Mindful Monday

Good morning, lovely and mindful ones! Somehow we blinked, and suddenly it’s March!

After a long, cold and beautiful winter, this is our final push toward the warmer, sun-filled breezy months ahead.

When I think of March, I think St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness, Spring Equinox, spring break shamrock shakes (don’t judge) and dating back to my days in politics and community organizing, Women’s History month. What are some of the things that you look forward to this month?

As we prepare for spring, we focus on detoxing and renewing. We do this in our homes, right? Spring cleaning! Opening the windows to let the breeze carry away stagnant, stale air.

Spring is also the time for cleansing the body from the winter’s slumber. In the winter, we have a tendency to get sluggish, and so spring becomes the opportune time to shed heavier layers and clean the body of excess toxins in the tissues.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, the Kapha dosha, which is the water and earth element, is highly accumulated in the body from the winter months. This can be experienced as winter weight gain and feeling lethargic.

This is a great time of year to consider a detox or cleanse of your digestive system. Cutting processed foods, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and dairy for a few to several days will reset your system and leave you feeling light and lifted.

As sunlight creates longer days, the warmth and dampness of this time of year has the potential to leave congestion and upper respiratory conditions in their wake. Spring is the time for releasing deep-seated emotions of sorrow and sadness. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of twisting postures, backbends and deep forward folds in your yoga classes this time of year to guide you in releasing and renewing.

Let’s enjoy these next few weeks of transition as much as we love the transitions we practice on our mats!

Make it a great week, friends!

Mindful Monday: Tempus Fugit

Good morning and happy Monday, mindful ones! Happy President’s Day! You may have the day off today, but all of our studios are open with our regular schedules!

I was talking to a friend the other day who expressed so much fear surrounding money. She is overworked and overextended, but she continues plodding on at an unsustainable, breakneck speed driven by her fears. I think we’ve all been there. I know that was my reality when I left my role as the spokesperson for the City of Naperville to teach yoga full-time.

But the reason I left the career that I once loved so much was that I wanted more freedom and flexibility with my time to spend more of it doing what I love.

And I slowly realized that money is the currency that we use to purchase goods and services. It is a tool to use in the pursuit of a full and fulfilling life. It is not the purpose of life.

The true currency of life is our tempus TIME. We exchange our precious, limited, finite time for money when we work. It’s a steep price to pay.

Each day, no matter how good looking you are or how much money you have or how talented you are, you are given 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes. That’s all you get in one day. You can’t bank it, roll it over or save it for later.

I always think of Steve Jobs and how all the money in the world could not prolong his life. He couldn’t cash in his vast fortune and buy another decade of life. But he certainly spent his seconds, minutes, hours and days in a way that impacted and changed our entire planet.

Like death, time is our great equalizer. It does not favor the rich or the poor, the believers or non-believers. How you spend or squander your time determines your life, your future, your karma.

Tempus fugit, carpe diem et memento mori

“Time flees, seize the day, remember death”

How will you spend your precious time this day? What will you receive in exchange for this priceless commodity?

Mindful Monday: Snow Day

Good morning, mindful ones!

Well last week’s blog was called Slow Your Roll, and it was about slowing down our instant-gratification-and-endemic-busyness-plagued-society by releasing expectations. How apropos that we had the very opportunity to incorporate that attitude with the huge snow storm that hit us late last week!

We were all literally forced to release expectations and slow down, because we had no other choice. Roads were treacherous and many businesses actually closed or opened late morning or early afternoon.

Things like huge snowstorms give us an opportunity to observe ourselves (without judgement) and to witness our instinctual and also conditioned reactions. And through our yoga practice, we have learned the precious art of finding that space between breaths and pausing before reacting. Then choosing our response.

One of my all time favorite quotes. Victor Frankl survived the Holocaust and several concentration camps, and he used his experience to help others find the beauty of life and the will to live.

In the most wretched of human circumstances, Frankl observed that some people maintained their deep humanity through simple acts of sharing their last scrap of bread or still finding beauty in nature.

