Stephie Falberg



How did you get into practicing yoga? My family and I moved to Highland Park in 2001. With young children, carpools are a necessary tool for survival. Pam Udell was one of the moms in the carpool.  As we got to know each other, Pam offered to give me a private yoga class thinking I would enjoy it.   I gave her a million reasons why I wasn’t interested: not enough time in the day, 3 small kids, I wasn’t interested in chanting, blah, blah, blah…  She didn’t take no for an answer and dragged me into her studio.  That was it!  My lightbulb went off.  I began my practice at the old Healing Power studio in Highland Park in 2002 and have never looked back.

What made you want to teach? My mother has always said that I was born to teach.  When I was a small child I used to play ‘teacher’ with my younger siblings and stuffed animals “correcting” spelling tests and reading Dr. Seuss books.  I have my masters degree in elementary education and specialized in early childhood eduction (I was a teacher In New York City) so I think becoming a yoga teacher was inevitable. I didn’t seek out a training program but when I learned that 2 of my favorite teachers from Healing Power (Pam Udell and Lourdes Paredes) were conducting a teacher training I signed up immediately. The universe was talking to me, thankfully I was listening!! 

What would you consider your yoga style and who were a few teachers that influenced you the most? I love a good slow-flow class; to take and to teach. Having the time to connect breath to movement is liberating. I am also keenly aware that strength and alignment are important so that we stay safe.I like to add some fun music and humor into my classes to balance out the hard work we do on our mats.The teachers who have influenced me the most are Pam Udell,  Lourdes Paredes and Deb Wineman.  I am grateful to have learned from each of them but especially Pam who lead me on this yoga journey and stayed by my side as I leaned to teach offering honest feed back and encouragement.  

What was one of the funniest or most humbling moments you’ve had while teaching a class? I was teaching a class with gum in my mouth (big no-no) and when I went into down dog and began to explain something, my gum fell out of my mouth onto my mat.There was no hiding that!!! I have never taught with gum in my mouth again!

What is your favorite non yoga activity? I love walking (either with my giant dog or without her). I love being outside in almost any weather. I also love spending time in my vegetable garden all summer long.  

Biggest Indulgence? Trader Joes dark chocolate covered caramels, Dairy Queen Blizzards, truffle fries from anywhere and a great cheeseburger!!  I’m not sure if tequila is an indulgence or a necessity……

Source of inspiration? Nature, small children, dogs playing, great music, my parents, my warrior friends and family battling illness, and my own family (my husband Gregg and kids Zach, Sara and Julia)

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Proudest moment? My proudest moments as a yoga teacher has been making a few students cry.I know, that doesn’t sound right but I’ve had a few students experience a rush of emotion in my class (it wasn’t forearm plank that made them cry) and felt safe enough to be able to let go and release their feelings.That breath/body connection is miraculous!

Most repeated intention? To be kind to myself so that I can be kind to others.

Coffee or tea? Both! Coffee in the am. Green tea all afternoon.

Join Stephie Wednesday Evenings 5:15-6:15 PM for Level 2 Vinyasa Flow

Just This. Just Now. Cheri Weber.



I met Cheri Weber years ago just as we were both finding our niche in the suburban yoga teaching industry. We shared emails and texts and moments after classes discussing what it’s like to be part of this teaching community and how to put ourselves “out there”.  Cheri began teaching at Reach Monday evenings a few years back, which is not my ideal time to practice, so I hadn’t been to her class in some time. She recently subbed for a 6am (now, THIS is my hour!) , and I was so blown away by her knowledge, pace, guidance and sequence that she inspired me to challenge my habitual practice of same classes, same teachers, same postures (which is not a bad thing, just routine) and seek out some “new”.  After reading below about Cheri, I challenge YOU to check out her Monday evening class at the studio…I have no doubt she will inspire you too! 

How did you get into practicing yoga?

