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Mindful Monday: Do you believe in Abundance?

To receive abundance, I open my heart and let it pour in. I practice staying balanced and grounded, even on one leg with my body turned toward the horizon. I trust in abundance even with my hand bound to my foot. I relinquish the need to control. And I open to receive.

Happy Monday, dear yogis! I don’t know about you, but I had one of the best weekends of my entire life this past weekend! The weather on Saturday lit my soul on fire! And I filled my weekend hours very mindfully and purposefully.

One of my favorite topics these days is ABUNDANCE. I love preaching and teaching and manifesting ABUNDANCE.  I was literally having a deep discussion with my good friend Stanley about abundance early Saturday morning,  as I  was on my way to Chicago where I was meeting an old friend for a yoga class. We talked about how abundance is a mindset – either you are open to abundance or you live in fear of never having enough. It’s pretty simple. But deeply challenging. Most of my life I’ve believed in abundance. I genuinely believe good things will happen, and they generally do.  And I have found that when I try to tackle some of these higher level ideas, the universe always reinforces my philosophical attempts with empirical and experiential evidence.

As I pulled into the parking garage, it slowly dawned on me that I had left my wallet at home. By the way this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.  🙄 So here I am almost 30 miles from home with no cash no cards and no Apple Pay.  I didn’t panic. My wheels immediately started turning. I may have to borrow money from Ken. Would they let me take class without paying? I knew I was somehow going to take that yoga class. That somehow I would get my parking paid. The possibility of anything other than that happening never entered my mind. It was not a matter of ‘if’ it was a matter of ‘how.’

Now mind you I had about 10 minutes to make the long trek to the studio, fill out the new student paperwork and pay for class. (No free week at this spot!!!!)  Life as a yoga teacher means we’re on the road a lot and we probably have two or three bags going on at any given moment. I had a busy weekend planned and that was the case for me.

I began to frantically rifle through all of my bags, and I came upon a little gold envelope that a dear, generous student had given to me a couple of months previous that was accompanied by a beautifully written and heartfelt message and a ridiculously generous cash gift.  And there was a $50 bill remaining in that envelope.

How. Crazy. Is. That. How LUCKY was that? How could the timing in this situation have  been any more perfect? How powerful was the synchronicity of this moment?

And I have found that the key to sustaining an abundance mindset is GRATITUDE. Gratitude is such an interesting concept. It’s really kind of hard to feel grateful for the things you’ve always had. Often times, and definitely in my experience, my sense of gratitude has been cultivated and conditioned specifically during those down times when I’ve lost something and realized it’s value too late. Or when I’ve had to go without someone or something that I had previously taken for granted.

Are you aware of all of the abundance surrounding you? Or are you stuck on the lower vibrational level of a scarcity mindset?


To cultivate consciousness of abundance ….

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;

watch your words, they become actions;

watch your actions, they become habits;

watch your habits, they become character;

watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Have the greatest Monday ever! Expect nothing but abundance and success!

Mindful Monday: Spring has officially Sprung

108 Sangha! Photo credit: Sarah Pogorzelski

Happy, happy, happy Monday, friends! As of 5:29 am today, the Vernal or Spring Equinox commenced! Spring has officially arrived!  This is a powerful time of year! Rapid shedding and releasing; tremendous transformations. The 2017 Equinox is the perfect time to honor all areas and aspects of your life and the circumstances that surround you.

More than 30 of our YBD community gathered together yesterday (a few not pictured) to harness the transformative power of this new season. What an amazing experience!

The sun’s power gives life and allows all things on earth to flourish. As we flowed through 108 sun salutations, we moved and breathed as one. The strength and Grace and power in the room was magnificent.

Four sets of 27 sun salutes.

  1.  Focused and dedicated to releasing what holds us back – Spring cleaning of body mind and soul.
  2. Planting seeds of self-love and self acceptance. Building the foundation for all good things to come.
  3. This set was devoted to people we love. Love is the most powerful energy source.  When we devote our energy to others, we are able to achieve far more  than if it was just for ourselves.
  4. One love. Dedicated to peeling away walls and barriers so that we may find a common ground in all humanity.

