Guest Blog Post: Janice's 30 Days of Yoga

Below is a blog post by one of our dear students, Janice Cho. She's been a TULA regular for a few years now and here she describes her experience with our studio and with our annual 30 day challenge. It's so inspiring to hear about Janice's journey and it makes me so profoundly grateful for our amazing community. 

This blog post was copied and pasted from her website. The original post can be found here: thehcdlife.com 

 Janice Cho

Janice Cho

30 Days of Yoga

by Janice Cho

I've been practicing Yoga for about 10 years (on and off), and from the moment I stepped into my first yoga class, I knew I had found a component of my life that was going stay with me forever. I've moved around to several cities during these past 10 years and I have found yoga studios that I loved but have had to move on from. Since coming to Chicago, I tried out several Yoga studios to see where I felt at home - there were a lot of trial and errors, Groupons that allowed me to speed date studios with no commitment, referrals from others, but it wasn't until I found Tula Yoga Studio that I knew I wanted to commit to learning from the teachers who communed in its space.

Before I write about the 30 day challenge, I'd like to tell you a bit about why this studio is so special, and also why it captured my yoga spirit from the very first class I attended. 

Yoga is an spiritual activity to me, and my yoga mat is my personal sacred ground. It is during this time where my body becomes aware that it is breathing, alive, and able to reconnect with the fact that, at the end of the day, I am me. The reason I tell you this is because it has become increasingly more important to me to be around people who are spiritually aware of the universe, and my yoga practice is my highest priority to achieve this kind of surrounding. 

I have found the instructors at Tula studio to be extremely spiritually aware of their surroundings while thoroughly emotionally intelligent at the same time. It is a rare skill to be able to meet spiritual states with an appropriate emotional response, and Tula, I believe, has achieved that. I haven't encountered every single instructor just yet, but the ones I have communed with all possess this rare skill - and I make an extra effort to attend their classes. And let me tell you, it is a wonderful encounter with every single class. 

Maile, the owner of Tula, is also someone who I look up to. Her heart and vision for opening up a studio tailored to students who want to learn and grow in their yoga practice is unparalleled and she has single-handedly pushed forth a growing organism that Logan Square cannot ignore. Not only did she collect Tula's great instructors, but this lady has thought of everything when it comes to servicing yoga students, and I finally discovered why. She shares this on Tula's website:
 

"I purposely chose not to pursue a yoga teacher’s certification or training program before opening the studio because I wanted to make sure that I built the studio through my naïve eyes of a student, still open to many ideas and interpretations."
- Maile Wicklander


Many yoga studios have changing areas, cubes for personal storage, yoga storage, etc. but Maile also thought about the little things that make all the difference. The bathrooms have bobby pins and hair ties, the common area is always stocked with complimentary tea, there are spray bottles to clean your mats after class, complimentary towels and mats, and so much more - all of which I have used when needing them the most, and it is because of these things that make Tula so great. Could she be a service designer?! I'd say, "Yes."

Over the course of a few years of attending this studio, I saw students in past years take on the "30 day Challenge." Yoga every day for 30 days. "Are you crazy?" you ask? That's what I said. My mind couldn't grasp this idea and I had the utmost respect for those who I saw take on the challenge. "I could never do that," I thought. But in the 3rd year of watching students conquer their 30 days, something gave me the courage to want to try. So, I took the plunge. If not now, then when? Right?

"Alright, I'll do it," said I.

The first 5 days were really tough. My body was exhausted and I couldn't even think. On the 5th day, Rhiannon (the resident Yoga teacher), asked me how I was doing and I told her that it was pretty difficult - that my body was exhausted. She kindly told me that with every yoga class, I didn't have to push myself like I normally do, and that it was ok to rest - and then it hit me. I had been approaching every class like I usually do - by giving it my all. Except going everyday as opposed to 3 times a week should be entirely something else, right? This tidbit of wisdom set the stage for the next 25 days and I am so happy that I had that talk with her. It gave me a larger perspective of what I was trying to accomplish and that my body needed to be heard with more sensitivity than usual. So, I did as she said and it set me up for better game plan.

I could talk about the yoga itself but to tell you the truth, that part is the least interesting component of this experience. Yes, I had to make it to class every day. Yes, my entire schedule ran around making it to class. Yes, I had muscle cramps every now and then - but, these are all things we experience when we put our physical body through something like this. 
 

What was more magical to me than my body becoming freakishly strong was the community that was brought forth to me by just showing up.


Here are 10 beautiful moments that occurred during the challenge:

1) Reencountering a friend who I had lost touch with for about 2 years.

2) Finding out that one of my Letterpress students is the roommate of one of the yoga instructors.

3) Reconnecting with an artist who I had worked on a project with a year ago and hadn't seen since.

4) Spending quality time with Tula's fellow yogis while putting together care packages for Syrian refugees during my first yoga happy hour.

5) Demoing a pose for the first time which made me panic inside but I accomplished without fainting (whew!).

6) Discovering the most wonderful camomile tea blend that Maile brings in from the Logan Square farmer's market. It is that good.

7) Understanding what "Restorative Yoga" is and realizing how much training my mind needs while practicing yoga. (I found another favorite yoga teacher because of this class!)

8) Learning about Maile's vision was for the studio when creating it which made me appreciate it even more (you can read about it here).

9) Miraculously accomplishing yoga poses I have struggled with for years.

10) Communing with the people of Logan Square.


I've mentioned this before but I am an extreme introvert who has learned to survive in an extrovert world, and part of what I've been learning to do is to just go and be. During this challenge, I had to go and be, and the universe graciously met me there. Overall, this challenge opened my eyes to see more than what my body can physically handle - and to focus in on what it's trying to tell me everyday. It let me see the beauty of a community space that encourages communing with each other on the premise of just existing. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

I'm now back to my schedule of 3-4 times a week but it's different now when I go to Tula. Each class is more intentional. I have a better understanding of what I'm doing and what my body requires of me. I also feel more confident in my yoga practice than I have ever been while knowing that there is still so much more to learn - and I think I'm ready for it. For this I am extremely grateful.

I chatted about this challenge to some folks I work with and conversations began to arise about micro-challenges - which is the idea of creating little 30 day challenges for yourself that are small, but are still based on commitment. I'm wondering what I should do for that... tweet everyday for 30 days? (I'm so bad with social media) Maybe I'll just stick to just writing more. :)

TULA Teacher Highlight: Veronica Stevens

In a new blog series, we are going to highlight a new TULA teacher each month so that you can get to know the people behind the amazing teaching here at TULA.

