For racial healing to begin, understanding has to happen first. As yoga teachers, our job is to have compassion and teach awareness, which fosters empathy. Protests in favor of racial equality erupted after on-duty police officer Derek Chauvin was caught on camera kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. Chauvin is in prison for the killing that lasted close to 9 minutes after Floyd called out for his mother and whispered that he couldn’t breathe. Protests for racial equality are happening against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has disproportionately hurt people of color in the United States. The Covid crisis has helped call attention to the persistent resource gaps in Black communities. Our country has a very long way to go for racial equality to happen. We hope that, in some way, our small business can help foster the notion that we are all connected. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (It is important to note that Dr. King Jr. drew heavily on the Gandhian principle of nonviolence. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the foremost works on yoga helped to fuel Gandhi’s mission for racial equality.) We hope that these resources are a starting point.
The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi
How to be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (All books by James Baldwin! There are many)
So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Olou
White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World, (Author Michelle C. Johnson is a yoga teacher. Her book is heavily influenced by the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient yogic text mentioned above that calls us to live into our dharma and duty even when many distractions entice us to move off our path)
By Julia Jonson|2020-10-25T17:04:47-05:00October 25th, 2020|Categories: blog|Comments Off on TBY Talks – Overcoming Obstacles
In this first episode of TBY Talks, a foursome of friends waxed eloquent on the topic of Overcoming Obstacles. We felt it a timely topic as we collectively weather a global pandemic, social unrest, a historic election, and much more. TBY Co-Owners Julia Jonson and Andrew Gurvey had an enlightening conversation with TBY student Kadi Petridis and her fiancé Dr. Willie Underwood (bios below!). We hope this complimentary episode touches your life in some way.
Kadi Petridiswas born in Bamako, Mali, to a black Malian mother and a white American father who served in the Peace Corps in Liberia for several years. He then moved to Mali to continue his volunteer work, where he met and married Kadi’s mother. When she was two years old, her parents, sisters and brothers moved to her father’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. Kadi cultivated a strong work ethic from an early age and eventually graduated from the Northwestern University School of Communication. While she was in school, she experienced an unplanned pregnancy yet finished school on time. Kadi is mom to two daughters. She is also a Senior Director in Pfizer’s Oncology division, where she leads a group of account managers. Kadi says she loves getting to know a person’s history, stating that rich and authentic conversations are incredibly nourishing for more introverted personalities like her own. Kadi is a longtime yoga student who has a lovely, easy demeanor. We are happy to have Kadi as a guest blogger for TBY. We know you’ll benefit from her musings on Finding Joy in Adversity
Dr. Willie Underwood
Dr. Willie Underwood, III, M.D., MS, MPH, grew up in Gary, Indiana. Willie describes himself as born eager to learn and aspired to be a doctor from an early age. Yet, during his freshman year at William Wirt High School, Willie’s Social Studies teacher told him it was pointless for her to answer his questions since he was destined for jail by the time he was 19. Like many other teachers, this teacher made it clear that he was not worth her time to educate. Despite being immersed in a harmful school system, Willie became a board-certified urologist with 20 years of experience as a surgeon. Willie is a member of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees and an expert in health care disparities and health care policy. Willie is a clinician-scientist, entrepreneur and positive social change agent. Willie shares his passion for helping people by speaking out about racial inequality. With his work in social-activism, Willie believes that meaningful conversations now can lead to more equitable practices and lasting changes in the future.
By Julia Jonson|2020-10-05T08:25:26-05:00October 4th, 2020|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Finding Joy in Adversity
By Kadi Petridis
Sr. Director/Team Lead South Central Oncology Account Management Team
Pfizer, Inc. (TBY Yoga Student/Guest Contributor)
A women’s group at my company invited me to write a blog post on the topic of Joy earlier this year. At the time I had no idea we would be in the midst of a global pandemic as well as a major call to action led by citizens across the globe to address the issues of police brutality and systemic racism in the United States. Both issues are a stark reminder that life as we know it can and will shift in major ways, often, when we least expect it. So how do we find Joy, when we are all dealing with so much uncertainty about the future and the fact that life as we have known it will permanently be changed as we move into the future? The truth is I don’t have all the answers and I don’t think anyone does; however, I thought I’d share some thoughts and strategies that have helped me find Joy in challenging times.
