who we are

Name: Gary Alexander

Nickname: Gary is actually my middle name!

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Still have it– professional actor and singer

Best yoga experience: A tie between the two week-long retreats I took in Belize, one in the jungle near Guatemala, the second on Ambergris Caye.  Rigorous daily practices, lovely surroundings, and all those shining yoga faces.  You returned simultaneously relaxed and energized.  A perfect vacation.

Worst yoga experience : Someone once walked across the back of my mat just as I was jumping back from bakasana to chaturanga causing me to land on my knees. Ouch.  And annoying.

Guilty pleasure: A good nap.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? I remember that, on some deep level, the combination of physical movement and focus on breath and mindfulness just felt “right.” I also remember that the teacher played part of the Rachmaninoff Vespers during savasana which was beautiful.

Why yoga?  It is a holistic physical regimen that incorporates body and mind and spirit.

Yoga training/studies: Yogaview Teacher Training; week-long retreats with Jim Bennit of Tejas; teacher workshops on pranayama, meditation, and therapeutic physical adjustments.

Super power that yoga gives you: Energy, mindfulness, integration of body and spirit. All the super powers you need!

Yoga Pet Peeve: Competitiveness.

Other tidbit: dog lover!

Words my STUDENTS would use to describe me: encouraging, patient, kind, spiritual, thorough, fun, grounded, generous of spirit.

Name: Tamra Armour

Childhood nickname: Tammy, Bucky Beaver

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher:  Human Resources. This is still my day job.

Best yoga experience: Teacher training and when I can finally do an asana I’ve been struggling with.

Worst yoga experience:  I was taking antibiotics and went to class. I almost passed out!

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? I was absolutely clueless but I kept going back.

Why yoga? It has changed my perspective and my life. It has been an anchor for myself and others.

Guilty pleasure: Wine!!!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Graduating from the School for New Learning at DePaul University and Yoga Teacher Training.

Yoga training/studies: Tejas Yoga Chicago

Super power that yoga gives you: To remain calm during many storms

Yoga Pet Peeve: People who come in late

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: A Chicago Marathon

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: loyal, dedicated, confidential, funny, loving

Name: Michelle Beuscher

Nickname: Generallygo by “Michelle” but have answered to Miche snf variations thereof, and “Wimpy,” as in the “Popeye” cartoon character for my undying love of hamburgers. As Wimpy says, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”

Where was that photo taken? Along the Chicago River trail near our home where my husband and I enjoy daily walks with our beloved dog.

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Also work as a marketing communications freelance writer and editor.

Best yoga experience ever: Learning about the “eight limbs of yoga,” or “tree of life” as I call it, and how yoga is about much more than physically contorting yourself into crazy shapes. Rather, it’s more about unraveling the mystery of your authentic self, respecting yourself and realizing your connection to others and the greater universe to live a fuller, more meaningful life.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? Trying to hold full plank and down dog poses for even a few seconds was very hard, as I lifted my overweight, out-of-shape self above the mat, whole body quaking and muscles burning. I remember learning to consciously breathe through it and how present and alive the whole experience made me feel. I felt the sparks of an awakening in parts of me that had been seriously neglected or didn’t realize even existed. Afterward, I remember feeling and thinking there was a whole lot more to this yoga stuff, as I felt completely spent and a blissful energy at the same time.

Why yoga? My obsessive, workaholic nature aided and abetted a sedentary lifestyle at the computer, packing on pounds and weighing on my mind and spirit. Through the practice of yoga, I began to reconnect with my true self on a physical, mental and spiritual level and with other important aspects of my world, allowing me to enjoy a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: As a pleasingly plump, forty-something, I wondered if I could possibly ever really become a yoga teacher. Thanks to the guidance and encouragement of my teachers and classmates, I learned to let my heart rule over any self judgment or doubts. I realized that “I” was the only obstacle standing in my way. Once I got out of my own way, I was able to begin sharing the gift of yoga with others as I was meant to do.

Yoga training/studies: Began practicing in 2008, and completed my Yoga Alliance®-registered yoga teacher training at the 200-hour level (RYT 200), including prenatal and vinyasa/flow yoga studies, in January 2011, through the Global Yoga and Wellness Center in Chicago.

