Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Saturday, May 5

Optimum Health School of Yoga | Elgin, IL

It's been awhile since I had one of those magical yogic moments—you know, where you realize there was a reason you were going to a specific class. From meeting Boontiva and experiencing her lovely class to discovering the yogi next to me actually knew my dad and my whole family <yep, I was crying it was so wonderful>, I am very grateful for my morning and my friend Deanna who recommended taking a class with Boontiva. *heart*

LOCATION: Getting there was easy, but the studio is actually in the basement of the house—so you need to be a little brave in hoping you're not walking into the wrong house. Though—a huge purple yoga painting on the garage definitely encourages you it's the right place. At first I thought the studio was in the garage, but if you follow the red hand rails to the basement, you'll discover a sweet little entry way into a fantastic basement studio. Street parking is free. 
COST: $15 offering for a drop-in. Cash or check. 
STUDIO:  The studio has props and mats to grab as you walk into a tiled floor covered in rugs. Prayer flags are everywhere, and on the far wall is a beautiful display of singing bowls, gorgeous fabric, and a statue in tadasana with hands in prayer position. I set up my mat next to her, because we had matching hair :)  
CLASS DESCRIPTION: A great stress reducer. Increase your strength, flexibility, and balance without strain. Deep breathing throughout the class focuses the mind and dissolves tension. The result is a healing experience which strengthens the body, mind, and spirit. 
INSTRUCTOR: Boontiva Truong-Quang—In 1995, after an impromptu trip to India, Boontiva discovered Yoga and stayed at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai to become a certified yoga instructor. With more than 600 hours of formal training, Boontiva founded Optimum Health School of Yoga in Elgin with a mission to spread the message of good health, peace of mind, moral strength, and spiritual enlightenment. The Yoga Institute system is the oldest in India tracing its roots as far back as 3,000-4,000 years ago. Currently, there are only three other instructors from the Yoga Institute teaching in the United States. 

I'm not even sure I can remember the series Boontiva taught, as I was in a whole other world completely immersed in the moment. The variety of students in this small class confirmed that any level can attend this class, so don't let Boontiva's credentials intimidate you. My friend Deanna (who kindly recommended this class and I can't wait to thank her in person today) accurately described her class as if you've had a full-body adjustment when you're done. The movements focused on opening up all the major joints (and some smaller ones too)—with a constant reminder from Boontiva, "tuck your tailbone, pull your abs in, breath..." on regular repeat as she moved us from pose to pose, gently adjusting all of us. The class ended in sivasana—with multiple chimes/gongs radiating throughout the room.

The theme today was detachment, which I found ironic, since I wanted to take Boontiva home with me.  Seriously, I'm so excited to return to Boontiva's classes when I visit Elgin. If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is. Bonus moment, leaving the studio whilst talking to the yogi who knew my family—she encouraged me to pick some mint along Boontiva's house (because she had so much of it). I do believe there may be some mint juleps in my derby day future. 

Boontiva, thank you so much—I'm so grateful to you sharing your teachings with us. Namaste.

Friday, May 4

Centre of Elgin | Elgin, IL

After a little research (oh yeah, reading their website may answer these questions, der), I realized that the Centre of Elgin was open to the public for drop-in classes (resident or not). So I clicked on their schedule a found a class that wouldn't interfere with volunteering at Elgin's Green Expo (NEOI's second collaboration) this weekend.  

LOCATION: I was born in Elgin, so it was quite easy for me to find. But even with quick directions, the Centre is on major roads and is a big beautiful building that is easy to find. Parking in Elgin is free (sweet!), so I parked in the parking garage across the street. On entering this beautiful building I spoke with the front desk to check in/pay and she gave me directions to the classroom. I wasn't paying close enough attention, so I found myself wondering which room I was suppose to set up in. Luckily a couple of ladies walked by with yoga mats, so I fell into line and followed them into the room. 
COST: For non-residents it is $8 for the drop-in fee, $7 for residents. They accept cards and cash. 
STUDIO:  They do have us in the "spin studio," so surrounding the room is all the bicycles. Which didn't get in the way, but often in classes we use the walls, and that wasn't an option for this class. It did help for balancing poses, you could just stand near a bike. There was a wall of windows overlooking the front of the Centre that brought in nice light, and the room were insulated well as I couldn't hear anything happening anywhere else. There wasn't a class next door, so I couldn't completely test it, but with an aquatic center nearby, vending machines outside the room, and the weight lifting down the hallway... I felt like it was tested well enough. This also offered a new formation in the classroom, everyone put their mats in a circle, the instructor included (which was easy to do with 10 people in the room).  
CLASS DESCRIPTION: There's a generic description for all the yoga classes: All levels! Reduce stress via deep breathing; increase strength, flexibility, and balance via structured poses... healing the body, mind, and spirit. The instructor, Danae, mentioned she teaches hatha
INSTRUCTOR: Danae Molitor—Having mastered almost every format in the Group Fitness genre, couple with over 20 years of teaching experience, Danae can be your go-to person for just about anything in the field of fitness. Don't let the pretty smile and warm demeanor confuse you. She can be quite the drill sergeant when it comes to upper body, lower body, and core work!

Maybe not the best description for your yoga instructor—especially if this is your first time visiting her class. With a little more research I found this bio on a different site: Danae began her journey to become a yoga teacher when she realized how much yoga helped her find balance in her life—physically, mentally, and spiritually—and wanted to share it with others. She has also been teaching Pilates for nine years and integrates core strengthening poses to enhance and support your yoga practice. All fitness levels are welcome and poses are modified to fit the needs of her students. Feel encouraged and supported as you connect with your mind, body, and spirit. 
CONTACT: Centre of Elgin

This is a fantastic introduction to yoga, while still adding a bit of challenge. Danae talks you through the entire class, starting you off slow with movement stretches—breathing and moving in and out of the stretch then landing in the stretch and holding for a bit. Once on our feet we moved into some standing poses—parsvottanasana (intense side stretch), utthita trikonasana (triangle), and parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle), and then she did a series (three times—I remember, because I was pooped by the end of the first one, lol) working from utkatasana (chair pose) to virabhadrasana I (warrior one) to virabhadrasana III (warrior three)—which worked our core nicely. We eventually made it down to the mat for so static stretching, as Danae called it, and then a nice sivasana. I would like to have seen a couple of warm up sun salutations, since that is so integral to traditional yoga, but a nice intro to yoga regardless that had me break a sweat, so I'm a fan! 

Thanks for sharing your yoga with me this beautiful Friday morning, Danae, namaste!