Yoga in Yosemite Retreat 2014: Om to the Dome

It's really hard to write this post. Words/pictures just cannot do the experience justice, but I'll try. 

Our Yosemite Yoga Studio

Our Yosemite Yoga Studio

First off, I'll start by saying, I've never been much of an 'outdoorsy' person. Until this trip, I haven't been on a camping trip longer than 3 days (and certainly not in the backcountry!). I don't really like being dirty and I certainly don't like pooping in holes (or so I thought!). 

The first day, I was nervous. Nervous about the hike (4.5 miles) and about how much I had prepared (or not prepared). When we showed up at the trailhead, we were greeted by Dashielle and Jesse. They seemed very warm and showed us how to properly pack our packs with our personal and some group gear. Then we started. I won't lie, the hike was hard for me. I don't do anything cardio and I certainly don't hike in my everyday life. But it was doable and we all made it relatively unscathed (I had some sore knees and blisters). 

Snow Creek

Snow Creek

When we entered our campsite, my breath was literally taken away. I couldn't believe the view. I couldn't believe this beautiful, serene place was our home for the next 5 days. There was a creek that flowed on the side of of campsite (Snow Creek) and our 'yoga studio' sat on a promenade that overlooked Half Dome, North Dome and Yosemite Valley. We set up our tents and got settled. We were asked by our guides if we wanted to have Thai, Indian or Italian night for dinner (what?!) So we decided on Italian.

Before our meal, we did a 'welcoming circle' around a camp fire - lead by Dashielle, we were asked to introduce ourselves and tell the group why we came on a trip like this and what we wanted to gain from the week. Unsurprisingly, most of the group cited 'getting away' and 'unplugging' from our stressful city  lives as the biggest reason for the trip. Then we dug into our gourmet pesto pasta with kale, goat cheese and pine nuts! As the moon crested over the mountain range, we saw that it was almost a full moon and it lit up out entire campsite. Along with the moon, the temperature dropped and we all bundled up into our cozy tents, exhausted from our first day. 

In the morning, I awoke to Dashielle's beautiful, soft voice singing me awake (how awesome is that!) outside our tent. Hot coffee and tea was waiting for us and breakfast was scrambled eggs, grilled veggies and hash browns. 

Full Moon. 

Full Moon. 

Around the campfire. 

Around the campfire. 

The next few days we spent on day-hikes, doing yoga, dipping into the creek, or just laying on rocks, talking and napping. The evenings we spent talking, sipping whiskey and relaxing by the fire. Each meal was more impressive than the last. Our guides brought books with quotes and poems that we took turns reading aloud before each meal. Our guides also told us stories about the wild life, plants and the native people of the land that we were so privileged to be able to visit. On the third night, we were treated to a completely full moon and took a walk away from our fire for just taking it in and trying to capture it's glorious beauty. There were 3 deer that continually roamed our campsite and looked at us not with fear, but with wonder and curiosity, just as we marveled at them. 

One of our Deer friends. 

One of our Deer friends. 

One of my favorite mornings, was a 'silent' morning that was suggested by our guides. We awoke a bit before sunrise by song, had hot coffee/tea and, without speaking, each took our drinks, found a secluded, scenic spot and sat in silence by ourselves as we tried to take in what was around us. Later, as we discussed this time, watching the sun rise over the mountains, we were moved to tears. In our everyday lives of constant conversation, deadlines, machinery and concrete, it was incredibly powerful to have this solitary, silent moment where you are watching nature at it's most beautiful, unfold all around you. 

On the last day, we hiked out of our little campsite and made our way into bustling Yosemite Valley to spend our last night. We were excited for showers, pizza and cold beer. But as we drove into civilization, we were all immediately aware that this was a great and abrupt departure from our beautiful, serene world of the backcountry. 

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

Half Dome.

Half Dome.

The next morning, we again gathered as a group for our 'closing' circle. Dashielle told us that she wanted each of us to recall one memory from the trip and also pick one person with whom we got to know on the trip and tell the group why we were happy they were part of this experience. During this conversation, there was lots of tears shed. We had all emotions unveiled and ultimately gratefulness that we had all shared in this amazing experience. We had bonded with one another in a very unique way, had all bonded with nature in a life-changing way and it was inspiring to acknowledge it. 

Rhiannon in headstand.

Rhiannon in headstand.

Dashielle left us with the thought that when we visit places, we leave part of ourselves at the places and the places became a part of us that we can access at any time. We leave our breath and our energy and in turn we breathe in the air of the place, our skin absorbs the sun, we drink the water and even the dirt under our our nails came from this place. Knowing almost immediately how much I would miss Yosemite, this gave me some comfort. 

After returning to the city, I slowly began to realize how truly life-altering this experience was. I was now an 'outdoorsy' person, as I think that all of us are at our essence and core. We all come from the earth and as hard as we try to build our environments to be sterile, clean and to shield ourselves from nature and the elements, we all crave the peacefulness and bliss that being in nature provides. Whenever I miss it, I know that I can access it inside myself, breathing and remembering.

Om to the Dome. 

(Yoga in Yosemite Retreat 2015 with Veronica Rottman is already being planned. Watch for details in the coming months about how you can be a part of the next trip.)



The Leveling of Yoga

On the student survey we received quite a few comments about the 'leveling of classes'. Asking about why we don't have them, suggesting that they would be helpful, etc. I have a few opinions about this that I wanted to share and to explain why I ultimately made the decision against using them. 

What level are you?

What level are you?

First of all, I never know what level I am, do you? Even after practicing 6+ years, I think I may be a 2? But I can do a handstand, does that make me a 3? But only at the wall, does that make me a 2/3? The point being that I don't think that anyone really knows and it I think it just confuses people. Also, I have taken "Level 1" classes that kicked my ass. I have taken "Level 2/3" classes that were rather slow and easy to me. Who actually determines the level (is it determined by pace, intensity, or maybe temperature in the room?) and are they truly defined at all? No. Levels are completely subjective and can be defined a million and one different ways. One persons "1", is another person's "3".

