Student Feature: Rachel Kyne

I cannot say enough awesome things about Rachel. She is just a joy to be around. She is always smiling, always mindful and present, always kind and thoughtful. She is literally the reason why I built TULA. Thank you, Rachel, for showing up everyday. We are a better community because of you.

Here’s a bit more about Rachel.


Hometown: White Rock, British Columbia

Sign: Total Gemini.

Favorite Color: Phthalo blue

Favorite Movie: Empire Records

What would your last meal be? BC cedar smoked salmon and blueberries!

What brought you to yoga?

I started doing yoga at home as a teenager while struggling with anxiety and depression. I also wanted to become physically stronger. During university I worked at a health store/yoga studio in Vancouver and got much deeper into my yoga practice—but unfortunately for the wrong reasons. My mental health had deteriorated and I found myself doing physical yoga practice to lose weight, which is not a good situation for someone with anorexia. I ended up having to take a break from yoga for many years while I worked on my recovery.

What brought you to TULA?

I started coming to Tula in 2016 in an effort to keep myself stable and healthy while writing my PhD dissertation and digesting the aftermath of a very painful breakup. I was terrified I was going to fall back into the eating disorders I had finally kicked, and I needed to learn how to be with myself kindly. I tried a class at Tula after biking past it. The first time I walked into the studio I felt safe. It means a lot to me that there are no mirrors in the studio, that people of all ages and sizes do yoga here, and that every teacher at Tula focuses on the interior aspects of yoga.

What is your favorite yoga pose (and why)?

Dancer. It requires you to find your balance, open your heart, and stand strong, and then be able to laugh at yourself when you fall on your face.

What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice?


There are too many too count! I have a much greater ability to investigate what I’m feeling and to sit with it. I can actually feel my body now. There’s a condition called alexithymia that a lot of people dealing with eating disorders and other mental illnesses have; it means you can’t determine what you’re feeling or what sensations mean. Spending time on my mat or sitting quietly in meditation has enabled me to sense what my body is doing and how that relates to how I’m feeling—like if my chest is so tight I can’t draw breath I might find myself experiencing panic. Yoga has also enabled me to sit with joy more, and to accept love.

What is your Least favorite pose (and why)?

Double pigeon! My hips cannot deal.

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga?

Be patient and stop beating yourself up for not knowing the poses. Try lots of different classes and teachers—there are so many different ways of doing yoga.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity?

Floating home listening to a Harry Potter audiobook and then making a mess cooking something.

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you:

- I’m the middle of 5 kids

- My spirit animal is my dissertation advisor’s Airedale, Kazoo, who I’ve been looking after for 6 years. We have a lot in common—she’s delighted by life, has the attention span of a toddler, and finds the world deeply confusing.

- I have degrees in painting, creative writing, and English lit.


Student Feature: Trisha Raines

I actually don’t know Trisha very well personally, but I do know that she has been a member of our community since March of 2016 and is here A LOT. I also know (from teachers) that she has a dedication to her practice that is pretty rare and she’s quite a bad-ass when she gets on her mat (so I have no doubts that she is also a bad-ass in life :). We are always happy to see her when she walks in our doors and we are lucky to have her as a TULA student.

Here’s some more about Trisha!

Hometown: Longview, Texas (a very small town in East Texas)

Sign: Virgo


Favorite Color: Black

Favorite Movie: “Rushmore” and “Steel Magnolias”

What would your last meal be? Either tacos, nachos or raw oysters. If I’m being fancy, I would go all out with a tasting menu with wine pairings at a three star Michelin restaurant.

What brought you to yoga? I’ve had two spinal surgeries and deal with chronic pain and lasting nerve damage in my limbs. I started practicing yoga seriously almost four years ago for pain management and the resulting stress associated with chronic pain. However, while I started yoga to manage pain, I’ve continued practicing for many reasons – yoga has given me confidence, strength and an outlet to challenge myself and grow.

What brought you to TULA? I really lucked out with Tula. My husband and I had just relocated to Chicago, and I was looking for a yoga studio that was near our apartment and easy to get to after work. I started taking a few classes and really liked the instructors – especially Rhiannon, Mara, Cassie and Kathryn. I tried a few other studios but kept coming back to Tula. Now, I can never move!

What is your favorite yoga pose and why? I have a few. I’m currently enjoying Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand), which I’ve been working on for more than a year now. When I can get into the pose, it makes me feel so strong and powerful. I also think tripod headstand is just a lot of fun. Another ongoing favorite is Malasana – it’s a pose where I can close my eyes and just relax.

What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice? The flexibility and strength I’ve gained has played a huge part in my pain management – it’s much more tolerable since I’ve added yoga to the mix. And as I mentioned above, practicing yoga has improved my confidence and pushed me to challenge myself. I never thought I could hold myself up in a headstand!


What is your least favorite pose (and why)? Dhanurasana (bow pose) and Parsva Virabhadrasana (reverse warrior). Both are just very uncomfortable to me.

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga? I’m going to paraphrase Rhiannon here: slow down and pay as much attention to the transitions between poses as you do for the final pose itself. Also, really listen and respond to the instructions from your teacher – which muscles to use, your posture, where to focus your eyes, etc. Once you really start putting those instructions into action, the quality of your practice will greatly improve.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity? During the week, I usually hang out with my husband, making dinner or catching up on a television show. After my Saturday class, I like to grab coffee and a pastry. If I can fit it in, a soak with Epsom Salt is also ideal.

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you:

1. I’m a cinephile and love horror movies.

2. I have webbed toes!

3. I lived in D.C. for almost ten years and worked for a member of Congress. I’m proud that I helped get Obamacare passed.


Virtual Audio Classes

We are excited to announce the initial launch of Virtual Audio Classes! Here’s what you need to know!

  • You can access these classes by going to our website and logging in under “student access”

  • Go to our class schedule calendar

  • Look for the blue ‘listen’ links under the class name (note: these will all be PAST classes)

  • Listen to your favorite classes from where ever you are!

  • It is open and free to all students now, but will soon be only available to members

  • Over the next few weeks, we will be working on getting more classes up and improving audio quality

  • Please give us feedback about this feature! Since it is just in Beta, we are requesting feedback to make it even better!

Find out more this feature and why it was created HERE.

Here’s to taking your home studio with you!

Maile & the TULA Team

Student Feature: Stanton McConnell

David Duerkop referred Stanton to TULA and there is rarely a week that has passed since 2016 when we haven’t seen him. He is just the nicest guy. Always has a smile and a kind word to share! And I love it that he always shows up to the photo session classes - we have a lot of pictures of him doing yoga! :)

Here’s a bit more about Stan….


