Teacher Tune Up – July 2017

Teacher Tune Up – July 2017
by Tracy Bleier

Teacher tune up QUIZ!

First, close your eyes. Put your hands on your heart. Take a breath. What do you feel? What words can you say to yourself? What do you envision? Want? Crave more than anything? Now feel what rises to the surface.

Can you talk about it?
Will you transmute what is there to serve your life? To help others?

I have been teaching yoga for over 16 years. I have trained hundreds of teachers over the years to become celebrated, happy, diverse teachers—some have gone on to create illustrious yoga careers, others opened studios, and others went onto to refine their own personal connections with their work, their relationships, themselves. Getting together with fellow yogis and sharing what we are feeling inside from head to toe is my practice. Helping others articulate what they want to say but haven’t felt they could is my passion.

Please take three minutes to reflect on the questions below. If any of them hit you, then know this five day course I am creating is for you right now.

No, you do not need to be teaching.

Yes, you are practicing and want to know more and more and more.

No, we will not be going over every single anatomical bone in your big toe.

Yes, you will learn practical strategies that will give you confidence to teach things you have been afraid to teach.

No, we will not sit for hours and theorize.

Yes, we will practice, write, speak, and try things out.

If you are on the fence about money, time, uncertain about what a teacher tune up is then here are some questions:

For aspiring teachers looking to step up their game:

How often have you said that you aren’t ready to do the thing you really want to do?
Do you get nervous about speaking because you are afraid you have nothing to say?

Do you think you don’t know enough? That others are better than you?
Do you take attendance personally?
Are you tired of teaching the same things?

How can you develop range of instructions?

Do you feel confident to take your students deeper?

How can we adapt our teaching styles to fit the needs of a diverse population?

For the avid practitioner:

Do you trust what you feel?

How can you help others to do the same in their lives?
Are your practices working for your bodies, your minds, your health, your own work?

Are you too hard on yourself? Where does that show up?

What are you most curious about? Confused about? Honest about?

What are your questions?

Join me on July 25 – 29 for a five day inquiry into our finest work, what I can promise is a lot of sweating, laughter, inspiration and fresh new ways of seeing your wonderful selves.



Diets Are Out, Lifestyle Is In

Diets Are Out, Lifestyle Is In
by Kristen Johnson Brogan

One of the biggest things all of us have in common is we all eat. (And we all do yoga) But, food is our universal language. We all talk food. But unfortunately, we do not talk food the same, and we all have different beliefs surrounding food. However, shouldn’t something we do everyday, multiple times a day be simple and easy?

I truly believe that 100% of people don’t want to be on a diet. When we think of the word “diet,” these things typically come to mind:

  • Low-calorie
  • Meal plan
  • Low-Carb
  • Paleo
  • Low-fat
  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Short-term fix
  • Food restriction

Now when we think about the word “dieting,” these things typically come to mind:

  • Boring
  • No fun
  • Missing out
  • My life sucks
  • I want cookies!

The term “dieters” includes anyone who is trying to reduce, restrict, or otherwise alter their diet for health reasons. This includes paleo, vegan, gluten-free, low calorie, low carb, etc.

Perhaps you have heard some people say “well paleo works for me” or I can live without grains no problem. However, what I have found in my line of work is that food restrictions don’t work for most people long-term. I would be interested to ask someone 20 years later how their no-carb diet is still going?

Bottom line is that the body needs carbs, proteins, and fats to function. When we give up these macronutrients, we have macro problems!

Did you know that the brain needs 400 calories from carbs just to function properly—to think, to focus, to problem solve?

With that being said, it definitely depends on the quality the carbs, proteins, and fats that we are choosing since nothing in this world is created equal—especially food and yoga studios.

Whatever you are doing for your health, that behavior must be maintained—long-term—forever. Don’t start juicing everyday if you can’t keep it up. Find things that you can enjoy and maintain forever. Take small steps and build habits.

The secret comes down to finding a lifestyle that is healthy, fun, easy, and repeatable. Motivation and willpower will eventually run out but it will be our lifestyle that will always pick us back up.

It’s not about giving anything up—it’s about making everything better.

I believe that no food is “bad” or off limits. If someone asks if you eat a specific food, your answer should always be “it depends.” It depends on the quality. Do you eat protein/food bars? It depends on the bar? Does it have a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce or just 3 ingredients—dates, nuts, and seeds? Do you eat potato chips? It depends on the quality of the chip. Is it made with healthier oils and sea salt? Do you eat dessert? It depends on the dessert? Is it made with real ingredients or does it come in a package?