First up, Veronica Stevens.

Veronica teaches at TULA on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12pm, Wednesdays at 6:45pm and leads a prenatal class on Wednesdays at 5:30pm. She is expecting her first baby in July! 

She is a full-time yoga teacher and doula. You can keep up with all her activities at Happybabyyogi.com

Name: Veronica Stevens

Nick Name:  V, Ronnie, Vern, V-ron

Hometown: Chicago

Favorite Color: Green

Favorite Yoga Pose: This tends to change over time but in my current state cat/cow feels amazing!

Least Favorite: (Why) Again this is always shifting so as of now forward folds just aren't the same, definitely can't get as deep as I used to;)

Sign: Libra

Favorite Place: Anywhere near a big body of water

Movie: The Wizard of Oz

Book: Right now Dance, Dance, Dance by Murakami and all time favorite its Everybody Poops

Why do you teach Yoga?  It has provided profound healing for me and teaching it is my way of serving others.

How do you define Yoga? To me yoga is recognizing the connection between everything, stripping away the layers that prevent us from feeling the deep, integral sense of presence that we need to show up and inhabit the moment fully.

What would your last meal be? Tom yum, french fries, mac and cheese (Obviously I'm pregnant haha).

The band you can't live without? Hard to pick just one! Nick Drake, Joanna Newsom, Fleetwood Mac, Iron and Wine (older stuff), Jurrasic 5, Beach House, Beirut, Julianna Barwick, Van Morrison, lots of oldies and even some terrible pop music that is just fun to dance to. 

Most empowering moment? Attending my first birth as a doula, organizing volunteer trips to Haiti to teach yoga

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now where would it be and what would you do? Of all the places I've traveled I really feel a deep connection to Latin America and have always wanted to go to Iguazu Falls.

When you aren't teaching yoga, what can you be found doing? Eating! Yoga, enjoying nature, Doula-ing, traveling, cooking.

Three fun facts we don't know about you?

1.) You can still find a post I wrote about Hanson when I was 10 out there on the World Wide Web

2.) I went through a "Sonny and Cher" phase in 6th grade and did a lot of presentations on them

3.) My parents played a lot of Bob Marley when I was growing up. I always thought the song "Stir it Up" was just about cooking.

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What's Up with Going Upside Down? Why we do Inversions in Yoga

Written By: Rhiannon Kirby, Tula Yoga Studio's Manager & Resident Yoga Instructor

As a kid, most of us have a fearless sense of play. We will climb trees, throw ourselves around like a bouncing ball, swing from playgrounds like spry animals and imagine worlds filled with lava, castles, wild creatures and super powers. It is these exact qualities that first drew me to yoga.

It made me feel like a kid again, strong, playful, resilient, fearless, ultimately exploring the many facets of the self with out judgement.

I say these things because when Maile asked me to write a blog on inversions and why we do them in yoga, these concepts were the first things that came to my mind. Getting upside down in class has the ability to make us all meet the kid inside of us, that part of us that often times gets hidden by the hardships of becoming an adult, the seriousness of growing up.

So the next time you are on your mat, push fear aside, let your adult self visit the kid inside and put yourself upside down. 

Now into the physical benefits of inversions. The act of inverting has many benefits on the physiology of our body.  Yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar believed that inversions allow the body to purge impurities, which facilitates strength, firmness, calmness and clarity of mind. In yoga, the benefits of inversions are based on the principles of opposite processing and the concept that inversions provide a way of looking at the world from a different physical viewpoint in order to facilitate a different perspective. Inversions alter the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, and allow blood to drain from the lower body to allow bring fresh blood to cycle throughout the tissues and organs of the body. Below is a more detailed list of the physical benefits of an inversion practice:

Circulatory System: As our body is upside down, the blood flow momentarily reverses directions, giving our heart a moment to slow down, a breather, reducing blood pressure and heart rate. When we become upright again, fresh blood and oxygen pump through the body, carrying nutrients, ready to help heal and support our bodies systems and functions.

Acts as an Anti-depressant: Inversions literally turn your frown upside down. Flushing the adrenal glands stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins that allow you to immediately feel uplifted and can counteract depression, mood swings and seasonal affective disorder. Plus it’s fun, so naturally it can elevate your mood.

Brain function: The brain uses about 25% of the body’s oxygen, so when the brain lacks a sufficient supply of blood, the body becomes slow and sluggish. Increasing blood flow nourishes brain cells with more oxygen resulting in improved concentration, memory and awareness. The brain is flushed with nourishing blood. Once settled into an inversion, there is the space to create a moment of meditation, things seem to become more still yet awake. 

Digestion: When you invert your body, you allow the stool that is moving from the ileocecal valve through the colon to move with the force of gravity. This encourages action and pressure on the walls of the digestive tract, stimulating it and supporting its function.

Immune system: Inversions help to stimulate lymphatic cleansing and drainage which clears toxins from the tissues and plays a vital role in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the immune system.

Skin: Reversing gravity flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, activating the facial capillaries, hair follicles of the scalp, and helps remove visual signs of toxicity (including acne), giving your skin a natural and healthy glow.

Sleep: Muscle tension can contribute to feelings of anxiety as well as insomnia so it’s important to flush it from your body. Finding the calm state, inversions can provide sparks the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces feelings of relaxation and calmness in the mind and physical body because the nerves begin to quiet down, thus giving us a space for better rest.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of inversions, besides accessing my inner child, is that

...it puts our hearts above our heads, even for just a moment in time.

I think all of us as individuals and the world can use just a little bit more of that every day. Everything in our body is connected, is one, in union (also the translation of the word Yoga).

A mindful inversion practice helps to support us as a whole; mind, body and spirit.

So whether your doing a self practice, or in a class, explore getting upside down and start to soak in and observe all its benefits. 

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Inversions to explore:

Viparita Karani: legs up the wall

Salamba Sarvangasana: Shoulder stand

Salamba Sirsasana I: Headstand

Salamba Sirsasana II: Tripod Headstand

Adho Mukha Vrksanasna: Handstand

Pincha Mayurasana: Forearm Stand

Here at Tula, our teachers will happily support you in your inversion explorations, from modified to advanced, just ask us, we are ready to play.