Practice ended with some deep yin poses and a guided meditation.

If you were unable to make it last night, no worries! It’s not too late to create your own intentions and plant your own seeds.

Now is the perfect time to bring acceptance to your life no matter the circumstances or the judgements over what is good and what is bad, and to instead honor your unique journey. We are all perfectly in progress!

It is also a time to celebrate how far you have come and how much you have grown over the course of the year. And even last year.

Has 2017 been less than stellar for you ? Well, you can start fresh ! The March Equinox is considered the start of the astrological new year. This is because the Sun shifts into the constellation of Aries, which is regarded as the first of the 12 constellations used in astrology. Never too late to begin again.

The energy of Aries makes it a perfect time to start thinking about what is next and what you would like the next few months to feel like. To think about it but more importantly feel it.

Perhaps make a list of all the feeling words you would like to create in your life moving forward and see if you can start creating those feelings in small ways every single day.

This year’s Equinox is the perfect time to honor the growth and the pain, the light and the darkness and all the experiences that have made you who you are today. It is the perfect time to love yourself and learn to find gratitude and peace with the journey you are taking.

Enjoy this beautiful weather! Make each breath count.

Mindful Monday: Spring Equinox and 108 Sun Salutes

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Happy Mindful Monday, friends!  Living here in Chicago,  we certainly learn to go with the flow –  especially when it comes to the weather!  No shocker when we go from glorious weather in the 60s to snowfall in the same month, right?  So we learn to go with the flow  knowing this is an unchangeable situation and it also impermanent.  Like life it ebbs and flows and is in constant flux and transition.

Regardless  of the weather forecast, our Spring Equinox will be here in a week! Join your YBD community  for a vigorous practice accessible to all levels this Sunday at our Elmhurst studio from 3:30 – 5:30 pm!  The practice itself  should take about 90 minutes.   The final 30 minutes will be a yin and restorative cool down.

While the thought of 108 sun salutes may sound daunting,  the repetitive actions create a meditative experience.  Most people feel a build up of energy as they flow  and leave practice feeling energized!

Each time I’ve been a student for this practice I’ve  experienced an unbelievable freedom  and sense of being unchained.  My practice becomes a devotion and a celebration and a meditation.   It is truly indescribable.

Some common questions are addressed below:

Will the room be heated ?

I will set the room temperature  between 80 to 85°

Do we go through 108 sun salutations nonstop?

I chunk out the practice in four sets of 27

Can anyone do this practice?

Yes I will offer modifications to make this practice accessible to virtually anyone who is in decent physical shape and injury free

What do I need to bring ?

Your mat and a towel and some water

Do I have to count them on my own?  What if I lose track?

I will be counting the sun salutations,  so students have nothing to do but flow

There is still space available!  Sign up at any studio or online!

Have a great week,yogis!  Hope to see you on your mat this week!

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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!

 

 

September Pose of the Month: Bridge

Bridge Pose, Setu Bandhasana

September is a great time to open up and prepare the body for seasonal changes. Bridge pose is an amazing place to open the heart and throat chakras. Here’s how you do it:

  • Lie on your back
  • Plant the soles of your feet at hips distance
  • Reach your hands toward your feet and raise your hips
  • Clasp your hands under your hips and press them into the earth
  • Lengthen your neck
  • Option to raise your leg!

Benefits include:

  • Extends your thoracic spine
  • Lengthens your hip flexors
  • Opens your shoulders and chest
  • Calms your mind and reduces anxiety

 

Meet Nikki, Teacher of the Month

We love Nikki! What an inspiring soul and skilled yoga instructor and fab Feb Teacher of the Month. Thank you for sharing your gifts, your authenticity and your spiritual energy with our community. Check out her class schedule to heal, purify, let go and leave feeling strong and serene:

4:30pm YBD Hot, Wednesdays in Downers Grove

5:45pm YBD2, Wednesdays (or temporarily Fridays) in Downers Grove

8:30am YBD Hot, Saturdays in Downers Grove

10:15am YBD1, Saturdays in Downers Grove

11:30am FREE Intro to Yoga, every other Saturday in Downers Grove

 

Inspiring words from Nikki, get to know her better below:

When did you first come to yoga?