Don’t indulge in something that is so not worth it when there are so many better options in this world that are even more delicious. Eating should be a perfect balance of purpose and pleasure. It should be enjoyed in every way. #makeitcount

The key is to find better options and upgrade the quality of everything you are eating. Don’t give up anything, just make everything better by reading the ingredient list. Reading the calories, carb, protein, and fat grams will tell you absolutely nothing about a product. Plus counting calories and anything else for that matter is so boring! 

We need calories, carbs, proteins, fats but it depends on where these things are coming from. The ingredients will truly tell you whether a food is healthy or not. It takes a little something called intuitive thinking. The good news is that we are all born with this skill however we tend to rely on external sources for knowledge when it comes to food and eating.

Here’s what you should look for when reading the ingredient list:


  • Less ingredients are best
  • Choose real ingredients that you can pronounce
  • Avoid processed corn, canola, soy, whey, palm oil & artificial ingredients
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup (Processed Corn Sugar)
  • Avoid Hydrogenated Oils (Trans-Fat)
  • Avoid “Natural Flavors”


Plus, when we eat foods with better ingredients, we don’t typically overeat these foods or have to worry about being restrictive in any way. If we eat an apple, how many apples do we eat at one time? One right? We don’t usually overeat broccoli, quinoa, spinach, etc. And if we do—who cares! And of course foods that don’t have an ingredient list will be the best choice.

Now this concept of upgrading the quality of the foods you are choosing sounds pretty simple right? Well then why don’t we hear more about this simple philosophy?

That’s because it’s not “sexy”, it’s not extreme enough, and there is no money to be made from it.

Perhaps you have heard of MCT oil or medium chain triglyceride oil? Medium chain triglycerides are associated with better metabolism and fat burning. Bottles range from $30.00- $50.00.

Virgin Coconut oil is MCT oil is in its purest form. It has so many more benefits than pure MCT oil and it is less than $10.00 a jar. Not only is it great for metabolism but it also has properties associated with better digestion. Virgin Coconut oil is delicious, versatile, and a total home run. MCT oil goes through a man-made process called fractionation. There is nothing natural about it.

When it comes to eating, don’t take any short cuts. Stick to real foods in their most natural state. Know “the source” of everything you are consuming especially supplements. What will be more powerful, something from a bottle or nature’s perfectly wrapped foods? Foods in their most natural state will be the most nutritious, most affordable, and most flavorful.

Say buh- bye to multivitamins and hello to real food. Get rid of processed protein powder and start adding healthier plant-based proteins like hemp seeds. Before you reach for ibuprofen, ask yourself why you may have a headache in the first place? Have you had enough water, have you ate the right foods, gotten a good night sleep, or done some yoga? Have you been outside to get any natural sunlight or fresh air? The body is always talking and it’s time to listen.

Unfortunately, we are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. The good news is that the body has an amazing way of healing itself when you give it the right ingredients. Food is knowledge for the body.

Just like Michael Pollan says “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” and “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” 


Want to know more about what supplements to avoid and what foods to add for better health? Check out this blog post below.



Need more help navigating this confusing food world? Come shop with me and stock up on these nutrient-rich superfoods.

How To Kill A Mockingbird (with Yoga)

How To Kill A Mockingbird (with Yoga)
by Jeff McMahon

A friend of mine is being tormented by a mockingbird singing in the dead of night. The bird sings in a tree outside her window, wakes her up. She knows she only has so much time to sleep, she gets tense, she can’t sleep.

The bird goes on singing cheerily. She hates that bird. She’s starting to hate all birds.

The standard Western response is to shoot the mockingbird. But the Buddha taught us that the problem is not outside in the tree, the problem is inside in the mind.

“The hostile multitudes are vast as space— What chance is there that all should be subdued?” writes Shantideva, an Eighth Century Buddhist monk. “Let but this angry mind be overthrown, and every foe is then and there destroyed.”

As much as the disturbance seems to be located in the tree outside, it’s the mind that decides whether the mockingbird’s song is a bother or a lullaby. The disturbance is located in the mind.

If we eliminate the mockingbird in the tree, a very tempting prospect, we have not really eliminated the disturbance—we have just avoided it, for now.