Very begrudgingly. 2 close friends who regularly practiced yoga kept telling me I should go, I would like it. I avoided going, thinking it was a waste of time and a wimpy workout. I loved running marathons, triathalons, doing interval classes, and intense work outs; the harder the better. In the meantime, we went on a girls trip to climb Mt Whitney, 14,500 ft high, and we’re planning to do this in an up and down 8-16 hour period. I trained hard until the day we left: spin classes, sprinting hills and running the beach. I thought for sure I would be on the 8-10 hour end of that time. I never summited. My altitude sickness was so bad that descending was my only option. Out of the 14 of us that went, only 4 people summited with out issue. They were my 2 yogi friends, another friend who was a big yoga advocate, and a yoga teacher. This was humbling, and made me think yoga had something going on and I should check it out. I went to a few classes with them and signed up for a retreat with them that Jessica Sandstrom and Jenny Kaufman were leading and became hooked. I found the zone which I normally got in running, yet so much more. Things started to piece together from so many areas of my life.

What made you want to teach?

I was a personal trainer and in the midst of a year long health coaching program when I found out Jenny Kaufman and Sharyn Galindo were leading a teacher training. I thought it would be a perfect holistic approach to my wellness interest. I just wanted to share my passion and hopefully help others to find the ah-ha moments I have found in yoga.

What would you consider your yoga style and who were a few teachers that influenced you the most?

I don’t think there is a teacher I’ve taken a class or workshop from that didn’t influence me. A yoga class is like a kids birthday party with a goodie bag. You always get something to take with you. That being said Jenny and Sharyn’s incredible depth of knowledge and experience in the teacher training greatly influenced me as well as the classes of Jessica Sandstrom, Missy Hebson, Laura Merlo, Deb Wineman, Sara Strother and Claire Mark. It’s great to hear different cues and styles that resonate with me at different points. I love to learn from webinars of some well-known teachers nationally as well.

Overall my style is strength and alignment based, but I love spending time building the pose slowly to activate ancillary muscles to create imprints in the mind of what the pose feels like for when we connect the poses in a flow. Creating space and length with the breath is really important to me.

Why do you love teaching at Reach?
It’s just such happy energy to walk into whether I am teaching or taking. Sometimes teaching on Monday night seems like added chaos before I arrive, but after the class I’m always happy and zen myself. The Reach community is supportive, friendly and really connected to each other. I love that Reach is always looking to grow with new ideas and offers many options for everyone.

What was one of the funniest or most humbling moments you’ve had while teaching a class?
I cued a class to meet up in Down Dog ( or so I thought) I really said Child’s Pose. After letting them linger in Child’s pose for a minute, assuming that was what they needed, I repeated myself again, only once again unknowingly saying Child’s pose. I started to question my sequence and wondered it was too hard or the room too hot and after the 3rd time of saying it wrong and no one moving, I realized what I had been saying and literally laughed out loud. Nice to know everyone really does listen to you.

What is your favorite non-yoga activity?
Family and friends doing anything outdoors is my trifecta. I love anything in the mountains.

Favorite mantra? Just this. Just now

Guilty Pleasure? A great margarita with lots of fresh lime

Proudest Moment? I organized a series of yoga sessions for Chicago Public Schools with Urban Initiatives, (a non-profit that provides coaching and mentoring youth soccer programs for under privileged areas within CPS). The first time I showed up they had me in the gym with 75+ kids ages 1st -4th grade. I wondered how the heck they thought I would get any group this size and this age to listen and follow for 20 minutes, but I figured something was better than nothing for them. Their non stop chatter and wiggles turned into fun with the poses, and they actually sat silently to breathe and meditate for 2 minutes followed by a 3 minute savasana where they didn’t move a muscle. On the way to the car, several of the kids saw me and thanked me for the yoga. I don’t know if proud is the word, but sheer excitement to be a part of something that can make a difference.

Coffee or Tea? I always wanted to like coffee but just never could so Tea for sure.

Find Cheri at Reach Monday Evenings 6:30-7:45 All Level Vinyasa Flow. 

A Super Fun Q&A With the Family of Steph Metz



Do you think your family REALLY knows you? What you like to eat, drink and how you spend your free time? We asked our devoted 6am teacher Stephanie Metz’s husband David and daughters Katie & Ryan to share their insights with us!  Not only do they seem to know her extremely well, they seem to truly “get” her too. Check out this fun Q&A with Steph’s loved ones.

Steph’s/Moms Favorite Book: 

David: Bhagavad Gita … and anything about death

Katie: anything body related / anatomy or death related. 