Super power that yoga gives you: Yoga helps liberate me to enjoy being me just as I am and to enjoy life just as it is in the present moment. Likewise as a teacher, I enjoy helping students of all shapes, sizes and conditions to feel more empowered and liberated through yoga.

Yoga Pet Peeve: Letting the ego override one’s present ability or fun attempting and stumbling through new poses and other yoga techniques. One of my favorite mottos is: “Leggo my ego!”

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Passionate, strong, caring, methodical and sometimes surprisingly downright silly.

Name: Steve Bonzak

Nickname: I was called Bonz (short for my last name “Bonzak”) when I was growing up.

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up in the boring suburbs. Not much to report, which is why I got out as soon as I could.

Where was that photo taken? In Chicago – a city I have come to love since moving here over 20 years ago.

Job prior to becoming a qigong teacher: Teaching high school science

Best qigong experience: Early one morning on a summer retreat in Maryland with hundreds of other like-minded qigong enthusiasts, I was walking the qigong circle and got so into it that I could literally feel the energy dripping from my feet and my body felt so light and comfortable.

Worst qigong experience: I have not had any, thank goodness!

What do you remember about the first qigong class you ever took? I remember wondering what “energy” was. I was looking hard inside my body to figure it out. I did not have any mystical insight or anything, but I do remember suddenly having an irrepressible smile come over my face.

Why qigong? There is a subtle energy in and around us that, when we pay close attention to it, harmonizes our life with the rhythm of the cosmos.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate, duh!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: As cheesy as it sounds, I am most proud of being a father to my wonderful son, Henry.

Qigong training/studies: I have been training in qigong since 1988. I have had many different teachers, but I am certified to teach Kungfu Bagua Qigong and Soaring Crane Qigong.

Super power that qigong gives you: The awareness to live life creatively and attentively.

Qigong Pet Peeve: People that want to do “advanced” methods right away. While qigong is awesome, it can definitely bite you in the ass if you try to progress too quickly.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: I have always wanted to do the luge!

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Quiet, thoughtful, introspective, supportive, eccentric.

Name:  Katie Burrows

Katie  earned her Level 1 mat and reformer certification in STOTT Pilates in 2007, and went on to earn her personal training certificate from the American Council on Exercise in 2011- yet her studies of health and fitness began early on within her dance training.  She first found Pilates at Illinois State University to gain core strength, flexibility, proper alignment, and to rehabilitate from injury. After graduating in 2006 with a B.S. in Dance Performance, Burrows pursued a career in fitness to create a balanced combination of dance, fitness, and health.

Katie’s fitness specialties include offering both traditional, and innovative forms of exercise (which incorporate movement, coordination, and cardiovascular exercise), working with special populations such as training individuals with rotator-cuff injuries, tendonitis, plantar-fasciitis, and pre- and post- natal populations, and also training a wide variety of age groups- three to seventy-five.

In addition to instructing Pilates and personal training, Katie is a professional dancer. She has performed and choreographed in Chicago as such for six seasons. Her choreography has been featured in Dance Chicago’s Fringe Carnival. She is also the Artistic Director and founder of The Monocle Eclectic Dance Company. For the past four years she has been pursuing F.I.G.H.T. training (an elite Israeli self defense system). In 2012, she proudly completed her third Tough Mudder. Katie values and is very passionate about the body- its movement and its health.

Name:  Mary Lou Cerami

Defining moment: There were many milestones in my life, and all moved me closer to finding my inner potential. But it was the hardest most painful times in my life that handed me the wisdom of where my true strengths lie.

Cause that I believe in: I don’t believe one person is too small a movement to make a difference. I hope to inspire others to develop awareness for this planet and develop a sense of respect and connection to the natural world around us. We can all do this by recycling, reusing and adopting a leave-no-trace attitude whenever possible.

Favorite place in the world: Mexico. I spent a large part of my childhood visiting our large extended family in Veracruz, Mexico. It’s a part of me I carry around no matter where I am.