We, who have so much to be grateful for, can still catch ourselves reacting to unexpected circumstances with annoyance, impatience and even anger. Often we react without thinking. Our behaviors are acted out and reflexive rather than thoughtful.

Through our yoga practice, we have learned to breathe and pause. In this paused space lies our growth, happiness and freedom. With such awareness of this space, we find the freedom from both internal and external pressures and we choose our response.

I think of it as a game. I watch a strong reaction arise within, and try to pause and just look at it. And then I know I have a choice: continue on with the emotion or realize that’s it’s temporary so I can choose a less reactive response.

And we don’t have to wait for a huge act of nature to practice this. We have these opportunities all day long! Sitting at the breakfast table. Walking into a restaurant. Standing in line at the grocery store. Shopping for food before a huge snowstorm hits. Even on our yoga mats, we have sixty minutes to observe, pause and then respond.

It is in the little every day moments our true character is revealed to us. How we behave on our yoga mats shows us how we will respond off of our mats as well. How we train each day determines how we will handle the big stuff when it arrives.

Have a great week, friends! Be safe and I can’t wait to see you on your mats this week!

Pose of the Month – February 2018 Eka Pada Rajakapotasana

Happy February, yogis! This is the month of  LOVE so we are featuring eka pada rajakapotasana or one-legged king pigeon pose as our Pose of the Month! While you can see from the image above, in addition to the deep backbend, your hips enjoy a really deep stretch as well!


  • Opens the hip joint
  • Lengthens the hip flexor
  • Stretches the thighs, gluteals, and piriformis and  muscles
  • Extends the groin and illiopsoas
  • Opens chest and shoulders
  • Stretch abdominal muscles and internal organs
  • Brings spine to natural flexion
  • Opens your heart and mind
  • Relieves anxiety and stress
  • Provides a fresh perspective
  • Relieves insomnia

How To:

  • From downward facing dog, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling
  • Bend your right knee and bring that leg forward as if you were going to step into a lunge. Instead of placing your foot down as you would for a lunge, bring your right knee to the floor on the outside of your right hand.  Your right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility.
  • Release your left knee to your mat. The front of your left leg is as flat on the floor as possible. Take a look backwards and make sure that your left foot is not sickling inward. It should point straight back.
  • Square your hips towards the front of your mat.
  • Take a block under the right side of your butt as necessary to make the pose more comfortable.
  • Bend your left knee and reach back for your left foot with your left hand.
  • Draw your left foot toward your left glutes, stretching left quads
  • Reach your left hand to your left foot and rotate your shoulder so that your left elbow faces the ceiling
  • Square your shoulders to the front of the room.
  •  Lift from your lower ribs away from your hips to lengthen spine
  • Draw navel to spine to protect your low back
  • Lift your chin toward the sky and drop your head between your shoulder blades
  • Draw shoulder blades together and down your back to open chest toward the ceiling
  • Take five deep breaths into lungs
  • Repeat on left side


  • Rather than the backbend, square shoulders forward and lengthen spine
  • Fold your torso  over your right shin leading with your heart, keeping spine long
  • If you have knee issues, lie on back and make a figure four with your legs

Mindful Monday: Begin

Good morning, mindful ones! Here’s to hoping 2018 is off to a great start for you.

Today is Day One of our 21 day cleanse. Two dozen of our YBD family are embarking on a radical journey together: 21 days of clean, organic eating. It’s a radical reset and an opportunity to take really great care of ourselves.

I’d like to share with you the five enemies of the mind that can hinder growth and transformation that I have shared with my cleansers this morning. Have you ever experienced these mental hindrances?

1. Sloth or Torpor – this is where the mind and body become tired, heavy and dull. Many times we lack a specific direction to move energy toward and we become lethargic.

