The Yoga Sutras

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: the American eclipse

Good morning, mindful ones! Wow!  Today’s the big day! Total solar eclipse! This is such a significant event astrologically, astronomically, scientifically and spiritually. On all levels of our human existence. 

This is an electrically charged time in our lives. Perhaps you’ve been feeling it over the past week building up to today?

I certainly had an interesting week. I was super edgy and agitated all of last week. I spent a lot of time trying to stay grounded and rooted. Even with my calming practices, I was supersensitive to a sense of chaos surrounding me. Many things came into my life to “trigger” some of my deep-seated and outdated mental and emotional patterns. 

Emotionally I vacillated between old patterns of anger and hostility to overwhelming sadness and despair. Many times last week I was caught off guard with straight up sobbing and ugly crying every time I went into a forward fold on my mat. I practiced being gentle  and being so compassionate with myself. And I also felt overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love and support surrounding and enfolding me. 

Which makes so much sense! This total  solar eclipse is comparable to the beginning of a new year. The energy of change and transformation is so abundant right now! We must feel and experience stale patterns in order to facilitate letting them go. 

Here are a few things you can do to take full advantage of this rare phenomenon. 

This is the time to write down new intentions and goals. Harness  this energy for self-transformation. 

If you have malas, let them sit outside and soak in this powerful energy. You can do the same thing with water and any healing stones you have.  I have mine all set to go today!

Meditate during this powerful time.  Get synced within yourself. And then sync up with the universe. 

Be safe! Only look at the sun with protective glasses on, please!

Connect with others. Truly meaningfully connect  with those around you. 

Take great care of yourself today. Stay hydrated. Protect yourself from stressful situations and people. Get a massage. Make sure you have enough downtime. Definitely take a yoga class!

Practice forgiveness. This is a fresh start for you. Release any resentments you’re harboring. This is for YOU to feel light and happy and free. That other person will deal with his or her own karma. It’s not for you to administer karma, right? 

Get grounded. Spend some time with your butt directly on the earth. Walk barefoot in the grass. 


I would love to hear from you about any rituals you performed during this auspicious time! 

Here’s to a fresh new start for us all!

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

Meet Lisa, YBD Teacher of the Month

Lisa blissing out doing some beach yoga.

Lisa blissing out doing some beach yoga.

Meet our lovely Lisa, yoga instructor and studio manager of our Elmhurst location. A natural teacher, her nurturing classes are highlighted by serene energy, acceptance, and meditation. Take an hour of her therapeutic class and leave feeling relaxed and balanced. You can check out her classes in Elmhurst at:
1:15pm YBD2 105 on Mondays
8:30am YBD1 85 on Tuesdays
12pm YBD2 85 on Tuesdays
1:15pm Restorative on Tuesdays
9:30am YBD2 95 on Wednesdays
1:15pm YBD2 105 on Wednesdays
Get to know Lisa below!
When and how did you come to yoga?
I found yoga 18 years ago when I was pregnant w my 2nd child. I bought a prenatal yoga book, and loved the way it helped me relax & de-stress.
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I decided to become a teacher while I was a student at ybd in WS. Was very inspired by the teachers there, which led ms to the ybd TT. I thought therapeutic benefits of yoga would be a wonderful complement to the work I do as a counseling psychologist.
What is your favorite yoga pose?
Dancer
Who inspires your teaching?
The amazing teachers at YBD inspire my teaching
Tips for beginners?
Practice patience & compassion with yourself. We are our own worst critics. Just relax & enjoy : )
What is your favorite quote?
“Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
– Helen Keller

The secret to a “perfect” yoga practice: follow the “limbs”

With so many different types of yoga, studios and teachers to pick from these days, discovering a class that involves much more than the physical side of yoga and which is neither too hard nor too easy can sometimes seem elusive.

Yet teachers at some studios like Yoga by Degrees still know the importance and effectiveness of a traditional and balanced yoga class experience.

So what constitutes this experience? Just as every reliable structure must be constructed with time-tested rules and regulations, every yoga class should be built in accordance with the first book of yoga teachings called the Yoga Sutras. Its a compilation of one hundred and ninety six aphorisms based on the ancient Vedic texts.

The Indian sage Sri Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras approximately two thousand years ago. Sutra 2.9 lists the “Eight Limbs of Yoga”.

The Yoga Sutras, by nature, imply that as many of the eight limbs of yoga as possible need to be practiced in order to gain all of the benefits that yoga has to offer.

In a yoga class, using the eight limbs can serve as a powerful tool in encouraging students to challenge themselves but also accept where they are. The eight limbs are as follows:

  1. Yama :  Morality
  2. Niyama :  Personal observances
  3. Asanas :  Physical postures
  4. Pranayama :  Breath control, i.e. breath exercises
  5. Pratyahara :  Sensory control
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and inner awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Meditation on a higher power
  8. Samadhi :  Union with a higher power

It is possible for well-educated and skilled teachers to “weave” all of the above limbs of yoga in to a class. (Except perhaps the last one, then you no longer need yoga!) For example, a teacher could instruct students to turn their awareness inward, noticing what they are “feeling” and by encouraging them to practice with truthfulness (Yama number two) and contentment (Niyama number two).

While it is the yoga teacher’s responsibility to make sure he or she instructs a well-rounded class, as a yoga practitioner, once learned, you can be mindful and creatively weave the eight limbs of yoga in to your practice yourself both on and off the mat!