Second, logistically speaking, Tula only has one studio. If I was to focus many evening or weekend classes to a small group of people that consider themselves a Level 3, I would be essentially be turning away all others. There is a 'bell curve' of most things. There is big, wide space between the 'never done yoga before' level and the 'very advanced' level people with several decades of experience. There are a million steps within this big wide space and this is where most people fall and where Tula lives. In order for Tula to survive, we must appeal to this big wide space and not just the outliers.  

I think mixed level classes can be inspiring to newbies and very beneficial for advanced practitioners. I am big believer that you need to see where you can go in yoga. If you are brand new, you can either be intimidated by the more advanced practitioners in class, or inspired. I sincerely hope that it's the later. For the more advanced, I think that sometimes one needs to go back to the basics, find new intricacies in familiar poses and be reminded of the road behind (as well as in front) of you. 

Overall, I know that mixed level classes can be challenging for the instructors and the students. For instructors because they need to break things down more and speak to a wider audience. For students because you need to know when to 'get off the train' and do what is right for you at that particular moment. Both of these things require patience and practice. Ultimately, I believe that the attainment of these skills make better instructors and better students.

Like life, yoga is a journey and not just a destination. Continue to learn, continue to breathe, continue to enjoy it and don't worry about your level. 



Amanda Brizic

I met Amanda when I attended a early morning class at a small studio near here. I was the only person that showed up that morning and Amanda seemed to take it in stride. That morning, somehow, Amanda convinced me that I could stand on my head in the middle of the room - something that I had never done before (and rarely since). 

Okay, let's back up....... when I say 'convinced' I basically mean she said something like 'let's do a headstand' - I said 'I usually do them at the wall' - she said 'let's do it in the middle of the room - I'll help you" and that was that. I did it. After class, I gave her my card and told about the soon-to-be Tula Yoga Studio. 

Amanda is not quiet. She is outspoken and confident, always serious (with a smile) and unwaveringly believes in the power of yoga. She believes that anyone can do yoga, everyone can do things they think they can't do and she's unapologetically tough. Her classes are filled with laughter and lots of challenge, but you always walk away with a smile. She is clear, easy to understand, easy to follow and has some the most well thought-out and detailed descriptions of poses that I have ever encountered. She makes you believe in yoga and believe in yourself and that's a rare thing. She has contributed so much to our community, it's impossible to list. She worked as an assistant manager for 2 years and has literally put blood (stepping on a tack) sweat and tears into this space. She is loyal, super-reliable and always willing to help out where needed. 

Oh, and she can bend - boy, can she bend. I think sometimes that she doesn't have a spine (in the very literal sense). The picture to the left is one that Andrew uses for an ad for Tula Software and it gets more clicks than any of his other pictures, simply because it is pretty amazing. 

Amanda is simply amazing and I am grateful everyday that she s part of the Tula family. 

Amanda lives in Andersonville in a beautiful sun-drenched apartment. She loves yoga and is also an avid runner. 

You can catch her at Tula on Mondays at 9am & 5:30pm, Fridays at 10am and Happy Hour Yoga at 6pm and Saturdays at 3pm (Vin & Yin Class). She also teaches at other studios and gyms around the city. 


Vital Energy: Beginner's Guide to the Chakras

Teacher Post by Claire Staszak

I am excited to be teaching Vital Energy Centers: A Beginner’s Guide to the Chakras on Saturday, April 5th from 5pm – 7pm at Tula. The first hour of the workshop will be spent learning about the seven chakras or main energy centers of the subtle (non-physical) body, and then we’ll spend the second hour flowing through a practice to awaken each chakra!

Here’s a little taste of what you’ll learn.

Illustration of the Chakra system.

Illustration of the Chakra system.

The seven chakras and their locations are:

1. Muladhara – Root (between genitals and anus)

2. Svadhishthana – Below Navel

3. Manipura – Solar Plexus (navel or right above)

4. Anahata – Heart (breast bone)

5. Vishuddhi – Throat

6. Ajna – Third Eye (point between eyebrows)

7. Sahasrara – Crown of Head

Each chakra is associated with a color, element, sound, sacred truth, issue, goal, malfunction and asana. For instance, the root chakra’s element is earth and the sacred truth is, “all are one.” The main issue concerning this chakra is that of survival. Goals for an individual to achieve with this charka feeling balanced are stability, a grounded life, physical health and stillness. If you are having issues with this energy center you may experience constipation, frequent illness, fears or over eating.

I learned about the chakras and human energy fields during my teacher training with Hot Yoga of New Zealand in 2011, and I’m looking forward to sharing another layer of yogic knowledge with the Tula community. Recommend reading if you’re interested in the energy anatomy of the human body and spirit is, Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, by Caroline Myss, PhD.

Cassi Stuckman

This is the first on a series of posts that I will write about the amazing team members at Tula. How they came to Tula, what their classes are like and what they like to do when they are not teaching. I must tell you upfront that this is all from my perspective and the teachers themselves had no input into what I'm about to say -

First on the list, Miss Cassi Stuckman. 

Cassi was the only teacher that I hired when I opened the studio that was not recommended to me nor had I taken any of her classes. She called me (on my cell phone) before the studio was opened and inquired about a teaching position. She said that she had just moved here from Kansas and was looking for a 'home' studio. I saw that she had training in Kids yoga, so I took a chance and put her on the schedule immediately. 


I met her for the first time at the Logan Square Farmer's Market. She walked up to Tula's booth in overalls with her English bulldog, Floyd, in tow. I thought, wow, she really is from Kansas! 

Cassi and her friends attended Tula's Opening party and she lead the first class that I took at Tula! I could tell that she was new and a bit nervous, but she lead a solid class and I knew that she would grow. When I attended her first 'Family Yoga' class at Tula, I knew she was really something special. Her energy, her passion, and her playfulness shined right through and the kids loved her. I was very impressed. 

