one standing and then inevitably succumb to the illness.

But not this time! The power of the mantra worked for Sarah! And it will work for you, too! Whatever your mind can conceive, your body will absolutely without a doubt conceive. I can hear the wisecracks now: Well, I want to play in the NBA or the NFL. Who am I to doubt your dream? I know people who have accomplished seemingly impossible feats! My good friend George Hood held the Guinness World Record multiple times for longest time in a forearm plank. Diana Nyad was the first person EVER to swim from Havana to the Florida Keys without a shark tank = a feat she accomplished at the age of 64! After failing four previous times. When my dad was younger and living in his native country of India, he saw with his own eyes a yogi buried alive and dug out the next day – he hadn’t moved an inch! Or breathed a breath! And yes, he was still alive! My dad Prem would be so happy to share this story with you – just let me know and I’ll arrange it.

Bruce Lee says it best:

“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

Happy Happy Happy Monday, dear ones! What will you manifest for yourself this week?