clarity

Mindful Monday: Yoga Etiquette

Good morning, mindful ones! This is the time of year that our classes can be pretty crowded. You may have already noticed that. So it’s a great time to brush up on our yoga etiquette.

The word “etiquette” is derived from the French word “estique” meaning to attach or stick. It describes proper conduct established by community, such as our YBD community.

It’s important to remember that the essence of etiquette begins by showing respect for others, putting others at ease, and showing kindness and courtesy to others. If we follow these mindful guidelines, we are truly practicing the ancient art of yoga.

So here goes! A few tips to make yourself and those around you at ease and comfortable:

1. Arrive on time – We are all familiar with that feeling of rushing into the yoga studio. It’s stressful to you and your classmates. Be sure to arrive on time, allowing for time to check-in, put away your personal belongings, set up your mat and grab your props. This will contribute to a more relaxing and focused experience for you. And if you arrive really early, you have a few moments to meditate or practice pranayama (breath work).

2. Leave your shoes at the door – Please remove your boots or shoes at the front door and place them in the designated trays. Especially during this time of year when our footwear is covered in snow, salt and slush. Not only are you contributing to the cleanliness of our studios, but you’re helping to create a welcoming space for all of us.

3. Revel in the silence – Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind. Once you step inside the studio, please respect the quiet space we cultivate for you and others. Take conversations to the locker room or lobby area. Many of our students arrive early to practice meditation or to just relax in the warm and silent room. For many, this may be the only time they have all day for themselves. Please be mindful and respectful of that. This of course means please leave your cell phone in the locker room. If there is a specific situation where you need to have your phone with you in the studio, please inform the teacher about it.

4. Practice personal hygiene – The majority of our classes are heated, so smells can be amplified and overwhelming in the hot room. Please come to class odor-free, meaning sans heavy perfumes and other odors.

5. Be aware of your space – Once in the studio, please be aware of your space. Our classes are very popular and can get pretty crowded this time of year, so being mindful about how much space we’re taking is important. Sometimes it is a luxury to have endless space around your mat.

If you notice a late straggler rushing into the room frantically looking for a spot, practice embodying yoga by moving your mat and creating space. This is how world peace begins. One mat at a time.

We don’t have a ton of rules at YBD, but following these few, simple guidelines will enrich our practice tremendously.

As always my yoga lovelies, so looking forward to seeing you on your mat this week!

Onward and upward, always!

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!

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!

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: 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.