Real Transformation

The very first spark of my love for yoga started with you and I am so devoted and in awe when the mind and body come together as one.  I meditate daily and reap the benefits from that as well. The real transformation for me is that I am finally calm, with a peaceful body, mind and spirit.

Claudia, Wilmette

My Best Physical and Mental Health Ever

I have been going to classes at Grateful Yoga for a few years now and have nothing but positive things to say about the classes, the instructors, and the atmosphere in the studio.  I regularly attend scheduled classes as well as special workshops whenever I can.  I appreciate the thought put into each session by the various instructors to make sure that each minute spent there is meaningful and useful to mind and body.

Being an "older" student and one who came to yoga in my 50's, I am happily in my best physical & mental health ever. I only wish I had started at a younger age and had the wisdom of yoga to fall back on during my early days of motherhood. I know that I use techniques in everyday life for coping during stressful times. I take the time to notice and observe before reacting. I am more attuned to the good days too.

At a physical level, I feel stronger, more energized and willing to push myself further to that "edge"....such a gift at this point in my life when balance and bone & muscle strength are more important than ever.  At Grateful Yoga, everyone of every level feels welcome in this cozy, nurturing space.  I consider this my yoga “home” and am thankful and amazed at how far I have come on my personal journey there.

Joan B., Evanston

Integrating the Body with Spirituality

I didn't pay a lot of attention to my body until I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006. After a year of chemotherapy I needed to rehabilitate my body through dietary changes and exercise. But I also needed to achieve a greater balance of body and mind.

I discovered a way to work on this integration when I began practicing yoga at age 65. As a leader in and teacher of Christian worship I was also rediscovering through yoga how embodied our worship is in the use of our senses and postures. I found in Hatha yoga's breathing, postural work, and meditation ways of deepening my practice of worship and ritual.

I found in Nick Beem a teacher who helped me not only with the physical techniques of yoga but one who also guided me into a deeper study of the yoga traditions. Studying yoga has become a great enthusiasm of mine in my retirement. I'm grateful to have found Grateful Yoga. It is an accepting community of teachers and students.

Frank Senn, Evanston

Healed Back Pain

I was suffering from acute lower back pain for quite some time. I came to realize how much additional tension I was accumulating in my body in response to the pain- just the fear of it. Through consistent practice at the studio as well as my own morning and evening routine, I have healed my back.  It was then that I really got past the back trouble, both psychologically (the fear part) and physically (by learning what stretches are most effective for me).  I've stuck with the home practice twice a day ever since. I have realized that yoga helped more than the series of physical therapy appointments my doctor prescribed.  I really credit the gentle, therapeutic body education I am given at Grateful Yoga for this transformation."

JC, Skokie

Deep Learning, Compassion and Joy

For many years, yoga has been a vital part of my life. It’s helped keep me fit—not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Yoga and meditation have gently prodded me to shed more than a few undesirable habits. You might say yoga teaches me how to play more nicely with others.

Last Saturday I gave myself the spontaneous gift of what I’ll call a Grateful Yoga Day. After attending Lela’s morning class, I walked around Evanston, had lunch, and then returned for an insightful Yoga Nidra workshop taught by Rhoda Miriam. It was a rich and rewarding way to spend a summer day.

Driving home at day’s end, refreshed and fully relaxed, I felt deep gratitude for my mini-retreat—and how Grateful Yoga had made it possible.

My yoga practice has deepened thanks to the teachers I’ve learned from along the way. Lela and Nick at Grateful Yoga are two of them from whom I continue to learn. They’ve created a community that embodies what I feel is at the heart of any yogic practice. It’s a warm and safe space brimming with deep learning, compassion—and joy.

Larry, Highland Park

Skillfully Managing Challenges

I am very active and energetic and, thankfully, thus far, in good health.  So when I began yoga, I was surprised by the challenge.  The inward focus, the attention to breathing and to the body, the often difficult (for me) poses, were all new to me and out of my comfort zone.  

 Nevertheless, by the end of my first class, I felt a new sense of balance and stability in my normally runaway mind.  After several months of regular practice, I am pleased to confirm that I am still capable of managing new challenges.  I find that when my inner and outer worlds are in sync, the intrinsic goodness of life is more available for my appreciation.

