yoga

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! 

Mindful Monday: The Butterfly Effect

Happy Mindful Monday, y’all! Wowzah! What a fantastic weekend! So much fun happening in the Chicago area! We are in full on summer concert mode.  Cue the graduation parties and weddings.   I hope you got out there and had some F-U-N!

Last Friday morning, I dropped my son off at school for the very last time of his sophomore year. For two school years, I’ve dropped him off. Through the heat of late summer, the crispness of fall, snow, rain, hail and Windy City windchill. And almost every single morning, I would interact with John, the crossing guard.  

I was nervous during the first few days of high school, dropping my son off in a much larger campus. John’s bright, welcoming smile during the early days was so reassuring. 

 I’ve kind of gotten to know him the past couple of years. And greeting him each morning is truly a bright spot in my day. The weather fluctuates like crazy, but John is always smiling and cheerful and kind. 

I’ll smile and wave at him most mornings. Often I’ll roll the window down, and we give each other the knuckle pound or shake hands. That brief fleeting interaction literally lifts my spirits for the rest of the morning. I always drive away with a big smile on my face.  

Some days I can’t catch his eye; maybe he’s focused on helping kids cross the parking lot without getting run over by a soccer mom who is running late; or sometimes he’s talking to his other fans. And I always experience a sinking disappointment those mornings. 

John is such a reminder of the butterfly effect – the theory that small causes, such as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, can cause ripples of large effects. 

The truth is we never really know how much a smile and a wink can lift another’s spirits. We may never know how that brief interaction may impact someone’s entire day. 

And vice versa. An angry word or thoughtless gesture may have a large impact that becomes a long chain reaction. 

The butterfly effect is actually a scientific theory which states that a single occurrence can literally change the course of the entire universe. 

Armed with this knowledge, what effect do you choose to have on the universe this week? Every thought every word every deed has the potential to change the world. 

Thanks for reading this blog.  Have a great week!

I hope to see your beautiful soul sometime on your mat this week!

Meet Hillary, YBD Teacher of the Month

We are so grateful to have Hillary as part of our YBD team! She is such a kind, thoughtful, warm soul and radiates that as she teaches. She is a strong part of our sculpt program and adds such a great energy to our community by leading workshops and events at various YBD locations. As a school teacher, she is off for the summer so will be around the studios subbing and spreading her joy! Come see her!

Mondays Sculpt 6:00pm DG
Mondays Restorative 8:00pm DG
Wednesdays Sculpt 4:30pm GE
Saturdays Sculpy 9:00am DG

When and how did you come to yoga?

About five years ago, my friend Christina brought me to my first yoga class. And I remember I didn’t really want to go because I was scared and nervous. But I soon fell in love with how it made me feel physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Why did you start teaching yoga?

For years I never felt strong, graceful, or flexible. And when I started practicing yoga, I started to feel all of those things and more. I couldn’t believe all of the benefits and how great I felt. I felt calmer yet stronger, relaxed yet invigorated. I was in love with yoga! And because of this, I wanted to share my passion and love for yoga with others.

What is your favorite pose?

Savasana is definitely on the list. I also love pigeon, half moon, crow, and tripod headstand.

Who inspires your teaching?

Everything inspires me. My boyfriend inspires me to take on new challenges and reminds me when I am strong (especially when I feel everything but that). My parents inspire me to believe in myself. My dog inspires me to stay in the moment and love everyone. My cats inspire me to rest when I need it. Nature reminds me that life is a beautiful gift. My friends, family, students, and fellow yogis inspire me to try new things, tap into my inner strength, laugh, and keep learning and growing.

Tips for beginners…

Keep coming back!

What’s your favorite quote?

My favorite quote of all time is from Shakespeare. “And this above all: to thine own self be true.”

 

Mindful Monday: It’s All Good


Greetings and Monday morning salutations, dearest ones!!! We talk so much about the impermanent nature of life – Annica – which can be so readily evidenced in Chicago weather.  Last Thursday I was literally sweating in my booty shorts at Herrick Lake, and Friday night I was in my winter coat and boots freezing at my son’s sectional track meet! What can we really do but laugh at the absurdity of it all.  (By the way, he qualified for State finals! #proudmommabear). 
As I was driving Saturday evening, I literally gasped as I glanced up to see the sun setting. I immediately stopped my car and pulled over to capture this picture. 