Hometown: Dixon, IL, USA

Sign: Virgo

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Movie: Mission Impossible--to choose just one! A few of my actual faves are Zoolander, It Follows, Hook, and Carrie.

What would your last meal be? Mexican and al fresco

What brought you to yoga? I first tried yoga because of a Groupon, and I was hooked after a month.

What brought you to TULA? The diverse teaching styles and personalities make for a real community here, and the people are passionate without pretentiousness. It was the obvious choice for me to become a member here.


What is your favorite yoga pose (and why)? I really dig half moon--it's a challenge for me depending on the day, but I feel like it gives me clarity and length everywhere in the body. I'm always stoked to hear malasana (frog) called. Hopping on the lily pad always lightens the mood in the room, and I love how it accesses deep in the hips while also relieving the spine.

What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice? Yoga helps me in too many ways to count. Aside from the obvious physical benefits and tight booty, it has helped me with sleeping, singing, dancing, breathing, and staying present in stimulating environments. It makes me a better performer.

What is your Least favorite pose (and why)? I can never find comfort in restorative poses on my back with the bolster or blocks.

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga? I would say to embrace how incremental the progress is and to not force anything. Eventually, you notice improvement.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity? If I can, I like to slow roll to some good coffee and food at Gaslight. When you can see and feel the sunlight coming in, it's the perfect environment to feel your body recover, taking in nutrients and the coffee drug.

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you:

-I speak French and Spanish.

-I used to be a lifeguard on a nude beach. It also had a volleyball net, and people would be playing on the sand completely naked--except for their kneepads LOL!

-I love singing and writing songs.


Student Feature: Anna Eley

Anna started attending classes here in 2012. As of writing this, she has attended 702 classes here. We have seen her grow tremendously in her yoga practice and have been also lucky enough to have gotten to know her personally over the years. She is not only an amazing student of yoga, but also an amazing human being and we are so grateful everyday that we get to call her our friend.

Here’s a bit more about Anna:


Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI.

Sign: Sagittarius

Favorite Color: mustard yellow

Favorite Movie: Back to the Future

What would your last meal be?

chicken thighs with lots of garlic and onion, sweet potatoes and kale and I giant bowl of ice cream with almond butter and dark chocolate

What brought you to yoga?

i was interested in trying something new and staying healthy during the winter when i'm not as active outside

What brought you to TULA?

i wanted to support a local business and after i took my first class i immediately felt at home at Tula- being new to yoga i was nervous to try it but everyone was so inclusive and welcoming.

What is your favorite yoga pose (and why)?

pigeon pose is my favorite, i tend to have tight hips from biking and pigeon always feels so good (especially if the teacher gives an adjustment- that's the best!)


What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice?

i feel more balanced overall. yoga has taught me to be more patient with myself. i've also built a lot of strength and flexibility over time and the breath work has benefited me a lot in all areas of my life both physically and emotionally- it's pretty great!

What is your Least favorite pose (and why)?

i hate back bends and i hate camel the most. not sure why, it just doesn't feel good and makes me anxious

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga?

be patient with yourself, there's no hurry. find teachers and times of day that you feel comfortable with. yoga is challenging in many ways so know that you are challenging yourself but it is worth the work. i always feel better in all areas of my life when i am practicing regularly.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity?

i am an early morning yoga person so i like to come home and have coffee and oatmeal after class

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you:

1. i am a proud 4 season chicago biker

2. i love doing jigsaw puzzles

3. one of my life goals is to visit every National Park in the U.S.

Student Feature: Meighan Depke

Meighan took her first class at TULA in April of 2012 and has been a regular ever since. Meighan is one of the many students at TULA that I can't wait to see each day. She has an amazing yoga practice and dedication, and a practical, yet optimistic and cheery, outlook on life. When she comes to yoga, she always brightens up my day! I'm so happy that Meighan has chosen TULA as her yoga home and I'm honored that I have gotten to know her over the years. 

Here's some more about Meighan:

Hometown: Lakewood, Ohio (outside Cleveland)

Sign: Aries

Favorite Color: Sometimes orange, sometimes green, never mixed.

Favorite Movie: Dr. Zhivago. I cry every time. 


What would your last meal be? As in I’m dying? I think I’ll skip food and have a Mezcal Negroni at Reno. Make that 2. 

What brought you to yoga? Well…this is a tough one. Seven years ago my younger brother was dying and I was out East a lot helping to take care of him. We were very close. My sister dragged me to yoga one day, to “relax”, since it was a very stressful time. After my brother passed, the grief was intense. It was like my mind and body had become disconnected and I was watching everything from somewhere else. I found that yoga was the only time I didn’t feel this way, so I continued to go. Eventually my mind and body hooked back up I guess, but yoga continued to be a time when I didn’t feel any of that intense pain.

What brought you to TULA? I was a Groupon yogi for about a year taking classes all over..some good…some not so good. I realized that I needed to be less anonymous and find teachers that I consistently liked. Tula was a natural choice since it was the closest studio to my house, and I had tried it out several times and liked it. 

What is your favorite yoga pose (and why)? Headstand, because it’s a bit scary to be upside down but also fun, and at my age it makes me feel like a badass!

What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice? The benefits (or lack of them) are most noticeable when I DON’T practice. Suddenly I’m creaking in the morning and getting nothing done. My body and mind start to separate again. Yoga makes me feel physically and mentally refreshed. I’m always telling my friends to take yoga…the older you get, the more you need it.

What is your Least favorite pose (and why)? Bridge. And I don’t know why. Maybe because it is always at the end of class and I’m tired? I just always get that “ugh, bridge!” feeling. I’ll do one. Then the second and then some days I can’t muster the third!

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga? Don’t compare yourself to others and go slow, especially if you are older. I’ve had plenty of injuries and the oder you are the longer they take to heal.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity? Well, if I didn’t have to go to work, I think a walk and some iced coffee would be an excellent idea.

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you: 

1. I can nap anywhere. If I’m tired, I can lay on the ground wherever I am and sleep. It’s a great skill.

2. I have 2 different colored eyes which probably isn’t noticeable in downward dog.

3. I’m a big traveler and perhaps a bit too adventurous for my own good. I’ve been attacked by rabid dogs in Tibet, bribed my way into Zaire (Republic of Congo) with whiskey and cigarettes, and hiked in the mountains of Yemen after 9/11 (this still irritates my boyfriend who I left at home with my 2-year old). I’m more responsible now, but I continue to drag my family to out of the way destinations where we usually get stuck in some shitty little town on Christmas. That’s when my daughter will say, “can’t we just do what other families do on vacation?”