This month we are offering two workshops that can help introduce you to inversions or strengthen your inversion practice:

Sat Jan 16th: PLAYshop with Cassi and Veronica 4pm

Sat Jan 30th: Inversion Intensive with Rich Logan 2:30pm

Advice for Your First Yoga Class

As a continuation of my blog post about where to start yoga. Here are my tips and advice about taking your first yoga class. I've broken it down into  the categories of 'before you go to the studio', 'during your class' and 'after your class'. Here's to 2016 being your year of yoga!

Before going to the studio

Dress comfortably. Yes, it might be tempting to go to Lululemon and drop $200 for a fancy, tush-hugging outfit, but you don't need it. You need to be in comfortable, movable clothing. For women, I recommend a form-fitting tank with a built in bra (or a regular tank paired with a sports bra). I would also recommend cotton or cotton blend clothing that will allow your body to breathe. 

Have a small snack. You don't want to be totally hangry* in a yoga class. You also don't want to be too full. You will be twisting and bending your body in a number of ways and a completely full stomach is just not advisable.

Do a little research. Although every class, every teacher and every studio might be slightly different, you should have a basic understanding of what you are about to do. Use YouTube and Google to get a basic understanding of yoga (please ignore the scantly-clad young women with their legs behind their head, that's not what yoga is all about). I would also highly recommend checking out the website of the studio you are planning to go to and reading the bio of the teacher. Lastly, there are many types of yoga. You should have a basic understanding of the specific type of class that you are attending. 

Don't overthink it. Just go. This is the most important (and hardest) piece of advice. Even if you don't have exactly the right outfit, even if you are running a bit late, even if you are slightly more hungry than you think you should be, just make a pact with yourself to get up and go. Making it to the studio and on your mat, is 99% of the battle. 

At the studio

Arrive early. No one wants to arrive to a yoga class rushed and stressed. Arriving at least 5-10 minutes before the class starts, will allow enough time to get to sign a waiver, pay for the class and get set-up and comfortable. 

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no help at all. (1).jpg

Introduce yourself to the instructor.  You should have time to meet the teacher and let them know of any limitations that you may have. But don't just let them know about limitations, also let them know of what your goals are. Why are you at a yoga class? 

Set up in the middle of the room. Often, beginners try to hide in the back. I recommend setting up in the middle of the class. That way, whichever way you are faced during the course of the class, you can easily look at the people around you. There will be times in which you are lost. Just look around and see what every one else is doing. 

During class

Keep an open mind. There are undoubtable going to be things that take you a bit out of your comfort zone. It might be the instruction of 'putting your foot here' or simply the chanting of 'om'. When I first started yoga, I remember there being things that I literally thought "wow. these people are nuts". lol. The more you do it, the more you will connect with things and understand why things are done. Make sure to give yoga the time and space to settle into, keeping an open mind is the only way to achieve this.

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Rest. Rest. Rest. Yoga should be challenging, but it should not hurt. If you feel overwhelmed, the strongest and bravest thing that you can do is take child's pose. No one is judging you. Always do what you need to do , when you need to do it, no apologies. 

Don't do anything that doesn't feel good. Think of the 'instructor' as more of an 'advisor'. You always have the option of not doing something, you always have the option of resting instead and you always have the option of backing off instead of pushing forward. The more yoga you do, the more you will gain a deeper understanding of your body and what you ultimately need. Until then, if it hurts, back-off.

After class

Assess. Think about what you enjoyed. Think about what you didn't enjoy. How do you feel? Did the class make you feel more open? Was the class not challenging enough/too challenging? Call the studio that you took the class at, tell them what you liked, what you didn't like, have them make recommendations for other classes you might enjoy as well. 

Don't base your entire perception of yoga on one class/teacher. Even if you hated every minute of your first class (and hopefully you didn't). I beg you to try other classes. Try other yoga styles, try other teachers, even try other studios. Yoga can be life-changing, but only if you continually practice it. If you didn't connect with your first yoga class for whatever reason, try, try again. 

*Hangry - when you are so hungry that you become angry. 

 

Meditation Resolution

I hate new year's resolutions. For the past several years, I have refused to even make them. I think that we often set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic goals and we end up filled with stress and anxiety and feelings of failure more so than if we just never made these promises to ourselves in the first place!

But this year, I'm going to be making an exception and have decided to start a daily meditation practice. Of course, I have been hearing and reading about the numerous health benefits of meditation for years now, but I never really thought it would help me in any way. I am lucky enough to have a pretty naturally calm demeanor already. I don't get stressed easily and am not prone to anxiety. I just always figured that mediation was something that people only needed if they struggled with these issues.

I'm not sure what changed my mind about it. It might be the realization as I get older that it's inevitable that your body changes. Physically, you just are not going to be able to do all the things you did when you were young. After turning 40, I have definitely begin to feel these things shift. I also am pretty well informed about how to keep my body heathy. Balanced eating, moderate exercise, and yoga, of course. But what about your mind? As you age what keeps your mind healthy? and happy? As we yogis know, emotions get stored in the body. Stress, stuck emotions, unresolved anger, sadness, etc. can directly contribute to unhealthy bodies. It makes sense that we need to not only concentrate on the 'healthfulness' of our bodies, but also our minds. Meditation seems to be the simplest and one of the best ways to do this. 

Luckily, there are several apps that can be downloaded to your smart phones that can help you start your meditation journey. I downloaded one called Mindfulness and have been doing it for 2 days now. There are also several others that I hear are great as well - Headspace, Buddhify, Calm and Omvana, just to name a few. 

So, I have began my meditation journey. I'll keep you updated on how it goes!

Do you have a meditation practice? How has it impacted your life? 

Monica Brown

It's been awhile, but this is a continuation of my blog posts about our amazing teachers at Tula. 

Monica was hired before we opened our doors. I sent one of my assistants, at the time, to go and take her class at a gym downtown. She reported back that she loved the class. One of the things that she mentioned, that stuck with me, was that Monica was 'gentle'. Not knowing Monica that well yet, I didn't know the extent to which this word really does describe her and her style of yoga. 