Why yoga? Good question. It took me time to fully appreciate Yoga and all its layers. I’ve practiced yoga for a long time, but in the beginning only physically. It was a shining moment for me to move past the physical and glimpse and hold the spiritual. Once held, I’ll never let it go.

Yoga Pet Peeve: This is more of a modern life pet peeve. If more of us would take a moment (or an entire day!) and disconnect from our devices, phones, computers we’d realize there’s this amazing world out there waiting to be experienced mind body and soul.

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Adventurous, hyper, loyal friend, energetic, athletic

Name: Ajanta Chakraborty

Ajanta is the Co-Founder of Bollywood Groove, Chicago’s hottest Bollywood/Bhangra dance and fitness company! Her biggest passion in life is to spread the joy of Bollywood dance to every household!

Ajanta has a Senior Diploma in Indian classical dance, BharatNatyam and has years of experience teaching and performing dance. With a Masters in Computer Science from University of British Columbia, Ajanta has also spent years in the corporate world as a professional services Consultant and has worked in dynamic and fast paced environments.

Ajanta oversees the day to day operations of bG and is the primary instructor at Bollywood Groove. She also teaches worldwide via their iPhone/iPad app “Learn Bollywood Dance” which has seen 40,000+ downloads.

Name: Tara Charney

Nickname: “Tara” is hard to shorten… some people call me “T.” My Dad calls me “TM” (first and middle initials) and my mother called me “Bunkie” (derivative of “Pumpkin”). My husband calls me “Cutie” (awww…)

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up in Crystal Lake, IL. It’s basically a Chicago commuter town now, with strip malls and all the chains. In my youth, it was more rural, surrounded by farm land. It was a good place to grow up – quiet, quaint, safe, good schools, friendly. The lake was, and still is, a wonderful place!

Where was that photo taken? Anna Maria Island, Florida, with my niece.

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: I’ve had many jobs! Project Manager/Coordinator, Interior Designer, Pastry Chef.

Best yoga experience ever: The 2010 Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, CO – beautiful landscape, inspirational teachers, live music accompanying morning practices, time for reflection.

Worst yoga experience ever: As a teacher, falling on my bum while leading parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose)! As a student – going to a Bikram class. I respect that many people love the style, but it is not for me.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? A deep sense of yoga feeling “right,” almost like a coming home. The sensation of being both energized and peaceful.

Why yoga? Physically, my joints are less creaky and my body just plain feels better. Mentally, I have more clarity and peace of mind. I’m less stressed out, and less likely to sweat the small stuff.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Making it through culinary school. It was hard, but a great experience.

Yoga training/studies: It all began with a four week intro course at Yoga Circle (Iyengar), which was a great foundation. 200 hour Hatha training with Global Yoga in 2006, and more recently, 100 hours of Anusara training. Many hours of workshops with national and local teachers, on topics that interest me and/or I feel would make me a more rounded instructor.

Super power that yoga gives you: Insight.

Yoga Pet Peeve: Props not getting put away neatly.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Hiking all of the Appalachian Trail!

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Good hugger, kind, even tempered, creative, adventurous.

Name:  Jennifer Diamond

What was your hometown like growing up?  Homogeneous, liberal, suburban

Where was that photo taken? Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Psychologist

Best yoga experience: Hoping it is yet to come

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took?  The feeling of “aaaaaaah” when it was over.

Why yoga?  Because my happiness and peace of mind are directly related to the amount of time I spend on my mat.  And it’s fun!

Guilty pleasure: raw chocolate chip cookie dough

Accomplishment of which you are most proud:  successfully growing food and children

Yoga training/studies:  Global Yoga & Wellness 200 hour training, Street Yoga teacher training, personal practice with Chicago’s top teachers since 1997 as well as endless workshops including meditation & Ayurveda.

Super power that yoga gives you: confidence

Yoga Pet Peeve: students leaving class during savasana, making noise that disrupts the experience for the rest of us.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: scuba diving

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: curious, disciplined, silly, serious, and my teenage daughter says “annoying”!

Name: Kraig Footlik

Name: Megan Harty

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher:  Before becoming a yoga instructor I worked for Time Out Chicago Magazine as a Designer followed by Playboy Enterprises as the Assistant Art Curator.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took?  “This is interesting… but I could get used to it. “

Why yoga? It just feels so good. It’s my time to check out and tune in.