2. Craving or Sensory Desire – this is where the mind and body want to FEEL GOOD and we become driven by a compulsion for food, sweets or some other physical comfort and pleasure. Try to observe where/what is driving this compulsion. Sometimes where we think we are HUNGRY for food, we are actually hungry for something else: stress relief, distraction, quick escape. Often this is not about the FOOD but another situation in your life. Observe, journal, watch the craving dispassionately as it will soon dissipate.

3. Agitation – we are shaking up our normal routine – we are making shifts and changes and closing the door on our comforts and our woobies or teddy bears – habits that we have created as psychological safety nets. When we challenge ourselves, it becomes uncomfortable and agitating. Just sit with these sensations and observe how the body physiologically reacts according to our thoughts.

4. Aversion – there may be certain unpleasant truths that we don’t want to deal with – we avoid these thoughts and situations with wine, chocolate or other physical activities to avoid stillness and thought.

5. Doubt – this is where we begin to question why we are doing something. We begin to feel uncertain and our commitment is tested.

Just as there are five enemies, there are also five friends on this path.

Draw upon the strength of these friends.

1. Awareness – simply observing the inner challenge without

succumbing or reacting.

2. Concentration – focus your energy on your goal.

3. Wisdom – knowing everything is bound to change. Acknowledging the impermanence of all feelings and challenges.

4. Effort – determination to stick to your goal.

5. Equanimity – calmness of the mind, non-reactivity.

Whatever your intention or resolution for the year may be, be on the lookout for the mental roadblocks and remember always that you are much stronger than any temporary thoughts, feelings and cravings.

Have a great week, friend! Onward we go.

Mindful Monday: Happy New Year!

Good morning, mindful ones! Happy, happy new year!

Today we begin again. A fresh clean slate. This is the year that we can finally get it right!

We begin this new chapter with so much hope and enthusiasm. And resolve.

Take some quiet time for yourself today to reflect on where you are in your life. Celebrate how much you have grown, endured and survived!

Focus on all of your blessings. When we see through the lens of gratitude, we attract more abundance, opportunity, and success. Be humble and grateful, and the world will lay itself at your feet.

Consider the possibility that you are perfect exactly as you are. You are not broken. You don’t have to fix anything. Every moment of your life has been deliberate and meaningful. All of your life experiences converge to bring you right here, right now; this beautiful, expansive moment.

Life has been conspiring on your behalf since you took your very first breath. Crafting lessons and challenges, each designed specifically for your growth and development.

There are no mistakes. There are lessons. No regrets, just pure, painful growth. Every compliment, criticism, promotion, setback, good vibe, illness, heartbreak or really, really long line you have to wait in is a gift that was meticulously designed to make possible your becoming more than who you were and, ultimately, happier than ever before.

Your path toward happiness and success is not a delineated path at all; it’s actually a metaphor for the time it takes for you to really love yourself. To be happy with who you already are, where you are right now, and what you already have … no matter what.

So set your resolutions this year, but not to fix or improve yourself, but resolve to open your heart, trust more, do scary things. Be happy. So let’s welcome in the year 2018 … It’s all about awareness and gratitude!

Our studios are open today with a variety of class offerings. Check us out on our YBD app.

If you really want a radical experience in self awareness and growth, I challenge you to join or 21 day detox!

In 2018 … May you transcend, rise above, and live happily in abundance, health, and harmony…

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

Mindful Monday: Yoga Mala

Happy Monday, mindful ones. Well Chicago is definitely living up to its name. Wow! That brisk wind blasting my face this morning is exhilarating. Like a double shot of espresso!

It’s getting colder and darker, and I keep reminding myself that it’s OK. In fact, it’s necessary. So I really try to catch myself before I go on auto pilot and just start complaining about it. Practicing mindfulness with my thoughts and my words is a lifelong practice.

I’m really excited to begin preparations for Yoga by Degrees’ winter solstice celebration. We will observe this auspicious time of year by completing a yoga mala – 108 sun salutations!

