yoga by degrees

Mindful Monday: Strength 


Happy Mindful  Monday, friends! I hope you had a lovely weekend. 
Yesterday was a special day where we honor and celebrate our fathers. When I think of my father, who I am so blessed is still with us, I think of strength. No, he doesn’t look anything like the dude pictured above.  My dad has a quiet strength that I’ve always leaned on. It’s given me an endless supply of confidence my entire life. When I was younger, my dad knew everything. And he is the most patient, kind, compassionate person I’ve ever met. 
I’m also so blessed that my son has two fathers in his life. His dad and his stepdad. These two special men are so devoted to my son. They are providers of everything my child needs to navigate this world; the most important being love and patience and support. 

When I think of a great father, it is someone who is strong and steady; wise; can fix anything; protector; sets boundaries and expectations. All of these qualities exude fatherly love IMO. It can sometimes seem like a thankless job. 

I was not able to spend the day with my dad yesterday as he is traveling in Asia. I was fortunate to spend part of it with my big brother and his family. And my mother. 

Maybe yesterday was a struggle for you. Perhaps you are missing your dad who is no longer here. I know some of you may not have had the best relationship with your father. He was lacking in some way that still causes your inner child so much pain. Or there was physical distance that separated you, as in my case. For many reasons, yesterday may have not been the happy, shiny image that you saw all over social media. 

The truth is, we give and receive this fatherly type of love to those around us all the time. We’ve all had to fill in as some type of a father figure at some points in our lives. Families pull together to plug in the gaps. Anytime someone has protected you from some external threat or shielded you from some pain. Anytime you have fixed something for someone or even wrapped them in your arms and provided a shoulder to cry upon. Tossed a baseball or football with a child. Even picking up the dinner tab for family and friends. Quietly provided and received strength and confidence. These are the qualities that embody a father – you have received this type of love from some fatherly source in your life. 

Yoga teaches us to understand that everything happens exactly as it should. Whether your childhood relationship with your father was lacking or filled with love, it has shaped you into the amazing, strong, lovely person that you are. So important that we acknowledge exactly how we feel and learn to slowly heal and nurture our own inner child. 

Do you know what the best thing about childhood is? It’s that it’s over. Your safety, security and happiness are now in your hands. Nobody elses. 

Have a great week, yogis! Looking forward to seeing so many of you on your mats this week! 

JANUARY POSE OF THE MONTH: SIDE PLANK

Side Plank, Vasisthasana

Have you set an intention for the new year? If you’re like many of us, you may set resolutions in January but by the following December realize they haven’t come to fruition. Often times that happens because we have big, audacious dreams but forget to put into place the mechanisms to achieve these goals. Big dreams start small. So today, think about your final goal and then dial it all the way back to the daily or weekly things you’ll need to accomplish in order to get there.

Perhaps this year you work towards a strong vasisthasana (vah-sish-TAHS-anna), side plank! This is a terrific posture to focus on because it’s accessible at all levels of practice; it’s modifications and variations are nearly endless! You can start with your bottom knee grounded for more support, as you feel more comfortable you may choose to stack your legs, and ultimately you may decide to float your top leg up to challenge your balance. Just like goals outside of the studio, there’s little steps you can take along the way to reach your final destination. Give it a try today!

To find your side plank:

  • Press your left palm into your mat
  • Shift weight to the knife edge of your left foot
  • Stack your right shoulder over the left and reach your right hand to the sky
  • Engage your bottom tricep
  • Draw your low belly in and up
  • Strengthen into your thighs and keep your legs active and engaged

Playful modifications and variations:

  • For a grounded modification, drop your left knee to your mat and stack it directly below your left hip for support
  • As you feel more stable, firm into your right leg and hover it parallel to your mat
  • If you’re feeling playful, then this can be taken all the way to your Wild Thing by dropping the ball of your right foot behind you and spiraling the barrel of your chest towards the ceiling

Benefits of vasisthasana:

  • Strengthens your arms, core and legs
  • A great posture for your wrists as it both strengthens and stretches them
  • Improves your focus as your balance is tested

“Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.” – Dave Ramsey

DECEMBER POSE OF THE MONTH: FIVE POINTED STAR POSE

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to forget to give yourself the gift of self care. Take 3 minutes out of your busy day to practice Five Pointed Star, and afterwards you’ll find yourself feeling more energized, confident and ready to greet your day with a smile!

Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Spread your arms wide and hover them at shoulder height
  • Step your legs apart so that your feet are in line with your wrists
  • Turn your toes out and keep your heels in
  • Make yourself strong and rooted by pressing into the outside edges of your feet, engage your thighs and feel your kneecaps lift
  • Gently tuck your tailbone
  • Soften your shoulders down your back away from your ears

To find even more joy in this posture, you might take it a step further:

  • Lift your gaze
  • Raise your arms high
  • Turn your palms to shine towards the sky
  • Fan your fingers wide

Benefits of Five Pointed Star Pose:

  • Lengthens and realigns the spinal column
  • Opens and energizes the entire body
  • Improves circulation and respiration

“You are responsible of your own space. Your own well being. Your own light. Take care of yourself first! Heal your own heart and cherish your own body and celebrate your own soul. Then go out there and live. Love. Make a difference! Use the magnificence you’ve created by celebrating who you are, bring it out into the world and make it a better place. It all begins with you.” – Rachel Brathen

Mindful Monday: To Everything There is a Season

Happy Mindful Monday, my radiant YBD tribe! I’m stepping in to write our weekly blog post for the time being so that our lovely Carla has more time and energy for her gorgeous son Malcolm.

As always, so much goodness is happening in our yoga community. Nearly 30 dedicated yogis gathered during the Autumn Equinox at our Wheaton studio and busted out 108 sun salutations! What an amazing evening of effort, devotion, sweat, smiles, magic and so much love! And some pretty sore hamstrings and abs the morning after, for sure.

While some of us may mourn the end of summer’s long, sunny days, there is so much to celebrate about Autumn: pumpkin ANYTHING; football; apple picking; apple cider; the advent of the holiday season; haunted houses; fireplaces; hay rides; crisper, cooler air; daylight savings time; boots, sweaters and jackets; and the most breathtaking time of year to witness nature’s final blaze of glory.

As always, we seek to find BALANCE each day, and it’s particularly important to feel rooted and grounded during this blustery season of transition. We are shifting from the fire of summer to the  cooling of fall and winter.

We are moving from:

Sun to Moon
Light to Dark
Yang to Yin
Fire to Water and Air
Growth to Hibernation
Building up to Letting go
Movement to Stillness
Outer Achievements to Inner Reflection
Action to Contemplation

This week, try to carve out some time for inner reflection, perhaps while walking through nature. Some points to contemplate:

Where am I currently? Emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially
Which seeds did I plant in the spring?
What harvest am I currently reaping?
Which seeds never took root?
How will I find balance in these opposites?
Which routines do I have to keep myself nurtured, nourished and grounded?
What must I shed and release? Those things that do not ELEVATE me. Habits, relationships, thought patterns

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”  – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Meet Alex L., YBD Teacher of the Month!

We are so lucky to have Alex L. teaching at Yoga By Degrees. He comes to our YBD community from teaching in Missouri and we couldn’t be happier about it! He greets everyone he meets with his cheerful smile and kind presence. That positive energy is brought with him into all of the classes he teaches. If you haven’t gotten a chance to take one of his classes, it is a must!

Check out his permanent schedule:

Mondays:

6:00am YBD 1 95 Degrees Elmhurst

12:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

1:30pm YBD HOT 105 Degrees Downers Grove

Tuesdays:

1:30pm YBD 2 95 Glen Ellyn

Thursdays:

6:00am YBD 2 95 Degrees Elmhurst

8:30am YBD 1 85 Degrees Elmhurst

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Downers Grove

8:00pm YBD 1 85 Degrees Downers Grove

Fridays:

6:00pm YBD 2 95 Degrees Western Springs

 

Get to know Alex:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started practicing yoga about 5 years ago when I was going to school in Columbia, Missouri. A hot studio opened in my neighborhood that combined both styles of vinyasa and Bikram, although at the time I had no idea what that meant. None the less, I started practicing regularly and became hooked on the benefits, both physically and mentally. 

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I decided to go through teacher training as a way to deepen my own practice. I had only been practicing about a year and I was eager to learn more. The studio I had been attending was holding a month intensive 200 hour training and things just started to fall in place, so I went with it. I wanted to learn more about yoga philosophy and anatomy so I could guide others on their own yoga journey. 