Guilty pleasure: Mindless reality TV and or any vegan dessert!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Starting mhYoga (formally Green Tree Yoga Chicago) which offers yoga programs for kids to schools throughout the city!

Yoga training/studies: 200HR Vinyasa, Forest (level 1), Karma Kids, YogaKids, Street Yoga

Super power that yoga gives you: Strength and Prana!

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Anything with dancing!

Name: Callie Hildreth

Childhood nicknames: Cucumber, Banana, Chickie

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up on a hill in the woods of central Maryland, it was full of freedom; just being outside and exploring.

Worst job you ever had: Working for an employee assistance benefits company.

Best yoga experience: The first time I was able to stay in scorpion pose, it was so empowering.

Worst yoga experience: I took classes with a teacher that did not seem to understand how to move in and out of poses.

Why yoga? My parents gave me a book called Chakra Workout when I was 13, after I tried the yoga chapter and was hooked.

Guilty pleasures: Chocolate and red wine

Accomplishments of which you are most proud: I have run three marathons and have a Master’s degree in Social Work

Yoga training/studies: 200 hour certification from yama therapeutic style

Super power that yoga gives you: Yoga makes me far more optimistic then I think is normal for me.

Yoga Pet Peeve: As a teacher and a student, my yoga pet peeve is the person in class that doesn’t listen to the teacher.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: I want to learn slack lining, but am afraid I will hurt myself.

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: adventurous, optimistic, energetic, intelligent, dedicated

Name: Wendy Hobbie

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Everyone I knew worked for the government or was a military family. There were always new people coming to town and old friends moving out. It was beautiful and green and never terribly cold in the winter. I loved it there and never thought much of moving away.

Job prior to becoming a hula teacher: I was (and still am) a fitness coach with Beachbody and I am a full time student studying Biology with a concentration in Biotechnology. Before any of that, I had a career in the wholesale mortgage industry doing both account management and sales.

Best hula experience ever: I haven’t had many hot hula experiences but because I’m still new to the format, but probably teaching the first class where I wasn’t terrified I was going to mess it all up.

Worst hula experience ever: Teaching my first class! It wasn’t that bad….but I wasn’t that good either.

Guilty pleasure: A regular Coke at room temperature and an ice cream sandwich.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? I took a hot power yoga class with a friend. The room was heated AND it was summer. I sweat so much I couldn’t keep my hands and feet from slipping all over the mat. I felt like I had hopped out of the pool and straight into the class. It was crazy and I loved it. I remember feeling so calm and collected at the end of the class. And very centered.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Managing a family, a business and education all at the same time. I NEVER thought I would get this far with my college degree, and the obstacles seemed overwhelming at times. But I’m doing it now, and I feel accomplished even thought I don’t have my degree yet–one more year to go.

Why hula? I have done lots of high impact, high intensity workouts before. But I don’t think I’m a very intense person. So when I heard of HOT HULA, it was just what I had been looking for–a workout that had all the same characteristics as me.  I think that’s why I feel so comfortable teaching it.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: A century ride on my bike. Or more for that matter. I would love to do the AIDS ride which is usually a 500 mile ride over 5 days in support of a really good cause.

Hula Pet Peeve: When class members aren’t even sweating! Drives me nuts. 🙂

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Honest, committed, open, relatable, genuine.

Name: Caren Jeskey

Nickname, or childhood nickname: Sparkle Plenty as a child, and now Karuna, which means compassion in Sanskrit

Where was that photo taken? On Ambergris Caye, Belize while on a side trip after a yoga retreat.

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: I’m still working full time as a medical social worker at a hospital in Chicago.

Best yoga experience ever: Too many to name. A highlight was first discovering Kirtan (a singing meditation) with the Kirtan band Devi2000 at Moksha Yoga in Chicago. A second highlight also involved Debi Buzil then leader of Devi2000 when she insisted that I could do a freestanding headstand in a park in Evanston on sunny day, and I did.