Steph’s/Moms Favorite food: 

David: Stone crab

Katie: grape nuts.

Ryan: Stone Crab

Steph’s/Moms Favorite drink: 

David: Angel’s Envy on the rocks or Bombay Sapphire martini with lots of blue cheese olives.

Katie: sparkling water- hates plain water–loves hot water though-weirdo. 

Steph’s/Moms Favorite TV show: 

David:  How I Met Your Mother

Katie: How I met your mother or some documentary that she finds and suddenly is drawn into for that time—cannot sit for extended period of time with the same thing on.

Ryan: How I Met Your Mother

Steph’s/Moms Favorite animal: 

Katie: Our dog (Lucy) or maybe dolphin.

Ryan: Her Dog Lucy

Steph’s/Moms Favorite activity: 

David: Yoga and SUP

Katie: anything by the water (paddle-boarding, yoga on a board, swimming) also likes taking our dog to fun parks or beaches.

Ryan: Yoga

Steph’s/Moms Best advice: 

David:  Don’t take things other people do so personally, it’s not always about you.

Katie: That it does not matter what other people are doing because they are not half the person you are—-the more you focus on other people- the less you can improve yourself and understand your passion and character.

Ryan:  Don’t worry about everyone else .

Things Steph/Mom is great at:

David: Being a mother to Ryan, Katie and Lucy, teaching, sales/marketing, being a good friend. 

Katie: being a friend and having a big heart and always full of energy.

Things Steph/Mom is working on: 

David: Drinking more water, eating more protein, being more organized

Katie: not reacting to things immediately- waiting. 

 

Steph teaches 6-7am classes both Tuesday & Thursday mornings. Come salute the sun with her! 

Meet Sweet Shawna Doran!



When I asked Shawna to be featured in our next blog post about our fabulous instructors, she was  understandably hesitant (not many people, I’m learning, like the spotlight). But I persisted because she is not only one of Reach Yoga’s teacher training graduates, but she’s someone that our yoga community should know about, she deserves to shine bright! As a data privacy attorney by day, yoga teacher and incredible wife & mom by night, Shawna makes everyone feel good by just warming us with her inner light…shine on Shawna, shine on!

Q. What’s your favorite pose?

Urdhva Dhanurasana (aka “Full Wheel”) – This pose is not a favorite because it is easy for me, but because it is now possible for me. Before I entered teacher training, I had a frozen shoulder for over a year. I also had limited mobility in my right wrist due to a prior injury. My shoulder couldn’t rotate sufficiently and my wrist lacked both the range of motion and strength to bring me into the pose. After years of practice,  I now have enough mobility to get into the pose without the need for additional props, which is fantastic because I find full wheel to be an amazing front-body opener that helps to counteract the posture of my day job (hunched over a computer).

Q. What are you reading?

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Truth be told, I actually bought it first as an audio book and fell asleep while listening so I had to buy the actual book.  It’s a fascinating (and accessible) discussion of the importance of sleep and dreaming. I am currently on a mission to change the sleeping habits of my entire family of night owls (myself included).

Q. What are you eating/drinking?

Every fall, I begin drinking something called “fire water”. It’s a mixture of hot water, lemon juice (1/2 lemon squeezed), 1/4 teaspoon of ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, pinch of cayenne pepper, black pepper and Pink Himalayan salt and 1 tsp of coconut oil. I also like to add yogi berries and coconut flakes. It’s warming and nourishing.

Q. What are you watching?

I’m obsessed with HGTV and YouTube. Together, they have taught me how to skim coat plaster walls, install baseboards, and shoe molding–oh, and drywall- and how to paint like a pro. Who needs tape when you have a good brush and a steady hand for cutting in?

Q. Best advice ever given?

Teach what you know. I teach level 1 classes and have a passion for doing so because that’s where I started in my own practice and that’s where I return whenever things get too chaotic in mylife. I find comfort in the basics and I hope that my love for these postures is translated in my teaching.

Q. Best advice to give?

Stay on your own mat. This is so often easier said than done in life and in class. However, I have injured myself in class doing something that I knew was beyond my capability at that moment or have not backed off in basic postures when my body has given me fair warning. It takes self-discipline to be the person resting in child’s pose oblivious to the fact that the rest of the class is in a bound headstand or to actually move with your own breath (and at your own pace) rather than trying to meet the pace of the class, but I believe that more personal growth occurs in those moments of appropriate self-restraint than in moving through every posture in a class.