Denis Heyck, Evanston

The Whole Experience

I wanted to let you know that I feel absolutely wonderful.  Was it the breathing? Beginning sun-salutations? (Historically, not a favorite of mine.) The blocks?  The twists?  The instruction? Perhaps...the whole experience! I feel "long", and mentally in a very good place.

Eva, Chicago

Always Leave Feeling Better

Grateful Yoga is a great, small studio. The instructors go deep into the traditional and meditative aspects of Yoga, and my wife and I always leave feeling far better than when we came. The instructors are also always willing to stay after class, and answer any questions to help your make your practice work for you. Highly recommended!

Andy L, Evanston

Welcoming to All

I so appreciate Nick and Lela's wonderful teaching styles and how they honor and encourage bodies of all ages, sizes and abilities.  Helping us to move better and to feel better.  Many thanks!

Karen D, Evanston

Progress On and Off the Mat

I have had a very difficult time finding a teacher in Chicago who would help lead me into the sacred space of heart mind and body that is so important to me...  and that I need for continued progress both on and off the mat.  I am so pleased to have found your class.

Rabbi Lisa Sari Bellows, Evanston

Allowing my Body to Discover What it Needs

I am new to your yoga class. It has been a challenge to find a teacher that touches the spirit of what yoga means to me. I had many vinyassa classes and found myself enjoying the music but not the hurried stretch from one pose to the next, missing the time and gentle correction of being able to find and to lean into how the pose fit for me. This takes time to move from one pose to the next putting together what my body has learned from the previous pose into the next pose. I am glad you found this way of teaching. It is what works for my mind and body and brings them together. I am grateful that I can move slowly in your class allowing my body to discover what it needs in each element.

Denise S-G, Evanston

Equanimity in Life Transitions

I've practiced yoga almost daily for the last year and a half after dipping in and out of it for my entire adult life.  During this recent time, I have practiced often at Grateful Yoga with Nick in both private sessions and group classes.  My physical flexibility and balance have improved, along with my eating habits.  But I think I've seen an additional benefit which I had not expected.

Two months ago, my husband and I decided to move from one beloved home to another.  For me, this has entailed separating from meaningful places, experiences and people in one place and connecting to others in another.  Also, because we were privileged to have maintained two residences, we needed to get rid of, or maybe find another home for, many belongings which I believed represented an important part of my identity.

I've been ambivalent about making this move for a long time. When the advantage of doing it finally became clear, I initially struggled with the emotional and practical process and anticipated that I would experience a lot of angst and difficulty with the actual clearing out and the move.

I was surprised to find that I've been able to pass through this experience more easily and with more equanimity than I'd thought and I think my practice of yoga has helped.  For example, the idea of non-attachment was always something I found kind of foreign, or even offensive (being attached to people, places and things gives my life meaning, doesn't it?).  A deeper and clearer understanding of the concept, both intellectually and through my practice at Grateful Yoga and elsewhere, has enabled me to move forward with a minimum of stress and sense of loss.

The inviting space at Grateful Yoga, and Nick's intelligent and meaningful instruction, will be one of the many things I will miss about Evanston.  But I am grateful for the insight and the awareness I have gained from my experience there which have helped me in this life transition.

Jennie Berkson

More freedom from the anxious state of mind

In consistently showing up to my mat three days a week I have noticed: a deeper sense of connection with my body and its needs, acceptance and adjustment for situations as they present themselves, and the ability to breath through those real life moments that feel just as challenging and/or invigorating as a demanding yoga pose. I breathe deeper, move easier, and experience more freedom from the anxious, tense state of mind. I have a better appreciation for every day being different in my yoga practice and my life experience.Sarah C, Evanston

Seeking health, community and discovery

My becoming a sustaining member of GY was motivated and facilitated most strongly by several factors: Upon being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and then reading about the dire consequences of not controlling the Diabetes, fear drove me to finally become more diligent.  Becoming a sustaining member supports that commitment.  I also have a longstanding diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder, for which treatment continues.  Common advice is that exercise reduce the effects of depression, and increases ones energy level.  Since yoga focuses in part on energy flow in the body/mind system, I use yoga to increase that energy flow.  Finally, 

At present, I primarily attend Nick's classes.  I love the organization of the individual classes into a larger structure that is dictated by an overall vision that (a) integrates body, mind, spirit, social consciousness, and the desire to build a community of practitioners, and (b) is built on an integration of yoga traditions with modern science.  I spent 20 years as a Research Coordinator at UIC (an intentional community of scholars), and love the communal pursuit of determining how things work, and why, and then making practical application of that knowledge. 