Teacher Profile: Hannah Keene

Hannah completed the first year of TULA teacher training in 2016 and has been around ever since. I actually don't know Hannah, personally, very well. What I do know is, that every time I see her, I am reminded that energy is real. Her energy is bright, beautiful and positive and I feel it when she walks in the room. She leads her classes from the heart, she always makes you feel comfortable and welcome and I am so very proud and honored that she chose to be a part of the TULA community.

Here's some more about Hannah: 


Hometown: Salida, Colorado

Favorite Color: swampy greens!

Favorite Yoga Pose: Marichyasana I

Least Favorite: (Why) Lotus isn’t necessarily my least favorite but it is the pose that I struggle with the most in my personal practice.

Sign: Sun in Cancer/Rising Aquarius/Moon in Libra

Favorite Place: Norway has been my favorite place I’ve traveled but I am homebody, I love my home studio.

Favorite Movie: The Thing! When I grow up, I want to be like Kurt Russell.

Why do you teach Yoga?

I teach because part of my practice is service. Giving back to my community is very important to me, especially through yoga. I struggled when I first started practicing but I had teachers who held me accountable and encouraged me. I have such love and gratitude for them. They showed me how to be the teacher I now want and hope to be for my students. One who is gracious, patient and kind.

How do you define Yoga?  

Yoga, for me, is a practice in being present. A way to slow down and catch up with yourself. It is a practice to build trust in yourself and in your intentions. But it’s also a place to hold space for other people. In practice, we come together, in one room, working out whatever it is we need to work out and we’re doing it together. That is powerful and there is nothing else quite like it.

What would your last meal be? A hot cup of coffee and an entire peach cobbler.

The band you can't live without? Songs Ohia, PJ Harvey and Electric Wizard


Most empowering moment?

Sometimes, getting out of bed everyday feels like the most empowering thing I’ve done but let’s go with finishing college and becoming the first person in my family to earn a Master’s degree.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do? I’d love to go back to the UK and travel the countryside.

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? Drinking coffee and reading!

Three fun facts we don't know about you? I used to be a Magician’s Assistant, I read 52 books a year and I’m a poet.

Hannah teaches Restorative Yoga on Sunday mornings at 9am and Gentle Yoga on Wednesday mornings at 10:30am.

Teacher Profile: Kathleen Katsikeas

Kathleen was referred to TULA by Natalie. When I first met her, she seemed shy, but I could tell she loved her job and was very knowledgable. Her classes are on the more gentle side and she is always mindful of different body types and the different modifications that people may need. Whenever I take her class, I leave feeling like someone just wrapped my body in a warm, soft blanket and, to me, that's what yoga is suppose to feel like. :)

Here's a bit more about Kathleen!

Hometown: I split my youth between Lemont (a southwest suburb), and Evergreen Park (the southside of the city)

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite Yoga Pose: Fish (Matsyasana), I love the heart opener/back bend combo.

Least Favorite: (Why)  Hmm, maybe handstand. Because of an old shoulder injury, I have trouble getting into it (there’s definitely some fear there). It’s very humbling. 

Sign: Gemini

Favorite Place: Ireland

Favorite Movie: Fried Green Tomatoes 

Why do you teach Yoga? Because yoga has given me such an affirming, empowering, and healing relationship with my body, I hope to embolden my students on their journey too. I had many beautiful, grounded teachers who held space for me, and I hope to do that for my students in their practice. 

How do you define Yoga?  A healing, grounding practice of connecting the mind, body, and spirit.

What would your last meal be? There are these things called Rainbow Rolls where you put a bunch of delicious veggies in a rice spring roll wrap, and then dip into peanut sauce. That would 1000% be my last meal.

The band you can't live without? Perfume Genius 

Most empowering moment? When I first realized that I didn’t need other people’s validation or approval to thrive. This is a continual practice, if I’m being honest.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do? Paris, visiting friends and drinking an espresso while people-watching. 

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? Reading. I have always been a huge bookworm. There’s something so magical about reading other people’s worlds.  

Three fun facts we don't know about you? 

1.   I love to write short stories and poetry

2.   I have been with my partner since high school

3.   I am a coffee addict that is always trying to switch to tea ;)

Kathleen teaches at TULA on Thursdays at 5pm (Gentle Yoga) and Fridays at 8:30am. You can also view her other offerings and full calendar here:


Student Feature: Valdis Vitayaudom

Valdis (aka Victor) was our #1 attending student in 2017 - attending 325 classes! And he's on track for being #1 in 2018 as well! I guess it helps that he lives just a few houses down from TULA. His energy and incredible dedication to yoga is admirable, so choosing him for our very first Student Feature was an easy choice. I ask him all the time who are his favorite teachers or classes and he always replies that he likes them all - he just loves yoga. Here's a little bit more about Victor and why he's one of our most interesting and cherished students.

Hometown: Too many because I’ve moved often during my childhood.  Logan Square is my longest residence for two decades. Doubling down here has been a therapeutic counterculture to my parent's pursuit of their ideal home.

Sign: Gemini. Enough said and maybe too much already.

Favorite Color: Orange because I’ve gotten over gray years ago

Favorite Movie: Too many, but owe it to yoga for clearing my plate of thoughts into the present possibilities rather than explore cinema. So I would have to say documentaries about food/environment is my new love.


What would your last meal be? Any great 3+ course vegetarian meal will do (preferably Michelin star). I respect the chef that much more for bringing out the flavor from produce. It’s a difficult feat to manage.

What brought you to yoga? A book about Kundalini. 

What brought you to TULA? GasLight Coffee hours are later on weekends than weekdays so I didn’t have a place to journal my thoughts. I thought I'd try TULA's 8am Saturday class one morning instead of walking around the neighborhood. 

What is your favorite yoga pose (and why)? Ones where one hand is grounded and the other finger tip pierce the sky. I like to imagine a beam of energy sent to the universe.

What are the benefits you have experienced from a regular yoga practice? Posture. Body alignment is so important to the flow of blood, nerves, chi, prolonging the joy of life. That and absorbing more yin to balance out my yang.

What is your Least favorite pose (and why)? Tree pose because my balance it’s off. Interesting how yoga knows me so well with its ability to transmute between the physical, mental, and spiritual like a philosophers stone.

What advice you would give someone just starting yoga? Relax and Breathe.

What is your favorite after-yoga activity? My contrarian reply would be cooking breakfast for the kids before morning class. It is a creative kind of time stress management. Yoga gives me a natural high with its post rewarding sense of accomplishment for me to unwind from during yoga. This way I have less thoughts and more in the present during class with less post worries to get them to school on time.

List 3 fun facts we don’t know about you: 

- In Logan Square, I’ve done extensive camping indoors in the most comedic ways.

- My wife was by my side the entire time so she’s quite a trooper and I love her for accepting me with all my faults to guide me toward the light.