Second piece of advice recently given to my kid brother who asked if he should get a yoga block: get two yoga blocks.  You’ll be glad you did.

Q. How do you bring the practice of yoga into your everyday life?

I get anxious sitting at my desk, particularly when I am in the middle of drafting a legal document or preparing to negotiate a contract, and so I use breath work every single day to keep me calm.  It’s something that I’ve been able to share with my kids too which has been a joy because I feel like I’m giving them tools for their toolbox to help them deal with the increasingly complex challenges they face as they grow older.

Q. All-time favorite quote?

Excerpted from Boundin’ by Bud Luckey:  Now sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down,

When you find that you’re down, well just look around;

You still got a body, good legs and fine feet.

Get your head in the right place and hey, you’re complete!

Shawna Teaches Vinyasa Flow Level 1 Sundays 3-4pm

 

Meet the Mesmerizing Debbie Muraff!



Have you been in class at Reach and wondered who the woman, literally defying gravity while balancing on her hands was? That’s Debbie….If you haven’t met her yet, or been to her classes, you should! On and off her mat, she is well-paced, thoughtful and beautifully balanced (pun intended). Please read on for a fun look into her world outside the studio……

Q. What are you Practicing/Favorite pose?

I am trying to practice more ahimsa – not letting others take away my peace. My favorite pose is handstand, of course, and I love Warrior 1. 

Q. What are you reading?

I’m reading True Yoga: Practicing With the Yoga Sutras for Happiness & Spiritual Fulfillment by Jennie Lee.

Q. What are you eating/drinking?

My new favorite is the Cali’flour pizzas I order on line, they are tasty and I dress them up with fun toppings! I also love Skinny Joe coffee!

Q. What are you watching? 

As far as TV, I have three faves- game of thrones, shameless, and This is Us. 

Q. Where are you travelling?

I’m going to Arizona next!   Then going on a cruise through the Panama Canal, which I’m really  looking forward to!

Q. Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.

Q. How do you bring the practice of yoga into your everyday life?

I practice my yoga  by being the best that I can be on and off my Mat!

Q. How do you like to spend time off the mat? 

I like to visit my daughter Bryn in Madison & spend time with my boyfriend & son. I also have a specialty cookie line called Sideways Cookie Brittle that I sell to local shops and for custom events.

Q. Favorite Mantra?

I’m thankful for my struggle, without it I would not have stumbled upon my strength! 

Check her out on Mondays 6-7am Vinyasa level 1-2 & Wednesdays 8:15-9:15am Vinyasa Level 2

Yoga Insights & Tips from Brooke Palmer



The lovely Brooke Palmer teaches Vinyasa Flow 1-2 on Tuesdays, 1:15-2:15pm. Haven’t tried practicing in the afternoon? You just might love it. Read on to see the kind of inspiration and learning you could gain from working with Brooke.

Q. What is a posture you wish teachers spent more time breaking down for their students?

Chaturanga. I think this pose is often rushed and not fine tuned. I see a lot of dumping in the low back and shoulders. It’s about finding the balance between the two and using the sternum to extend the body forward.

Q. What is a common ‘mistake’ you often observe in classes?

One of the most common mistakes I see in class is in Warrior 3, I see a lot of dumping into the hamstring as well as folding forward rather then finding the extension of the pose.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve received regarding the practice of yoga?

The greatest advice I have been given in this practice is to listen to my body. I have battled a nagging injury for years in my wrist, It flares up every summer and I am forced to give up my practice while I heal. It’s humbling and infuriating at the same time, but it’s my chance sit in my body and notice where I need a little more love.

Q. What advice would you give to someone that feels ‘stuck’ in their practice?

My advice to them would be to begin with an intention. Each time I come to my mat, I come with a different intention. One day, take it slow, the next–focus on breath. Yoga is about finding space where you need it and then utilizing it, that doesn’t always mean in your body, sometimes we need that space more in our minds.