Before I dive into strategies for finding Joy in the most uncertain times, I’ll give you an abbreviated “about Kadi.” One thing that brings me joy is connecting with people in a very authentic way, which means understanding their “back story.” This is particularly important for those of us who are more introverted in nature and thrive off more intimate relationships in our personal and professional lives. I was born in Bamako, Mali to a black Malian mother and a white American father who served in the Peace Corps in Liberia for several years. He then moved to Mali to continue his volunteer work, which is where he met and married my mother. When I was two years old, we moved to my father’s hometown of Denver, Colorado where my sisters, brothers and I were raised in a very modest home. I developed a strong work ethic in my early teens, working on weekends through middle school and year-round during high school. One of my favorite high school jobs was as a dishwasher in a Pathology Lab at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, which was about a mile from my house. After graduating from high school, I moved to the Chicago area where I earned my BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the Northwestern University School of Communication. Throughout my four years of college, I worked various jobs/internships which included everything from book restoration at the University Library to one of my favorite internships at the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago where I ran the College Bound program. This was a program designed to give inner-city high school students insights and tools to help them plan and prepare for college.
After graduating, I spent four years working as an HR Generalist before joining Pfizer in 2002. In 2011, I made one of the best moves of my career when I joined the Oncology BU. The “patients first” culture deeply resonated with me and my need to be deeply connected to the work I do. In 2005 I lost my dad to lung cancer, so when I joined the Pfizer Oncology Business unit I felt so grateful to be in a place where I could make a meaningful difference for cancer patients. Although many people throughout my career, encouraged me to take on roles leading people, I made a personal decision early in my career to wait until my daughters were older before pursuing a position managing people. Being a mom is such an important role and I wanted to be able to focus on my girls as much as possible when they were younger. Eventually, in 2019, I was asked to apply for a Sr. Director role, leading a group of Account Managers, and I decided to pursue this opportunity and I’ve never been happier in any professional role as I am today.
Finding Joy in Adversity
Now let’s get to the good stuff…finding Joy in adversity. One of my most significant life-changing events happened during my junior year of college. My boyfriend and I had been dating since the beginning of our freshman year and we had an unplanned pregnancy. This was definitely not in my plan, but I came to believe it was God’s plan for me. After experiencing many emotions, I quickly pulled myself together and reflected on my faith and reminded myself that I could do anything I put my heart and mind to. I knew that my attitude and beliefs would determine the outcome, and I chose to approach the situation as a blessing. Two weeks before the start of my senior year of college, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Yasmeen. I vowed to myself that I would raise my daughter and complete my senior year on time along with all my classmates. That’s exactly what I did! Three weeks after she was born, I was back in class and finished my senior year on time. Fast forward to May 2019 and Yasmeen graduated from Emory University with her BBA and landed her dream job as a consultant with PwC. I couldn’t have been prouder as a mother. As I reflect back, this was a major turning point in my life and it forced me to shift my thinking to how to use my life to serve a higher purpose, and part of that purpose was bringing my daughter into the world because she was destined to be here.
The lessons I learned as a young mother continue to shape how I find joy amid challenges and obstacles in both my personal and professional life. As author Paulo Coelho states, “not all of life’s storms come to disrupt your life, many come to clear your path.” The first real step to finding joy is tobe completely open to the learning and growth opportunities presented by any challenge. This has become a very purposeful process for me as I’ve learned over the years how important it is to enjoy the journey. When I was younger, I used to think “I’ll be so happy when…,” which meant that happiness was always tied to some goal, milestone, or accomplishment that was far off. Just when that “thing” was accomplished, there was always a new “I’ll be happy when…” With this mindset, happiness was always fleeting and I realized I was going about life the wrong way. It’s so important to have big dreams, goals and strategies, but I knew if I wanted to experience more joy, I needed to embrace the journey since the actual moments of joy tied to reaching a goal are ephemeral.
Making this shift has truly been a continuous learning process that includes everything from reading/studying books on mindfulness and personal development, practicing yoga and meditation and actively seeking out ways to be of service to others. Practicing yoga has truly become an integral part of my journey to finding peace in the present moment. Learning to be aware of my thoughts, feelings and centering myself around the simple act of breathing has allowed me to experience calm even in the most challenging times. In addition, my love of reading has led me to books filled with amazing pearls of wisdom for life. Two of my favorite books are A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle and The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. One of my favorite quotes from A New Earth is “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” When things may not be going your way, one simple question to ask is “how can I serve and use my position and platform to influence positive change?” Asking this one question immediately puts me in learning, growing, and problem-solving mode instead of getting caught up in the woes of the day. I believe every single one of us has a platform to influence change regardless of job title. This is one of the reasons I’ve been active in diverse Colleague Resources Groups at work including our Women’s Field Network, Women’s Leadership Network and Global Blacks Council (GBC). Having made the decision to be an individual contributor for much of my career, I still had a strong desire to informally lead, mentor and help my fellow colleagues. For example, being active in GBC gave me the opportunity to give back to others while also enhancing my own leadership skills which multiplied my career satisfaction immensely, especially now that major corporations like Pfizer are seeking to better understand systemic racism and how it impacts the lives of their black colleagues. I really felt like this was an opportunity for me to use my voice not only with my direct team but with others across the company to openly talk about systemic racism, the impact it has on colleagues along with addressing topics that we can and should be focusing on such as health disparities and health equity. As the Field Talent Acquisition Lead for GBC, it has been an amazing experience having courageous conversations with colleagues across Pfizer and seeing the work of the GBC Field Committee unfold as part of the national strategy for addressing racial gaps in the hiring and promotions of black colleagues. A couple of important lessons I learned from reading Go-Giver (which I referenced earlier): 1) The Law of Influence – Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place others’ interests first and 2) The Law of Authenticity – The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself. With these lessons in mind, I really believe every challenge represents an opportunity. By embracing every challenge, using it to learn, grow, innovate, you WILL find joy on your journey!