As I was watching with so much awe and wonder, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of ease and peacefulness. And the realization that it truly is ALL GOOD. No matter what transpires during any given day, we can be sure that the day will come to a close in a blaze of fire and glory. And no matter what happens throughout the night, we know FOR SURE that the sun will rise. 

That thought was extremely comforting to me. As much as possible,  I try to witness the sun rising and setting each day, and I also make an effort to notice the sky periodically throughout the day. As I’ve looked up throughout the decades,  I’ve  never once been disappointed. And I’ve never once seen the same sky or the same sunset or sunrise. Even the clouds form into unique, fleeting, never to be seen again shapes and textures. 

Recognizing the impermanence of the sky cultivates a true appreciation for what IS and negates any expectation of what or how it ought to be or should be or is supposed to be. Yatta Butta – reality AS IT IS. Not how we want it to be. 

With the understanding of the impermanent nature of all things, we now have the space and opportunity to appreciate a person, place or thing for what it is in that moment. We learn to cease expecting and be more aware of every moment as it unfolds. Without attachment or expectation.  

As I was sitting for almost 5 hours undeneath cold, windy and rainy skies on Friday night, I reminded myself that this was quite likely the last meet of this season. Of his sophomore year. This meet would never come again. That knowledge awakened a deep sense of gratitude within my heart. 

It truly is all good. 

I hope you have a great week ahead of you! Yatta Butta, baby! 

Mindful Monday: You are exactly where you have manifested


Good morning, Yogi friends! Happy Mindful Monday! Today is the BEST day of your entire life. You have this entire day to look around at your life; to really see your current situation – physical, mental, financial, emotional – with the realization that you have manifested all of it. 

To know in your heart of hearts that every burden bears a gift, my friend, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

“You are exactly where you are suppose to be right now in your life.”

Try this affirmation that I use with my cleanse/detox  students and my private lessons. 

Today I accept this truth that I am exactly where I am suppose to be in all of my relationships; my relationship with food, my body, mind and spirit.

It is through this greater understanding that we feel deeper self-acceptance, unconditional love and the freedom to change.

Today I know that with each conscious breath that comes in that I may start again no matter what has happened in the past. I may now come to my breath and begin again.

The secret is that it is truly that simple! All you need is a fresh breath and an unshakable faith that everything is unfolding perfectly. 

Have a week that you want and deserve: it’s up to you to make it amazing or crappy. You alone have that power. 

Namaste. Annica! Be happy!

Meet Julie, YBD teacher of the Month

This May, we are happy to honor our Senior teacher Julie! Julie just celebrated her 5th anniversary teaching at Yoga By Degrees and we couldn’t be more grateful to have her as an integral piece of our puzzle and our May teacher of the month. The moment you enter the studio, you’re greeted by Julie’s warm, infectious smile. Her classes seem to be so effortlessly created yet are so uniquely woven together and always leave you feeling content, challenged, and grounded. We are huge fans of Julie and we know you will be too! Here’s where to find her:

Mondays, 8:00 am YBD-1 – Wheaton
Tuesdays, 6:00 am YBD-2 95 & 9:30 am YBD-Hot – Wheaton
Wednesdays, 6:00 am YBD-2 95 – Glen Ellyn
When and how did you come to yoga?
My yoga journey began about 20 years ago with mindfulness, meditation and the mind-body connection, really starting with the book “Minding the Body, Mending the Mind.” Nearly 15 years ago I stopped running because of pain in my back and knees. After moving to Naperville in 2005, I took my first hot yoga class. As I lay in savasana I thought “Oh…this is what it is like to be calm.” That was the beginning of my addiction to yoga. (It also helped my back and knee pain, as well as all the other aches and pains.)
Why did you start teaching yoga?
I love the therapeutic benefits of yoga and the calming effect it has on the mind-body, which is really what yoga is about. I had thought about teacher training for a while, but was always too busy. Then when the market crashed and I found myself without a job it was the perfect opportunity to start teaching yoga – one of the best decisions of my life.
What is your favorite pose?
How do I choose just one? It would have to be savasana. As I explained to a friend the other day…the entire class prepares you for savasana, that is when the yoga really happens.
Who inspires your teaching?
The students inspire me. They show up to their mat. They make it a priority.
Tips for beginners…
Let go of how you look (or think you look) and tune in to how you feel. Focus on your breath…if you can breathe, you can do yoga.
What’s your favorite quote?
Again, how do I choose just one? One of my favorites is by Edward Teller
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”

Mindful Monday: April Showers Bring May Flowers

During a huge downpour between classes at YBD Downers Grove, Bernie, Katie and I did what most normal people do – we did a little yoga in the rain!

