Saturday, December 26, 2015

Why I fell in love with the studio- VIA thewellnessjess


When I first started practicing yoga, I was overweight, uncomfortable in my own skin, uncoordinated and completely out of shape. I had been reading about it for awhile and the whole thing seemed very foreign, but also extremely intriguing. I had taken a couple of yoga classes at the gyms in my area and I loved the concept, but I always felt so… unwelcome. Everybody around me was slim and seemed to know what they were doing, while I was a total beginner and felt completely ungraceful and gross. There were mirrors and fluorescent lights everywhere forcing me to see how awful I looked. I had extremely low self esteem and barely any self worth, it was almost intimidating for me to be around all of these powerful people. It also didn’t help that it SERIOUSLY broke my wallet. ($110 a month? How could anybody afford that?) But I knew that yoga brought this peace in my heart that I had never felt before, and that I needed to purse it.
My very first yoga class was at a hot yoga studio (totally not my thing) and it was labeled a “beginner” class. This woman who was clearly advanced, broke out into a headstand in the middle of the class while we were all in downward facing dog. The teacher started congratulating her and telling her how great her form looked. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for positive reinforcement, but though she was giving her the positive energy- I was over in my flimsy downward dog, and it made me feel so weak. I knew at that moment that I needed to find a studio that gave me the comfort I needed in such a vulnerable state. Because really, that’s how I felt, vulnerable.
I searched and searched for a place that would fit into my waitress wallet, along with the comfort, love and support that I felt I so needed in a yoga studio. I almost gave up, and then- the universe lead me to Power Edge Yoga Fitness. I found a groupon online and immediately knew I had to try it. I tried a class the following week and completely fell in love, and that is when my life started to change forever.

Not only are the people absolutely wonderful with the kindest of hearts, but the environment is so, welcoming. Everything I had ever wanted in a yoga studio was completely apparent when I entered that door. I started going three or four times a week and I just felt like I couldn’t get enough. The true beauty of finding a place like Power Edge, is I was able to fully surrender to my practice. I was able to leave my worries at the door and when I walked into that building all I thought about was myself, my self care and my practice. No to-do lists, no homework on my mind, no stressful thoughts of bills or grocery-store-lists, just me and my practice. A strong, empowered practice like that is what killed my inner self hate, its what helped me to realize how much I really matter and how much love and gratitude I had in my heart. The studio helped me to fall in love with myself again, and for that I am forever thankful.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Secret Hero Within Us

Bad days. We all have them, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning and our whole entire day just seems off. It's like the domino effect, one little thing after the other, making our day feel all the more miserable. Most of the time these days start from the very moment we open our eyes, our alarm didn't go off, the cat puked all over the floor, we're out of toilet paper, we're exhausted, and all we can think about is our daunting to-do list.

I used to constantly have these days. I was living my life day-to-day just going through the motions, patiently waiting for my future filled with happiness. Every day I had something new to complain about; whether it be my job that I hated, that jerk that cut me off, the money I didn't have, how hungover I was or all that weight I had gained. I was the queen of complaining, and I despised myself for it. I knew I was a kind person, I knew I was meant for more than this. I had a kind heart but I didn't know how to use it. I could feel the people around me back off the moment I started talking, but I couldn't help it. Didn't they understand how horrible my day was? Why didn't anybody care? Can't they see that I'm struggling?

The truth is, we all struggle. Every single person you meet has dealt with something that has brought them anguish. Every single person you meet has faked a smile to avoid a heartbreaking conversation. We all are fighting our own battles and facing our own wars. We've all been there. What I came to realize after years of negativity and sadness, was that my life wasn't the problem. My life was completely normal. The real problem, was ME. 

Before I had this "revelation" (if that's what you want to call it) I blamed the past for all my issues. I was angry at the world and I had no idea how to let that go. I was angry with myself for the mistakes I had made, I was confused with who I was and what I wanted in life. I hid behind my insecurities, let addiction consume me and continued to blame everybody but myself. I always told myself that things will get better once I find a new job, once I move away, once I "figure out my life." I started to accept that I was the cause of all my problems, that instead of hoping for the future I needed to accept the now. I decided that I wasn't going to let poisonous thoughts smother me anymore, and that if I really wanted help I had to search deep within myself.