Worst yoga experience ever: I tried to answer this question a dozen times. I truly feel I get something out of every experience and therefore can’t really pick a worst.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? It was an evening class on a weeknight in February of 1999. I took the cold snowy walk from my apartment to Global Yoga (then on North Avenue) and took the class. It was Kundalini Yoga with Shiva Singh Khalsa. During my cold walk home I remember that I felt more alive than ever before.

Why yoga? Freeing up my body by making it more flexible and stronger, and the deep sense of peace that comes from a healthier nervous system.

Guilty pleasure: A sugar-filled soft drink a few times a year. OK, maybe ten times.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Maintaining a best friendship that began 35 years ago.

Yoga training/studies: I have had the good fortune of discovering and studying with fine and highly trained and knowledgeable yoga teachers right here in Chicago. I first studied with Shiva Singh Khalsa and Shabad Kaur Khalsa, who gave me the foundation of connecting with my breath and using breath guided movement to move deeply into asanas (poses). I studied with Daren Friesen in the early 2000s at Moksha Yoga who exposed me to some of the world’s best teachers and provided the opportunity for a thorough study of all aspects of yoga. I received a basic certification with Sonia Sumar at Yoga For the Special Child in the early 2000s and completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training with Mira Binzen at Global Family Yoga in 2012.

Super power that yoga gives you: An abiding connection to my center, my core, that I can always feel or at least return to.

Yoga Pet Peeve: Students coming in late, loudly and teachers who don’t make an effort to correct this.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Surfing!

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: I’ll get back to you on this! I want to ask them…

Name:  Riley Koren

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up in Ashland, Virginia with chickens and a garden and a town full of people who all knew each other’s names. I still think Chicago is huge.

Job other than dance teacher: I’m a massage therapist and an anatomy teacher at a massage school. I’m completely fascinated by the human body and how it works and moves and responds and heals. Perhaps this is a nice way of saying I’m a total geek about anatomy.

What do you remember about the first swing dance class you ever took? I remember that it was boring. It moved slowly and didn’t stimulate my brain or my body, and I figured I didn’t like swing dancing. Then my friend took me to a place called Jam Cellar in D.C., where a bunch of rock star lindy hoppers dance. I stood against a wall all night and watched their feet with some growing mix of awe and frustration, failing to identify the basic step I’d learned anywhere in their movements, and knowing I wanted to do whatever it was they were doing.

Dance training/studies: I took jazz, ballet and modern classes in high school and college, but wasn’t introduced to social dancing until my senior year of college. I learned most of what I know about lindy hop from Nicolle Wood, here in Chicago.

Why dancing? I get easily caught up in the various discomforts and frustrations of my physical body. Meditation helps. So does dancing. Dancing takes me out of my head and lets me experience the simple pleasure of moving and being in my body, just the way it is.

Name: Jamie Klausing

Nickname: Jamester

What was your hometown like growing up? As the saying goes “a one horse town” pretty much describes where I grew up in Michigan. One grocery store, one gas station, one post office, one bank, a Dairy Queen and one “awesome” pizza place! I outgrew it by the age of 12 when I got my first “big girl bike” and began to travel and explore as far away as I could get by peddling.

Where was that photo taken? Photo was taken at StudioNia in Portland Oregon, my home away from home. Portland is the place where I would choose to live in the United States, if I were to ever leave Chicago.

Job prior to becoming a Nia teacher: Prior to becoming a Nia Teacher / Trainer I worked in Retail Merchandising and Management. Although I experienced retail burn-out when I left the industry, I remained very passionate about fashion, fabrics, clothing design and textiles. I love the way layering and mixing fabric textures feels to my body when moving and dancing.

What do you remember about the first Nia class you ever took? In my first Nia class I remember thinking “Is this Kenny Loggins music playing” (which I am not particularly fond of). Next thing I knew we were turning and throwing our arms in the air, it was exhilarating and felt like a burst of joy whirling through me. I felt so good during the class, I actually thought, for just one moment, “Wow, what just happened, maybe I do like this Kenny Loggins song”. It wasn’t the music, it was the magic of Nia which I have practiced ever since.

