Pose of the Month: March 2018 Parivrtta Anjaneyasana

Happy March, yogi friends! It’s the time for new beginnings. New energy flowing in and sweeping out the old stagnant air.

Nothing is better for creating new space than twisting, twisting and …. twisting!

Our pose of the month is Parivrtta Anjaneyasana or Revolved Crescent Lunge.

Parivrtta: to turn around, revolve

Anjaneya: salutation

Asana: pose

This gorgeous pose offers many benefits:

• Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles

• Stimulates abdominal organs

• Improves digestion and elimination

• Stretches the psoas and hips

• Relieves sciatica pain

• Develops stamina and endurance in your thighs

• Improves your balance, concentration and core awareness

Ok let’s get to it!

1 From downward facing dog, step your right foot between your hands. Extend your left leg back as you press through the ball of your foot. Engage your core. Rise up and bring your palms together at heart center. As you press your left heel back, reach the crown of your head forwards to lengthen your spine and sides.

2 Take a deep inhalation, as you begin to exhale, twist towards your right leg. With your palms still together, place your left tricep on your right thigh, attempting to get your torso as close to your leg as possible.

3 Push your palms together to engage your arms and try to twist in deeper, sending your chest in the direction of the ceiling and shifting your gaze upwards over your right shoulder.

4 Stay here, or extend your left fingertips down to the ground on the outside of your right leg, and reach your right fingertips up the ceiling.

5 Stay here for five breaths. To exit the pose, unwind and place your hands down on the mat, then step back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat with your left leg forward.


*Option to lower your left knee. This will make the pose less intense and provide more opportunity to deepen the twist.

*Deepen the twist by using your breath: Inhale for length and let the exhalations happen naturally to turn the torso around the axis of the spine.

*Stabilize your shoulder girdle to isolate the twist in the spine. Often once we start to twist, the bottom shoulder head rolls forward, pulling the bottom shoulder blade off the back. Instead work on stacking one shoulder directly on top of the other and working to maintain equal width in both shoulder blades and collarbones as you twist.

*Squeeze your back thigh muscles to the bone, activate your back glutes and internally rotate you back thigh to keep your hips square and pelvis stable.

Mindful Monday: Expectation is the root of all heartache

Good morning, mindful ones!

Think about the last time you felt hurt, disappointed or let down. If you examine that situation, you’ll see that it was your expectation not being met that caused your disappointment, not what actually happened.

If you didn’t expect a certain outcome, there would be nothing to react to!

It’s pretty darn simple but so very challenging. I mean how can we go through life without expectations? We expect things to go in a logical, linear direction. We expect to work hard toward a specific goal or outcome. We expect those we love to treat us in a loving, respectful way. We expect to go to the market and find the items we need and purchase them. We expect our cars to start when we push the ignition button. We expect someone to call when he/she says he/she will. We expect our friends to have our back. We expect our children to behave in a certain way. We expect our parents to love us. We expect to pay our bills and have our utilities work. We expect to wake up in the morning and the sun will be shining. The list goes on and on and on of our expectations. I mean they are all pretty reasonable, right?

Sure they are! And when one of our reasonable expectations is not met, how does that make us feel? Resentful. Disappointed. Downright pissed! Sad. Betrayed. Hurt. These feelings can fester in a relationship. All caused by certain expectations.

It’s so important to turn our attention inward when feeling that bitter sting of disappointment. Rather than project it outward and blame the easy target, look within and see where the disappointment is rooted.

We cannot control others. We cannot control life. This is a lifelong lesson we continue to resist. The more we resist it, the more painful these lessons can become.

So we continue to practice our yoga and meditation to use for self-introspection. It should never be about the other person or outside factor. What am I doing today about my anger? Jealously? Self-doubt? Expectations?

Can I give and love more freely? What was my motivation when I did x, y or z? Was it pure or was I doing it to get something in return?

For me, it’s always about shifting my perspective back to gratitude. Focusing so much on all of the abundance of blessings and love that surrounds me each day. Giving for the sake of giving. Loving because it’s my true nature. Accepting because it’s my only way to stay sane!

Have a great week, dearest ones! Hope to see you on your mat this week – but I won’t be mad at you if you don’t show up!! ❤️

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: Slow Your Roll

Good morning and Happy Monday, y’all! What an eventful past week we’ve had. The Super Blue Blood Moon and the Super Bowl! Not to mention the snowstorm and just the hustle and bustle of every day life. Whew! 2018 is off to a busy start.

Life continues to unfold at its usual brisk pace, which is why we are so grateful for this ancient practice of yoga that we have. It reminds us to slow down and be mindful.

When life gets really busy, we can get overwhelmed. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to do more, to achieve more, to be more. To get stuff done! Rather than amp up to a more frenetic pace, this is the best time to slow down and be more mindful.

In order to reduce the level of stress in our lives, the first thing we should do is reduce our expectations. Yep. That’s right.

While you are plowing through your endless list of things-to-do, notice if you feel road rage bubbling up because of traffic or if you feel annoyed if your barista or server or sales clerk is taking too long to help those in front of you. Or if you are out of sorts because it snowed (during winter, in the Midwest, no less.)

At these moments, rather than get caught up in the negative emotion conjured up, use the opportunity to realize that most of our expectations are completely unreasonable and self-centered.

Without expectations, we aren’t terribly disappointed when he/she doesn’t call or when you open a perfect looking avocado only to discover that it’s already brown on the inside. These things will continue to happen, but we stay open and are therefore not hurt or disappointed by any outcome that unfolds.

This attitude is in direct contrast to the open 24 hours, overnight delivery, express checkout lines, instant messaging culture in which we live. We are taught to have high expectations, demand a better deal, and expect what we want when we want it. The result is that we have been conditioned all of these years to move quickly, multi-task, speed up and drive through. The problem with this hectic lifestyle is that we don’t have the opportunity to practice important attributes for peace and happiness such as patience, tolerance, compassion, conscious breathing and listening skills.

So slow your roll, breathe deeply into the present moment and don’t forget to actually chew your food.

With this newfound space and groundedness, we can focus much more consistently on the top priority stuff like our yoga practice!

Have a great week yogis! Slow down and savor each breath that is coming your way!

Annica! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: We love Mondays!

Good morning and happy, happy Monday!

Did you wake up this morning and jump right out of bed? Lol. Did you hit snooze a few times and then drag yourself into the shower?

Just remember that our perspective is everything. Monday is a hard day only for those who perceive it negatively. Reframe any negative thoughts into positive uplifting ones! Don’t let unhappiness or sadness be related to Monday in any way.

Monday is a a great start to your week – share your enthusiasm and uplifting thoughts with others. Know you already have all the tools you need to make this the best week ever!

Mondays are a fresh, clean canvas waiting for you to decorate it with your goals and dreams. Something amazing will happen to you today! I hope you’re aware and present when it does!

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

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: 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!