Like I anticipated, Cassi has grown over the last few years and is now a confident, highly skilled teacher and leads some of the best, most energetic classes (both for big and little people). She is a determined and bright young woman. When my husband offered to help the teachers set up their personal websites, she was the first one there and has been blogging ever since. She knows how to market herself, takes a ton of pictures (I think she might be behind or in front of the camera in just about every picture I have at Tula) and is not afraid to take chances on her crazy ideas for workshops, etc. Her classes are filled with music, playfulness and Heart. She has a easy-going quality to her classes that makes you feel like you are taking a yoga class from your best friend in your living room (rather than at a public studio in a room of mostly strangers). Her 'spiritual' side is rooted in midwestern practicality - just the way I like it. She is messy - leaves her stuff all over the studio and is often known to fall fast asleep in savasana, but this all just contributes to her lovable charm. She has contributed so much to the studio, from working the front desk, cleaning the bathroom, to helping promote/market the studio at various events. She is basically up for anything - from doing birthday parties for 15 screaming 4-year-olds or teaching yoga to kids in the rain at an outdoor event and I know that's because she loves Tula about as much as I do.

Cassi Yoga-butterfly.jpg

When I think back to why it was that I took a chance on her, sight unseen, I realize that maybe something bigger was at play when I decided to hire her. I don't know what I would do without her.

She was always meant to be here. 

Cassi lives with her boyfriend, Scott, in Rogers Park (why does she live so far way!?) and her beloved bulldog, Floyd.

Check out her website at for her full schedule and blogging fun. 




Student Blog Post: 30-Days of Yoga!

Anne Weisgerber started at Tula about a year ago and there is not often that a few days go by without us seeing her. Not only did Anne start coming to Tula on a regular basis, but she also brought a group of her amazing mom friends with her! 

Anne and her group of friends make me especially proud of Tula and the community here because one of original intentions with Tula was that it would be a great place for moms (like myself) to practice. I know that it is a hard thing to make time for yoga for anyone and especially difficult when you are raising children, working, and juggling all these responsibilities of life. But I also know that by making this time for yourself, you become a better care-taker to those around you and the benefits reach well beyond your mat. 

I am so proud of Anne for not only making yoga a priority in her life, but completing 30 straight days of yoga! Here is her story:

30 Days of Yoga

by Anne Weisgerber

I started going to Tula regularly in January of 2013 after a broken ankle from a hot air balloon crash left me seeking strength, physically and emotionally.  That month, I saw yogis working their way through the experience of their 30-day challenge.  I knew immediately that I needed to do the challenge the next time it was available.

Anne Picture for Tula Blog.jpg

My personal goals for the challenge were to learn to allow myself breaks during my physical practice, to journal daily about the experience, to get up into handstand, to try new things without fear, and to release myself to the experience.  I knew that it was going to be a powerful experience, but didn’t know how life altering it would be.  

I find that now I need to practice daily.  In the same way that I need to eat and sleep, I need to practice yoga.  I practice best in a place where I feel at home and am surrounded by the energy of others engaging in their practice as well.  So, I find myself at Tula nearly daily now.  

When I’m away from my mat, I still find the lessons that I have learned through my practice running through my mind.  I remember to have fun while seeking connection with others.  I’m making choices by listening to my body, my heart, and my mind.  I remember that my breath is essential and that I am good enough as I am in this moment.  I’m cultivating my own happiness and then send that out to others.  Sometimes I’m fierce and strong, other times I’m calm and centered.  

I’m getting better at allowing myself to take a break in Balasana (child's pose).  Some days I can get into handstand.  I continue to try new things.  If you’ve taken class with me, you’ve probably heard me fall out of a new pose I’m trying.

The 30-day challenge gave me space to begin to find my true self.  It is incredible to be on that journey and I couldn’t ask for a better space to do it in or people to do it with.

Guest Blog Post: The 30-day yoga challenge- How I made friends and stopped making excuses

Despite 'polar vortexes', sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms that just wouldn't quit, 16 determined individuals made it to a Tula class for 30 straight days. Dana Ardell was one of those people and I asked her to share her experience with making yoga a priority for a month. Look for more inspirational stories from our challengers in the coming weeks.

Here's Dana's story ---

The 30-day yoga challenge - How I made friends and stopped making excuses

by Dana Ardell

I'll be the first to admit it. The 30-day yoga challenge isn't easy. I signed up for the challenge previously and lasted a total of five days. I gave up, felt defeated and didn't bother trying to pick it back up, letting the rest of the month slip away with a complete lack of yoga.

As we all know too well, life is busy and it's easy to make excuses for ourselves. I was pretty sure that I was way too busy just with having a full-time job (not to mention life outside of that) to be able to make my way to yoga class thirty days in a row, but I was determined to make some changes this year and my health was at the top of the priority list. I decided it was time to stop making excuses and time to figure out a sustainable path to fitness.

So, I signed up for this year's challenge and even after blocking out the month's classes in my calendar to ensure that I'd be able to complete the challenge, I wasn't so sure that I could.

I was pretty fired up to begin the challenge and I was even more excited when I made it past day five because at least at that point I could say I had done better than my previous attempt.

But I actually found myself wanting to come to class. I wasn't dreading it like I thought I would. I kept seeing familiar faces in class and many of those familiar faces became friends during the challenge. We began encouraging each other and making plans to attend the same classes. Having supportive new friends who were undertaking the same challenge was a serious motivator as letting myself down is often easy, but letting someone else down isn't. Accountability can be a game changer!

I hit a major hump around day 14, but knowing that even though I didn't want to go to class, I would be happy once I got there and even happier on the walk home from class kept me going. And it always held true.

The most important thing that became apparent to me throughout the challenge was that I do have time for yoga. If I was able to carve out an hour or two of time to attend class every day for a full thirty days straight, my previous insistence that I was too busy for yoga was just an excuse I had made up for myself. The realization that I DO have time for the things I enjoy (which are often the things that are good for me) has been empowering.

My 30-day journey wasn't about physical transformation. I do feel stronger and I do feel like a more balanced person, but I still can't jump into handstand or even touch my toes without bending my knees...and that's okay. 