An added benefit of attending Nick's classes is that most of the students are my age or older.  That adds to my feeling of belonging, and I'm inspired that others my age are pursuing yoga, and how far along some have progressed.

GY has the feeling of a community.  Many students in Nick's classes have known one another for a long time, and express a lot of social support for one another.  That's a very important antidote to the alienation one can experience in the highly individualistic and impersonal nature of urban America in these times.   In yoga, we're trying to grow beyond the "self" that has been familiar.  We're trying to venture into unknown territory, and master it.  We can do that best when we feel supported as persons who are valued in spite of our shortcomings.

Nick’s regular reference to the development of his children and to his personal life helps me to see how yoga practice derives from and applies to my ever-day life experience as a human being.  I’ve been taking Nick’s lessons on how the parts of the body (and self) are interconnected and applying those lessons to my other exercise activities. Doing so makes those other exercise activities a more “holistic” experience.

Fred Meyer, Evanston

Quite literally added years to my life

Since 2002 I have been told five times that I have cancer. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy and just finished hormone therapy. I have had three surgeries, radiation twice, and other rounds of chemo over the years. Through it all I have lost 80 pounds, have almost constant diarrhea, lost my hair, and have recurrent bowel obstructions. I have an external biliary drain, which means no showers or baths and constant worry about having a tube sticking out of my abdomen. Not to mention reduced wardrobe options because I have to disguise the fact that I have big plastic bag velcroed to my leg. And indignity upon indignity, I have to wear compression stockings because my feet and ankles swell. No cute shoes for me.

I don't share this to get sympathy. Throughout all of this I have continued to work, travel, enjoy my family and friends, pursue my hobbies, and generally feel like life is good. I'm definitely better off than many of the other cancer patients I see at the clinic.

I share this only to illustrate that my life is complicated. That leads me to my point in writing this, which is that the reason I love yoga is that it embraces this entire complicated, complex, contradictory mess that is my life.

I reject what I think is an American character trait that we see things in dichotomies. Pick only one: good or evil; friend or enemy; nature or nurture; black or white; pro-life or pro-choice; Republican or Democrat; Jesus or Satan. Social media, which is almost inescapable, heightens this by putting these kinds of life philosophies in memes and 140 character tweets. I can't live like that.

Yoga is the antidote to that kind of thinking and living. Yoga gives me permission and the means to explore holding multiple contradictory thoughts at once. It leads me to examine the interweaving of the elements of mind, spirit, and physical body. It's not just "mind over matter", but also matter over mind with spirit influencing both - and every combination of all three. And, is it only three elements? Of course not! but I'm trying to keep this short.

I use what I have learned through my practice of yoga almost every minute of every day - staying in the present, being attentive to my thoughts and my breathing and my physical body. At the risk of being graphic, I credit yoga with my ability to make a graceful exit when I'm in a business meeting or other social situation and an urgent need for the bathroom asserts itself. This is almost daily. Yoga is also a concrete tool to get through medical procedures - anchoring myself to my breath calms me, helps me push down the panic, and gets me through the inevitable with less trauma and fear. I don't think I could endure having a naso-gastric tube inserted or having my biliary drain exchanged or having an IV inserted without the practice. Yoga is also invaluable to me in sorting through my thoughts and feelings about my diagnosis and my future. Meditating brings me to a peaceful and safe place to allow all of the possibilities to exist without being threatening.

I believe that yoga has kept me from succumbing to negativity and depression and quite literally has added years to my life. Even without a cancer diagnosis, everyone's life is complicated. Everyone can benefit from yoga practice.

I am grateful to Nick and Lela Beem for bringing this awareness to my life. Grateful Yoga will always be my yoga home.