I came to yoga about four years ago, and originally started with Bikram yoga. There are many reasons that I decided to walk into a yoga studio. For starters, I was recovering from an ACL surgery when I played rugby at Illinois State. I no longer could run, yet alone walk most of the time. I experienced constant pain, inflammation, and because of my lack of mobility my depression and anxiety increased. On the flip side of the coin, I already had issues upstairs. I deal with PTSD on a daily basis, and have been finding stability and healing through my yoga practice, but especially my teaching. Before I practiced asanas, meditation, or breathing techniques I would suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis and could no longer leave my home. It was awful! The first time I found peace, was on my mat, and I realized that there was a better, bigger life out there waiting for me. All I needed to do was be brave enough to take the first step. I found my first vinyasa class to be challenging and it tested my vulnerabilities as well as my ego. But, I kept going back; some attribute this to the ‘yogi high’ we feel post savasana. 😉

Today, I am able to finally look myself in the mirror and LOVE who I have become. The community of teachers and students inspire me to live my yoga every moment. I no longer suffer from panic attacks on the regular, but once in a blue moon. Life is far from perfect, however I am loving all the imperfections, and how they carve my journey.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I am excited to announce that I am going into my third year teaching! This is more special to me than my actual relationship anniversary (luckily my fiance understands); because, in a way, I married myself. For once, I put my mind and body first. My experience teaching yoga has enabled me to make profound connections with other people, gave me a platform to share my struggles and experiences, and allowed me to help others heal as I heal myself.

What is your favorite pose?

Honestly, I am not being cliche, but it is savasana. It is always my opportunity to unplug, reconnect with myself, practice staying present, and allowing myself to transcend beyond all of life’s stressors into a deep state of rest. It is very closely connected to transcendental meditation, which is my preference. This posture creates such an in-depth relaxation that our brain waves actually change to mimic that of REM sleep. In addition, this is where we receive all the benefits from our previous postures. As a side note, if you stay with the natural rhythm of your breath while in savasana for at least 5 minutes you reduce the cortisol levels in your body, which decreases inflammation and stress (produced by your adrenal glands). If you are someone who struggles with trauma, present or past, savasana is your best friend, because it settles down the ‘fight or flight’ response messages that are overactive in our bodies.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everyone and everything; authentic experiences. That is what inspires me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and every person you meet has a purpose. The world is my mat, and I absorb the lessons like a sponge. I will say that my students and my teacher trainers tend to be the biggest source for inspiration. I love seeing their vulnerability, strengths, and will power as they test out their limitations (or lack thereof) in life.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t worry about what you look like, how inflexible you are, or what type of shape your beautiful body is in. Be open to mistakes, falling, and the unknown. My favorite reminder, “it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” (Said by many, loved by all.) Also, your chapter one should never be compared to someone else’s chapter eight. Each person on their mat possesses a different anatomy, purpose, and length of time practicing. Some are natural, and some will always be clumsy (me!). We are here for the internal transformation, and the external benefits. Trust in the process, and it will unfold before your very eyes.

Last but not least, leave your ego, expectations, and judgments at the door; always lead with your heart.

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote? I can ONLY choose one?! Okay…”If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

Yoga teaches me to live in the moment, as it comes. Not as it was or how I wish it to be. This is how I have found my peace; by becoming aware of the whirlwind of emotions I feel inside (without judgment), and then asking myself WHY I feel this way. If it is because I have latched on to something where I have little to no control, then I reroute. Santosha, contentment, is my final destination in this lifetime.