The various teaching styles of the wonderful teachers at Tula and the support from them, as well as from other students, have made me realize that I am exceptionally lucky to have found the community at Tula. Now that the 30-day challenge has come to an end, I am excited to continue a regular yoga practice and to meet many more yogi friends at Tula.

Be Nice to your Subs

I think it's great that you have your favorite teachers. I really do. But sometimes they have other obligations, get sick, or take vacations. In some cases, they have to ask for a sub for their classes. Fortunately, Tula's software (Tula Software) shows you the name of the substitute teacher as soon as they pick up the class.

Don't skip class!

Go to the class!

Keep an open mind!

Yes, they are not going to have the exact same personality as the regular teacher and they may, to your despair, do different things in class, BUT you are are also experiencing someone else's point of view. Please remember that every Tula teacher has a following now, so you are most likely taking class from someone else's favorite teacher. Really.

So if you come in and unexpectedly see that your class has a sub - introduce yourself, kindly keep an open mind to what they have to offer you and thank them for being flexible and willing to sub your favorite teacher's class.

You may just find your second-favorite teacher. :)

Teacher blog Post: Why Restore? by Lisa Pickert

If you know Tula teacher, Lisa Pickert, you know she's a little firecracker and can lead one bad-ass Vinyasa class. You may not know, however, that she also leads sweet, stress-lifting Restorative Yoga classes as well. I asked her write a blog post on Restorative yoga - what is it and why do we want to do? 

So, read her blog post and then mark your calendar to come experience this 'restoring' first hand at her Restorative Yoga workshop on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 5-7pm.

After all, who couldn't use some stress relief? 

Why Restore?

by Lisa PIckert

In our fast paced forward-thinking society, "doing" is valued more than simply "being," and we need to slow down, calm down, and nurture ourselves.  


   "To his detriment, modern man is often unable to resolve his stress so directly, and lives chronically stressed as a result. Still responding to the fight or flight response, the adrenal glands continue to pump stress hormones. The body does not benefit from nutrition because the digestion and elimination systems are slowed down. Even sleep is disturbed by this agitated state.  In a chronically stressed state, quality of life, and perhaps life itself, is at risk. The body’s capacity to heal is compromised, either inhibiting recovery from an existing illness or injury, or creating a new one, including high blood pressure, ulcers, back pain, immune dysfunction, reproductive problems, and depression. These conditions add stress of their own and the cycle continues."  

- Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph. D and PT, Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times

That sounds pretty grim, but there are ways to alleviate chronic stress.  Yoga offers us so many tools!  You can learn, and re-learn, how and where to identify tension in your body and release it.  Restorative yoga, with it's longer, supported holds provides a healing space for the physical body, and also can have a transformative effect on the mind.  

What's different about a restorative yoga class?

Some of the poses might be familiar to you from a vinyasa, hatha, or yin class, but the approach and benefits are unique.  In a restorative class, blankets, bolsters, and blocks are used to support the body so there is little muscular effort.  It is without effort that the body can move into a state of deep relaxation, releasing tension held deeply in the muscles and joints.  The poses are held for a greater length of time, so that the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our "rest and digest" instincts and actions is triggered.  It takes the average human body about twelve minutes to find complete stillness and ease in a particular position.  During this time we can cultivate the habit of attention, and we must allow ourselves to switch from 'doing mode' to 'being mode.'  

What are the effects?

If we truly give ourselves the important task of doing nothing besides taking in and letting go of deep breaths, a restorative yoga practice can be transformative.  Scientifically and specifically, it can lower blood pressure and heart rate, ease respiration, quiet the frontal brain lobes, enhance immune response, reduce fatigue, improve sleep, and help to manage chronic pain to sustain and restore balance in the body.

I'm convinced that the less time you think you have for this type of practice, the more you need it!

Give yourself the greatest gift, that of your own attention!  Chicagoans, winter warriors, I'm writing to you.  

Questions?  Email me at

The Greatest Gift I Ever Received: My Yoga Practice

Continuing with our guest blog posts, this one is from our newest instructor, Claire Staszak. She has been attending classes here since we opened and we recently added her to the schedule on Thursday mornings at 10am. 

Her post is especially relevant as we enter into the 'gift-giving' season and it's a good reminder that sometimes the best gifts we can give our loved ones and ourselves are not tangible 'things', but are experiences that help to create happiness, memories and meaning in our lives.  

The Greatest Gift I Ever Received: My Yoga Practice

By Claire Hurwitz Staszak

I was recently at a daylong retreat that involved art and yoga. As the morning began, each participant introduced him or herself. The retreat leader asked us to share with everyone a brief story about the greatest gift we had ever received. Pretty deep question for 10am! But as everyone started sharing his or her stories it quickly dawned on me that the greatest gift I was ever given was my first yoga teacher training. My mom paid for my training as a gift, because as mother’s intuition is usually right, she knew I really needed it at that point in my life’s journey.


I had just moved back home to Chicago from San Francisco after my idealistic first year out of college and jump into the real world had gone drastically wrong. A terrible breakup and the crumbling of my future as I had always imagined it had sent me into my first real battle with depression. At the time, I was living in an intentional community and working for Habitat for Humanity—and even with my wonderful roommates and lovely co-workers, I was still barely making it through each day. I couldn’t eat and each day as a forced down my oatmeal and cried into my tea I felt like I was losing a little piece of myself. I felt like a failure, lost and not lovable. Moving back home was the best option for me to get back on my feet.

San Francisco introduced me more fully to yoga and I knew I felt good when I was practicing. Ana Forrest was holding a teacher training back in the Chicago area. Mom said, “Come home and I’ll help you pay for the teacher training. You’re going to be okay.” The training really changed my life. I spent 6 weeks waking up at 4am to arrive at my mat at 6am and practice until 6pm, 7 days a week! It was a transformational experience. Ana Forrest created a safe space for people to be themselves and part of a larger community. I felt like I had a purpose again. I met other wonderful, struggling people like myself and learned that everyone has hardships and problems. It is how we choose to overcome these issues that defines us and keeps us strong. 