- I always known I can learn more from others early on in childhood but just recently starting to learn to drop my filters so I can try better process my kids viewpoints to embrace them as they are.

 Victor's family. 

Victor's family. 

Why you should add Private Yoga Sessions to your Group Practice


I'll admit private yoga sessions used to be a mystery to me. I didn't understand why I should pay almost 3x (sometimes 4x) more than a group class for a one person yoga class -- that is until I tried it. I learned so much in private sessions and my practice, not only advanced, but I was better able to identify what my body needed from the practice. 

We are very happy to announce that we will now be offering private yoga sessions (when the studio is not running regular classes) with a variety of TULA teachers at a variety of times.

So why should you take private yoga session? Here are some that I think are the most important:

-Getting into yoga for the first time or getting back to yoga after time away: Working solo with a teacher is a great introduction to the practice. You can ease into (or back into) group classes with a better understanding of alignment, modifications and pace that your practice should take for your body. 

- Learning Proper Alignment: Whether this is the first yoga class you have ever taken or your 1000th, working one-on-one with a teacher will allow you to gain more specific alignment recommendations based on your body's individual uniqueness. Proper alignment is key to avoiding injuries and helping to ensure a safe and life-long yoga practice. If you have been practicing awhile now, you may be developing bad habits that you are unaware of, the extra eye of a private session can bring these to the forefront and then corrected to support a safe practice. Weed through poses that 'just don't feel right' for your body with modifications, discussions and adjustments. Working with an instructor will set a solid foundation for your practice, novice to seasoned. 

- Delving deeper into your practice to support specific yoga goals: Maybe you have a specific yoga goal and you want to be able to work on this goal in group classes, but are not sure how. During a private session, an instructor can teach you how to modify your practice to continuously support that goal (whether or not that is the focus of a group class). For example, you may want to strengthen your core -- in a private session, a teacher can teach you how to properly engage your core in common yoga poses, add them to your yoga toolbox and bring into your practice, whenever/where ever you practice. 

- Working on a particular advanced yoga pose: It's likely there are poses you really want to accomplish, such as getting into Crow, exploring inversions or arching into a scorpion, whatever pose has you challenged the most. Working one-on-one with a teacher, may just allow you to finally nail that advanced posture!

- Getting out of a Yoga rut: Maybe you have been practicing awhile and your practice has plateaued? Maybe you are in a yoga rut and don't know where you take your practice next? Our teachers can give you individualized suggestions on how to spice up your practice. For example, adding a 'jump-through' to your chaturanaga, adding a tripod headstand to your wide-legged forward fold, etc. What's so awesome about yoga is that it is never really  'mastered'...... there is always another thing to learn from this beautiful practice.......

Ready for your first session? Sign-up for a Private session now and we will take off an additional $10 off your second session*! 

Sign-up HERE

* Second session must be booked in the studio to receive the discount. 

Owner Highlight: Maile Wicklander


Well, I hope this is not obnoxious of me, but I decided to highlight myself this month! 

Here are some some facts about me!:

Hometown: Fresno, Ca. 

Favorite Color: Purple, always. Lately, yellow. 

Favorite Yoga Pose: Triangle, Pyrimid, Malasana, Goddess. 

Least Favorite: (Why)  Hero's pose - it just doesn't work with my body.

Sign: Libra

Favorite Place: Chicago. As a California girl, I fell in love with this city, the seasons and the people. 

Movie: The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo's Fire, Sixteen Candles - Basically any teenage angst movie from the 80's. 


Why do you teach Yoga? I don't! I love yoga. I just don't think teaching would suit me. I love the practice, I love being a studio owner, and I love yoga people. 

How do you define Yoga?  Calming of the mind, releasing of the body. 

What would your last meal be? Tacos and/or sushi. 

The band you can't live without? The Cure.

Most empowering moment? 

October 1, 2011. The day that I opened Tula's doors. It was the biggest risk I have taken in my life and well worth every tear and every dollar. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?  

I would go back to Hanalei Colony Resort on the north side of the island of Kauai, Hawaii where Andrew and I were married 14 years ago (in March) -- we haven't been back since. 

 Alex, the Borkie (Bichon- Yorkie). 

Alex, the Borkie (Bichon- Yorkie). 

When you aren't practicing yoga, what can you be found doing? Cooking, reading (or reading cookbooks!), watching netflix, drinking wine, doing puzzles, hanging out with my family and dog. 

Three fun facts we don't know about you? :)

1. I LOVE black jelly beans. 

2. I have a master's degree in Psychology. 

3. I was a 'goth' girl in high school. 

 Me, Andrew, Leila (12) and Kai (10).  

Me, Andrew, Leila (12) and Kai (10).  

Teacher Profile: Chris Morehead

I honestly don't even remember how Chris was referred here. It's also hard to remember how long he has been here (2 years?) It seems like he's been here from the beginning since he so seamlessly integrated into our community and so quickly became a student favorite. I really don't remember him NOT being here.... 

I do remember that when I first met him, I knew he would make a great addition to the TULA team. He had arrived to his audition about 20 minutes early and was sitting on the sidewalk outside the studio, book in hand. He was just lovely. Kind, enthusiastic and I could tell right away that he had that perfect mix of practical sensibility and strong work ethic mixed with the free-spirit, bohemian vibe that every good yoga teacher needs.

His classes are well-thought out, well-paced and have a good mixture of challenge and ease and genuinely come from the heart. We are very lucky to have him at TULA. 


Here's some more about Chris:

Hometown: Seneca, Missouri

Favorite Color: Depends on the day?

Favorite Yoga Pose: I don’t think I have a favorite… if I do, it changes often. Maybe handstands?

Least Favorite: (Why)  I have a love/hate relationship with Hanumanasana. Some days I can get into the posture with hardly any prep, other days it’s just a big no. It is just one of those shapes where I really have to rely on the breathe to be there for any period time.

Sign: Leo (roar)

Favorite Place: Home, where my dog children are.

Favorite Movie: Hocus Pocus


Why do you teach Yoga? I teach yoga for the same reasons I practice… to connect people to something deeper whether that be a physical feeling, or a breakthrough mentally or emotionally.  In our society, we are conditioned to numb ourselves to certain thoughts or feelings. We put up these armors or build layers when we are confronted with an uncomfortable feeling or thought because we are told it is not okay to be sad, or angry, or uncomfortable. When people come to my class I want them to observe and be present with all of their thoughts and feelings, to truly feel it, experience what is there, to have a conversation with it… so that, maybe, in the future we step away from holding things in and can begin learning from the information that is being shared. 

