yoga teachings

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! 

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.

YBD Teacher Making Headlines!

Senior Teacher, Lara Devine has been a dedicated Yoga by Degrees teacher for years.   In addition to her intelligently taught and sought after classes, through compassion, warmth and thoughtfulness, she touches the lives of her students on a regular basis.  It’s for these reasons and more, that Lara has become a cherished YBD teacher, and why now, she’s making headlines!  Check out this beautiful article for yourself!  (Article and permission to post courtesy of Suburban Life Magazine)  

 

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Meet Nikki, Teacher of the Month

We love Nikki! What an inspiring soul and skilled yoga instructor and fab Feb Teacher of the Month. Thank you for sharing your gifts, your authenticity and your spiritual energy with our community. Check out her class schedule to heal, purify, let go and leave feeling strong and serene:

4:30pm YBD Hot, Wednesdays in Downers Grove

5:45pm YBD2, Wednesdays (or temporarily Fridays) in Downers Grove

8:30am YBD Hot, Saturdays in Downers Grove

10:15am YBD1, Saturdays in Downers Grove

11:30am FREE Intro to Yoga, every other Saturday in Downers Grove

 

Inspiring words from Nikki, get to know her better below:

When did you first come to yoga?

I came to yoga about four years ago, and originally started with Bikram yoga. There are many reasons that I decided to walk into a yoga studio. For starters, I was recovering from an ACL surgery when I played rugby at Illinois State. I no longer could run, yet alone walk most of the time. I experienced constant pain, inflammation, and because of my lack of mobility my depression and anxiety increased. On the flip side of the coin, I already had issues upstairs. I deal with PTSD on a daily basis, and have been finding stability and healing through my yoga practice, but especially my teaching. Before I practiced asanas, meditation, or breathing techniques I would suffer from panic attacks on a daily basis and could no longer leave my home. It was awful! The first time I found peace, was on my mat, and I realized that there was a better, bigger life out there waiting for me. All I needed to do was be brave enough to take the first step. I found my first vinyasa class to be challenging and it tested my vulnerabilities as well as my ego. But, I kept going back; some attribute this to the ‘yogi high’ we feel post savasana. 😉

Today, I am able to finally look myself in the mirror and LOVE who I have become. The community of teachers and students inspire me to live my yoga every moment. I no longer suffer from panic attacks on the regular, but once in a blue moon. Life is far from perfect, however I am loving all the imperfections, and how they carve my journey.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I am excited to announce that I am going into my third year teaching! This is more special to me than my actual relationship anniversary (luckily my fiance understands); because, in a way, I married myself. For once, I put my mind and body first. My experience teaching yoga has enabled me to make profound connections with other people, gave me a platform to share my struggles and experiences, and allowed me to help others heal as I heal myself.

What is your favorite pose?

Honestly, I am not being cliche, but it is savasana. It is always my opportunity to unplug, reconnect with myself, practice staying present, and allowing myself to transcend beyond all of life’s stressors into a deep state of rest. It is very closely connected to transcendental meditation, which is my preference. This posture creates such an in-depth relaxation that our brain waves actually change to mimic that of REM sleep. In addition, this is where we receive all the benefits from our previous postures. As a side note, if you stay with the natural rhythm of your breath while in savasana for at least 5 minutes you reduce the cortisol levels in your body, which decreases inflammation and stress (produced by your adrenal glands). If you are someone who struggles with trauma, present or past, savasana is your best friend, because it settles down the ‘fight or flight’ response messages that are overactive in our bodies.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everyone and everything; authentic experiences. That is what inspires me. I believe everything happens for a reason, and every person you meet has a purpose. The world is my mat, and I absorb the lessons like a sponge. I will say that my students and my teacher trainers tend to be the biggest source for inspiration. I love seeing their vulnerability, strengths, and will power as they test out their limitations (or lack thereof) in life.

Tips for beginners…

Don’t worry about what you look like, how inflexible you are, or what type of shape your beautiful body is in. Be open to mistakes, falling, and the unknown. My favorite reminder, “it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” (Said by many, loved by all.) Also, your chapter one should never be compared to someone else’s chapter eight. Each person on their mat possesses a different anatomy, purpose, and length of time practicing. Some are natural, and some will always be clumsy (me!). We are here for the internal transformation, and the external benefits. Trust in the process, and it will unfold before your very eyes.

Last but not least, leave your ego, expectations, and judgments at the door; always lead with your heart.

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote? I can ONLY choose one?! Okay…”If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

Yoga teaches me to live in the moment, as it comes. Not as it was or how I wish it to be. This is how I have found my peace; by becoming aware of the whirlwind of emotions I feel inside (without judgment), and then asking myself WHY I feel this way. If it is because I have latched on to something where I have little to no control, then I reroute. Santosha, contentment, is my final destination in this lifetime.

 

Meet Sarah, YBD Teacher of the Month

We love and honor Sarah P, as YBD Teacher of the Month – December! We want to thank you for your nurturing, kind and calm demeanor. Sarah will sweet talk you into difficult asana and help you realize your potential. It feels like she is hugging you with her words and energy. Sarah is a gentle leader for her all of her students and Teacher Training mentees. We are so grateful for your dedication, compassion and for sharing your gifts with our community.