According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga yoga, each vinyasa (sun salutation) is like a bead to be counted and each asana (pose) is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. The garland of yoga adorns us with peace, health, knowledge and self-awareness

While this may sound intimidating, it’s actually a practice that is super energizing. Sun salutations are the perfect way to lengthen, strengthen and flex the main muscles of the body while distributing prana throughout your whole system. Anyone can complete a yoga mala, regardless of physical limitations. Some will modify and some students actually intensify the practice!

When you begin your YBD classes with a handful of sun salutes, you right away feel your heart rate increasing, right? Sun salutes improve circulation, purify your blood and strengthen your physical body. Your lungs, digestive system, as well as your muscles and joints all benefit from this ancient practice. The more you do, the more vital prana circulation is increased, removing energy blockages and unlocking pathways for more energy to flow through you. The natural high you experience from the yoga mala is indescribable.

Our practice together will focus on the shortest day of the year as a turning point – emerging from a place of darkness to a place of light mentally, physically and even emotionally.

Some other benefits of sun salutations are:

• Promotes healthy digestion.

• Strengthens and tones abdominal muscles through alternate stretching and compression of abdominal organs.

• Ventilates the lungs, and oxygenates the blood.

• Rids body of enormous quantity of carbon dioxide & other toxic gases.

• Quiets the nervous system and improves memory.

• Promotes sleep and calms anxiety.

• Normalizes the activity of the endocrine glands – especially the thyroid gland.

• Improves muscle flexibility.

• Improves grace and ease.

Improves flexibility, especially your spine.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up at your studio today! I guarantee you will not regret honoring the changing of the season in this way. Plus it’ll be a great way to blow off some pent up holiday stress and pressure!

Have a great week, yogis!!!

Mindful Monday: Moving Towards Darkness

Good morning and happy Monday, lovely people!

We have hit the jackpot with all of this bonus sunny, warm weather lately! How on earth is it even December?!

Of course, all of the homes adorned with Christmas decorations, a digital overload from advertisers, busy stores and the heavy mall traffic ground us firmly back into the season. Am I right?

And the shorter days and looooonger nights remind us we are smack dab in the middle of that time of year where we continue moving towards darkness.

What are your thoughts and feelings when you think of darkness? Sometimes I think it gets a bum rap.

We become so obsessed with lightness that we can easily overlook the depth and beauty of darkness. Yet we cannot have one without the other!

Popular culture overemphasizes reaching for the light: positivity and affirmations are ubiquitous. And obviously that’s all good! But learning to connect to our “dark side” is essential for a full, rich and complete Life experience.

Our yoga practice is a dance between light and darkness. We arrive on our mats on a quest toward lightness and moksha, and along the way we encounter and get acquainted with our own darkness.

Our darkness or shadow selves encompasses the parts of us we avoid, repress and even suppress: the not so pretty stuff; painful and messy stuff; shame; unhealed wounds; raw and disowned fragments of ourselves.

It’s very understandable that instinctually we avoid the dark aspects of ourselves. But when we do this, our chances for true happiness and joy are in serious jeopardy.

What? Why?!?

Well…. because light and dark are both sides of the same coin. The only exist in relationship to one another. So as you embrace the dark side of yourself, you are paradoxically supporting the lightest and brightest and most authentic you.

Give yourself permission to feel sad, depressed, jealous, uncomfortable and confused or even to be unclear about what you’re feeling! But whatever it is, allow yourself to feel it and experience it. Sharpen your awareness. Move boldly to the depth of these dark feelings. Once you work through them, you are moving directly back towards the light.

See darkness isn’t so bad after all! Yoga teaches us to embrace the full spectrum: light and dark, expansion and contraction, ease and effort.

Trust your own complexity. Embrace your shadows. Say yes please and thank you to all of life’s experiences. Especially the challenging ones! Graditude for the opportunity to grow and transform.

I will be leading a very special practice where we will explore darkness through a moving meditation on Saturday, December 23 at 2:30 pm at our Western Springs location. Please talk to any of our locations for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week, beautiful ones!