How do you define Yoga?  My practice is constantly evolving and shifting, and yoga is such a broad term that I feel there could be so many different ways to answer this. For me, it is a deep intimate conversation with myself, a way for me to stay connected to the universe or nature. I do not move to certain dogma or “style” I move the way my body is being called to move in that moment.

What would your last meal be? Hmmm idk… I’m still dying to try one of Pie, Pie My Darlings' cakes, but I refuse to just buy a slice -- I want the whole thing!

The band you can't live without? Waaaaayyy too many options


Most empowering moment? I’m not sure if this is really an empowering moment but maybe very humbling? When I was in college at the University of Arkansas, I was a part of the equine program. We had our own breeding facility and as student employees we were lucky enough to head this program under two women that I have so much respect for, Dr. Nancy Jack and Kathy Jogan. Anyways, my first year I was able to witness my first birth which happened to be twins, a rarity in horses. The mare had minor complications and we had to step in and assist the birth, it was so incredible to see such a powerful being to trust us to bring her babies into this world. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?  I’m not for sure… Bali? 

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? 

Being lazy with my pups :)

Three fun facts we don't know about you? 

1.) I bit my tongue off when I was 2  

2.) I was Pre-Vet in college but working as a vet tech changed my mind :)  

3.) I have worked in a variety of fields in my short life but my favorite was training Arabian horses 

You can find Chris at TULA on Tuesdays at 10am, Wednesdays at 6:30am and Saturdays at 8am.

You can also follow him on Instagram @chrismoreyoga


Bali 2017

 Our home in Bali, Naya.

Our home in Bali, Naya.

Our first retreat on the other side of the world is complete. Over a year and a half of planning, worrying and nervous anticipation is over. In the first few days I have been back, people are asking "how was it?"  Well, was amazing, glorious, life-changing....

and also so much more that is simply beyond my vocabulary to be able to describe with any semblance of accuracy.  

One thing I have learned on each yoga retreat that I have attended is that no matter how picturesque the environment, no matter how many luxuries are afforded to us and how much we pamper ourselves on these trips, what really makes a retreat, are the people.

 Our yoga shala view.

Our yoga shala view.

It always comes back to the community of people that have decided to come together and make new memories.

I will always have a special place in my heart for these yogis that made this retreat exactly what it was meant to be. 

I believe that what makes a good yoga teacher is not just  the ability to design a well-sequenced yoga class, or how many sanskrit words they know or their mastery of the the of the most complicated yoga poses. What makes a good yoga teacher is so much more.

Natalie and Rhiannon are amazing yoga instructors because yoga simply lives within their hearts.

We were all so privileged that they were able to share this beautiful gift, in this beautiful place, with all of us. 

I am forever grateful to both of you.

We have to do this again. Look for details soon for a trip in 2018.

 Steps to our rooms. 

Steps to our rooms. 

 Our group. 

Our group. 

 Flower mandala made by the staff of Naya.

Flower mandala made by the staff of Naya.

 Daily offerings to the Gods.

Daily offerings to the Gods.

 Love BALI!!!

Love BALI!!!

 Swinging bed. 

Swinging bed. 

 Dragonfly joined us for dinner. 

Dragonfly joined us for dinner. 

 Hanging orchids.

Hanging orchids.

Our 4th Annual Yoga in Yosemite Trip

Our 4th year running this trip faced quite a few challenges. From record-breaking snowfall causing our typical trailhead to still be closed, to a bear living in our regular camp-site, we were all reminded that nature rules and we are all just privilaged visitors to this beautiful place.

Overall, despite all the last minute changes, we all experienced the best of what this place has to offer -- breath-taking views, physical challenges that tested us beyond what we previously thought we were capable of, the refreshment of dipping in a creek flowing with melted snowfall, bonding over campfire chats and, above all, being immersed in all of nature's quiet wonder. 

Interested in joining next year's trip? Our registration is now open! Click here for all the details. 

Lastly, here are few pictures from our trip!

Teacher Profile: Merril Doty

It's been awhile, but here's a bit about one of our favorite teachers, Merril!!

Cassi first introduced to me Merril as a recommendation for subbing family class. When we met, I could tell right away that she belonged here. She's warm, grounded and light-hearted. Over the past few years, she is always eager to help out at the studio where she can, either with subbing classes or picking up shifts at the desk or helping with teacher training. She's been an invaluable asset to our community and I'm so happy that she's with us. 

Her kids classes and adult classes all are soothing and compassionate, but also have an element of fun and playfulness to them. She is a big advocate for self-expression and this is shown in the way that she offers students options in class and encourages all to find their own unique expression of yoga. 

Hometown: Chicago suburbs 

Favorite Color: Burgundy  

Favorite Yoga Pose: Supta Kurmasana, (reclined tortoise pose)

Least Favorite: (Why) Probable revolved chair pose. It feels like I'm navigating a public bathroom! 

Sign: Cancer sun, Libra rising, Sagittarius moon. 

Favorite Place: The woods.

Movie: I Am Love, and Sense and Sensibility... or the Miss Marple murder series from the 80s and 90s, which I guess was a tv show, but each episode was long enough to be a movie... 

Why do you teach Yoga? 

I truly believe that movement is medicine. It has been my medicine, and seems to be so for others as well. Coming from a dance background, I felt obliged to move my body in ways that I was told to move. While yoga has a certain degree of discipline and structure, I like to teach in a way that supports my students to use that structure to support their bodies in healthful and creative ways. My main goal is to provide space for even more space-making, and ultimately, freedom. 

How do you define Yoga?  

The definition of Yoga is "to union, or yolk". It's the bringing together of the mind, body, and spirit together toward one purpose and one experience. There are not many other activities where I have actually felt that unification occurring within myself as well as with others.

What would your last meal be? 

Some kind of curry, or pasta. And cabbage. And tea.

The band you can't live without? 

I'm pretty fickle when it comes to a favorite band, but Celtic-y folk music never fails to lift my mood.

Most empowering moment? 

I was teaching a meditation for kids class, and there was this one particularly anxious boy. He could not stop talking, giving observations, or telling other kids when they are being unsafe. Toward the end, I taught them the "lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu", chant, and then we did some coloring. During the ten or so minutes that we were coloring, the boy kept chanting. He finally found a tool to focus and calm his numerous thoughts. Pretty much any time a student tells me or demonstrates that some element of my class really resonated with them, I feel really honored and empowered as a teacher. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?  Either Wales to study folk dancing, or Japan to study Butoh, or Tibet to meditate and practice yoga. Indecision is one of my greatest obstacles...

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? 

Probably walking in the woods, or reading about trees. Or fiddling with essential oils. Or watching the Great British Bake Off. 