Happy Monday, radiant, hydrated, nourished ones! Yes, yes, yes it’s been raining for days! Personally, I love the rain.

The weather is our prime example of the impermanence of all things. Annica! Annica! Annica! Be happy! Be happy! Be happy! I can still hear the words of my meditation teacher S. N. Goenka.

Without rain, all things in nature would cease to exist. We ourselves can’t survive very long without water. In fact, we are pretty much walking skin bags of water!

There are songs and movies about the rain. It’s a powerful force of nature.  We have entire genres of clothing dedicated to the rain. Poets and photographers and artists try to capture its magnificence.

Your second – chakra – swadhisthana – is the water element: its primary association is emotional health, intimacy and creativity. When swadhisthana is open and balanced, we enjoy life fully and expansively. We live authentically without fear and experience love, intimacy, sensuality honestly and non-judgementally.

Water in its form of rain can be soft and rhythmic or powerful and even destructive. It’s both formidable and without form.

These rainy days won’t last – so put on your galoshes and go jump in puddles! When my son Julian was a little boy,  splashing in the rain (and mud!) was one of his favorite activities.


Have a great week! Stay hydrated! Be happy!

Mindful Monday: Spring Into Spring

Good morning, lovelies! Happy Monday!

Yoga is a discipline that makes our lives work.But for a practice to change our lives and make them better, we have to follow it EVEN WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO. that’s what makes it a discipline. It is easy to be kind when we are in a good mood and with people who are easy for us to get along with. If we can be lovingly kind to people that are difficult, or when we are caffeine deprived or in a state of stress, THEN it transforms our lives. If we choose to practice yoga, then we must practice consistently or else we will not see lasting change. We have to set up reasonable boundaries for ourselves, and let go of expectations for results, but stick to a practice we have chosen even when we’d rather not. We find then that our preferences change and actually align with what ultimately lessens the suffering in our lives .We can take ourselves to the next step and start the process all over again.

Are you ready to kick it up to the next level? Consider my detox starting in May. It takes 21 days to create a new habit. This is the perfect reset for your heart, body and soul. Give yourself the opportunity to truly shine!

Mindful Monday: Today is the BEST day 


Good morning and happy Monday, dear wonderful, beautiful you! 
Today is the perfect day to be alive!  As the warm air moves, let it flow through your body. Expand each precious moment by tuning in to each of your senses. So that each breath engulfs you in the eternal. Let your day be sensual; immerse yourself in the depth and height and width of each teeny, subtle sensation. 

Allow yourself to FEEL. Everything. Pleasure and pain. Excitement and disappoint. Happiness and sadness. Love and fear. The entire gamut. 

Notice what makes you happy and uplifts your energy and feeds your soul, then continue to move in that direction! It’s that simple! 

Be aware of what zaps your energy, causes stress and unhappiness, then evaluate it and find clarity. 

You have a single decision to make today: do I want to be happy? If you choose YES, then the rest of your day is smooth sailing. You’ll find many, many reasons to stay happy!  If you choose NO, you’ll find many, many reasons to be unhappy. 

TODAY is the Best. Day. Ever. Because it’s yours! And it’s here. And it’s NOW. What did you decide? 

Mindful Monday: Spring Fever

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Sunset – no filter! 

Happy Mindful Monday, yogis! I sincerely hope you were able to take advantage of our summery weather this past weekend.  Even if you were outside at a track meet or baseball games/practice,  the silver lining is that you got to bask in all that glorious sunshine while  supporting your loved ones.  How did you enjoy this amazing gift of sunshine and warmth?

This is the time of year where we get ‘spring fever.’ We are shaking off the heaviness of winter and starting to increase activites and rekindle friendships.  It’s so fun to get swept up in this season’s offerings: baseball games; al fresco dining; day drinking; increased interest in romance.  Our bodies may require less sleep and crave lighter fare.  Some experience an overwhelming urge to purge and clean.  You may notice an urge to start jogging and an increase in energy in your yoga practice. 

In this flurry of activities, make sure you balance out with some grounding time for yourself! Start and end each day with a short meditation to focus and settle. This mindfulness practice has the power to enrich and expand the quality of your entire day! 

Have a great week, yogis!

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” – frank kafka