 

Yoga??!! Why you (or someone you love) should come to a FREE workshop on 3/8

Written by YBD Teacher, Shaun Emerson: A little less than four years ago, my wife, Lisa, suggested that I join her at this new Hot Yoga place near our home. In a marriage, a “suggestion” can take on a variety of connotations. In this instance, I didn’t detect any secondary intention so was free to assess the offer for what it was.

Yoga???!! I was a former football player, weight lifter, and runner. My body was worse than tight. Rigid, inflexible, compact. What I thought I knew about yoga (I knew nothing) intimidated me. Goofy stretching, right? The longest I ever really stretched was pushing against the garage in a weak lunge for a millisecond before I hit the street for my jog. If I went to this class, it was going to be ugly.

She offered, “It is 105 degrees. You’ll sweat your ass off.”

I was in. All the other stuff be damned. Despite some fear, I love a new adventure and I love to sweat more.

A little less than four years later, I am still pretty tight. I have creaky hips (right, Lara?). And I am an actual yoga instructor. Really, I am a yoga instructor/nerd (though my kids would omit the qualifier…just nerd). How can you not be a nerd about something that changed your life (will save the sappy stuff and how I got here for another time)?

Anyway, I think yoga and asana can be daunting for first timers. We, at YBD, want to make it less so. Therefore, we are putting on a free workshop in Downers Grove on March 8th to demystify, educate and flow. The class will be an opportunity for folks to get into a studio, on a mat without the pressure or concern of walking into a live class. We’ll talk about what yoga is, how a typical class is structured, introduce some of the common postures and have time for questions throughout.

If you are YBD regular and reading this, I am sure you have people close to you that are curious about your yoga practice, but not curious enough to willingly jump into a class with you. Maybe, you want to make a “suggestion” that they come to this workshop. Whether you place any secondary significance on the suggestions is up to you.

Peace.

About The Author/Blog Contributor:shaun  Shaun Emerson is a Teacher at YBD. He says he was encouraged by his wife, Lisa to start his yoga journey three years ago in the heat of a Bikram studio. After an eight-month love affair and four month long breakup with Bikram, Shaun found himself at Yoga by Degrees. YBD Sculpt became a family affair often attending classes with his wife and two daughters. Prompted by his girls and curious to learn more, Shaun entered and completed the YBD 200 hour Teacher Training program. During his training, Shaun shifted from sculpt to flow and found, not only his breath, but a love for it’s quiet, yet vigorous, elegance.

Meet Carole, YBD Teacher of the Month!

A powerful Yoga Sculpt teacher, a mindful Vinyasa instructor, a mother, and a full-time businesswoman –our Teacher of the Month, Carole, does it all.  Carole inspires our YBD community to be balanced with all of her dymanic strengths both in and around the yoga studio.  You can catch Carole’s class at any of our locations, check our website for details. See below to get to know this dedicated leader and yogi even more.

Carole in her favorite asana, Natarajasana.

Carole in her favorite asana, Natarajasana.

When and how did you come to yoga?

About 11 years ago, a friend recommended I try bikram to help with my tennis elbow and other aches I was feeling due to the amount of competitive tennis and hard core workouts I endured since I was a teenager. After 6 months of practicing, my body and mind changed in ways I never imagined. I was then motivated to explore other types of yoga such as Baptiste and Power Vinyasa and yoga soon became a part of my life!

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I wanted to know more than just the physical part of the practice. I wanted to understand more about the philosophy and history of yoga.

What is your favorite pose?

Natarajasana (Dancers Pose) since it is a pose that represents balance – both on and off the mat.

Who inspires your teaching?

All of the YBD teachers!! Every day off I plan to take a class and it just amazes me what I learn from each teacher at YBD!

Tips for beginners…

Keep coming! Do not worry about feeling you have to know ‘everything’, yoga is a lifetime journey.

What’s your favorite quote?

“You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others”

– this resonates so much with me since I balance a full time job in addition to being a mother, wife, and yoga teacher!