To be completely honest, it was agonizing. I had to accept that all of my problems stemmed from my bad habits, from my own thoughts, from myself. I had nobody else to blame anymore. I had to face all of my fears that I hid from for so many years, and I actually had to feel everything that came into my heart. Then all of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Life wasn't all sadness, anger or frustration. There was a part of me that wanted to smile, that wanted to appreciate sunsets and so badly wanted to love her life. All I had to do, was recognize that I was thankful for waking up that day rather than be angry that my alarm didn't go off. The secret hero within me decided to take charge, and I thank her forever and always.

Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows and we all face difficulties in our everyday lives. We don't have control of that, and we never will. It can be hard, really REALLY hard. We are not perfect, and everybody is entitled to feel angry or frustrated by things that happen to us and our loved ones. But there is a big difference between a bad day and a bad life. That difference is gratitude. What I have accepted is that life was never meant to be perfect. What I have embraced, is that nobody can save you unless you learn to save yourself. The power of positivity is real, and if we change the way we think, we can change the way we live.

"What you think, you become."

Monday, October 26, 2015

The journey of the practice.

Since I started practicing yoga, my perspective has changed in so many ways. One thing I have noticed, is how every time I bring a friend that is a "first time yogi" to class, they tell me how much they loved it and how great they feel. But the conversation always ends with "I just can't wait until I get better at it."

To be fair, that is just human nature. We all have this little part of ourselves that is always competing, always trying to be better, always striving for perfection. Some of us feel this more than others, but we all have a small desire for that feeling of being the best. The society we live in makes this harder to subside, we are surrounded by ads of picture perfect people, the next "upgrade" in all of our electronics, #transformationtuesdays, and pictures of beautiful people perfecting the headstand. When I first started doing yoga I felt the same way. I could barely touch my toes, I was about 30 pounds overweight and I was (and still am) extremely uncoordinated. I wanted to be one of those toned up yogis, with a great figure and an awesome handstand. I felt somewhat awkward and uncomfortable when I first started out (because I had no idea what I was doing), but how I felt afterward is what always brought me back. I said to myself that I couldn't wait until I got better, I couldn't wait until I could do all the "cool" poses. 

Somewhere along my yoga journey, something clicked in me that being able to do the "cool" poses wasn't what mattered. It wasn't all about doing those picture perfect headstands, to be as flexible as a rubber band or to be the most toned person in the room. What really mattered, was how yoga made me feel. Did I get better at certain poses? Yes. Can I do poses now that I couldn't do before? You betcha. Did yoga make me a stronger, more flexible, and physically healthier person? Of course. But what I found mattered the most was what yoga did for my mind. I learned that even if I couldn't balance in tree pose, if I couldn't hold myself in crow, if I had trouble getting into half a pigeon or I opted for child's pose instead of wheel, all of that didn't matter. Because when I left that practice I still had a heart filled with gratitude, love radiating through my skin and a light weight feeling on my body that nothing else could bring. I still felt as though I was centered and grounded, but free and flying all at the same time.

I had a teacher once tell me, "yoga is all about the journey, not the destination." As cliche as that may sound, it is so. entirely. true. Through the practice of yoga, we learn to appreciate what our bodies can do for us now and not worry about what we wish they could do. We learn that our bodies are not machines, that we don't have a "latest upgrade" button like all of our cellphones and laptops, so we must learn to be patient and kind to ourselves. We learn to live in the now rather than waiting for the future. We learn that we aren't perfect and that is beautiful

Yoga isn't about competing with the person to the left, the person to the right, or even ourselves. What we learn through the journey of the practice, is to love and accept ourselves for who we are, and appreciate every single moment.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's ok to cough during meditation

So I set off to begin each morning with a short meditation. Normally, I don't get as far as meditating, because I'm not all "setup" for it. The long list of meditation preparation requirements grew and grew. Candle...check, white noise...check, journal nearby for jotting post-meditation revelations...check, silent place to reflect on my inner existence...check. The latter is usually the culprit as to why I rarely get as far as meditating. 

But today was different. While still in bed, and coffee in hand...I decided to meditate. Nothing elaborate.  You know, just start.  I set a timer on my phone for one minute and closed my eyes and focused on my breath. It seemed like no more than two seconds before the timer went off. Shoot. Right in the middle of my mediation. I snoozed that and set a timer to keep track of how long I meditated instead. Better. 

A little while in I felt the need to cough. Shoot. I'm trying to meditate over here.  So I coughed. No biggy...back to meditation. Deep yoga breaths traveled in through the nose, grazed the back of my throat, swept the depths of my belly and out again. It was wonderful. 