Monica has a gentle and thoughtful nature that I greatly admire. She genuinely cares about people, loves her job and it shows. She never complains, never gripes (well, maybe sometimes about the weather :), and I've never heard her utter a harsh word about anyone. She is constantly a professional and I can always count on her to keep her commitments. I get the sense that she is wise beyond her years and this gives her a calming presence in the studio and in the world.

Monica's classes are airy, flowing, creative and peaceful. She emphasizes using your breath and doing poses that feel oh, so, good. She uses props, quiet music and low lighting to enhance the overall calm environment of her class. Whenever I get the chance to practice with Monica, I always leave feeling renewed, like I just took a breath of fresh air, just the way yoga is suppose to make you feel. 

It is an absolute pleasure to know that Monica is part of our team. 

In addition to being a lovely yoga teacher, Monica is also an interdisciplinary artist, a trained Thai Massage Therapist and a dancer. You can find Monica at Tula on Mondays at 10:30am, Tuesdays at 6:30pm, Thursdays at 5pm and Saturdays at 12:30. You can also follow her many other projects at http://www.monicajbrown.net/

Receiving Gratitude

Around this time of year, people always talk about giving thanks, and being grateful for things that we have. I think this is really important and I think that overall I do a good job at being grateful and giving thanks. But there's also another side to this

......receiving thanks and receiving gratitude from others is just as important.

This, I have realized I am not very good at. I think part of this stems from being a parent. You are programmed from the time that beautiful, helpless creature is born to be 'self-less', to put every need and want of them over your own needs and wants and never, ever do you expect a thank you. In my case, this also extends into my personal relationships and into my work. I don't often see or hear someone giving me thanks.

I often 'miss' little things that people say and do that are clearly showing me that they appreciate and care for me.

The thing is, most likely people are not showing gratitude by saying the words "I am grateful for you" - no, more often than not they show gratitude with small gestures, with slight smiles, with random acts of kindness.

Unless you are really paying attention, you might miss it. Unless you are really open, you may not be able to receive it. 

So during this Thanksgiving holiday, join me in not only giving thanks and giving gratitude for all of life's abundance, but also opening yourself up enough to receive these gifts as well. Listen to the people around you closely, let the love and appreciation seep in, let it stay awhile and really revel in the gratitude of the season. 

After all, the more you are able to receive, the more you are able to give. 

Tula's Expansion

Tula opened it's doors on Oct. 1, 2011. The response was amazing from the community & neighborhood and we have been growing slowly, but surely, ever since.  

Part of the reason that I rented this particular space 4 years ago was because of it's 'potential'. Not only was it located in a rapidly changing and growing neighborhood, it also had the potential for Tula to expand, once the business was established. Beneath our current space, is a basement area (approx. 2800 sq. ft.) that was also available for rent. A year ago, I signed an extended 15 year lease that included this basement area and now is the time!

Now that we have a solid student base and I have a better understanding of the needs and wants of that student base, we would love to be able to offer you MORE. Here are just a few of the ideas that we have for ways in which to to use this extra space. 

1. Simultaneous kids /adults classes - this way, parents can get in their yoga without calling for a sitter!

2. Weekend Baby & Me & prenatal classes - so that working parents can be part of the fun as well!

3. Kids Yoga Birthday parties - we have done a few, but with only one space we are severely restricted on the times that we can offer them. With a second space, we could offer them on a more regular basis.

4. More Meditation/Restorative/Nidra/Yin and 'gentle' classes - It's no secret that our schedule is filled with mostly Vinyasa classes. With a new space, we would be able to offer more gentle classes, more accessible classes and classes that compliment a regular vinyasa practice very well. 

5. More options for evening classes - Instead of just being able to offer 'stacked' classes (one after the other), we could experiment with offering say a 5:30pm, a 6pm AND 6:30pm. Potentially, giving more of you a chance to get to yoga, even when you have to work late. 

6. Yoga Teacher Training and/or a Yoga Immersion Program - Again, primarily because of having only one space, we currently are unable to have a meeting place for long periods of time to be able to offer such a program. 

7. More Donation classes for charities- Again, because we cannot run simultaneous classes, we are often stuck offering donation classes at less than optimal times. We hope to able to offer these classes more regularly and at better times so that they can be more successful. 

8. Community events - At least once a week, I am approached by a organization or individual looking to rent space to offer a workshop, community event or seminar. We would be able to offer this space to them. We could even do more yoga pairing events, such as start a yoga book club, knitting and yoga, wine and yoga, etc. without having to modify or cancel classes from our current schedule. 

9. Thai Bodywork and private yoga sessions - Because the space is just as big as our upstairs space and we wouldn't have retail, we have space for a second studio as well as a private room that can be used to offer Thai Bodywork and private yoga sessions! 

10. More workshops! Because we are restricted on time with only one space, often our workshops are not as successful as they should be. We would be able to offer more workshops, at 'prime' time slots!

If you share our vision for this space, we need your help to make it a reality! Anything is greatly appreciated. 

 

 

 

What makes Tula Different?

Chicago is lucky enough to have many wonderful, highly-respected yoga studios and even more absolutely amazing yoga teachers as part of our larger yoga community. Over the past 4 years, Tula has been fortunate enough to be able to thrive in this highly competitive yoga city. People often comment that Tula is their favorite place to practice. I routinely get in students and teachers that had moved away to other cities and they comment that they cannot find a yoga home quite like Tula.

I want to be clear that the following things do not necessarily make us better than other yoga studios, these things just make us different. In business, as in life, people have different goals and they use different tools to achieve those goals - one way is not necessarily better than any other. I have great respect for the many studios in Chicago that have been able to thrive for decades in this often difficult industry and I hope to be among them one day.......

So, what makes Tula different? Here are 10 of the reasons why I think we might stand out from the crowd, even just a little bit: 

1. We give new teachers a chance. Sure, I hire experienced teachers, but I also hire brand new teachers. Most of the teachers that are the most popular today started off 4 years ago with Tula with less than one year's experience. I look beyond a resume and number of jobs. My requirements for being a teacher here - you have to have potential, passion, a clear vision of what it is you want, the willingness and ability to work hard, a positive outlook, a desire to stay grounded and stay true to yourself. New teachers have many opportunities here above what many other studios may offer. I think that this not only helps the teachers grow and gain experience, but it exposes students to a different viewpoints, different styles, and not just teachers that are stuck in their ways. Our teachers are constantly learning and growing from our students, as well as teaching them. 

