Yoga+ Comes to Chicago / by Julie Schumacher

There are people who seem to be able to eek the most out of minutes, hours, days. Our intern Natalie is one of them. She's got a legit job. A social and travel calendar that makes this mid-thirties lady swoon, an internship with us that requires all her organizational wizardry, and a community-building mindset that means I've watched her bump into people she knows every time we've been together. And, she's got a slew of adorable sisters. See?Yoga Plus Chicago 7 Yoga+ is an innovative, make-the-most-of-it collaboration between Natalie and her sister Andrea. A vinyasa-style yoga class is offered along with a hands-on workshop in something fabulous (the list they showed me? Amazing). And, their first workshop is being offered at one of my favorite places, Workshop, on June 21st with Larkspur, a beloved Chicago flower shop. Let's get to know Yoga+.

A Progressive Yoga Class Takes Shape

Andrea got her teaching certification while living in New York City. When she moved back to Chicago last August, a travel schedule for work make it tough to get plugged into a local studio right away. She looked to Natalie to gather friends for a bi-weekly Sunday afternoon apartment yoga class. If you've met Natalie, you won't be surprised to know she can rally the troops. Rotating between participants' apartments, it was a great way to grow in a yoga practice in an informal setting that encouraged asking questions and trying out new postures.

At some point this past winter the Ladies Pavela dreamt about taking these yoga classes out of the apartment and into other fun spaces around the city. Eager to learn and grow, they thought they’d try their hand at hosting yoga + educational and interactive workshops with some favorite Chicago businesses and subject matter experts.

Can yoga impact our ability to learn or try new things? Is there something magically zen about yoga that opens people up to a new experience? Anrdrea: Absolutely – the thing I love about the physical practice of yoga is that it provides a safe space to do just that – try new things, fall over, and ultimately learn how your mind and body respond in the presence of challenges, fear, frustration, progress and success! My personal yoga practice promotes a sense of empowerment, positivity, and receptiveness to new opportunities.

I benefitted from yoga teacher trainings largely because of the community cultivated in the process. The community was tight knit after all the the time spent learning, discussing, laughing, & eating after our daily physical yoga practice. Through this workshop series, my hope is to recreate that environment.

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What are you looking for when you plan workshops? Natalie: It’s important for us to create events and select workshop partners that resonate with our core mission. We value the following: 1) introduction to new and unique skills, 2) connecting with and learning about local Chicago businesses, 3) building community, and 4) promote well being.

When keeping these things central, we seek out partners that are also community focused and enjoy connecting firsthand with the consumer - encouraging questions and providing a face to the business. We want our workshops to be interactive and fun, and look for personalities and companies with a product, service, or skillset that we are eager to learn more about. Overtime it will be interesting to see what types of workshops resonate most strongly with our core audience.

Are the yoga classes inspired by the workshops? Andrea: Yes! The sequences and focus of each class will be inspired by an aspect of the workshop, partner, or space. For example, our floral arrangement class may focus on postures that challenge your balance, encourage rooting into a foundation to rise, and inspire creative expression, while our pasta making class may have a focus on postures that stimulate metabolism and promote nurturing self-care.

Some aspects will definitely remain the same from workshop to workshop – all will be 60 minutes in duration with an emphasis on alignment, the breath, and hands-on adjustments. All classes will conclude with a refreshing infused washcloth to cool down before transitioning into our educational workshop portion of the event. It is impossible to know the background and expectations of each of your students that walk in the door. The best thing I believe I can do is to teach what resonates with me in my own personal style and encourage each individual to make the practice their own. For Yoga+ event classes, I will focus on the basics, offer options to accommodate varying levels, and work to clearly guide my students through safe transitions and alignment. (note: Andrea also offers private classes custom tailored to students' experience and goals.)

What makes a great venue? Natalie: I’m always dazzled by a space with loads of natural light, neutral colors, natural elements, sparse decorations and a blank slate, but an open open floor plan is a must. The space needs to allow enough room for each of our participants to comfortably spread out during the yoga class. Transitional spaces are also key as we move from the open floor for yoga to bringing in tables and seating for the workshop portion of each event.

Ideally, we’d love it if our workshop partner to have enough space to host the event within their shop (i.e. we’re using Sepia’s private dining space for the pasta making demo), but when that’s not an option, we enjoy bringing on an additional cool venue partner, as is the case with Workshop Chicago for our upcoming Floral arrangement class with Larkspur.

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What’s the benefit for local businesses who collaborate with Yoga+? Natalie: We’re tapping into a diverse group of Chicago yogis who are eager to connect with their community, learn about local businesses, and gain a new skill. We highlight our workshop partners in our ‘Behind the Brand’ blog series, and promote the event and partner through social media prior to, during, and after the event.

Our goal is to connect Chicagoans with some of the coolest businesses/places in our city and give a face to the brand, which hopefully encourages future patronage.

Let's talk dream workshops. Andrea & Natalie: There are SO many workshops we want to put on and we're very interested to discover what our participants and followers want to learn about as well! We like to think seasonally, and would love to utilize outdoor spaces while the weather’s nice (rooftop, park, etc.), and incorporate workshops that can be useful for gift giving or party hosting during the winter the holiday season. We’re already talking about taking Yoga+ on the road, hosting one-time workshops in other awesome cities where we already have friends that are local experts - Seattle, Dallas, Santa Monica, Denver, San Francisco, and more!

I begged for a sneak peek at their dream list. Here are just a few of the options they showed me:

Forth Spoiler Alert: Our fall salon will focus on passion projects. How do you two do it all and fit it all in? Andrea: It’s all in the name – passion! If it’s something you love or are excited about, it is easy to make time for it. I find it rewarding to put time and energy into growing something outside of work and  my social life; developing entrepreneurial skills and cultivating the community we want our workshop participants to benefit from. Advice: celebrate small wins, set realistic expectations, and work hard to develop positive, collaborative working relationships.

Natalie: I second Andrea, we are both passionate about yoga, leading a healthy + active lifestyle, exploring Chicago and connecting with our community. This passion project feels like an extension of something I’d already be doing, so it doesn’t always feel like work! I love having Yoga+ as a platform that allows us to grab the attention of awesome Chicago businesses we’d already be frequenting, opening up a path for conversation around event partnership and collaboration. I love fostering communities and hope we can tap into something special by bringing together individuals with similar interests for unique and special weekend events. I studied entrepreneurship in college and am feeling alive in this opportunity to fully execute my entrepreneurial muscles! Having my sister as a business partner is such a fun new extension of our existing relationship - we’re learning as we go, and it’s been wonderful to see how truly unique we are (even as sisters), as our different skill sets compliment each other well in this partnership.

Bust out your yoga mats and get ready to smell the flowers. Tickets to their first event, an awesome floral workshop with Larkspur, are available now. Na.ma.ste

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Fabulous photography courtesy of Carolina Mariana.