I came in at just under three minutes. But that's okay. Today I meditated. I look forward to beginning each day with an informal mediation. I don't need a bunch of props to meditate. Just a moment to catch my breath. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I've always wanted to be a Surfer Girl

I've always wanted to be a surfer girl.

It was the Summer of 6th grade. The family was packing up and moving to California. Just before leaving, I laid my first kiss on Bobby at the park. It was dreamy!  I figured what the hell...I'm not ever going to see him ever again anyway. So why not? 

Three months later we moved back. 

California was wonderful! Palm trees and festivals and roads paved of brick. I loved it...perhaps even more than Bobby. It was perfect. 

It wasn't long before I found the surfer boys. Bobby was a drip compared to these guys. One day, some how, I would be a surfer girl. 

That did not happen. 

Many years later I had my son, Derek. I dreamed of moving to California and raising him as a surfer boy. It was going to be perfect. 

Alas, I have a huge family that read me the riot act over the idea of relocation. 

So I stayed. 

Over the years I have admired various water sports and considered them. Thing is, I'm not a fan of the cold, and water sports in Chicago left much to be desired. 

Then I met Jon. 

We fell in love and got married. With the 5 kids between us, it did not look promising to land my Cali Zip Code. 

And then it happened! 

We were vacationing in Siesta Key, FL and I stumbled into a surf board shop. I was delighted to find skate boards! These were not your average, run in the mill skate boards...these were art on wheels, and I wanted one!  

Small snag. As a forty year old woman, I was cautioned by my loved ones that I would surely fall and die while skateboarding. At the very least look like an ass experiencing a midlife crisis. The latter was of no concern to me. 

As we were driving back to Sarasota, I saw my first SUPer (Stand up paddle boarder.) I'll do that!  

Sort of like surfing...right?

Time passed and I forgot about it. One day I was at Lifetime Fitness and low and behold there was a life sized ad guessed it...SUP!!! A childlike excitement arose. 

I started seeing pictures on Facebook of the SUPers. To be honest, I quickly grew apprehensive. That looked hard! Not to mention my fellow Yogis doing head stands on them! Hmmmm

Finally, last month, we went on a cruise and I got to try my hand at SUP in Cozumel. I was hooked! I decided right then I was going to be a SUPer!

I own a small yoga studio with a handful of instructors. I love them. Come to find of them is a SUPer! I invited her for tea. "Let's do a yoga retreat and offer SUP lessons" I cooed. The idea was met with enthusiasm!  Come next month, I'll be on a board near Starved Rock!

Remember those SUP lessons at the gym? I signed up for them today. And I am more elated than when I laid that kiss on Bobby in the 6th grade!

I'm going to be a Sur-Ph-Ur girl...after all :) 

Monday, June 22, 2015


I was broken. My life coach said she doesn't normally allow people to describe themselves as "Broken" but she agreed it was fitting in my case. I told her I felt like a Barbie doll with a missing leg that nobody would want to play with. 

So about a decade ago I was rockin life. I mean full on, kickin some ass - rockin life.   Everything was wonderful. And then...

I fell. 

Yep, I fell at work. For those of you who don't know about worker's comp - I recommend never falling at work. Especially if your company has more resources than you do. So while I was desperately trying to heal up from a whammy of an injury, the lawyers kept on coming. And the court dates dragged on and on...It consumed me. 

Cut to a few years later. 

I lost everything. My house, my car, all my fine treasures - sold off one by one. Waiting for my day in court. 

It never came. I'd like to tell you that I got this huge payout that left me set for life...but that wasn't how this story went down. 

Alas! There was a twist! 

I began to see what was really important in life. What really mattered. I started paying far more time to my relationships. I could see how 'money wasn't real' - an old saying that I had never really understood. But now the colors of the world started to change their hues. Or the way I saw them, at least. 

So after all the doctors and medications and endless rounds of physical therapy...I stumbled into a yoga class.  I hoped that I could take off the forty something pounds I had managed to gain in the process. 

But it was so much more!

I started to accept the present as it was. To accept myself as I was. The endless fighting of my reality was just exhausting. All I wanted was peace. I was so angry.  Angry at my work. Angry at my health. Angry at my back. My house. My car. My life. All of it. I was pissed off. 

The surgeon had told me that I needed to rehab if I wanted to walk again. Pilates he said. Pilates? Are you fuckin kidding me? I could barely get to the bathroom without a walker and you want Jane Fonda from me? Whack job!

He was right. 

I decided to split the difference and go to a yogilates class at Lifetime Fitness. You know, Pilates meets Yoga fusion class. 