Q. What kind of yoga do you practice when you want to calm down or experience a peaceful mindset?

I love restorative yoga and what it does for both my body and my mind. Restorative is about sitting in a pose for a while and noticing what comes up and then letting that go, GREAT THERAPY! It also calms me into my deepest state. I think people are curious and cautious at the same time about restorative!

Q. How has yoga changed you? Over what period of time did that change occur?

In every which way this practice has changed me. Mentally, physically ,emotionally … I find peace and solitude on my mat. I find me on my mat, I find who I want to be on my mat. The yoga community is so unique because it brings together so many different people with different pasts and different journeys, yet all there for the same reason, to benefit from the practice of connecting. Connection is strong.

Q. How do you avoid injury when you practice yoga frequently?

I listen to my body. Each day is different. What I do today, I may not be able to do tomorrow, and I am ok with that.

Q. How do you bring the practice of yoga into your everyday life?

Ha, I TRY my hardest to breathe deep and to lead with an open mind and heart. I am an emotional person and I take things very personally. I am working on that.

Q. What is your favorite yoga quote?

My favorite quote was read by a teacher of mine years ago. It has stuck with me. “You can easily judge the character of a person by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him.” No judgment in yoga ever, but the roundabout meaning of this quote is to treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Q.What keeps you motivated to continue practicing yoga?

This community, for sure.

Hi There Inner Critic … Nice to Meet You!



This is a guest post by yoga teacher Sonya Taylor, RYT 500 in Advanced Yoga Psychology. Sonya teaches Vigorous Vinyasa on Mondays, 9:45-10:45am, at the Takiff Center. Beginning July 10, Sonya will teach Core Flow (All Levels) on Tuesday evenings, 6:30-7:30pm, and Vinyasa Flow 2 on Thursdays, 11:30am-12:30pm. 

Have you met your Inner Critic?!

Many of us are so externally focused on what we need to do, if everyone is happy, everyone to school, work etc on time!… that we are unaware of the dialogue inside our head. The citta or mind chatter is the constant internal messaging that forms much of our experience of life, yet we rarely take time to stop and examine it! Do you know the repeated phrases inside your own head? Are they positive? Negative? Do they pressure you and judge you? Are they rooted in fear?

This past year I met my Inner Critic face-to-face and let me tell you… she is a nasty, slippery, conniving creature that is out to get me!

I took time to pause… truly look at and begin to recognize her voice and I developed a process to invalidate each and every thing she says! Don’t get me wrong, I still hear her! Sometimes often, sometimes few and far between. However, now I am adept at recognizing Her Voice is not My Voice!

Ready to dive in for battle?!…

Quieting Your Inner Critic!

As we are seeking to re-program the voice, hold compassion as these are usually deep seeded beliefs that we are challenging. Take pen to paper and write as you tune into…

-notice the voice of the inner critic

-write it down in the 2nd person “you…”

-who does the voice sound line?

-connect the inner voice to actions

-how does it influence your behavior

-events and situations that trigger these thoughts/voice of the inner critic

-self-limiting patterns

This process often takes time over several days or weeks to identify and clarify what the inner critic voice is saying and its resulting self-limiting patterns. Our tendency is to avoid really facing the voice and its root cause, leaving it lurking in the shadows. Recognizing and clearly identifying the dynamic of the inner critic is a vital first step.

Re-programming… Take pen to paper and re-write the voice.

What is the reality when you step out of the moment and really look at what the facts are? Write and affirmation, or positive statement in the present moment that re-writes the voice of the inner critic and completely in-validates what it says. Remember our inner dialogue and the thoughts or beliefs we allow to have the most ‘air time’ create and shape our experience. If we allow the inner critic to be the loudest voice… we will experience life in line with its negative, diminishing message.

Example:

Inner Critic – I am never going to make enough money, people don’t like me and my classes, I really messed that up, I don’t know what I’m talking about, no one is going to sign up for my workshop because they don’t like me and don’t want to hear about yoga psychology, no one gets me…. On and on and on…

Write it down- You are never going to make enough money. People don’t like you. You really messed up… etc

Re- Write – I am strong, successful and intelligent. The passion I have for yoga and its many healing processes guides me, sustains me, and draws many clients to my services. I am financially, emotionally and spiritually aligned.