Check out Sarah’s class schedule and get to know her better below:

Saturdays – 10am YBD1 and 12pm YBD2 – Wheaton

Sundays – 12pm YBD2 and 1:30pm YBD Restorative – Downers Grove

Mondays – 8pm YBD2 – Western Springs

 

When and how did you come to yoga?

I started doing yoga in 2011 as a part of my regular workout routine.  Just a way to cross train from some more intense workouts that I was doing at the time.  I started with sculpt but also incorporated vinyasa and something about vinyasa really resonated with me.  I lost a family member to gun violence about 10 years prior to starting yoga and I was living my life in complete fear.  When I started doing yoga I had no idea that it would help me through the fear that I felt.  We always talk about how when we start yoga we don’t really understand what it is that keeps us coming back, and I felt that way, I kept coming back but didn’t fully understand what was happening.  4 years later and I can say that yoga saved my life.  Truly.  I no longer live my life from a place of fear.  Of course there are things that take me right back to that place but it’s short lived because now I have the tools that I need to breathe through it.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

I signed up for teacher training on a whim, to be honest.  My husband encouraged me to do it, had it not been for him I would not be teaching today.  He gave me that little nudge I needed to pursue what has been such an amazing part of my life.  During training I realized that I wanted to give my students the same thing that I had been given.  A place to heal.  I’ve discovered so much about myself through my own personal practice and I’m so incredibly grateful to my teachers that led me through my healing; I consider my own teaching to be a way to pay it forward so to speak.  We all have something that we’re going through so I want to provide a safe space for healing to happen, to somehow introduce the idea of peace to those that walk into the studio.

What is your favorite pose?

I joke all the time about this but honestly my favorite pose is savasana.  I remember when I first started doing yoga and thought, are you serious, laying down is built into this??  Best idea ever.  It wasn’t always savasana but I’ve found so much peace in just taking the few minutes at the end of my practice to ground myself.

Who inspires your teaching?

There are so many things and people that inspire my teaching but my biggest inspiration is my students.  I love seeing my students working through something on their mats, coming to their safe space and just breathing through things.  Getting to know the people that take time out of their day to come to class and move their bodies.  I love to hear the stories of what everyone is going through, we’re so similar but I think we forget that from time to time.  Seeing a group of people, who don’t necessarily know each other, come together and lift each other up, well it’s just the best part of this job.

Tips for beginners…

I tell all of my new students don’t be afraid to look around if you don’t know what the pose is.  But there is another side to that coin, don’t compare yourself to the person next to you that seems to be ultra flexible.  All of our bodies are different so everyone is going to look different as we’re all searching for our own expression of a pose.  Just keep coming back, you’ll get to know the poses and you’ll be amazed at the things you learn about yourself.

What’s your favorite quote?

Breathe deeply, until sweet air extinguishes the burn of fear in your lungs and every breath is a beautiful refusal to become anything less than infinite.  – d. antoinette foy

Meet Margaret, Teacher of the Month!

Margaret practicing Warrior 2.

Margaret practicing Warrior 2.

This July we are celebrating our very own, Margaret. Her dedication and positive energy have been an amazing contribution to the YBD community. Margaret, we want to thank you for the healing classes you have offered to our students. Thank you so much for the your critical bailouts with subbing whatever class or shift is out there and for saving the YBD staff countless times. Thank you for your sweet smile and constant kindness.

You will find Margaret teaching and subbing all class formats at all studios. There are her permanent classes on the current schedule:

Sundays, 9:00am YBD1 Western Springs

Wednesdays, 6:00pm YBD1 Western Springs

Wednesdays, 7:15pm Sculpt Western Springs

Read on to get to know sweet Margaret more:

When and how did you come to yoga? 

It was my husband Bob, my high school sweetheart and love of my life who gave me a yoga mat and video for Christmas one year.  The video taught me the basic poses and gave me the confidence to attend a class.  Since then I’ve been to countless classes as a teacher and as a student.  It wasn’t long before I discovered that yoga is so much more than the physical poses.

Why did you start teaching yoga?  

Yoga makes me feel good from the inside out so it felt natural to deepen my knowledge and share what I learned with others.

What is your favorite pose?  

I especially like the Warrior Poses.  Warrior poses and their variations teach us stamina, stability, strength and serenity.

Who inspires your teaching? 

I am inspired by many yoga teachers including all those I have the privilege to work with at YBD.   I’m inspired by the ancient yoga philosophy and modern psychology that encourages self inquiry and acceptance.  Lastly, I’m inspired by all the students whom are dedicated to their practice, embrace change and find joy, power and approval within.

Tips for beginners… 

Dress in comfortable exercise clothes.  A fitted shirt/top or one that can be tucked in.  Have a light snack an hour or two before class.  Arrive early, if possible, bring water and a sense of humor.

What’s your favorite quote? 

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.  By Mahatma Gandhi