Today, I know that it is my yoga practice that keeps my grounded and in-touch with my deeper self in a world that is frankly too busy, crazy and depressing. It is my yoga practice that makes me emanate with gratitude for all the beauty in the world and the amazing people who come to the mat for their own reasons. It is my yoga practice that shows me how to be a better teacher by honoring my limitations, my fears, my hopes, my accomplishments, and myself. I am forever grateful to my mom and dad for their support during that first teacher training. I am grateful for the yogic path that lights my way would have been harder to find without them. 

As the materialism of the season swirls around us…take a second to pause and consider the greatest gift you have been given. What is it? What has it meant to your life, to the person you are today? Can you thank the person or people involved? I encourage you to meditate with thoughts of gratitude in your heart, and send loving kindness from the center of your being to that person. Gifts of the season are all around us and taking your yoga practice off your mat and into the world is surely the greatest gift we yogis can share. 

Happy Holidays!



How to Get a Job

This post is a bit off the topic of yoga, but I needed to express it and I think it can be helpful for those of you out there in the job market......

I have had to hire a few studio assistants since the studio has opened and the process is always stressful and time-consuming. One thing for sure, there are a lot of people that need jobs, even part-time jobs like the ones that I offer. Unfortunately for the job-seeker, this means that the employer most likely has their pick of many, many applicants and can hold out for the perfect fit (rather than having to compromise on much). Here are a few tips for landing an interview, interviewing, and ultimately making yourself stand out a bit from the crowd, no matter what industry you are in or what position you are applying for. 

1. Express how you are perfect for the job, not how the job is perfect for you. This is a big one. I often hear things like - 'it would fit perfectly into my schedule', or 'I really need this type of job in my life'. I want to know why you are a good fit for the job, what skills and experience you bring to the job and how you can help me, not how the job can help you. 

2. Be sure you can meet the minimum requirements of the job outlined in the description before you apply/interview. I don't how many times I would list the shifts required, but still get inquiries about the job with the suggestion that I change the shifts. Like I said, in this market, employers can be picky, so if you can't meet the minimum requirements of the job, don't waste everyone's time - don't apply. 

3. Be on time. This may seem like an obvious one, but if you lucky enough to land an interview, be on time. Not 10 minutes early, not 2 minutes late. On time. 

4. Make sure that you are reading the way in which the employer would like you to apply. I specifically ask for no resumes in my descriptions, but continuously get resumes. I ask for an email, I get phone calls. This may be harsh, but If you can't adhere to basic instructions, you are not going to get hired. Period.

5. Do your research! Spend at least 5-10 minutes on the employer's website finding out about the company, the people, and getting a feel for what they do. I never again want to hear on an interview "so, do you do Bikram?". The apathy is just insulting. If you care so little that you can't spend 5 minutes on the internet finding out about the company for an interview, what amount of effort can I expect that would you put into the actual job? 

6. Enthusiasm goes a long way. Especially, when the position has minimum formal qualifications, you really need to stand out from the literally hundreds (if not thousands) of other people that are that are also qualified for the position. If you are enthusiastic about the position, express it - smile, compliment, ask about the company and the story of the company. Express your enthusiasm every chance you get and you will stand out. 

7. After an interview, follow up with a thank you email. Thank the employer for taking the time to meet with you. Interviews are exhausting and time-consuming for employers and we want to feel like you recognize this and appreciate that we took the time out of our busy schedule to talk with you. Bonus points for again expressing your interest and enthusiasm for the company and position. 

Good luck job-hunting!

A Student's Story: Jen Lee

Jen Lee has been attending classes here since opening day. Currently, at 38 weeks pregnant with her second child, here is her courageous story of yoga, loss, and truly listening and honoring your body's individual needs. (be sure to check out her bad-ass slo-mo handstand video at the end:)

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I'm Pregnant - Not Dead

by Jen Lee

When Maile asked me if I would be interested in writing a post about my experience with doing yoga during my pregnancy, I was excited to share my story. But when I sat down to actually write about it, I struggled as to where to start.

You see, until Tula opened its doors 2 years ago, I had never actually done yoga before. I was always that girl in the camp of “yoga isn’t a workout”. I had been an athlete my whole life and felt that if I wasn’t sweating and panting, it wasn’t worth the time. 

So what made me finally decide to try it? My doctors. I have chronic pancreatitis – a disease that has caused me to lose 3 organs, to endure severe pain on a daily basis, and to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Stress makes my condition worse and the doctors thought it was worth me trying yoga. I remember the first time I went to class, I was so worried that I wouldn’t know what I was doing - and I didn’t - but Amanda was amazing and so patient with me. That next morning I could barely get out of bed. Muscles I didn’t know existed hurt. It was then that I realized that my perceptions of yoga were completely wrong, it definitely wasn’t just a stretching and meditation class.

I began going to yoga regularly and loved it. I began feeling more in control of my pain and my husband even commented on my calmer demeanor when I would get home from class. In November of that year, we found out that we were pregnant with our second child and couldn’t have been happier. I continued to go to class and all the instructors were great about showing me how to adapt my practice for the pregnancy. I was excited for yoga to be part of my journey. 

Unfortunately, for whatever crappy reasons, that January I lost the baby.

To say I was devastated is an understatement. I didn’t leave the house for 2 weeks except to go to the necessary doctor appointments. I didn’t want to do anything. Finally my husband, as harsh as it felt at the time, told me that I needed to work on moving on. He told me to just start by going to yoga. He reminded me how good I felt when I was going and I finally agreed. I think that first class back I was just going through the motions of the poses, not really putting my whole self into the practice, until savasana came that is. It was like a huge wave of emotion just hit me at once. Tears just started coming out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was so embarrassed, not being one for public emotion. After class Maile and Cassi, who I barely knew at the time, just hugged me and made me feel that it was ok to not keep it all bottled up. Yoga proved to be just what I needed again.