Work toward awareness of the voice of the inner critic in daily life. Do you notice any patterns? Does the voice get louder or more frequent based on certain circumstances? I tend to hear the voice more when things are unsteady or changing. When I’m tired or have had a particularly challenging week. Noticing the pattern helps me be ready to fight back!

Repeat the positive ‘I’ message whenever you hear the voice of the inner critic. Take a few long, deep exhales. You might also try the practice of Viloma or a 3 part breath.

Viloma ~ Take a cleansing breath. Begin to inhale through the nose filling all the way up. Pause at the top of the inhale. Exhale through the nose in 3 parts deflating the chest, pause, the mid ribs, pause, the low belly, pause feeling totally empty… begin to inhale again and proceed through five or more rounds.

As you practice Viloma imagine the exhale carrying away the voice of the inner critic. Visualize it getting further and further away with each exhale so that you can barely hear it. Repeat the new thought pattern or affirmation five or more times (ideally looking in your own eyes reflected in the mirror).

Interested in working through my entire Inner Critic Process virtually or in person?!… Click here and let’s connect!

Sonya teaches Vigorous Vinyasa on Mondays, 9:45-10:45am, at the Takiff Center. To try Sonya’s class, you can use a Reach Yoga membership or classes on file, or pay the Park District at their front desk. View class schedule

What Students Say About Mia Cutler



Here’s what students had to say about Mia Cutler. Mia teaches at Reach Yoga in Glencoe on Mondays 5:15pm, Fridays 8:15am, and Saturdays 9:30am. Beginning May 1, Mia will also teach Vinyasa Flow 1-2 at the Winnetka Community House, room 212.

You can also read some advice from Mia (and more about her).

“Mia is one of my favorite yoga teachers. Besides her kind and calming voice, every class is different. She makes an effort to get to know the people who are attending her class. She asks about their level of practice and if they have any injuries. She utilizes this information to create the ultimate yoga experience. Over time, she has become clear about the skill levels of her students which allows her to push them to the appropriate place. In addition to this, she customizes her music so that it is never the same and sometimes theme related which is fun. Nothing makes me happier than coming to Reach and having Mia welcome me at the door. At that moment, I know that I am about to share in another excellent yoga adventure.”

“Mia is a kind and gentle soul. Yoga with her is a great workout, but it’s not just exercise. She genuinely cares for her students and wants them to enjoy yoga as a mind, body and breath experience. She has moved up the challenge of the practice to keep pace with the progress that the regular core of students have made. I’ve been in her class for years.”

“Among the many excellent and devoted yoga teachers available in the North Shore, Mia stands out. She is exceptionally knowledgeable, creative and thoughtful in the design and presentation of her classes. Mia welcomes all levels to her classes, and teaches joyfully and gracefully. Her cues are precise, helpful and delivered with good cheer. The smiles on the faces of we students leaving the studio after one of Mia’s classes speak volumes for her substantial contributions to our practices.”

“Mia has such a peaceful presence. I enjoy her yoga classes and appreciate the sequences she cues, but perhaps most of all I benefit from the tranquil, supportive sound of her voice. She always has a genuine smile and honest dedication to her students. She is a gift!”

“I love Mia! She’s a kind, empathetic, knowledgeable yoga teacher who makes me feel like I’ve given my body & my mind an enormous gift. I always leave her classes feeling just a little bit better about myself. She’s actually my favorite teacher. Plus, she has killer playlists!”

“I love yoga with Mia on Friday mornings!”

“Mia Happy Yoga. Need i say more? Mia depicts the word happy. Her classes are always upbeat, with well-edited tunes, fun sequencing that opens up your entire soul and always many laughs. Her soothing voice reminds us to ‘try less hard’ and just be ok with where you are. She is so kind and caring and i feel lucky every time I’m in her presence. She and her teaching are both really special, i adore her.”

“I can describe Mia in one word … that word is ‘brilliant. Mia is the most phenomenal, caring, gifted and intuitive teacher and she brings her beautiful brilliant spirit to every class she teaches. I feel so grateful to have the good fortune to experience her light at Reach as often as I can.”

“Mia’s positive energy, happy smile, and come as you are attitude make her class a welcome retreat every time I have her as a teacher!”