Why Nia? I can barely put into words what Nia is for me as a practitioner. First of all the music is fabulous! Nia’s creativity and variety of movement is not only fun but allows me to feel strong, fluid, weightless, beautiful, powerful and graceful. I feel that I have found a movement practice where I no longer judge or criticize the external look, size or shape of my body. I have learned to move from the inside out with more awareness, acceptance and appreciation!

Guilty pleasure: My guilty pleasure is pizza. I fell head over heels in love with pizza by the age of 15 and still swoon every time we are together!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Completing Nia Trainers Training

Nia training/studies: Certified in Nia’s White, Green, Blue, Brown and Black Belts. Nia Faculty Trainer

Super power that Nia gives you: Nia gives me the Super powers of X-ray vision and morphing my body into liquid shapes!

Nia Pet Peeve: Trying to describe Nia in one sentence!

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Hang gliding

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Creative, kind, determined, expressive, loyal

Name: Andrea LeVasseur

Nickname: Mama

What was your hometown like growing up? Rural (Kawkawlin, MI)

Where was that photo taken? In the park near my house.

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Office Manager

Best yoga experience ever: Prenatal Yoga

Worst yoga experience ever: Bikram Yoga

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? It was in the dance studio in college. Thank goodness for electives!

Why yoga:  Why not? It provides both short and long-term benefits!

Guilty pleasure: Guilt is a waste of our precious energy. Let’s accept pleasure!

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Birth of my daughter.

Yoga training/studies: 200-hr teacher training at Nature Yoga Sanctuary, Prenatal training at Global Yoga & Wellness Center

Super power that yoga gives you: Connection to universal life energy

Yoga Pet Peeve: any reference to butt-kicking

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Capoeira

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: creative, helpful, thoughtful, and crazy

Name: Ann McGinley

Nickname: Little McGin by my brothers friends, AKM (pronounced ack-um inspired by my initials) by my high school friends, and Banana by only those near and dear!

Hometown growing up: Very much like Chicago but smaller…Westlake, OH a suburb of Cleveland on the lake!

Photo: These are my little peeps in a dusty school yard in Ghana, West Africa. That is JOY captured on film buzzing through every fiber of my being, and theirs!

Job prior to yoga…hmmm, I started teaching when I was 19 years old so it’s hard to say “before” yoga… I studied Finance in college and my first job out of school was at Northern Trust Bank where I used to jump up from my desk and run up flights of stairs even in my heels every hour (sometimes more) just to move my body. Let’s just say a cubicle job was not the right fit. I ended up “teaching” yoga at Northern Trust bank when the marketing department used me as a speaker for client appreciation lunches; breathing and meditation was a huge success even back in the late ’90’s!

First yoga class I ever took I wore Levi jeans and a t-shirt! I was 18, at my first year of college and had no clue what yoga was but my roommate was heading out one morning and I was compelled to join her (thus the jeans). I had an incredible experience complete with visions in my third eye (don’t gag when reading that) and the funny part was I honestly thought that was yoga, that everyone in the class was having the same experience! So, when we all gathered around the tea after class and someone asked me how was my first class I replied, “I really loved that end part, with the light and that eagle and the Indian guy…” people started moving away from me with a strange look on their faces. Luckily, my teacher grabbed her copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” and said, “is this the Indian guy you saw?. And it was. The journey’s been truly remarkable every since!

My guilty pleasure is pretzel rods and french onion dip. I can throw down the whole bag!

Accomplishment of which I’m most proud is the consistency of my yoga practice and study. I was so lucky to find a practice that fit my soul at 19 years old and one that I have yet to tire of as I head into my 40’s! I look back on my life and feel a sense of accomplishment and gratitude that yoga and my teacher, Kali Ray, have been such good and loyal friends to me.

I’m a TriYoga trained teacher. Kali Ray is the founder of the style. Though in my early career I trained with all types of teachers and continue to attend new and interesting trainings and workshops. My style is my choice of practice because it fits me but I’m a fan of finding whatever qualities in a practice that work best for you. Recently, I’m fascinated with pelvic floor and true core muscles and the role they have in the practice and all other movement. I’m studying West African Dance and started doing Gyrotonics too which all relate to one of the signature movements in TriYoga which is spinal wave-like movement. I love it when I find connections between different disciplines. I’m also a Brown Belt in Shotokan Karate and like filipino stick fighting!

