Mindful Monday: Spring Ahead!

Happy Mindful Monday, friends!

When we changed the clocks early Sunday morning, we didn’t magically create extra daylight … we just shifted the time that the sun rises and sets. This affects your circadian rhythm, your 24 hour body clock.

Setting your clock forward 1 hour for Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the spring means losing an hour of sleep on the morning after the change. For most people, this may just be a minor annoyance. However, for others it can be quite disruptive.

Some studies show that tiredness induced by the clock change contributes to an increase in traffic accidents on the first Monday after the clock switch.

Other studies show an increase in heart attacks and even triggers for mental illness and depression due to that one hour of less sleep.

Even though disrupting the circadian rhythm can have some serious effects, most studies find that they pass during the days following a DST change.

Interestingly, during the fall when we gain an hour, the opposite effects have been measured and observed. A decrease in traffic accidents and even a decrease in heart attack rates!

Being tired can decrease productivity, concentration, and general well-being. It can also make you feel crabby, unmotivated and even depressed!

There are some simple ways of making it easier to handle the clock change, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

• Eat a healthy breakfast first thing. Food tells your body it is the start of the day.

• Go for a walk. Light, and especially sunlight, helps to adjust your internal body clock.

• Use the light wisely. Head outside early to get sunlight and wake up, and dim your lights in the evening to get your body ready for sleep.

• Adjust evening activities. To fall asleep more easily (particularly when losing an hour in spring) limit caffeine and alcohol before bed, and avoid strenuous nighttime workouts. Yoga is fine!

Well here’s to Monday! We got this, y’all; we are yogis! Getting proper rest and self-care are our top priorities.

Have a great week my friends. See you on your mat!

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

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!

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: 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: 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.