Lastly, outside of my professional work, I’ve always felt a deep sense of responsibility to care for those who are less fortunate. As I mentioned earlier, my mother is from Mali, a country where the majority of people live in poverty, including many of my family members. The government is corrupt and there are limited job opportunities, even for those who have a good education. Since I graduated from college, even with a young baby of my own, I knew I was so much better off than most of my family in Mali. At that time, I committed to financially helping one of my aunts who had six children of her own and was abandoned by her husband, and I continue to do so to this day. It’s one of the things that drives me to continue to be successful. I know my success impacts people beyond my immediate family and I’m forever grateful to be able to help others who haven’t had the privileges I’ve had. My hopes are to one day start a non-profit organization to help kids in Mali have opportunities to attend colleges abroad with the intent of returning back to Mali with advanced degrees to help build businesses in their communities. As I stated before, one of the greatest gifts we have to offer is ourselves. Our good deeds, energy, love, support, encouragement can be the catalyst to positively change life for others in ways never imagined.
By Julia Jonson|2020-10-07T10:28:28-05:00October 1st, 2020|Categories: blog|Comments Off on Yoga for Anxiety
By Deb Shults (Julia’s Aunt, Psychotherapist LIMHP, Yoga Teacher)
Hi! My name is Deb Shults. Some of you may ‘know’ me from zoom TBY Yoga classes as Julia Jonson’s Aunt Deb. That is a role I cherish but just one of many. I am a wife of 45 years, mom of 3 and grandma to 7. I am a retired mental health therapist, yoga instructor, foster care board member and amateur tennis buff. I am telling you all this as a preface to my contributing to the TBY Yoga staff as a guest blogger.
My yoga journey began in 2006 but became regular in 2009. My loves are Hatha and vinyasa. To deepen my practice, I went through yoga teacher training with Tias Little and Theresa Murphy through One Tree Yoga in Omaha in 2013.
Although it was never my intention to teach, I ended up doing so with a fellow colleague. Yoga can be helpful for mental health issues and in finding the right fit for our clients, our class was born. What better way than to have our own class geared to the specific needs of people with mental health diagnoses such as anxiety depression, trauma, etc. Along this path we developed and presented a few workshops addressing anxiety and yoga, depression and yoga, trauma and yoga and body image and yoga.
I hope you enjoy my musings on yoga and mental health.
The Yoga/Anxiety Connection
There is a reason I referred clients with anxiety to yoga. It works. How is it that yoga can be such an effective intervention when it comes to anxiety?
We, humans, try to think and process our way through our problems. This is not a bad thing but it can only take us so far. At some point it can become circular, thus going nowhere. Anxiety stems from past or future issues, not present.
You see, although anxiety feels like it occurs in the present moment, it doesn’t. Allow me to be a little more technical. Yoga calms anxiety by using mindful movement combined with the breath by stimulating the vagus nerve which in turn triggers the parasympathetic nervous system or our rest and digest mode. Yoga can bring us into that ever-elusive present moment in which no worry, anxiety or stress exists. The reality is that when we are in the present moment We Just Are.
Yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind and allows connection with the body. If we can calm the body, the mind will follow.
The task for all of us is to carry the peace we find on the mat, off the mat.
Join us for:
Yoga RX for Anxiety & Depression – Gabriel Halpern – November 7th & 14th – Livestream – 1:30-3:30pm $35 for 2-Part Series. $20 Ala Carte. Sign up on our TBY Events page.
We hope you will join us for a Livestream event geared toward anyone struggling with anxiety and depression. Gabriel Halpern, dubbed The Therapeutics Master by Yoga Journal, will visit TBY Yoga virtually for a 2-part series for yoga students and yoga teachers alike. Gabriel owned and directed the esteemed Yoga Circle in Chicago for nearly 35 years where he mentored yoga teachers and helped many students dealing with physical and mental ailments. Gabriel is also affectionately called The Godfather of Chicago’s yoga scene. We’ve always been happy to have him as a regular at TBY.