There will be another mockingbird, or something worse—like, dread fate, an ice-cream truck—and our minds will be no better prepared.

In fact, our minds will be worse prepared, because we have reinforced the belief that the disturbance is outside. When the next mockingbird comes, we’ll greet it with immediate exasperation, we’ll long for it to be gone from the tree, we’ll fall into the same pattern. Over and over again.

“Our problems can’t be solved by eliminating each and every outer cause,” says Pema Chödron in her book “No Time to Lose.” “Nevertheless, people everywhere take this approach: ‘It’s the world’s fault; it’s too rough, too sharp, too alien. If I could get rid of these outer woes, I’d be happy.”

Chödron’s book is a translation of Shantideva’s “Way of the Boddhisattva.”

In a chapter on taming the mind, Shantideva teaches:

“To cover all the earth with sheets of leather—
Where could such amounts of hide be found?
But simply wrap some leather around your feet,
And it’s as if the whole earth has been covered.”

Pema Chödron explains this metaphor in her commentary:

“The analogy suggests we’ve been walking barefoot over blazing hot sands, thorns and stones, and our feet are bruised and bleeding. Suddenly, we come up with a way to end our suffering: we’ll cover the surface of the whole world with leather! This is, of course, impossible. But what if we wrapped leather around our feet? Then we could walk anywhere without a problem.”

Chödron says, “If you want to protect your feet, wear shoes, and if you want to protect yourself from the world’s provocations, tame your mind. The antidote to misery is to stay present.”

I learned this lesson when a drummer moved in downstairs from me. I had already led a lifetime of intolerance of noisy neighbors. And now, here comes the ultimate noisy neighbor, a drummer.

But this time, I had a yoga practice. This time, I had read Shantideva. This time, I had read Pema Chodron.

This, I reckoned, is going to take a powerful tolerance and acceptance practice.

When the drumming started, I was ready. I noticed the disturbance in my mind, as Pema advises, and instead of lamenting or fighting it, I just let it be. I examined it. When the tide of irritation began to rise, I noticed its texture and its tone.

I neither tried to suppress the irritation nor indulged it by shooting the drummer. When I examined the irritation I became aware of the undisturbed someone who was doing the examining. I noticed the watcher who watches the mind. I saw that the irritation was not me, that it was separate from me, that it had the quality of coming and going, and that I didn’t have to go along with it. I had a choice.

Suddenly the irritation was gone, even as the drumming continued.

After that, the practice became contagious. Once I knew how to keep the drummer from bothering me, I looked forward to NOT being bothered by the drummer.

Then when the drummer started drumming, instead of thinking “Oh no, the drummer again,” I started thinking, “Oh good, it’s the drummer. Time to practice.”


Meet Featured Artist, Diane Andreoni

Meet Featured Artist, Diane Andreoni
interview with Diane Andreoni
“Hi :)) I am a perpetual student of the arts. When I was young I wanted to have a career as a graphic artist so I got my Commercial Graphic Design degree and a job as an art apprentice for a Chicago Marketing firm. Thirty years later, while working as a Creative Director in marketing and advertising, I went to night school and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in painting from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I am currently studying color theory under the tutelage of Nina Weiss, a local landscape artist, whose work I greatly admire. Along with painting I am also studying yoga. Having practiced it for over ten years, I recently became interested in learning how to teach, and last October earned my 200 hour TT certificate. This month I also became certified to teach yoga to cancer survivors.”
1 – What themes do you play with?

“I am passionate about painting themes that represent personal experiences I’ve had within nature. As a breast cancer survivor, while going through my medical treatments, I became interested in human cells and how they functioned. I spent a lot of time researching what cells look like when they are macro-magnetized and interpreted my findings visually within my artwork. Lately I’ve been exploring how color is used to visually give my paintings depth and contrast. My new technique is featured in my “Chicago Flower Planter” series, and a few of these paintings are on display at Zen.”

2 – Where do you draw inspiration from?

“I draw inspiration from my life! To do this I take long walks with my dog, Paulo, in the city, on the beach and in the mountains and then I paint what I see using my own photos as my inspiration and for reference. When I was young my mom was our fourth grade class “Art Lady”. One day each week she was our guest speaker and presented famous artists’ bios to my fellow students and me. My favorite artists were (and still are) Toulouse Lautrec, for his quality of line work, and Edgar Degas, for his application of color. During my childhood I drew inspiration from my mom and dad—creative individuals who loved traveling, cooking, and photography.”