Mindful Monday: Know Your Mind

Hello Dear Ones!

Another Monday has arrived. A beautiful fresh clean slate.

Remember that your mind doesn’t control you; you control your mind!

So fill your thoughts with abundance, acceptance, love, happiness, joy, prosperity. Fill your heart with compassion, laughter, tolerance.

Look for the goodness in every single person you meet. Even if you may need to look really, really long and hard.

Happiness is a choice. Entirely 100% up to you and you alone.

Through mindfulness practices like yoga, we begin to ascertain the deeply seeded thought patterns and reactions we’ve supplanted into our own minds. How easy it is to go on auto pilot and just react to situations that appear to be similar to those we’ve experienced in the past.

These samskaras become so deeply embedded into our subconscious that we are unaware of its effects on our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

We become trapped in this karmic wheel which keeps spinning around and around as we continue to react again and again.

These patterns are deeply rooted into our psyche. It takes deep awareness and dedication to acknowledge and uproot the samskaras.

To truly know your mind, you must find mental stillness in order to observe. From this place of observation and non-judgment, slowly one moment at a time our samskaras will reveal themselves.

Your yoga practice is such an amazing place to explore and familiarize.

Practicing yoga at least three times a week will have a profound effect in your life physically, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically.

Let’s commit to our mats during this crazy stressful and awesome holiday season.

This week Will be only as awesome as you decide to make it.

So much gratitude for you! Namaste.

Mindful Monday: Thanks

Happy chilly Monday dearest loveliest ones!

How on earth is it the week of Thanksgiving is my question. 2017 has flown on wings it seems.

Here we officially kick-off the season where yoga pants come in really handy for the serious meals heading our way! I’m so darn thankful for yoga pants.

Through yoga, we know that being grateful is a daily practice. We train our minds to reframe the tendency to focus from lacking to abundance. It starts to become a habit.

And this single daily habit has the power to vastly transform your life. The practice of gratitude makes everything Whole and complete and perfect. Gradually we begin to see and understand that what we have and who we are is enough.

It always has been. We just couldn’t see it because our lens was clouded with tendencies to compare ourselves to others; to crave what we don’t have; this constant compulsion to upgrade.

Or that thing we do where we project future happiness and contentment based on a specific set of circumstances.

All of it is really pretty silly when we stop and observe ourselves. This constant spinning and circumventing and projecting and dreaming and regretting and blaming and being down on ourselves. On and on and on our monkey minds whirl.

Then we pause, unroll our mats and climb on. And all of that mental activity is paused. And we take a deep breath and let it go. And we do that again and again and again. And we fill our minds up with the sound and sensation and miracle of our breath.

And there it is. Sitting quietly. Waiting for us. Whatever the heck it was we were spinning around frantically searching for. In the stillness and the silence of our minds, we can finally hear the quiet almost inaudible whisper of our hearts.

Sigh. How lovely is it to feel the strength and flexibility of our own bodies? How lucky are we that we woke up this morning and have the opportunity to read this blog? There’s food in our refrigerator that’s powered by electricity. We have warm clothes to protect us from the harsh wind. We actually have an overabundance of anything that we need. We have the luxury to give away our excess to those less fortunate. This list continues endlessly.

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Fill your heart to overflowing with gratitude. And from this space, devote yourself to service. It can be anything! Just make someone around you smile. Go out of your way to help someone who can never repay you. Be kind and tolerant even when you are irritated. I know you, my dearest sweetest Yogi friend, already do so much to uplift those around you!

When we talk about service to others, we are talking about the ultimate high in terms of happiness. Nothing is more gratifying and soul feeding than that.

For the past 30 years, my family and I have served meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. Honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else on that day. Please contact me if you’re interested in this service opportunity. Kids love it!

And the bonus for all of us? Each of our studios will offer yoga classes on Thanksgiving day. Check the schedule! Morning classes, all formats. Schedules will vary by studio.

Happy Thanksgiving!