Yoga gives me the super power of Relaxation in Action! This is another founding principle of TriYoga. It’s really about being able to relax enough to release unnecessary tension which is the culprit of feeling stress, pain, and for me feeling off my game. “Relaxation in action” is like the feeling I get after being in the ocean where every cell of your body is relaxed from the environment or activity; my yoga practice trains me to be able to have that feeling anytime, anywhere.

Athletic endeavor: Honestly, you know those guys in Central Park that do groovy rollerskating and rollerblading. I feel the moves in my bones on my blades but haven’t found the courage to join in the dance party!

Five words: Spirited, Fearless (they don’t know about my desire to roller-dance in Central Park!), Warm-hearted, Encouraging, Champion of the Underdog!

Name: Karen Plumley

Childhood nickname: Boo Boo or Joe Beans

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up here in Chicago, on the Northwest side, and I loved it. Still do.

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Account executive at a stock photography library.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? I remember doing some poses, not really getting it, but feeling like it was fun. It was just two of us and the teacher, and I remember discussing neti pots afterward!

Why yoga? It’s fun, it’s real, and it makes me happy.

Guilty pleasure: Chocolate, chocolate ice cream, chocolate brownies. Yum.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: My bachelor’s degree and pushing out two ten pound babies!

Yoga training/studies: 200 hours, lots of workshops, currently learning to teach yoga to cancer survivors.

Super power that yoga gives you: Awareness.

Yoga Pet Peeve: Being late to class and slapping your mat down without respect for another’s space.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: High Dive.

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you:  In front of me or behind my back?!!

Name:  Timothy Skallerup

Nickname: Timmo

Where was that picture taken? In the mountains outside of Sante Fe, New Mexico. A beautiful part of our planet, in New Mexico you feel very close to the sky.

Best yoga experience: Every time I do Adho Mukha Virksasana (handstand), it feels like my best yoga experience ever. This is a wonderful pose for the amazing uplift–physical, mental, spiritual–it gives you. It is also more accessible than you might think.

What do you remember about the first yoga class you ever took? Feeling very connected to the earth while doing Vrksasana (tree pose).

Job prior to teaching yoga: Before teaching yoga, I was a cellular biologist in the field of cellular pathology, working to detect the early stages of disease processes. Helping people to triumph over cancer was a very rewarding career. Now, teaching yoga, I have moved from the back end of health care to the front end, the preventative side. I have witnessed and experienced the power of yoga, and I know that regular practice goes a long way toward keeping people out of the
hospital altogether.

Yoga training/studies: My father was my first teacher. When I was 3 years old, he practiced yoga in the living room and I would get down on the floor next to him and imitate his poses. We didn’t talk much about it…we just did it. In college, I studied East Asian philosophies, including, Zen, Buddhism, Confucius, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. I completed the full-year teacher training program at Moksha here in Chicago. Each summer, I travel to Sante Fe, to California, and to Minneapolis for weeklong intensives with my favorite teachers. And I continue to study and practice every day.

Guilty pleasure: cheesecake.  Homemade.  Ask me about my triple-ginger, orange-glazed cheesecake recipe. I will give it to you for free if you come to Ganesha Yoga twice a week. Then, what once was a ‘guilty pleasure’ becomes pure pleasure.

Favorite Scotch: carrot juice.

Name: Julie Stanford

What was your hometown like growing up?  My hometown growing up was Elmwood Park. My best friend Heather lived right next door and I have great memories of playing outside everyday for hours with her. Every week I would ride my bike or walk to my Aunt Jerrie’s house for piano lessons.

Where was that photo taken? My photo was taken this past June in Riviera Maya. It incorporates two of my favorite things: being in nature and yoga!

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: I am also a stay at home mom and reiki practioner.

Best yoga experience:  Taking the teacher training with Suddha Weixler. I met the most wonderful people who remain like family to me and I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of both physically and mentally.