“Mia Cutler is my favorite yoga practice teacher. Her warmth, cheerfulness, and serious focus without taking herself too seriously make her a joy to be with. Her classes have a wonderful free and friendly atmosphere which I attribute to Mia’s personality and her personal interest in every yogi in the room. Also, I find her sequences, which can be quite challenging, make sense and allow me to be totally immersed in the experience.”

“Mia has a contagious enthusiasm that she brings to each practice. She makes it a point to personalize her interaction with students, whether it’s a compliment regarding their practice or simply a small detail in their life, I always leave the studio with a kinder attitude to be begin my day.”

“I love practicing with Mia! Through her creative sequencing, thoughtful cuing and subtle humor, Mia creates a warm and nurturing environment. I always leave her class with a smile on my face and a feeling of balance in my body.”

“I’m hesitant to say too many nice things about her, because Mia Cutler is a yogi’s best kept secret and I’d like it to stay that way. She is about the most knowledgeable and prepared instructors you will ever meet. While she may not be the flashiest or the one with the cool Instagram account, she brings to the mat a wealth of experience that in many ways is beyond approach from most every other instructor I practice with. Moreover, she’s always looking to improve my practice as well as hers and together over the years we’ve both benefited from our mats being in the same room. Her sequencing challenges my brain twice as much as my body and often times, it not just leaves me invigorated when I roll up my mat but gives me purpose to take that practice out of the studio. On top of that, she’s about the happiest person I know, and that’s contagious!”

“Something I think that is very difficult that Mia does is to bring alignment cues into a challenging flow practice. Coming from the Iyengar tradition, I can appreciate these cues that teach us more about what we are doing. It’s obvious Mia continues to learn as she teaches, I know that isn’t easy either. Mia’s classes are challenging but she is always reminding us to accept what our limitations are on that day, and that those limitations can change and ease. She does this kindly. While initially she may appear kind of “loosey-goosey”, it’s quickly obvious under there is a steel will. Mixing & balancing out that drive and steel will with fun, humility & acceptance is a great gift to us as her students.”

“I love Mia’s Saturday morning class! Her combinations are complex, her cues are perfectly given and I enjoy her choice of music. The class is challenging and fun, and I always leave class feeling awesome!!”

 

 

Try Less, Pay Attention More – guest post by Mia Cutler



This is a guest post by yoga teacher Mia Cutler. Mia teaches Mondays at 5:15pm; Fridays 8:15am; and Saturdays 9:30am. You can also read what Mia’s students say about her teaching. 

My motivation to practice is continually supported by the students I teach each and every day.  I am moved daily by what I see in studios across the north shore!

Practicing yoga is a gift I give to myself. Yoga has and continues to shape my life.  

Initially, I found the practice made me feel better physically … I gained strength and flexibility.  When I look back over the years, the benefits are so much more OFF the mat than ON the mat.  ON the mat is where I practice who I want to be OFF the mat.  It is that special place that is mine, and only mine, to practice being present, letting go, finding acceptance, being curious and open to feelings that arise, and aware of my thoughts and patterns.

I practice kindness and empathy towards myself, so that I can bring that into my daily life towards others. I also practice forgiveness towards myself for areas of my life that I feel I need to work on to be a better and kinder individual.  And, that it is a ‘practice’ is so complete.  There is no ending to the practice, no personal record, no pushing harder, getting faster.  It is what it is … today.  And tomorrow is another time to practice.   The ‘asanas’ are still important but the life scope of the practice is so much wider.  

These are some of the photos in a series I created called ‘The Tadasana Series’. I wanted to show that all yoga poses have value and that the practice of yoga is accessible to all. No need to think you must learn how to do a handstand or headstand. Standing rooted in Tadasana (mountain pose) leaves one feeling balanced, centered and strong.

As a teacher, I see so many students trying too hard to ‘get somewhere’.  There is nowhere to go.  The poses will come. What you are looking for will arrive someday, probably with less effort on what you are seeking and more effort in just being.  

That’s my whole gig: Try less … pay attention more.  Slow down enough to notice and be patient and your practice will ‘advance’.  It is healthy to have a goal … but that goal is not the end game.  It’s the journey to get you there…that’s the practice.  