2. We are inclusive in action, not just in words. Many, if not most, yoga studios say that they are inclusive, but I have personally experienced classes where if I was not 'serious' enough, or thin enough, or cute enough, I was clearly given the cold shoulder. We try our best everyday to practice what we preach, allowing people to explore the wonderful practice of yoga in a nonjudgemental, highly individual and non-intimidating way. 

3. We pay our front desk staff. Front desk staff are employees of Tula. A lot of yoga studios use "work trade" people as front desk staff (working for yoga, not money). Often, this leads to front desk staff that is poorly trained and may lack a sense of duty and responsibility to the job. Our staff is well trained on our systems and policies and we know how to handle any customer service issues that arise. This often makes a huge difference in the way that you are treated when you come in. 

4. Our yoga philosophy is one of body acceptance and not one of change. By this, I mean that we never promote detoxes, diets, losing weight, changing who you are or becoming a 'better' version of yourself. This is a consistently challenging premise, and I'll be the first to admit that we sometimes don't do as well as we should. In a society where we are bombarded with 'perfect body' images, 'inspirational' quotes about bettering ourselves, the 'in your face' marketing of fancy, tight-fitting yoga clothes, we often fall into this a bit. But at the heart, at our center, we view yoga as a great conduit to make finally make peace with yourself, not finally change yourself, and there's a big difference.

5. As a studio, we accept and embrace what we are. We are a small, neighborhood yoga studio with strong ties to (and pride in) our our neighborhood. We are not a gym, we are not a luxury spa. We are not a corporation with stakeholders that live in the suburbs. As the owner and operator, I work here, I live in the neighborhood, I practice yoga here and know the students here by name. There are no plans to make a Tula Yoga Studio chain. There are not even plans to make Tula a 'leader' in the yoga community. Tula will always cater towards the everyday yogi. I want to bring yoga to people that don't necessarily want to be yoga teachers or even make yoga the main focal point of their lives. 

6. We made our own software for running the studio. This may seem like a small thing, but most studios use a big-box, publicly-owned software program for handling credits, online purchases and billing monthly memberships. We didn't like that one, so we created our own. We wanted something that was highly intuitive, simple, and above all something that would make for a pleasant, easy-buying experience for our students. My husband's software company was able to make a software that fit all my needs in running the studio and also reflect the philosophy and brand of the studio. We now have a iPhone App & an Apple Watch app and a really cool website that hopefully reflects our difference as well. 

7. We have continued to say 'no thank you' deal sites (groupon, gilt city, etc), third party fitness finders (ie, classpass) and many other corporate marketing companies (yelp, google ads, etc). Again, we know who we are. We are a small neighborhood studio. Our marketing dollars do not extend beyond the confines of the Logan Square neighborhood. I knew from the day we opened that people go to yoga studios primarily based on location and convenience and I wasn't going to try and compete with the multitude of studios in all of Chicago. We wanted to make our studio an intimate, comfortable place, not just a place where nameless masses of people can flow through the doors without any connection to us as a community. We continue to grow organically, not artificially. 

8. Our studio policies are different. When opening the studio, I didn't just do what others did or just blindly follow their lead. I asked myself, what did I want to do? Why is this a policy? So you'll see immediate difference in some of our studio policies: We don't have expirations on packages (regular packages), there are no minimum commitments for memberships, there are no 'admin' fees tacked onto memberships, no cancellation fees. We always let you in late to class, we allow the sharing and transferring of class credits, we don't require registrations, we don't charge for mats or towels, we allow anyone to store their mat at the studio, we don't single out certain groups of people to qualify for discounts (instead we level the playing field by allowing anyone to do community service in exchange for a discount with our YogiCitizen program). Finally, we don't make judgements or policies about what people should or should not put into their bodies outside of (or even inside) the studio. 

9. Our focus is on serving our students, not serving teachers. Some studios are built to be yoga teacher's studios and that's great, but we are not.  Again, we cater to the everyday person that wants to bring yoga into their life - whether that be everyday, twice a week or once a month. 

10. Last but not least, our students are badass. Logan Square is diverse, artistic, open-minded neighborhood and it contains what I think are some of the best people in the world. It's no wonder that we are lucky enough to have these people as students. Demographic-wise we are made up of many young adults, stay-at-home parents, retirees and everything in between and they are all awesome and ultimately what really makes our studio so special. 

Happy 4th Anniversary, Tula

After 4 years of yoga studio ownership, I have grown. Boy, have I grown. I have done many, many things right. I have made many, many mistakes.  Opening and growing Tula has stretched me financially and emotionally beyond anything I ever imagined. The studio is quite literally my third child. 

At times, I am so in love with it, I can barely see straight. At other times, I am so frustrated and angry that I question whether or not I might actually be insane for ever wanting this.

This community has always reminded me how worthwhile this endeavor is. During some of the more emotionally stressing, moments during the last few years, there was always an occasion where someone would lift me up. There would be a good Yelp review that would come through, an encouraging word from a teacher, someone new to the neighborhood would stop in and tell me how great the studio is, a long-time student who would simply say 'thank you for opening this special space', someone would bring the studio flowers from the farmer's market, just because. Trama, injury, accident or disease-survivors would tell me about the life-changing practice of yoga and how they discovered it at Tula.

This would remind me why I do this and why it's ultimately all worth it.

Thank you to everyone who stood by me, the community and the studio during it's highs and lows over the last 4 years. Thank you also to everyone who taught me some very hard lessons along the way. Both have helped ensure the success of Tula, in equal measure.

So here's to many more years of Tula. I am really excited about what the future holds for this place and community.

Couch Potato Yoga

I have a confession to make. I am a couch potato. Give me some Netflix, a comfy couch, a glass of wine and a bag of chips and I'm in my happy place. 

I realize, of course, that I can't just live on the couch. It's just not healthy. Over the course of my adulthood, I have tried over and over again to become a more active person. I've tried various cardiovascular activities ranging from exercise DVD's, going to the gym, spin classes, lifting weights, swimming, and even a few sports (yikes!). I would look at those people that were constantly running around from one activity to another, with nothing but envy. Everything I tried, I genuinely hated it. Hated every minute of it. How could I ever be healthy and happy if I hated exercising? How can I change myself?

Then came the 'what's wrong with me'? I'm just fat and ugly. Ugh. I haven't gone to the gym in a week! What a loser I am!