What is your favorite pose? 

I have many, but my favorite are the warriors. They’re such strong and powerful poses that make me feel grounded and connected to something bigger. 

Who inspires your teaching? 

I pull inspiration from a variety of places including my family, friends, peers, and personal experiences, but my main source is whoever shows up for class. I always have a few things in mind for class, the rest is reading the room and trying to incorporate what each individual student wants for class, or more importantly, what they need. Finding a balance between pushing their limitations and finding comfort and control in each posture. 

Tips for beginners… 

Just keep showing up. Yoga is a life long journey that is different for everyone. Simply by being present on your mat you’ll learn and grow in your own way. 

What’s your favorite quote?

“…and the tree was happy.” –Shell Silverstein, The Giving Tree

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 Jen P, Teacher of the Month

July is the time for celebrating our love for our YBD Teacher of the Month, Jenny Penny! Jen P (on the schedule) has a great attitude, strong customer service skills, connection to her students, and her continued effort to grow and evolve in her teaching makes her an exceptional yogi and instructor. Come take her class! See her schedule and Q&A below:

Tuesdays:

YBD Restorative 1:15-2:15pm Elmhurst

Yoga Sculpt 7:15-8:15pm Wheaton

Wednesdays:

YBD 2 95 6:00-7:00am Downers Grove

Yoga Sculpt 6:00-7:00pm Downers Grove

YBD 1 7:15-8:15pm

Fridays:

YBD 1 8:00-9:00am Wheaton

YBD Restorative 1:30-2:30pm Downers Grove

YBD1 4:30-5:30pm Glen Ellyn

Yoga Sculpt 6:00-7:00pm Glen Ellyn

Saturdays:

YBD1 2:00-3:00pm Wheaton

YBD2 105 4:00-5:00pm Wheaton

Sundays:

YBD1 8:30-9:30am Glen Ellyn

Yoga Sculpt 10:00-11:00am Glen Ellyn

YBD Restorative 1:15-2:15pm Elmhurst

When and how did you come to yoga?

Every morning since I can remember I would wake up and go through a set of poses like cat/cows, forward folds, etc. At the time, I didn’t even know I was doing yoga poses. So, I guess since I was in this world I have been doing yoga.  I started taking regular yoga classes in college at a local gym where I fell in love with the mind, body, and spirit connection. I was always active in dance, volleyball, basketball, and running BUT nothing compared to yoga. Once I found it, I was hooked.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I wanted to pass along the power of yoga. I went through some difficult health issues and yoga is where I found solace and vibrancy again.  I wanted to teach yoga to give others a way to relax, rejuvenate, and increase their health and wellness as I had done.Yoga created a peace and awareness in me that changed my life. So, I decided to leave my corporate job last year and pursue yoga teaching and my nursing degree. I jumped into teacher training Fall 2014.

What is your favorite pose? 

Chair pose. This pose challenges my patience, strength, and body awareness.  It allows me to find my fierce side and channel that energy through my breath. You sink into your chair and work through that mental frustration in the intensity to then release into the next pose.  It feels amazing to transition from chair to other more surrendering poses.

Who inspires your teaching?

My mom.  She has been my role model my whole life and has taught first grade for over 20 years.  Her ability to give her whole heart to what she does and her graceful teaching inspires me to shine my light to my students to fully be present. She tells her kids the bumble bee quote “Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn’t know it so it goes on flying anyway.” – Mary Kay Ash.  When I teach I try to instill this in my students to look beyond their “limitations”, fears, or routine and allow new space and breath to take them to a place of growth. Also, current books I read inspire me. When words speak to me, I try to make a sequence that embodies that energy and inspiration.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t let fear hold you back from freely flowing and finding your peace. Just breath, smile, and accept yourself exactly as you are on your mat every day. Hakuna Matata –No worries just feel the peace and ease.

What’s your favorite quote?

“Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And Something you give away. –John Lennon

Meet Heather, YBD Teacher of the Month

Heather has been an integral part of Yoga by Degrees so it is about time that we celebrate the amazing gifts she brings to our community. She is YBD’s senior manager, overseeing Wheaton and our western studios, a leader of our 200-hour Teacher Training and is one of our only 500-hour level certified instructors. Heather pours her heart out into everything she does and backs up that nurturing energy with a strong support of anatomy knowledge. Come check out her class at the Wheaton studio:

Tuesday, 9:30am YBD1

Wednesday, 1:30pm YBD2 95

Thursday, 9:30am YBD1

Thursday, 12pm Restorative

Saturday, 8am YBD2 85

Saturday, 10:30am Restorative

Saturday, 12pm YBD2 95, 75 minutes*

Get to know Heather better below:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I began a consistent practice in 2007 after the separation from my ex-husband.    While I had “dabbled” with practicing yoga this time it stuck.  There was a little studio walking-distance from my house and the more I practiced the better I felt.  When I began I couldn’t touch my toes; down dog was NOT a resting pose and chaturanga (yoga push up) was torture.  After it was all over I felt strong, empowered, calm and centered.  No matter how bad the day was or how difficult my life was at the time, I felt at peace.  Over time my physical practice improved but no mater how I struggled in my practice, I was at home on my mat.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

The funny thing is I never intended to teach yoga.  I never wanted to teach yoga.  I got my 200-hour yoga certificate in 2008 as a way to deepen my own practice and dive deeper in the philosophy of yoga.  I wanted to understand why I felt so good even in times of struggle.  My teacher training was for personal growth and nothing else.  One day a fellow teacher asked me to sub one of her classes while going out of the country for a month.   I said no without hesitation.  After a lengthy conversation about why I was not a yoga teacher she said to me “Heather, I think my students would like you and please think about it.”  After some searching I said to myself, “You are a sub.  If you aren’t good at this they never have to see you again.” So I subbed for the month and I fell in love.  I just shared what I loved about the practice and let that lead the way.  I am a very different teacher today than I was back then.  I received my 500-hour teaching certificate back in 2010 and use my knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology to help students in their practice.

What is your favorite pose? 

This a difficult question to answer.  Even poses that aren’t my favorite, I love what they do for me.  A few favorites are pigeon, down dog and wild thing.  Wild thing (camatkrasana) is a heart opener that makes me feel loving and graceful.

 

Who inspires your teaching?

There is no one person that inspires my teaching.  Inspiration can come from anything at any time.  I am inspired daily by all my fellow instructors and students.  Watching my students practice, seeing their moments of success, struggle and acceptance makes me want to be a better teacher for them.  In the end, it is about their experience.  I am blessed to work with wonderful teachers that ALL bring something special to the mat.  I try to use everything as an opportunity for growth both personally and as a teacher.

Tips for beginners…  

Remember that you ARE good at yoga.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard “I’m not good at yoga, but…..”  (I’d have some serious coin). Yoga means to yolk or unite.  Yoga brings us together.  Yoga doesn’t care how strong or how flexible you are.  Yoga accepts you in THIS moment just the way you are.  That means tight, feeling weak, injured (please honor your body. If it hurts, don’t do it), happy, or sad.   Show up on your mat for you, work toward self acceptance, and self improvement comes along for the ride.  Your time on your mat belongs to you and it is a chance to breathe, move and reconnect with yourself.

What’s your favorite quote?  

I say this every class: “Practice makes progress. You are already perfect.”   The more you practice, the more your practice improves. Perfection is already within you. We just cover it up with fear, expectations, judgments and thoughts that don’t serve us.  Strip it all away and there lies your perfection.

Meet Stacey, YBD Teacher of the Month!

We are super grateful to have this talented yogini in our Yoga by Degrees community. She conducts her well-orchestrated yoga class with grace, power, and confidence. Stacey’s dedication to personal growth and connection is evident when you experience the supportive energy, authenticity and expertise in her classes. She subs often and check out her permanent schedule here:

Mondays, 9:30am YBD2 95 degrees, in Downers Grove

Mondays, 12pm YBD2 85 degrees, in Glen Ellyn

Mondays, 1:30pm Restorative 78 degrees, in Glen Ellyn

Thursdays, 1:30pm YBD2/3 85-90 degrees, in Wheaton

 

Get to know Stacey:

When and how did you come to yoga?

I starting practicing in early 2000 after my dad let someone talk him into buying some private yoga sessions.  He didn’t want to go alone (or really at all), so I went with him.  Even though we were in a gym setting and practicing in the middle of the weight room, it was love at first feeling.  After he dropped out, I continued to go until I finally got up the nerve to go to my first yoga class at a studio. 