3 – Why is art making important to you and/or society?

“For me painting is important because it allows me to get stuff out of my head and onto the canvas. It’s a good stress reducer. I also enjoy the social aspect of painting with other artists because I can get and give feedback to help shape my work. I’ve tried to paint solo but felt too isolated.”  

4 – What is your favorite art piece and why?

“My favorite painting is of my dog, Paulo. Seeing him in that sleepy pose on that big blue chair brings a smile to my face. I developed his organic form using lively painting strokes and a colorful coat of hair; and I chose to leave the background flat and graphic using solid colors and simple patterns so Paulo would be the focal point.”

Top 5 Reasons to join Teacher Training at The Garage

Top 5 Reasons to join Teacher Training at The Garage

There are many Teacher Trainings to choose from in Chicago right now. So what is it that sets our ZYGTT apart?  Read on to see our Top Five Reasons!

1) Affordability – ZYGTT think it is important that this was NUM 1. TT is expensive, but it is so valuable! As we are still growing and gaining reputation in the marketplace, YOU WIN! We want to humbly offer our TT at a more accessible rate so that more people can join our community and get a chance that they may have otherwise missed out on. We think we are pretty fun here at The Garage 😉
It also goes along with one of our main principles, which is that yoga is indeed valuable, but it should also be affordable and accessible. We like sitting in the lower price range compared to other studios of our size. We are local, we are smaller, and we have a tighter community, and behind all those $$$ we have so much intangible love for yoga and one another to share throughout this city.
2) Intro to Many Styles – ZYGTT do not forget all of the roots and branches that have developed around yoga; it is an old practice, after all. We feel strongly that you have exposure to most of those roots. Ashtanga is the basis of almost every Teacher Training, as it is the skeleton of yoga. The other styles we will touch on are also important to the development to modern day teaching: Iyengar, Anusara, Bikram, and Kundalini are all also considered.
3) Sequencing – ZYGTT put a strong emphasis on sequencing. Many programs offer new teachers a “set sequence” that they can memorize. Instead, our emphasis is on creativity and developing the teacher from within. We teach you to think about the body anatomically and the postures as previews of peak poses. You will leave the training knowing WHY the sequences work, and HOW to confidently put them together in a logical, balanced way.
4) Level of experience in our TT staff – Collectively, ZYG Teachers have led over 25 TTs and each has led a minimum of 1000 classes in our teaching lifetime, which in the eyes of Yoga Alliance makes then all “ERYT – Experienced Yoga Teachers.” As you learn about different parts of yoga, teachers who specialize in certain areas (prenatal, meditation, etc.) will guide you through a workshop so that you get the most out of each lecture. Each teacher has unique value propositions, all are successful in pursuing yoga as a business venture and way of life….we’ve got a lot of knowledge and experience to offer you!
5) Community – The Ziggy community is tight knit and always looking for more yogis to share in the joys of the practice. We move, we laugh, we sing, we dance, we cry, and we love what we do and who we do it with. Many TTers have made life long friends during the ZYG training, and there is no stopping it now!
Email piper.parker@gmail.com to ask more about ZYGTT! Starts this Thursday! (payment plan available)

“Your path is beautiful and crooked and just as it should be.” Thoughts from a ZYG Teacher Trainer, Courtney Neumann

“Your path is beautiful and crooked and just as it should be.” Thoughts from a  ZYG Teacher Trainer, Courtney Neumann
by Courtney Neumann

After 10 vigorous weeks of teacher training, our final workshop ‘The Soul of the Teacher’, lead by Tracy, challenged us to reflect, answer thought (and tear) provoking questions, concluded by an activity where we spoke to the group about a meaningful quote, as if we were teaching our first class. This was mine. 

We are all on a very different journey. I used to be troubled by the idea of accepting my fate, my journey, my path. I would constantly compare myself to the world around me and feel inadequate in my own skin. Until I made a decision to do something that typically I would shy away from. Something that I knew was right for me, something that would challenge me mentally, physically, emotionally. I did not expect these 10 short weeks to be the beginning of my journey, of the rest of my life; even the beginning to what I know will be life long friendships and a community I can call my own.
After 26 years of life, I can say I finally know how to breathe, how to love and cherish myself, and how to be truly grateful for my mind, my body, my soul and the world around me. I am so grateful for this chapter and how it made my path just a little bit more crooked, in the most beautiful, wondrous, and uniquely my own way.