During the next 9 months or so, I kept going to class, however far less than I would’ve liked. Between work and my family, I never felt that I had enough time for everything and the natural choice for me at the time was to sacrifice yoga. Well, the stress and my health caught up to me again and in October of 2012 I was hospitalized for a month with one of the worst pancreatic attacks I had in years. After this hospital stay my husband and I had a “come to jesus” and decided that it wasn’t worth it for me to work anymore, that my health was more important. It was a tough decision, but I retired from my career in advertising.

So what does one do with a sudden surge of time on their hands? Exercise! I began running and doing yoga every day. It wasn’t about losing weight or de-stressing anymore, it was about me and just me. Me showing myself what I could do – and that my health wasn’t in control, I was.  I was setting goals and accomplishing them and felt better than I had in 10 years. I honestly had been at a point in my life that I hadn’t thought I could feel this good ever again. My doctors even said they underestimated how much stress I was under and how it was affecting my health. My pain had gone down and I had more energy – I felt amazing! 

In April of this year, we found out that we were pregnant again. As scared as I was about losing the baby again, I knew I had to take care of myself as well. I knew that I had to keep doing what I was doing.

Because of my health, I go to a high risk OBGYN and discussed with him my routine. He said that since I was in the routine already that he had no problem with me continuing it, in fact, he encouraged it. So I kept going on my daily 5 mile runs and yoga class. I felt great.

What I did find about my decision is that everyone has an opinion, and most times they are unfounded ones, but they are still compelled to share them with you. Many people have disagreed with my choice to continue my routine. I have heard everything from that I was creating unnecessary risks to that I was being selfish. I was given guilt trips like “wouldn’t you just feel horrible if something were to happen”. I was also told that pregnancy was the time to relax and take it easy, and even to the extreme that I was being ‘stupid’. But for each of these people – there was another one that congratulated me and cheered me on – so thank you to all of you. And to all the others – I’m pregnant, not dead.

At 28 weeks pregnant I stopped running, I listened to my body and it was just getting too uncomfortable. However, what it ultimately did for me was allow me to solely focus on my yoga practice for the first time ever.  I soon found that unlike running, my yoga practice was constantly evolving. In running I could go faster or farther, but that was really it. In yoga, everyday was a chance for me to do something new, or better, or longer. I never felt the need to go to prenatal classes and can honestly say that my yoga practice has considerably improved during my pregnancy.  Did I WANT to go everyday? Hell no! Anyone that has been pregnant will tell you how tired you get. But I always made myself go and told myself that I could leave the class at anytime if I didn’t think I could finish. Happy to report that I haven’t had to take myself up on that deal yet. I feel stronger than ever and my husband even commented to me this weekend that my butt looks better than even before I was pregnant (I’ll take that!) 

So here I am – 2 weeks to go until my second baby girl comes into this world – and I am doing handstands, can get into full splits, and still rocking every vinyasa. After all, I’m only pregnant, not dead.

A Teacher Blog Post: Monica Brown

Continuing with the guest blog posts - this one by Tula instructor, Certified Thai Massage Therapist and Artist, Monica Brown. Monica has been with Tula since the beginning and brings joy, calm and inner peace to all those that she encounters. Here's her thoughts on the Breath.......

Don't Forget to Breathe.....

By Monica Brown

It seems that the breath is the first place we become disconnected from the body---in daily life, in stressful situations, in over-concentration. The breath is also a wonderful tool to bring you back to the moment, to bring you back to your body, back to the recognition of what the mind is doing. It reminds you to expand, to fill up the space within you with air, and then… to let go.


As a yoga instructor, I try to remind myself of this often as well as convey it to my yoga students. Yoga is about so much more than physical activity. It can be very athletic; however, it is also about balance and connection to the breath. In the Yoga Sutras it states that yoga is a place of comfort and stability. How do you find that place in a difficult pose (or a difficult situation)? Can you find that balance between strengthening and relaxing, between effort and repose? Can you find places where there is unnecessary holding---in the jaw, in that space between the eyebrows, in the mind, in the breath…?

It is wonderful to challenge oneself, always, but it is also necessary to make sure you maintain room to breathe, to find a space that you can soften into, an effortless effort that is able to create more expansion than a forced effort. Let go of holding that restricts the flow of breath and movement, to release the past and the future, and simply breathe in the moment.

Join me on the mat on Saturdays at 12:15pm for Hatha + Meditation and on Mondays at 10:30am for Hatha Vinyasa.

A Student's Story: Blanca Hurley

Tula is made up of some absolutely amazing students and teachers. This is the first of many student (and teacher) stories that I will be posting.

Please meet Blanca Hurley. She is a simply a ray of sunshine and it is always a pleasure to see her at the studio each week. Every week she inspires me and after reading her story, I am inspired even more.....


A Plus-size Yogini’s Journey

Written by: Blanca Hurley


My yoga journey began 12 years ago, when Dora Ruffner a choreographer, PhD candidate, yoga and dance teacher took on an enormous endeavor of implementing yoga into the Dance Program at Palo Alto College, which is located in an underprivileged area of San Antonio, TX.  At this time yoga studios and classes were not readily available, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I have to admit that I came to yoga with the vain intention of maintaining my-then thin figure and perhaps shedding even more weight. Of course Dora’s classes contained the physical asana practice I sought, however, she also taught a philosophical component. Needless to say, I was unprepared for the latter, but that is what strengthened me the most. I became her faithful student for four years. 

Then the responsibilities of life piled on and so did the weight as I took on a career that compromised my happiness. Most days I had to force myself to get out of bed; after work I excessively indulged on food. My body no longer resembled a fit twenty-something-year-old. My days of practicing yoga became a distant memory.

Subsequently my husband Steve saw how miserable I was and encouraged me to find my happiness. I quit my job, went back to school as a non-traditional student, and we eventually decided to move to Chicago–a city that as a poet I had romanticized since adolescence. By happenstance, I reconnected with my friend Tim, who was visiting for the holidays. Unfortunately, he delivered the news that Dora had passed away abruptly (5 months after I ran into her at Whole Foods). Cancer made its way into her body undetected until it was too late. 