I'd be a liar if I said I liked it right away. It was aweful! The whole process was so painful. But I kept on. I was determine to once again be the strong, independent woman I had always been. And I was willing to do any amount of work necessary to get there. 

It took me 18 months. 

Eighteen sweat, blood, and tears agonizing months. I'd hobble into the hot tub after every class. 

But it worked. 

I became strong. Not only of body, but of body and mind!  I had always been involved in fitness...but never like this. 

Each day I began to wake up with a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. The most simple tasks became a cause for celebration. I could walk, drive, skip and jump. And all I wanted to do was cartwheels in the grass, as I had done as a fearless kid. 

Then one day, my yogilates instructor Cindy said to me "you should consider becoming an instructor."  Instantly I knew that was what I was meant to do. 

I began my training in August 2008. Today, I own my own yoga and Pilates studio. I am a teacher trainer for people -who I hope can benefit the way I did. 

So in the end, my story is a fairytale. My dreams did come true. And I'm not angry, bitter, or scared anymore. I own my life and my future and sometimes I'm so damned happy I cry. 

And it is good. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Taming the Monkeys of the Mind

The question to tame the monkeys of the mind?  We often hear this phrase in yoga. What does it mean? Simply to silence your thoughts. Or rather, the flow of unwelcome thoughts while you are dutifully trying to meditate. Next thing you know, your to do list starts scrolling through your mind. Grocery lists, appointments, and other claimants of our attention. 

Take a moment to acknowledge these thoughts. Like it or not, they are there. Then send them on their way and return to your state of mediational bliss. 

I like to turn my attention to my senses to bring the focus inward. Essential oils encourage the focus toward the sense of smell. Try swaddling the forehead and eyes with a soft fluffy baby blanket. Listen to white noise such as waterfalls or ocean sounds. Give your mind something pleasant to do. In time, with a dash of patience and a pinch of practice, you'll be meditating in silence. Bliss!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rose Colored Glasses

Spent the day footing around the city. How lucky are we to live in such a beautiful place? Enjoyed lunch with my lover. Admired some art. Went to the park. Had playful conversations. Got my passport. 

Yep, you heard it right...I had some fun getting my passport renewed. The people here are so unbelievably pleasant. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed going to a government agency, but hats off the passport crew in Chicago! Thanks for making it pleasant. Who doesn't love a smiling face?  

I'm beginning to really like how I'm starting to see the world. Put your rose covered glasses on and enjoy your day!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Today's assignment...Who's your favorite female artist?

So, I've never made time for art. I've always been drawn to it, and effected by it, but not done much with it. For this post, I meandered downstairs to my bookshelf to try and find that art book I know I have somewhere, and stumbled across the painting in my front room. I absolutely love this painting, but alas, it turns out to be a male artist...'Divinely Fair' by Schafer, to be specific. I've always loved this kind of art. To me, it shows true beauty, elegance and grace. Things I've always strived to be, and admittedly have fallen short of. (I'm quiet clumsy really).

So off to Google I went to find an inspirational "favorite" female artist. With any good fortune, I would stumble across someone that paints pretty cherry blossoms or something surreal like that. 

This proved surprisingly difficult. Search results? Female vocalists. Hmm...interesting. 

After some time I came across a picture that caused me to stop and study. It is the picture of two women. One sitting, curled into herself and the other...standing openly confident. 

So I clicked the link. OH MY! This artist is provocative! I don't like this art at all!  But then I found a picture of a woman in heels covered in muddy water. It made me think. And curious. So I decided that I would read the story behind the picture. That's what art is supposed to do, right?  

It did. The artist is Marilyn Minter and turns out she's quite controversial. Her early work portrays unseemly photos of women on the cusp on pornography. As I read on, this work was derived from a sexually abusive past. Her more recent works shows how high fashion glamour has been put upon women today. I read this as the impossible standard that society has created for young girls and women alike. 

Which brings me back to the artwork in my front room, Schafer's piece. How are these photos so seemingly different, and yet so similar? Here's my take on it...

'Divinely Fair' shows what women of the time were meant to be. Proper, elegant, silent..,but a closer look shows a loneliness about her. Perhaps even a sadness. The photo of the muddy shoes speaks to me as a woman's effort to be glamorous...only to find herself anything but. 

I feel passionate about the pressures young girls and women face about being sexually exploited and expected to be beautiful as defined by high-fashion glamour magazines. After all, nobody really looks like that. 

Please excuse grammar and text errors...I didn't want to muddle my creative flow with proofing the piece.