Courtney Neumann, Ziggy TT Fall 2016

The Courage to Continue

The Courage to Continue
by Jessica Edwards

“Success isn’t final. Failure isn’t final. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Keep on keepin’ on. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We have multiple phrases for making forward progress. For taking action, moving ahead.

But what most phrases lack is the boiled down essence of all your will, drive and motivation… courage.

Digging deep and finding the courage to continue builds character and gives shape to your life. To pick yourself back up, put yourself out there, keep being vulnerable in service of your desires and dreams is the single greatest form of bravery.

Courage is like a muscle. The first few times you rely on it, it feels uncomfortable, foreign and maybe even painful. But you start to gain strength through repetition.

As your courage grows, you take bigger, bolder actions. You make incremental progress toward your goals. You start to feel strong and alive. You move boldly and bravely into the direction of your dreams.

For me, leaving corporate America to commit to my full-time coaching business was a bold, brave action in building a larger life for myself. It’s certainly not a path of least resistance, but acts of bravery seldom are.

I’m continuously mustering up courage over the fear and doubt as I work on building a life that resonates with purpose and meaning. A life where I get to help others show up courageously in their lives, over and over again.

As you go about your day today, ask yourself, how am I being brave? And if the answer isn’t obvious, think about what you can do to give courage a workout?

3 Ways to Beat Resistance

We all know the saying. What you resist, persists.

Resistance is a force within each of us that beguiles us into remaining small. It keeps us stuck in patterns that block us from thriving and living large. It persists when we accept it as normal versus choosing to push past it. Getting stuck in our narrative of smallness.

We can overcome resistance. It starts by recognizing how resistance persists for you, making a different choice and taking action against it.

Recognize your story

Our stories run us. An easy way to recognize them is to examine your most frequent thoughts. What is constantly cycling through your mind?

“I’m not ____ enough, I’m too busy, I have to be productive, I have to prove myself, I’m too tired, I’ll start tomorrow.”

This is how your resistance is showing up. These thoughts are keeping you blocked from peace, success, love, etc.

Ask yourself why? Why do I feel I have to be productive? Is it because it satisfies my need for control? Is it cause if I’m not productive, I’ll be outed as not being smart enough for this job?

Keep asking why till you get to the bottom of the thought and expose your fear based story.

Recognizing your resistance narrative presents you with an opportunity to choose again.

Realize you are making a choice

Our repetitive thoughts literally become entrenched neuropathways in our brains. When we let these stories of resistance run us, they become our mental default.

Are you choosing to stay safe in your comfort zone, even if you’re miserable and unfulfilled, over the vulnerability of personal growth and betterment? Are you choosing to stay in your ho-hum relationship or career because you don’t believe you are worthy of more?

Once you’ve identified your resistance story, you have a choice to change it. Practice choosing a new thought when the old one shows up, over and over again, to actively carve new pathways in your brain.

If you catch yourself thinking, “I’m not really happy in this job, but it’s a paycheck.” Reframe your story and choose again. “I’m worthy of having a meaningful career, and each day I have the opportunity to learn more about what this looks like for me.”

Take Action… Now

Resistance thrives in procrastination. We don’t tell ourselves, I’m never going to get a promotion, we say I’ll ask for the promotion tomorrow/when my boss is in a good mood/when the time is right.

Resistance hates action. Action sets wheels in motion. Action takes a stand against our smallness, our resistance.

If you want to take a stand against resistance find a way, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, to take action. Not tomorrow, today. Right now, and every day going forward.

Make a choice to move closer to your goal and dreams Every. Single. Day.

Choosing to take action paves the pathway to your new story. One where you are larger than your resistance.

Simply put, resistance = fear. Fear of the consequences of following your heart, becoming who you truly are. Make a conscious choice to change your story and live your purpose. The world needs your large, authentic, purposeful self.

Jessica Edwards, a ZYG regular, is a life coach who specializes in helping millennial women align all of who they are with the work they want to be doing in the world so they can begin living large… on purpose. You can find her, or sign up for a complimentary coaching session, at www.jessicaedwardscoaching.com or on Facebook and Instagram @jessicaedwardscoaching.