yoga class

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: 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: 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: 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: Happy New Year!

Good morning, mindful ones! Happy, happy new year!

Today we begin again. A fresh clean slate. This is the year that we can finally get it right!

We begin this new chapter with so much hope and enthusiasm. And resolve.

Take some quiet time for yourself today to reflect on where you are in your life. Celebrate how much you have grown, endured and survived!

Focus on all of your blessings. When we see through the lens of gratitude, we attract more abundance, opportunity, and success. Be humble and grateful, and the world will lay itself at your feet.

Consider the possibility that you are perfect exactly as you are. You are not broken. You don’t have to fix anything. Every moment of your life has been deliberate and meaningful. All of your life experiences converge to bring you right here, right now; this beautiful, expansive moment.

Life has been conspiring on your behalf since you took your very first breath. Crafting lessons and challenges, each designed specifically for your growth and development.

There are no mistakes. There are lessons. No regrets, just pure, painful growth. Every compliment, criticism, promotion, setback, good vibe, illness, heartbreak or really, really long line you have to wait in is a gift that was meticulously designed to make possible your becoming more than who you were and, ultimately, happier than ever before.

Your path toward happiness and success is not a delineated path at all; it’s actually a metaphor for the time it takes for you to really love yourself. To be happy with who you already are, where you are right now, and what you already have … no matter what.

So set your resolutions this year, but not to fix or improve yourself, but resolve to open your heart, trust more, do scary things. Be happy. So let’s welcome in the year 2018 … It’s all about awareness and gratitude!

Our studios are open today with a variety of class offerings. Check us out on our YBD app.

If you really want a radical experience in self awareness and growth, I challenge you to join or 21 day detox!

In 2018 … May you transcend, rise above, and live happily in abundance, health, and harmony…

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

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.

Mindful Monday: Thanks

Happy chilly Monday dearest loveliest ones!

How on earth is it the week of Thanksgiving is my question. 2017 has flown on wings it seems.

Here we officially kick-off the season where yoga pants come in really handy for the serious meals heading our way! I’m so darn thankful for yoga pants.

Through yoga, we know that being grateful is a daily practice. We train our minds to reframe the tendency to focus from lacking to abundance. It starts to become a habit.

And this single daily habit has the power to vastly transform your life. The practice of gratitude makes everything Whole and complete and perfect. Gradually we begin to see and understand that what we have and who we are is enough.

It always has been. We just couldn’t see it because our lens was clouded with tendencies to compare ourselves to others; to crave what we don’t have; this constant compulsion to upgrade.

Or that thing we do where we project future happiness and contentment based on a specific set of circumstances.

All of it is really pretty silly when we stop and observe ourselves. This constant spinning and circumventing and projecting and dreaming and regretting and blaming and being down on ourselves. On and on and on our monkey minds whirl.

Then we pause, unroll our mats and climb on. And all of that mental activity is paused. And we take a deep breath and let it go. And we do that again and again and again. And we fill our minds up with the sound and sensation and miracle of our breath.

And there it is. Sitting quietly. Waiting for us. Whatever the heck it was we were spinning around frantically searching for. In the stillness and the silence of our minds, we can finally hear the quiet almost inaudible whisper of our hearts.

Sigh. How lovely is it to feel the strength and flexibility of our own bodies? How lucky are we that we woke up this morning and have the opportunity to read this blog? There’s food in our refrigerator that’s powered by electricity. We have warm clothes to protect us from the harsh wind. We actually have an overabundance of anything that we need. We have the luxury to give away our excess to those less fortunate. This list continues endlessly.

Think of all the things you have to be grateful for. Fill your heart to overflowing with gratitude. And from this space, devote yourself to service. It can be anything! Just make someone around you smile. Go out of your way to help someone who can never repay you. Be kind and tolerant even when you are irritated. I know you, my dearest sweetest Yogi friend, already do so much to uplift those around you!

When we talk about service to others, we are talking about the ultimate high in terms of happiness. Nothing is more gratifying and soul feeding than that.

For the past 30 years, my family and I have served meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Day. Honestly I can’t imagine doing anything else on that day. Please contact me if you’re interested in this service opportunity. Kids love it!

And the bonus for all of us? Each of our studios will offer yoga classes on Thanksgiving day. Check the schedule! Morning classes, all formats. Schedules will vary by studio.

Happy Thanksgiving!