I realized that this cycle was making me dislike myself. This was really not healthy. Not making me happy either. 

Then I found yoga. It was healthy. It was sustainable. It wouldn't kill me. It actually made me feel good about myself. There was no competition. No comparing yourself. Just moving, stretching, breathing. After a class, I would feel 'high'. Then I started to became more flexible & stronger! wow, this is awesome. 

Sure, yoga is tough. It is still a struggle to peel myself off my comfy couch and get on my mat, but once I am there, I actually smile. I enjoy myself. I can play. I can fall out of poses and laugh at myself. I can try new things. I can rest when I want. I can just sit in child's pose and breathe.

Now when I don't make it to my mat in a week, I say to myself, I'll try again tomorrow. There's no judgement. There's no guilt. I have learned through yoga to love myself just the way I am. 

The best part? It made me realize that I don't want to change who I am. I am a couch potato who occasionally does yoga and that's really okay.   


The Magic of Restorative Yoga

Written By Natalie McGreal

When Maile asked me to write a blog post about 'Restorative Yoga' my initial thought was that I wouldn't know where to begin. Restorative yoga and gentle practices take up a lot of space in my brain and my relationship with them runs deep.  

Restorative yoga has healed me in more ways that I can count.

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Physically, it was like finally locating the missing piece to a puzzle I had been working on for years.

I grew up dancing and studied a pretty strict style of ballet. I remember when I was 16 begging my mom to let me get a 'sports massage' to help with my chronic shin splints and foot and knee pain. When I was in my training to become a yoga teacher I was working as a full time massage therapist, and had been one for a while. I worked in a busy spa in an international hotel downtown where we were booked 90 minute massage after 90 minute massage.  By the time I made it to teacher training my body was overused, tired and it hurt. I would wake up in the morning with my arms and hands totally numb. There were days when I couldn't turn my head an inch in either direction. Committing to a regular yoga practice slowly started to heal and re-strengthen my body, but there were many days that I simply didn't have the energy or strength to do much more than child's pose.

It was during teacher training that I took my first Restorative class. I walked into the dimly lit classroom with candles lining the altar and I thought,

this is exactly what I need right now.

During the class we were shown how to structure our props to support healing, long held poses. When we did any sort of movements they were slow and gentle. My body was much more receptive to the practice than my mind was at first. The mental practice of 'letting go' was a challenge at times (it still can be!), and often my mind would get really chatty and loud the second I hit the bolster. Ironically, the longer we stayed in postures the easier it became for me to let go. Eventually, with a period of sustained and quiet physical stillness, the mind follows suit.

After that first class I started to incorporate Restorative Yoga postures into my regular practice, and so they naturally made their way into the classes I taught as well. It is incredible to see how people respond to Restorative Yoga the first time they practice it. 

Often they express feeling surprised at the unexpected power of such a subtle practice.

It can seem so counter-intuitive - doing less to inspire change. It is pretty magical though, what can happen when we slow down and get quiet. In the stillness of these powerful poses everything softens, and in this softness we become more receptive to physical, mental and spiritual evolution. The body slowly readjusts becoming more spacious. When the body is still the mind can relax, and when that happens a healing process begins.

Restorative yoga is not flashy.

In it's quiet simplicity it is nearly impossible to compete with oneself or others, and so it offers a retreat from the over stimulation we are bombarded with in daily life. If only for a short while there is an opportunity to feel free from expectations, pressure, competition and comparison. There is even freedom from effort since these poses are so self sufficient.

To gain the benefits of a Restorative practice, all that is asked of us is to show up, become still, and practice letting go.

 

Natalie teaches Restorative Yoga, at TULA, each Sunday at 9am.

Where do I start??

This is a question that many, many people ask. With the 'mainstreaming' of yoga, more and more people are interested and seeking yoga to help with everything from stress relief to helping to rehab from an injury or to just to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

So where do you start? 

First of all, TULA is an all mixed-level studio. I know that scares some people, but anyone is welcome in any class, anytime. Period. If you have any particular issues that you would like addressed, I would recommend that you come in early and talk to your instructor. 

Second, if you are a bit hesitant to just join any class, there are a few teacher's classes on our schedule that I do recommend as good starting places for people that are trying yoga for the first time or that are just getting back into yoga after a long time or are rehabbing from an injury.

Here is a little bit about each one:

Michelle Beuscher - A plus-size yogini, Michelle emphasizes appreciation of one's self and abilities as they are in the present moment to begin living a more joyful, liberated life. To this end, her inclusive and empowering teaching approach incorporates modified techniques and props to make the practice of yoga accessible and fun for people of all body shapes, sizes and conditions, including expectant and new mothers.

*Michelle currently teaches our "Yoga within Reach" class on Saturdays at 9:30am. 

Natalie McGreal - Natalie has been massage therapist since 2007, and bodywork is still a huge part of her life. One of her greatest passions is self care, and self massage. Taking ownership of our bodies to support healing, manage physical pain, and to cultivate relaxation are real gifts, and she loves sharing these gifts with her students.

*Natalie teaches on Tuesdays at 5pm, Thursdays at 6:30am & 8:30am, Saturdays at 2:30pm and she leads a Restorative Yoga class on Sunday mornings at 9am. 

Monica Brown - Monica is also a Thai Bodywork Therapist, artist, dancer and yoga teacher. She expertly combines her knowledge of the body into her yoga classes which are full of intentional breathing, slow-flowing movements and ultimately a non-intimidating & caring approach to yoga. 

*Monica teaches on Mondays at 10am, Tuesdays at 6:30pm and Sundays at 12:30pm. 

Rachel Duerkop - Rachel provides Thai bodywork, Chi Nei Tsang (Taoist Chinese form of abdominal work), and Reiki in addition to teaching yoga. Her classes seek to address the individual needs of her students and her knowledge, care, and innate nurturing nature shines through each time she teaches.  

*Rachel leads an amazing Candlelight Yin class class every Wednesday night at 8:15pm. 

Nathan Paulus - With a background and continuous studies in Chinese medicine, Tai Chi, Thai Bodywork and anatomy, Nathan brings a vast knowledge base to the teaching of yoga. In his classes you can expect to explore postures in the mechanical sense as well as the subtle qualities developed through the vibration of intention, breath work and sequencing.

*Nathan teaches on Friday mornings at 10am. 