Although she taught me that impermanence was part of our human condition–that our energy is recycled back into the earth–this was not enough to console me. I found myself searching for something to alleviate my grief. I needed yoga, but I was too embarrassed to walk into a studio at size 18/20. 

Several years passed and within this time Steve and I traveled to Dublin, Paris, London, and eventually made our way to Sydney. While walking around The Royal Botanic Gardens we came across a photo-shoot of women doing various asanas along the quay. I watched as they adjusted themselves into Warrior II, Tree, and Chair, when tears began to roll down my face. It took going all across the world for me to realize that yoga is what makes me happy. I decided right then that as soon as we got back to The States I would begin practicing yoga again–all 250 lbs. of me. 

I found Tula after doing a random search for yoga studios in Logan Square. I will never forget walking in that Saturday and being greeted by Amanda. I was so nervous about not being accepted in my plus-size body, but she was friendly, funny, and most importantly non-judgmental. Still I nervously set-up my mat (of course, at the very back of the room). Michelle walked-in and greeted everyone in the most loving way that is familiar to her students. Prior to this I had never been to a yoga class with other plus-size students let alone a plus-size teacher! I was amazed by her strength and ability to make her students feel at-ease.

Gradually, I worked my way up from practicing yoga once a week to five times weekly. I no longer dread waking-up Monday mornings, because I am able to start my week practicing Hatha with Monica, who reminds me of how strong I have become. By midweek when all the hustle and bustle of the city has exhausted me, I look forward to Thursdays with Jody, who reminds me that although I have dealt with difficult people all week there are some really wonderful people too.  *Fridays with Amanda reminds me to always challenge myself. Saturday mornings when the city is quiet I look forward to practicing with Michelle who reminds me that beauty has nothing to do with a number on a scale. Lastly, *Sundays with Nathan reminds me that the slightest movements are like words in a poem–they mean everything.  

For all these reasons I am thankful for the community at Tula!


*Currently conflicts with yoga teacher training. One of the greatest things I have learned about yoga is knowing that I will eventually make my way back. 


A Beginner's Mind

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ” 
 Shunryu Suzuki

I recently started running. It's really hard. One would think that because I do yoga I could just get up and run a couple of miles, right? No way. I am using this iPhone training app that talks you through a run-walk routine 3 times a week. The idea being that you can eventually build up to longer runs. We will see.

During this first week of running,  I've been thinking a lot about when I was just starting yoga and how hard and daunting it seemed. I was thinking how it's not the yoga that has changed or even that I've progressed really in my practice. A lot of it has to do with how well I know my body and how it responds to certain poses. I know, for example, that my left hip is tighter than my right. So in pigeon pose, I sink into my left more. I know that I have 'weird' knees that sometimes hurt when I shift weight onto them suddenly, so I take it more slowly when I am asked to do that in class. I know all of these things through continuous and consistent practice.

With running, I am now a beginner again and I'm trying to understand how my body responds to running - what pace is right for me, how to move my feet and legs and what do with my arms. How to 'stride' and move comfortably through the streets and sidewalks. It all seems so foreign and difficult. I feel like everyone that I run by is looking at me while I am red-faced and gasping for breath - sound familiar?

I think it's important to always remember what it was like to be a beginner no what level you think you are at in everything that you do in life. I think that continuing to have this 'Beginner's Mind' opens up so many possibilities to what you can do and where you can go.

If you think you've already gotten there, what is there to strive to do?

My Summer Body

I have a secret to share. I hate Summer. Every year about this time I begin to fret over a summer wardrobe, particularly over the SWIMSUIT. I become annoyed and jealous of the women that just casually pick up a cute bikini from Target without a care in the world about hiding dimples, stretch marks, and fat. About this time, every year, I think to myself, why didn't I go on a diet, why didn't I start that running routine, why didn't I do more crunches?

Not this year. This year I have resolved to do away with the body issues. Yes, that's right, simply do away with them and push them aside. I am not spending one more minute of my life trying to live up to some pre-conceived, media-driven ideal about how my body should look. Think of it as a diet for the mind. Every time I begin to think and worry about the first time I wear a swimsuit this season, I decide, that instead I'm going to think about the strength that I feel in downward dog, that sense of lightless-ness in a handstand, that euphoria that comes during savasana. My yoga practice has made me strong and fearless in a way that I haven't ever felt in my 38 years of life.

Long ago, I cancelled my subscriptions to the the women's "health" magazines that don't tell you that you are beautiful the way you are, but convince you that you need 'work'. They tell you that you need 3 weeks to get into a bikini, they tell you that you need a juice cleanse in order to 'restart' your metabolism, they tell you that you are fat and ugly. They tell you that simply by putting an unattainably beautiful, photo-shopped girl on the cover. Stop reading those magazines. Don't let people convince you that you need 'work'. You need to live in your body for the rest of life. It is the vessel in which you get to take you through this life. If your body doesn't feel good, if you are not healthy, you know what to do - eat better and exercise. Educate yourself, but don't be fooled by the fake imagery and barbie doll ideal that our society convinces you is the only way your body should look. It's complete nonsense and you know it, so stop believing it.

I know that I am happy, healthy and lucky to have a strong body. I have a body that has birthed two beautiful children, that has stretch marks, cellulite, hips, a pot belly and my husband thinks I am beautiful. I'll bet that someone in your life thinks you are beautiful the way you are too, so don't let 'body image' bring you down this summer. Wear what you what, be comfortable, practice yoga, truly believe that little voice inside your head that tells you that you are an amazing creature just the way you are.

Oh, and make a bonfire on the beach with those magazines.

The Rarity of Disconnection

I went to lunch the other day with my husband and the guys that share his co-working space in Wicker Park. Most of these guys work in the technology industry and the main point of conversation during lunch was the new Google glass. Being the first time I had really heard about this, I was shocked. Why would anyone want to wear glasses around and constantly be 'connected' to emails, texts, the internet? Are we not connected enough already? Then they started to talk about a contact lens that would go in your eye and also connect you to the internet - literally, a computer connected to your body.