Three fun facts we don't know about you? :)

1. I write with my write hand, but I play harmonium with my left...

2. I've always been pretty good at giving relationship advice...

3. Rabbits are my favorite animal, but I've yet to own one... yet...

You can find Merril at TULA on Tuesday mornings at 6:30am & 8:30am and she teaches a Baby & Me class on Wednesdays at 10:30am. In addition to teaching at the studio, she is also often at the desk helping with managing as well. 

Teacher Profile: Natalie McGreal

Natalie has been with Tula for about 4 years. She started off as a sub. I knew that she was special because whenever she would sub, I would hear "who is that teacher?" "what classes does she teach?" "She's so great!!". As soon as we had an opening, I knew I had to get her in. 

Her classes are the embodiment of warmth, heart, and replenishment. She leads each yoga class as an special event, offering you a sometimes rare opportunity to fully embrace yoga and truly experience how good it can make your body and mind feel.  She leads with confidence, but is soft. She leads with sensitivity, but is strong. Taking her class is like giving yourself a gift and I always leave her classes feeling at ease, content and peaceful.  It really is a treat. 

Everyday that I see Natalie, she brings me joy, she brings the students at Tula joy and I'm so very grateful that this beautiful person chose Tula as her 'home' studio.  

Here's a bit more about Nat: 

Hometown: There are a few, but the first placed I lived was Lemont, Il

Favorite Color: anything earthy, or red

Favorite Yoga Pose: Half Moon B and Savasana. It's a toss up.

Least Favorite: (Why) Kurmasana (tortoise) It feels terrible on my elbows and makes me feel claustrophobic

Sign: Aries

Favorite Place: Anywhere wrapped in blankets with a good book or movie

Movie: I love movies a lot, so this is very difficult for me...I will say Harold and Maude since I have loved it since I was a teenager and I named one of my cats after it. Besides that I love anything made well and will heart.

Why do you teach Yoga? Lot's of reasons. First because yoga is life changing, healing and powerful. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to share it with others. Also, it is fun. I never get bored with it, and I feel like I am the best version of myself when I teach. Like magic, no matter how I feel when I go in to teach, I leave happy and nourished. 

How do you define Yoga? Short and sweet: union of body, mind and spirit. 

What would your last meal be? A slice of NY style cheese pizza, 1 sushi roll (probably something with eel and avocado), a really good bagel, chocolate, just lots of chocolate, a giant bottle of kombucha and someone I love to share it with.

The band you can't live without? This question kills me, it is more difficult than picking a movie! How about 5 bands/musicians I have loved for a very long time: 1. The Smiths 2. Kate Bush 3. The Kinks 4. David Bowie 5. Roxy Music 

Most empowering moment? Every time I remember that even though I cannot control most of what happens in this life and world, I can control my reaction to it. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?  Right now I am thinking about Morocco. When I travel to new places I like to spend time in their biggest cities, eating all their food and walking/exploring as much as possible.

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? I spend a lot of time getting coffee with friends, reading, cuddling cats, cooking food...the usual stuff.

Three fun facts we don't know about you?

1. The first time I did any solo traveling I went straight to Thailand.

2. My maternal grandparents met in the circus (she was a dancer and he was a wrestler), so I'm part circus folk.

3. I know a little bit about a lot of things.

Natalie is at Tula on Tuesdays at 5pm, Thursdays at 6:30am & 8:30am, and Sundays at 9am (Restorative Yoga). She is also leading a few sections of our first Teacher Training this year. Finally, she will be co-leading (with Rhiannon) Tula's first retreat  to BALI in September 2017!

You can see what else she's up to at


Teacher Profile: Kathryn Gongaware

Kathryn was trained by David and he recommended her to join our team. Boy, am I happy that he did. She has been an awesome addition to our community. 

To me, Kathryn exudes the energy and vibrancy of youth. Her classes are playful, fun, and fearless. She teaches authentically from the heart & soul and isn't shy about taking things 'out of the box' and unapologetically expressing her style of teaching yoga (and musical taste). In many ways, she is the 'stereotypical' yoga teacher, but if you are privileged enough to get to her know her a bit better, I think you will find that she brings a new and different approach to yoga that is uniquely hers. To her, teaching yoga is a life-calling and not just a job and it shows in every class. 

Here's little more about Kathryn. 

Hometown: Vienna, VA

Favorite Yoga Pose: Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)

Least Favorite: (Why) Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel). It requires a lot of shoulder, chest and heart opening - none of which come easily to me. But I work on it anyway. :)

Sign: Virgo

Favorite Place: Probably bed

Movie: The Departed, Remember the Titans

Why do you teach Yoga? 

To pay it forward. Teaching wasn't something I actively sought to do - which isn't to say I don't love it - I just.. had to. It didn't feel right to keep it to myself. 

How do you define Yoga? 

If I'm getting deep, a path to self-awareness and actualization, a way for us to better connect with ourselves so we can better connect with the world around us. 

Alternatively: just something we do to feel and be good.

What would your last meal be? Pizza. Pasta. Wine. With my peeps.

The band you can't live without? This makes my brain hurt. 

Most empowering moment? Every single time I shift my approach to the world and watch it shift its approach back to me. 

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do? 

Some day I'd like to ogle at the Pyramids. Maybe climb another mountain with my brother. Right now, I'm pretty good where I am. 

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? 

Working on Bendy (a yoga app to be released this fall), filming web-isodes for Bent (a yoga and beer experiment), writing wrongs on my blog, supporting Chicago's incredible food, bev and art scene, falling asleep in half pigeon.. 

Three fun facts we don't know about you?

1. I can play the piano upside down and backwards. 

2. I cannot, however, carry a tune.

3. I still dream of writing for SNL. 

You can find Kathryn at TULA on Mondays at 5:30pm (Balanced Vinyasa) and Thursdays at 10am (High-Energy Vinyasa). You can keep up with her other endeavors at her GongaFlow Facebook page

Teacher Profile: Mara Goldfine

Here's a profile of one of our newer teachers at Tula, Mara Goldfine. I knew she was special by the way that she entered our community, as a student. She was here all the time- taking classes, making friends. I didn't even know that she was a teacher until another teacher suggested that I give her an audition for our sub list. Her audition was what I now refer to as 'authentically Mara' (because why would you imitate when you are already so awesome? ;) and I knew right away that she would do well here. 

Her classes are challenging. She expertly weaves together strength with flexibility and always offers you a glimpse into just how far a pose can potentially go. Every class I attend with Mara I learn something new, I do something new. She always keeps it fresh and interesting and I love that about her. I'm so happy that she's a part of our community and that we get the privilege of learning from her and growing along with her. 

Here's a liitle bit more about Mara.....


Nick Name:  I've never really had one that stuck.

Hometown: Just outside of Boston Massachusetts, a little town called Wayland, that had a high school, a library, a Dairy Queen and not much else.