Worst yoga experience:  The first time I tried a hot yoga class. I was miserable. I felt like I was going to die from the heat and I had a hard time keeping up with everyone else. However, something inside me told me to keep with it. I continued going and saw so much progress with my strength, endurance and flexibility. I’m really glad that I kept with it, because it has been an extremely rewarding process.

Why yoga? Yoga to me is a launching point for all the things I want to accomplish with my life. All the lessons I learn on the mat, I carry with me in my day to day life. I’ve learned how to calm my mind and strengthen my mental abilities, as well as getting to know and understanding my own body. I feel that the self-development that yoga has taught me enables me to offer the best of myself to others. Yoga builds strong individuals, and strong individuals build strong communities.

Yoga Pet Peeve: Snoring during savasana. Please don’t snore when I’m trying to get my zen like meditation state on!!

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated:  I have always wanted to try surfing. I realize this will probably entail many wipe outs and making a complete fool of myself.

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you:  Kind, silly, compassionate, imaginative, honest

Name: Elizabeth Wigoda

Nickname: Liz

What was your hometown like growing up? I grew up in Boca Raton, Fl.

Where was that photo taken? Off the coast of Islamorada, Florida after my best friend’s wedding.

Job prior to becoming a Pilates teacher: I was an Administrative Assistant for a law firm. I have also worked on and off as a nanny for years, as I do now.

Best Pilates experience ever: Doing the splits inverted on the Cadillac

Worst Pilates experience ever: Falling while demonstrating a move called Snake and Twist on the Reformer…its part of the reason we don’t demonstrate!

What do you remember about the first Pilates class you ever took? Feeling very welcomed and also very ashamed at how weak I was. But the studio was encouraging and it made me return.

Why Pilates? I like Pilates well enough, but i fell in love with it when an illness overtook me and I was faced with the prospect of missing my brother’s wedding in Brazil. Pilates and my instructor got me strong enough to not miss a single dance! I continue to credit Pilates as a helpful way to keep my disease in check.

Guilty pleasure: Just one? I’m a TV junkie.

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Losing 150lbs

Yoga training/studies: Power Pilates comprehensive certification

Super power that yoga gives you: Confidence

Pilates Pet Peeve: Exercises being taught incorrectly. Instructors who are “certified” through weekend crash courses. People walking in to class late.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Gymnastics

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: Funny, Kind, Reliable, Giving and Talkative

Name: Yoli Maya Yeh

Where was that photo taken? At 15,000 feet in Yuksum Valley, Sikkim, Indian Himalaya in a small shack serving tea and ramen noodle which was so yummy at the time

Job prior to becoming a yoga teacher: Playing drums on the street and acting in a comedy improv troop in Japan.

Best yoga experience: Being liberated by the intense fun of CircusYoga.

Worst yoga experience: My first yoga class experience was in India as a sophomore in college. I was into heavy weight lifting and not much stretching due to my shot put and discus training so my first yoga classes were so painful! I ended up dropping out of the class and losing credits, but somehow stuck with the practices I had learned. After a few months of practice on my own I was hooked. So it’s like the worst experience transformed into the most important.

Why yoga? I decided on the eve of my twentieth birthday to dedicate my twenties to the intense and devoted practice of yoga. What that evolved into was a quest for much more than the physical postures. Through my yoga decade adventures, I met so many amazing masters in India and was guided in the process to make the mind still, the heart open and the discernment fierce. Yoga has shaped me as a human being and continues to unfold to me the truth of this existence.

Guilty pleasure: 82% Dark Chocolate

Accomplishment of which you are most proud: Living for twelve years in India!

Yoga training/studies: Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist Training at the Vivekananda Yoga Institute South India, Kids and Family Yoga at Next Generation Yoga New York City, Yoga for the Special Child with Sonia Sumar in Chicago, Buddhist Yoga Tantra in India, CircusYoga in the US and India with Kevin and Erin Maile O’Keefe.

Super power that yoga gives you: Calmness and Observation

Yoga Pet Peeve: When people smoke cigarettes before coming to class. Very smelly sweat.

Athletic endeavor you have always wanted to try but are too intimidated: Rock Climbing

Five words that your friends and family would use to describe you: strong, grounding, manifester, comforting, endurance