All this started me thinking about how rare 'disconnection' is becoming. The times in our everyday, waking lives where we are not checking emails, texts, surfing Facebook is becoming less and less. I would venture to say that the average person probably doesn't go more than 2 hours a day, if that, without being 'connected' somehow. Looking to the future, I anticipate that the experiences that allow this disconnection will become more and more valuable. Right now, the value is placed on connection - Wi-fi, faster internet speeds, more wires, cell phone towers. I believe that in the future, that value will be placed on disconnection - internet 'dead' zones, retreats, getaways, yoga classes. This disconnection will be become more and more elusive and we are going to crave it in our lives even more.

A Guest Blog: A Lesson in Perfection

Written by Becca Wise about her experience with our 30-day challenge......

Life, by nature, is challenging enough.  Once we button up one problem, another is sure to replace it fairly quickly.  Or sometimes, just as we’re feeling so completely overloaded, another bomb drops and we’re forced into a deep dark place we never even thought existed.  I guess I feel pretty fortunate that striving for balance is a main priority in my life.  And this balance comes in the form of yoga, lots and lots of yoga.  So when I was presented with a challenge to attend one yoga class each day for 30 days at Tula Yoga Studio in Logan Square, I thought, “Sure, why not?”  The reward offered by the studio for completing this challenge was a waived monthly membership fee, but I should’ve known that the lessons would reach far beyond this monetary incentive.  The takeaway helped me better understand the concepts of the spiritual practice, including translating the equanimity I take with me after class and back into the real world, which isn’t always filled with sunshine and rainbows, especially during the brutality of winter in the Windy City…

The best part of the challenge was that each and every day, no matter how strong or absent-minded I felt during class, I felt good simply knowing that I was working toward a goal and that I hadn’t given up.  Even when my mind would wander, exacerbating feelings of negativity, blame and guilt, I still had my practice-one thing to feel good about each and every day. The strength of mind and character that I built during the challenge carried over into my real day-to-day life, offering me courage, insight and wisdom.  I was able to challenge myself to say the hard things, to speak up and be heard.  I also began to feel steady progress physically as well.  All of a sudden, I could touch my head to the floor in a wide-legged forward fold and even push my legs up into a headstand!  The more challenging my personal life got throughout the 30 days, the more I went into my breath during practice, keeping my eyes closed through most of the poses and feeling that I was really “getting” what this whole yoga thing was all about.
It shouldn’t have surprised me that my life would continue to balance itself throughout the 30 days.  All of the warmth and positive energy I created inside the studio was counter-balanced by the difficulties presented outside the studio.   There was no reserve of serenity, my life off the mat had literally soaked up every last drop of yoga bliss, pulling me off-center and taking me to a dark, unfamiliar place.   At the time, I felt like my commitment to the 30-day challenge was almost all I had…my only chance to feel good each day.  And I learned that no matter how much yoga I do, nothing will ever be the exact way I want it.  I remain who I am: perfectly imperfect.  The more I struggle for perfection; the more my life pulls me back into reality, wakes me from the unrealistic notion that I can do it all seamlessly, if only I practice yoga each and every day.
Now, after the dust has settled and I am back in a balanced place, I see the effects of my sustained effort much more clearly.  It was a life lesson.  A deep yoga practice doesn’t prevent us from the natural ebbs and flows of life.  Couples have challenges.  Work can be intense.  The magic of yoga lies in the fresh, clear perspective it offers.  If we can learn to accept challenges in our lives and look at them as opportunities, we start to gain wisdom.  And when we truly understand that the one thing for sure in life is change, we’re golden.  Until the next challenge, that is…then we start fresh and learn it all over again.

Perceptions are Reality

In life, our perceptions color our reality. Everyday and in everything we do. We have an initial reaction to something and pre-conceived notions about it immediately. This is hard-wired into our brains and it's how we look for patterns in the world around us. Without patterns, we would need to relearn things over and over each day. On it's face, to say that everyone has perceptions (that may be entirely false) about things or people, sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like something that we need to work on and transcend somehow. But we are all human and this is how we work. Perceptions shape who we are, how we learn to react to things, how we act. In essence, our perceptions create our reality. The key is to recognize that everything is always seen through the individual, unique colored lenses that we each wear and to respect and honor that THAT is what makes up reality.


Gettin' Happy

We recently had a screening of the movie Happy in the studio. Really great movie and I highly recommend it to all! Some of the things that I found most fascinating are these:

- 50% of a person's happiness is genetic! What?? I had always believed that we were solely in charge of our own destinies, but it turns out that some people are pre-disposed to be unhappy. But don't despair, there are plenty of things that you can do to turn it around!

- Only 10% of a person's happiness is determined by external factors such as wealth & social status. In fact, they say that once all basic necessities of life are taken care of such as food, water, shelter, the greater wealth you accumulate has little to no baring on whether or not you will be happy in life. The movie cites a stat that says that the difference in happiness between someone who makes $5000 a year and $50,000 a year is exponential, but there is no difference in happiness between someone that makes $50,000 and $50 Million.

- A full 40% of a person's happiness is determined by what a person intentional does in life, how they decide to spend their days and how they think about things. It other words, is completely determined to you.

- Want to be happier? The happiness researchers in the movie suggest 4 things -

1. Exercise regularly - it increases dopamine in the brain and highly contributes to feeling happy.

2. Invest in your community. Again, when people collaborate with one another (on anything positive) and help each other, dopamine secretions skyrocket in the brain! Just getting out, talking with people and being involved in your community can create a feeling similar to a drug-induced euphoria!

3. Meditation - The simple act of turning inward and training your mind to calm down and reflect can leave you with feelings of contentment and general well-being.

4. Finally, there are small things that you can do everyday to increase your overall life happiness - naming one thing that you are grateful for everyday, committing a 'random act of kindness' - like helping an elderly person across the street, feeding an expired parking meter or picking up your neighbor's mail.

So here's to gettin' HAPPY.