Favorite Color:  I like warm colors, crimsons, red-purples, carnelians.

Favorite Yoga Pose:  What a tough question.  I think my favorite pose shifts a lot in relation to mood and weather.  I love postures that demand a combination of both strength and flexibility, like Kala Bhairavasana, which is side plank, with a sundial bind, although I may only be saying that because it is the pose that I'm teaching the week that I'm writing this. 

Least Favorite: (Why):  Mayurasana, Peacock pose.  Whenever I practice that posture, I feel like I am fighting my own anatomy.  I feel that I am fighting the length of my arms against the girth of my chest, and the position of the shoulders denies me most of the strength of the back.  This is one of the few yoga poses that in the 7 years of my practice feels like nothing in it has shifted at all.  

Sign: Scorpio

Favorite Place:  I love to travel, and I think that that is because I haven't found a favorite place yet.

Movie:  Sita Sings the Blues.  Watch it.  It's amazing, it's an animated adaptation of the Ramayana, and it is hysterically funny.  

Book:  Like my favorite yoga pose, I think this one also shifts dependent on what I've been reading and thinking about.  Currently I'm obsessed with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, because it is a fantasy story that is not derivative of JRR Tolkien, which is so refreshing that I can't get enough of it.  

Why do you teach Yoga? 

I love to watch bodies move in space, and I love to watch people leave class moving differently, their faces and demeanor completely changed.  I like to watch that face people make when suddenly alignment clicks into place, and the posture changes completely in both mind and body.  

How do you define Yoga?

I think yoga is a way to reconcile the self you see in your mind with what happens in the body.  The mind and the body can tell completely different stories, and the process of uniting the two can be difficult and painful, but ultimately can be quite gratifying for the sense of self.                 

What would your last meal be?

Without doubt, my last meal would be a raw fish feast.

The band you can't live without?

I definitely can not live without Puscifer.  No matter what I'm doing, no matter what the mood, it works for me.  

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?

I would love to go to Java Indonesia.  In terms of what I would do, it would be a toss up between yoga (Duh.), scuba diving, and studying the traditional bronze casting techniques that are unique to Java. 

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? 

In addition to teaching yoga, I am also a sculptor.  I cast large figurative art in bronze, aluminum, and iron, and have a studio space in Humbolt Park.  Between that and yoga, I spend any remaining time cooking.

Three fun facts we don't know about you?

1. There is more milage on my bicycle than my car.

2.  I'm almost always listening to audiobooks, not music, if you see me with my headphones in.

3. I've been on every continent except Antartica.


You can find Mara at Tula on Mondays at noon and Tuesdays at 8pm and often subs for other instructors as well. This year, she will be teaching our July 4th Firework Vinyasa at 10am. She will also be leading topics in our first Tula Teacher Training starting in October 2016!

Teacher Profile: David Duerkop

David Duerkop has been with Tula since before day one. He was one of my first yoga teachers and he helped me decide whether opening a studio was right for me. The consummate professional yoga teacher, he manages to always stay well above the fray (in a sometimes dramatic industry) and always shows how deeply he cares about the practice & his students. His Sunday class has been Tula's "Rock". Always happening, always a good time and never wavering in it's ability to make your weekend completely complete. 

His teaching style is that rare combination of challenging and easy-going. Fueled by his eclectic and energetic taste in music and dropping yoga knowledge like refreshing drops of rain through out, one always leaves his class feeling strong and little more light-hearted than when coming in. 

What more can I say?  We are so grateful for David. Tula just wouldn't be Tula without him. 

Here's a little bit more about the "Double D"

(sounds like it could be the name of a yoga pose, what do you think ?:)

Nick Name: Double D

Hometown: Bensenville, IL

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Yoga Pose: Triangle. Love the length in all directions!

Least Favorite: (Why) Titibasana. My body doesn’t go there..... yet.

Sign: Virgo

Favorite Place: My family’s house in northern Michigan

Why do you teach Yoga?

Sure, I teach yoga to learn more about yoga and challenge myself. Mostly though,  I teach yoga to serve those who seek the immeasurable effects that a yoga practice offers. I simply try to create a  comfortable space where people can relax, have fun, let their guards down a bit and learn what they choose to learn.

How do you define Yoga?

Do something and  keep doing it with sincerity and devotion. Yoga is path of action. Simply follow a path with purpose and dedication and there will be yoga..

What would your last meal be? Don’t know but I hope it’d be really, really long and there’d be lots and lots of people there!

The band you can't live without?

None. Thankfully, we have recordings so I’ll never have to live without any of my favs.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do?

I’d drive to our house in Michigan and hang-out with my family. No question.

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing?

I’d be working on our house or walking our dog Daisy with my yogi-partner and wife, Rachel.

Three fun facts we don't know about you?

I can ride a unicycle all day long.

I can recite the names of the US states alphabetically in about 15 seconds.

I have 5 fabulous big sisters.


You can find David at Tula on Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 10:30am. He also co-leads a monthly Yin and Nidra Session with his wife, Rachel, at Tula during the Fall/Winter/Spring.  You can also find him at various gyms and studios all around the city and holds annual yoga retreats. You can keep up with his complete schedule at Resonate Yoga Chicago.

A Chance To Start a New Life: Teacher Profile of Olinka Mytsiura

Guest post Written By Natalie Tomlin

A Chance To Start a New Life: Teacher Profile of Olinka Mytsiura

I met Olinka Mytsiura this spring, as we both taught yoga at Tula Yoga Studio and Alternative Health Group.  Her pure and gentle energy immediately made an impression on me, and later I found out that she was undergoing cancer treatment.  In late July 2015, as I prepared to leave Tula after teaching a class, Olinka walked in to teach the next class. I said, what's new? She replied brightly with a smile, pulling off her head scarf: "well, I lost all my hair yesterday." I then knew that I needed to profile her, in order to share her story and energy with others.

What is your background and why did you come to the United States?

I was born in 1985 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine and came to the States as an au pair in 2009. I had just got my Master's degree in architecture and worked for half a year when the financial crisis started. I was sitting without a job for almost a year. So I applied for the au pair program and a family from Chicago contacted me. I could not have asked for a better host family. One of the children, Daniel, used to do aikido and the family wanted me to try it out so that I could go to class with him. Eventually Daniel quit, but I stuck around the aikido community for over three years. This is how I found myself in the dojo family at MAC (Midwest Aikido Center) and met my husband, JB.

How did you become interested in yoga?