Don’t get me wrong!  WANTING to do a handstand is an awesome thing, but a handstand is a yoga pose … it’s not yoga. The quiet, stillness, strength, patience and space that are created on your mat through regular practice … that’s advanced yoga.  

An advanced asana does not translate to an advanced yoga practice.

My favorite yoga quote is from the  Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.2: yogah citta vrtti nirodhah. A translation is, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.”

The practice of yoga quiets the mind so it can rest in a state of stillness and tranquility, to experience life as it is, reality.

Some Q&A With Mia

Q. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Montreal, Canada and spent my formative years on a horse farm outside of Toronto.  My memories of life on the farm are filled with years of riding, hard work (feeding and mucking the stalls of 23 horses before school each day) and a feeling of outside spaciousness…open fields, solitude and quiet. It was truly a gift from my parents when we moved there only because my older sister wanted a pony :))  

Q. What was your first job?

I was 14 and built mink cages, in a farm field, during the summer.  It was hot and I wore thick gloves while cutting heavy wires to piece together these  cages on a mink farm.  They had 11,000 mink.  I got lots of scrapes up and down my arms and had an excellent farmer tan!

Q. How do you occupy yourself outside yoga?

Such a good question!!  One of my two children went off to college this year and I am savoring the next two years with my daughter before she flies out of the nest too!  I enjoy gardening and spent 7 years attending the School at the Chicago Botanic Garden to receive a Garden Design Certificate.  I design and install a couple of gardens every year for clients.  It’s not my main gig, but I love it!!  

I spend a good portion of my time cooking!  I love trying new recipes and adore all of my cookbooks.  I usually have a glass of red wine in hand, while I’m cooking. I LOVE red wine.  Big, bold and round …

I recently adopted an 8wk old puppy, Greta, from PAWS and quite frankly, I’m exhausted.  I knew what I was getting into though, and am happy to have another soul in this house besides our two cats. They all bring us so much love.

AND I LIKE TO WATCH SOME TV …

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Guest Blog Post: Practice, Patience, Time



This is a guest post by yoga teacher / communications lead Mallory McMunigal. 

Have you ever left class thinking … wow, that was challenging. The teacher called out cues you wanted to follow, but your body and brain couldn’t seem to get on the same page to accomplish the task at hand. You watched the teacher demonstrate flawlessly and then you peeked up at the student two mats in front of you, and they appear to be effortlessly defying gravity, and you think ‘Well huh … If they can do it, why can’t I?’

Well the truth is, you can. And even though it may sound cliche, the student you’re admiring was in your very shoes not too long ago. The only difference – they took the time to learn.

The practice of yoga is about surrendering our ego, and tuning in to the sensations within us. And the beauty and struggle of this is … it’s different every day. You might roll out your mat one day, nail every arm balance thrown at you, feel strong and powerful through the standing sequence, and take every vinyasa. You leave feeling accomplished, full, and ready for another challenging class. And then the following week you’re fumbling your way through a similar class, barely deciphering right from left, taking child’s pose at any possible moment.

It’s all about practice, patience, and more than anything it’s about time.

Practice.

Think about the things you’re really good at. Did you have the same level of competency the first time, or first 10 times, as you do now? My guess is probably not. Practice. I challenge you to show up in your practice and do just that, practice. Really show up, be present just as much mentally as you are physically. Let the teacher be your true guide for the time you’re together.

Patience.

Things don’t always go the way you planned. Sometimes things get forgotten, sometimes things get rushed, and sometimes things don’t happen at all. I challenge you to accept this. Time spent on the mat is an incredible way to learn and refine patience. Allow what you learn to blend into your day to day life. Step back and observe.

Time.

I’m busy, you’re busy, everybody’s busy … How on earth am I supposed to perfect my yoga practice? You’re not. Yoga isn’t going anywhere. No matter your level, there’s always something new to work on or fine-tune, something to re-learn or take a look at from a fresh perspective. Some days, weeks, or even months it might feel like two steps forward, one step back and that’s OK. I challenge you to let go of what you think your practice should look like, or where your practice should be and let time do its job. You show up, put in the work, and over time you’ll see and feel the benefits of your practice.

Mallory McMunigal teaches Tuesdays, 1:15-2:15pm, Vinyasa Level 1-2 … beginning this Tuesday 2/13/18.

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