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I started teaching because my teachers kept needing subs! I become an RYT to deepen my knowledge with zero plans of ever teaching. However, I kept hearing songs I thought would sound good for yoga and started to save them . So, when one of my teachers desperately needed a sub, I thought I’d give my playlist and teaching chops a try.  Both were epic fails, by the way.

What is your favorite pose?

To be honest, the only pose that doesn’t feel like pure bliss is eagle.  Eagle feels more like a pure beating.  I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere, I just haven’t found it.

Who inspires your teaching?

Whoa. This could go on forever.  My family, especially my two boys and my husband, my students, nature (human and the outdoorsy kind), Dharma Mittra, Bryan Kest, Dice lida-Klein, Sigmund Freud, John Friend, and of course all the amazing teachers at YBD that I am honored to have been able to practice under and with.

Tips for beginners…

Try, fail, try again.  Repeat.  Also, don’t take anything- including yourself or yoga- too seriously. Oh, and stay safe. Seriously.

What’s your favorite quote?

Laughter is the best medicine.

4 week SHRED

4 week Shred

Due to the success of our first session, we are thrilled to announce round two of the SHRED program at Yoga By Degrees! The 4 Week Shred will be starting June 1st at Yoga By Degrees Downers Grove.  The 4 Week Shred is a two part boot camp program designed to set you up for success in achieving your fitness and health goals- whether it is kick starting weight loss, building lean muscle while shredding fat or getting into the best shape of your life! You will learn how to fuel and move your body to achieve maximum, long term results. The 4 Week Shred will give you the tools and motivation you need to succeed.

Program starts: June 1-June 26

Sundays, June 12 and 26: 4-5:30pm Nutritional Workshops

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: 6-6:50am High Intensity Fusion Class

Due to the customized meal plans, nutrition workshops and coaching from the Shred Leads, we will have to limit the number of participants.

Want more information? We are holding two information meetings on the following dates. Both Teresa and Susan will be there to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Free Information Meetings:

May 18, 7pm at YBD Downers Grove

May 25, 7pm at YBD Downers Grove

Can’t make the meetings? Want more information? No problem! Email Teresa at 4weekshred2016@gmail.com for any questions you may have!

Pricing

Yoga By Degrees Members: $275

Nonmembers: $400 (includes 1 month unlimited yoga!)

Meet your 4 Week Shred Leads!

Susan Rizzo, RD, LDN, CDE susan

Dietitian

Susan has been a Registered Dietitian (RD) for over 30 years. She is passionate about the value of eating right and exercising for its role in health. For the past 15 years she has enjoyed educating clients as nutrition counselor and diabetes educator for AMITA Health-Alexian Brothers. Over the years she has been involved with various weight loss programs including programs for the YMCA, Weight Watchers, and The Solution Program. Recently she has advised clients involved with The Daily Herald’s Fittest Loser program. Susan holds certifications of training in Adult and Pediatric Weight Management with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her expertise in nutrition has helped many clients individualize their food choices leading to improved weight and health status. She is dedicated to educating people with the tools needed to self-manage their weight and meet health goals. A long time believer in the powers of physical activity she has enjoyed a variety of physical activity pursuits throughout her life including running, walking, yoga, tennis, ice skating, soccer, biking and dancing. She raised 4 children and is sensitive to the needs of busy lifestyles.

 

Teresa Larem Teresa 2

Yoga Instructor/ Yoga Sculpt Instructor/Shred Facilitator

Teresa has always been a lifelong athlete, starting with soccer in kindergarten and continuing with tennis, basketball, softball, track, yoga, dance and rock climbing. If it’s active she likes it! Teresa discovered Yoga sculpt in 2013 and has been in love ever since due to the intensity, fun and results she has received from sculpt and fusion. She began teaching Yoga in 2014 and soon followed with Yoga Sculpt in 2015 and has recently helped train the latest group of teachers at YBD. She loves teaching sculpt and fusion because she loves to have fun and motivate people. Teresa truly believes that being active is the key to a long and healthy life and hopes to make working out fun for her students. Her other hobbies include soccer, spin, walking her dog, reading, and yoga.

Are you ready to sign up? Enroll online, in studio, or over the phone at any YBD location by June 1st!