Lastly, we routinely offer "A Beginner's Series" - usually held on Saturdays or Sundays and consist of 4-5, 75-minute classes that cover all the basics of yoga. Please check our "Special Events" page for details on upcoming series'. 

The most important thing? - just start. 

 

*Always check our online schedule for updates & changes

Michelle Beuscher

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It's been a little while, but I am continuing my blog posts about my dear teachers!

Michelle joined TULA even before it opened. She contacted me via email about the studio and inquired if she could teach. She suggested that we meet up and chat. She met me for lunch and as soon as she started talking, I knew that she would be a great addition to the studio. She is a ball of sunshine. So optimistic and happy, that you just want to bottle her energy up and save it for a rainy day. Outwardly, she is not your stereotypical yogi, but inside she embodies the true definition of a yogi. She is confident in herself and cares deeply about her students and the process and practice of yoga. She teaches from a place in her heart that is caring, uplifting and oh so patient. Her class at TULA, Yoga within Reach, has grown to be an essential class offering for our community. It is highly accessible, has an almost cult-like following and I am grateful everyday that Michelle is part of our team. 

If you have ever been intimidated by yoga, had any bad class experiences, think it just isn't for you because of some pre-conceived notions about how you think should look in order to practice, you should try Michelle's class. She is challenging and squashing these notions, one class at a time. 

Yoga within Reach is offered on Saturdays at 9:30am. 

You can keep up with Michelle on her website:  michellebeuscheryoga.com

Turning 40 is awesome, except for.........

Okay, so I turned 40 in October and it's taken me this long to even write this post because it's really hard getting older. Especially in an industry that (unfortunately) values looks and being 'instagram-worthy', above all else. 

So it's not all "40 is the new 30", here's what Sucks:

1. For the first time in my life, I look at new fashion trends and ask myself "can I really pull that off?"

2. Pretty much everyday while talking to someone at the studio, I think to myself "could I be their mother?"

3. You spend more time plucking random hairs from your face than on the actual hair on your head. (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you haven't hit 30)

4. The most important thing to you is sleep - when do you get to, how long will you get to. 

5. Hangovers are now hangovers with a dash of the flu, insomnia, dysentary and intense migraines. (Yeah, no joke). 

6. You have to accept that you can no longer just go pick up some jeans or a swimsuit (or order online).  It's an all-day ordeal that you need to be mentally and physically equiped to deal with. 

7. You sometimes get in conversations with younger people and you really have no idea what they are talking about. 

8. The most important thing for you to do on the weekend is laundry or organizing the garage. 

The things that are Awesome:

1. You care less and less about what people think of you. 

2. You finally know what you are going to be when you 'grow up'. 

3. Mentally, you still feel 21, but have more money. 

4. You have learned SO much about everything and are smart beyond belief :)

5. The styles and music that were 'in' when you were a teenager are back (yeah 80's!!)

6. You accept who you are and stop trying to change it. (sooooo liberating!)

7. You truly start relating to your parents in a way that you have never done before because you realize and accept that you are not too far away from their position in life. 

8. You finally, truly make peace with your body issues. 

9. You feel absolutely fabulous everytime you are carded or mistaken for being younger than you are. 

10. The most important thing for you to do on the weekend is laundry or organinzing the garage. 

11. You find your VOICE. You develop strong, intelligent, verifiable and defendable opinions about things.

12. You FEEL grateful for everyone and every day. I don't think I ever really knew what it was to be purely grateful until now. 

Next up........ "What's Awesome about turning 50". Stay tuned :)

 

 

Silly Questions asked of a Yoga Studio worker

You know the scene in the movie Clerks where is telling his friend about the silly things people ask while he works in the video store ("um, I'm looking for that movie that won an award with that actor and that song"). That really happens - I used to work at Blockbuster. 

Well, there are also many silly questions I get asked now that I work at a yoga studio. Here are some of them (and an explanation as to why they are silly, in case you need an explanation)

1. Is this class hard? 

There's no way for me to answer this question. "Hard" for one person can be extremely different for someone else. 

2. Is it going to be a crowded class on Friday at 4:30pm? (or will there be guys in the 6pm class?)

I really have no idea. These are open, group classes. We could have 1 person attend or 40 - all girls or all guys!

3. I can't do yoga, I'm not flexible. 

That's the point! To get flexible! (and strong and balanced and unstressed.......)

4. Do I need a uniform?

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not, this is an actual question I have been asked. Makes me wonder, what a yoga uniform would look like? 

5. Should I put my dirty mat in the bin labeled "Dirty Mats" or back in the pile? 

????

6. Can you do something about the city/train noise? 

Um, no. 

7. How many down-dogs is the teacher going to do? 

Yes, I have been asked this as well. I've never actually counted...... :)

8. Is yoga a religion? 

The definition of a religion is 'the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods'. 

There are no worship of superhumans here except yourself. 

Yoga is Different Everywhere and for Everyone, get over it

Recently, I've been seeing a rash of blog posts, articles, even whole books all about how Americans have 'ruined' yoga, how Instagram is ruining yoga, how gym rats are not doing 'real' yoga, how we have lost any connection with the true roots of yoga. I've been hearing all about how our American culture has materialized it and filled it with misogyny and made it into it's now unrecognizable form. Don't get me wrong, I get it, Americans are rich, racist, sex-crazed, greedy pigs and we have pushed our ideas of individualizism and commercialism all over pretty much everything and in the process have 'americanized' whole traditions, religions and even basic societal norms. (And those half-naked Instagram photos of too skinny white girls bending themselves up like preztels bother me too!)

But let's take a step back for a second. As yogis, don't we encourage differences, celebrate differences, are taught to be mindful and accepting of different ways of doing things? We preach about how yoga is different for everyone and every body, but then look down on the people that want their yoga in a heated room? Why is it that we feel the need to look down on the 'gym' yoga or the fusion of yoga with barre/pilates/dance classes - are we saying that the people that practice this way are somehow inferior to us? Just because we have a 'guru' or a teacher with a direct lineage that we can follow? Because we know all the Sanskit names of poses or because we know who Krishna is? Because we have mastered Lotus? Therefore, we must be 'true' yogis and everyone else are just posers that are ruining it? 

Yoga is Yoga is Yoga. 

I think that If you want to blast Marilyn Manson and move around your living room in your $150 spandex pants and call it yoga - good for you!