Three months before I left my home country, I met Shalinder Negi - my yoga teacher. He lives yoga and has a very sunny presence. From children to the elderly, everybody loves him, because it's impossible not to smile when Shalinder is around. He has an ashram in Rishikesh and people from all over the world come to study with him. Luckily, Shalinder likes to travel and Ukraine has become his favorite destination for over 8 years. He opened a whole new mysterious world of yama and niyama, mantras, meditation, pranayama, asana and so on to me. Since that time, I knew I wanted to be a yoga teacher. 

Upon moving to the United States, I maintained daily personal practice for three years until I found Alternative Health Group. Tim Suh and Rhiannon Kirby inspired me to take the yoga teacher training and focus on the Sivananda and Ashtanga (modified primary series) lineages. Later I did prenatal yoga training with Cassie Rodgers and apprenticed with Jenny Fishman. I was happily continuing my yoga education through apprenticeship with an amazing teacher, Gabriel Halpern, when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Would you take us back through the process of diagnosis and treatment?

It all began about three years ago, with symptoms that I thought I could explain in other ways than a brain tumor: spasms in my right arm – which I thought was an old injury from martial arts re-awoken by doing Aikido, spasms in my right leg – which I thought as simply a pinching of the sciatic nerve, and finally the last few month before I quit Aikido altogether – anxiety, depression and "mental fuzziness.” I forgot things, behaved in weird ways and felt as if my personality was getting thinner and thinner. My husband and I finally went to a neurologist in December 2014, but for various reasons, from insurance complications to a vagueness about my condition, I didn't get an MRI right away.  My condition remained a mystery. In the beginning of 2015, because yoga had become too hard on my body and the symptoms of anxiety and depression had worsened, I quit teaching. I felt inauthentic because I was teaching something that I wasn't practicing in my own life.

In February of 2015, I decided to visit my family in Ukraine. I had a layover in Frankfurt where I probably had a seizure (my memory isn't that good of this time or of the following events). I do remember being questioned by a couple of cops, who asked if I was on any drugs. Then, they took me to the hospital where they did the MRI and found the mass. My parents found me and called my husband, who flew to Germany and brought me back to Chicago. I was almost immediately was admitted to the hospital. The next thing I remember is waking up from the surgery all drugged up. My memory of the next few days is really fuzzy.

The surgery went really well; they removed a fist-sized tumor on the left side that was pushing up against the specific part of the brain responsible for speech. So for a few days I could barely talk, even though I could understand everything that was going on around me. Basically, from that point on, I had to re-learn to walk, to talk, and to just function.

I spent about 4 days in the ICU, followed by a few days in a normal hospital room before I was transferred to the rehab facility where I stayed for a couple of weeks before coming home. A nurse and various therapists came to our house for several months and I made really good progress, which I believe was due to my martial arts and yoga experience. I have a pretty good body awareness, which was an irreplaceable skill to have at that time. I understood exactly what I was asked to do with my body, even though sometimes I could barely perform the task. I was not at all ready to start teaching yoga again, but I missed it. In the meantime, my therapists let me practice yoga and practice teaching them. 

The most difficult part of this process has been preparing for the possible effects that my treatment may have on my fertility.  My husband and I found that one option of protection, freezing my eggs, was simply too expensive.  However, the drug Lupron offered a more affordable option with high rates of success, so we decided that was our route. However, Blue Cross repeatedly denied us coverage for the drug. They claimed it was an ‘experimental’ drug and medically unnecessary, but the drug has been around for 20 years, so that was just their excuse. It was shocking to hear that they believed the drug to be unnecessary, as I am only 29 years old and want to have children, but I guess I am just a number to them. 

Luckily, Charles Askenaizer, whom I met through Yoga Circle, set up a fundraiser to help us pay for the drug, which costs $1,200 a month and is something I may need to take for up to a year. Through those who so generously donated to the fundraiser, we raised over $13,000 and are now fully funded to pay for the Lupron, which really saved us, as we already have debt from past treatments. 

What has it been like to return to teaching yoga since then? How has this experience shaped your teaching and practice?

After successful surgery, rehab, and going through the first part of my treatment (chemo in combination with radiation), I'm back to teaching. The whole experience has been like a second birth, a chance to start new life. I feel like I was given this chance for a reason. Even though I still need to go through 6-12 monthly cycles of chemo to treat existing cells in the brain, teaching really inspires me and gives me energy. I believe it is my calling. I'm so grateful for many regular students who come to my classes now.  This experience helped me to become more compassionate and patient. I now favor a more gentle approach. I love giving hands on adjustments, and for me it is very nice and pleasant to see that people like receiving them.  When I see how people’s bodies are in the poses, I can see who has tight hamstrings, or other issues, and I adjust accordingly. I have also become more careful as a teacher—I look at people’s bodies and how they work before deciding on an approach.  

Being in the hospital was very humbling.  There was a loss of privacy, being poked and prodded by strangers, and being uncomfortable in my own body. I came to realize how sometimes myself and my students push themselves too far in the practice, and I see that impulse to push is driven by ego. My experience has motivated me to help people to see that they can stop and not push so hard.

Since returning to teaching, I have been filled with gratitude for all of the people who have helped me in this process. My mother was able to be with me in the States for 3 months and this was made possible with the generous financial help of relatives and friends. When I was in the hospital, a day didn’t pass without one or more visitors. Also, along the way, a lot of people I have met have shared beautiful stories and experiences about their own family members who have survived cancer. 

After the experience, my goal as a teacher has remained the same, in some ways: to share the knowledge of yoga with others to strengthen their health and awareness, bring more happiness and balance into their lives, and help to deepen their practice. Yoga is one of the paths leading people not only to better health but also deeper into themselves. I see my students as fellow travelers and encourage their striving for growth. The most important things yoga taught me is that true happiness comes from within and that through selfless service one can share it with the whole world.

Can you give us an update on your health status, as of May 2016?

I finished chemo treatment back in February. Since that time I'm in remission and officially a cancer survivor. The scans are stable. I feel better and better as the time goes on and we are gradually lowering the dosage of my anti-seizure medication - the last one I'm still taking. Using Lupron during the chemo treatment saved my fertility, my doctor said that according to the blood work and ultrasound I am just as fertile as any other average woman in my age group.

At this point I am back to the amount of classes I had before the brain tumor surgery. I still experience some neuropathy on the right side of my body, but I started working with MAT (muscular activation techniques) specialist which helps tremendously. I plan on taking jumpstart course into MAT this summer as I would like to be able to tell if I'm activating or shutting down my students' muscle tissues. 

I am looking forward to my adventure of rock climbing in the end of June provided by First Descents (an organization supporting young adults who currently have cancer or are in remission). There, I will meet other cancer survivors as well as experience the activity I wanted to try for a long time.

Olinka Mytsiura teaches group and private classes in Chicago. Learn more about Olinka and her schedule at or