 Cowboy yoga?

Cowboy yoga?

Each culture has put their traditions and cultural flavoring on yoga and America, as a melting pot, is no exception. Some might say we have diluted it or ruined it, some might say we have made it richer, deeper. I might go so far as to say that we are actually making it more accessible (with some bumps along the way, of course), more modern and in turn more people in America are doing their version of yoga. The steady distancing of it from religion, from esoteric beliefs and from it's native language (Sanskit) are helping it become more and more mainstream. By mixing it in with American ideas, beliefs and values we are actually opening the doors of yoga to a much broader, culturally diverse audience and what's really wrong with that??

Above all, make yoga your own. Yoga is a living, breathing, always evolving entity that can have profoundly positive effects on your view of yourself and the world. Take what you want from it, make it your own and make sure that you keep an open and accepting mind to others' versions of it along the way. 

(Even those verisons that involve hot rooms and Coldplay :)

 

 

 

Are Discounts Worth it?

 Are sales worth the potential problems?

Are sales worth the potential problems?

A few months ago, I introduced the 3-pack New Student 'deal' (3 classes for new students at just $30, expiring in 30 days). I have also had occasional sales on single classes/10-packs/memberships. Overall, most people are very receptive to sales, they abide by any expirations dates and/or stipulations of the specific sale and are very appreciative of the offers.  

So what's the problem? Without fail, every time I offer a sale or deal of some sort, we run into issues. People, it seems, begin to undervalue what it is that we are offering, they try to take advantage, they try and not follow the rules. All of the following have happened as a direct result of us having a sale or offering a discounted item:

1. Tula has received a semi-poor Yelp review.

2. One of my assistants was literally screamed at before a busy evening class.

3. I was berated by a student then received multiple harassing phone calls.

4. I was called at 10pm (on my personal cell phone, at home) and begged by a student to let them buy a sale package even though the sale had ended the day before.

5. We have gotten people to try and purchase 2 packs of whatever deal is happening by trying to use different names.

6. We have had people try and 'sneak' into class without signing in (so that we didn't see that their package had expired).

7. We have had people lie about being here before and try to use 'first class free' passes multiple times.

Almost every customer service 'issue' we had encountered has been the direct result of a sale or a discount that was offered. What is about sales and discounts that bring out the worst in people?

I have recently began to question - is offering a discount or sale worth all of this? Since the 3-pack is something that is ongoing, do the advantages of it outweigh these potential problems? 

Everyone loves a discount, everyone loves a sale, including me. As a business owner, I want to try and give people a good deal BUT also sustain a profitable, healthy business. 

So next time you see a discount or sale at Tula (or any other indie, small business) please keep the following in mind:

1. Almost all small businesses struggle from month-to-month and every dollar counts.

Please don't try and 'trick' us out of a few bucks. 

2. When a business offers a sale, there are always very specific, financial reasons why there are expiration dates, sale end dates or stipulations. 

Please abide by them and don't ask us to make an exception for you. (Because we really want to, but financially we shouldn't.)

3. Most sales are done with the intention of offering a deal to customers without jeopardizing profit margins or the health of the business while still paying fair wages to employees/instructors.

Please be respectful.

Veronica Rottman

The first class I took with Veronica, I hated it. I realized later that what I hated about the class was not her or her teaching abilities it was actually the environment of the particular studio that her class was in. The studio room was lined with mirrors, it was REALLY hot and cramped and I just couldn't get comfortable in my body enough to enjoy myself. This taught me a valuable lesson that Tula was modeled after - environment matters in yoga class. 

Once I got Veronica to Tula, I fell in love with her. She doesn't care about what people think, she is authentic, true to herself, humble and you can tell that she lives her passion everyday. She has a heart of gold. She has volunteered to teach yoga to cancer patients in Haiti, she works as a Doula as well as a yoga teacher and is consistently trying to improve her skills and help people in any way possible. She seems to be absolutely fearless in her endeavors, which I find remarkable and inspiring.

Her classes are challenging, uplifting and fun and I always come away with more knowledge about what I am actually capable of. There is always laughing and jokes and she imparts these little nuggets of 'wisdom' as she teaches. One of my favorites is "you are still a lovable person, even if you can't.... (insert here = 'get your leg up there', 'your arm over there', etc). Her classes always feel unrehearsed (in the best way possible), but absolutely well put together and complete. She will make bend you like a pretzel while making you feel like the most loved and cared-for person in the world (and isn't that what it's all about?)

Oh, and her music is the BEST. 

Basically, she's my hero and I'm so happy she is here. 

Veronica lives in Logan Square with her Fiancé, Marc. She is an active Doula around the city and has a fascination for all things birth and baby related. 

She leads classes at Tula on Mondays at 12, Tuesdays at 8:15 and Wednesdays at 12 and 6:45pm. 

To keep up with all her activities, go to: happybabyyogi.com

She will also be leading our annual Backpacking & Yoga Retreat to Yosemite in June 2015!!

Rhiannon Kirby

When I think of Rhiannon, I think of confidence, natural beauty and grace.

I first met Rhiannon when she was recommended to me by a few of my teachers shortly after we opened. I didn't have a proper audition process back then so I had her sub a class and I was taking it in order to 'audition' her. She came in introduced herself and started to speak - all I could think was wow, she knows what she's doing. She wasn't at all preachy or yelling but you could tell that she was confident in her body, in her style and in her Yoga. 

You can tell right off that she used to be a dancer. You will twist, you will turn, you will flow with a dancer's fluidity in her classes. What I love about them is that as I watch her and move, I can imagine that I have the same grace and beauty as she (even though I really just stumble around :) She is able to transport me to this inner, strong place within myself that only occasionally gets tapped into and I leave class feeling beautiful and confident in my own skin. 

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She is a very talented teacher that is knowledgeable and ultimately true to herself. She is a meat-loving, beer-drinking, heavy metal listening, cool, hipster chick, yet nothing but authentically herself. You will definitely learn something in her classes and I truly think she is one of the top teachers in all of Chicago and I am honored to have her here at Tula.

Rhiannon lives in Humboldt Park and can be often be found hanging out at all the neighborhood hotspots with her partner and friends, usually with drink in hand.

You can catch one of Rhiannon's classes at Tula on Mondays at 6:45pm, Wednesdays at 9am and Fridays at 12.