By Julia Jonson Yoga Teacher/TBY Creative Director
I envision meeting a woman who is 100% comfortable in her own skin, wouldn’t dream of saying disparaging things about her body or visage, and she would happily accept compliments. Yet, I’ve met many self-confident sisters, who in asking even the most poised, self-assured woman if she’d change her appearance — she’s likely to say “yup”.
It’s a well-known fact that the diet and beauty industries thrive by undermining our appearance. Titles like Tips to Lose Those Last 10 Pounds, Hot Hints for Gym Proof Hair, Banish the Bloat: 5 Steps to Slim Your Menopausal Middle, Turn Back the Clock on Wrinkles… can catapult us into chronic body frustration. We are bombarded with messages telling us we are not pretty enough, young enough or thin enough.
What if you could bring your mind to higher ground by changing your thoughts? Total Body Yoga has two upcoming events for women and teen girls that allow more brain space for the important stuff in life such as spreading love, being creative, taking on a new hobby, and being thankful for your human form instead of putting it down. While “self-love” may sound like an insufferable buzz phrase, there’s something really wonderful about having high regard for your own happiness while not settling for anything less than what you deserve. Maybe it’s high time to smack down your internal critic who constantly judges you, and turn up the volume on your inner voice that sounds more like a caring friend. The Embody Love Movement can help!
We are so proud to bring The Embody Love Movement to TBY. This groundbreaking program earned the attention of National Geographic Magazine, Mantra Magazine, Yoga Journal, and other publications. ELM has a loving mission: “to resource all self-identifying girls and women to reclaim beauty on their terms by building self-approval and cultivating compassion for themselves and others.” Stephanie Bersh, yoga teacher and ELM facilitator, will guide you through exercises to bring awareness about self-worth. We have two events; one for women and one for teen girls — each contains a basic level yoga practice. Grab a friend for an eye-opening, perspective-changing event!
It’s hard to miss Paul Stonchus when he walks into a room. At Total Body Yoga, he’s the very tall blonde guy who rarely misses his regular classes. He gets out all of his props and finds a spot on the front row, then gives it his all. Paul says he was born this way and that his mom always encouraged him to just get out there and do it in spite of the fact that he has Cerebral Palsy. Paul was born in 1960. He suffered a collapsed lung during birth, which created a lack of oxygen to the brain which in turn caused CP. Paul grew up in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood and could always be seen out playing determined to do what all the other kids were doing. Paul says this included sandlot baseball, hockey, football, and even some shenanigans. Pauls’s can-do attitude continued into adulthood when he entered DePaul as an accounting major then went on to the Control Data Institute where he finished an 8-month program in just 3 months! Paul landed his dream job at Microsoft last year. Paul’s current life mission is to live each day to its fullest and to create awareness about the disability he’s been living with his entire life.
J: I witness your fighting spirit in the way you practice in class. I also recognize that you show up to class, which is typically half the battle for most students. Where do your drive and determination come from?
PAUL: About six years ago I noticed I was doing fewer and fewer activities. At first, I rationalizing that I should accept that being over 50 with CP that it’s “normal” and should get used to it. Then my inner school-age self said fuck that I can do anything I put my mind to as was drilled into my head by my parents. I was just becoming sedentary like many people. While CP is not progressive, muscle tightness becomes more pronounced and debilitating. I made a personal commitment to at least one yoga session a week minimum but I really strive for 3 days a week for some exercise.
J: Describe what it’s like living with CP from a physical perspective. What are the challenges you face daily and how do you manage the additional challenges you are faced with living with a disability?
PAUL: First, there are no typical effects of CP it’s very much a spectrum under 4 major types. I have spastic CP. My spasms mostly affect the left side and neck but there are some spasms or tightness all over my body to varying degrees. As a kid, I would say it was not physically painful just frustrating that everyday activities weren’t as easy or fluid as I saw with other people. In my childhood, I wanted to play ball or ride bikes or motorcycles–so I did. I just had to figure out (and usually did) how to adapt those activities so I could participate even if not at the same level as others. As I’ve grown older those minor spasms, as well as compensatory movements in life have a cumulative effect on almost all joints resulting in arthritis, which I have in most of my joints. Soreness is a general state for me. Learning from doctors, articles, physical therapists and experience, I know the more I push through the discomfort the better I feel.
J: It seems to me that every single human being has relentless narration going on in our heads telling us we are “not enough.” I know you practice tirelessly to tame your own internal chatter. How do you do this and how has living with a disability made this both more and less challenging for you?
PAUL: I definitely do have the internal chatter, but I always knew I was different and that the people that loved and cared about me accepted me. I always realized I couldn’t change the way others saw me, but if I was doing what I wanted, I was happy so I’m not going to worry about someone thinking less of me for my physical self. I think that way is nature and nurture.
J: Describe your physical yoga practice and how it’s evolved.
PAUL: I tried yoga about 10 or 12 years ago but in a private setting which was not satisfying at all. I was putting myself in a bubble which isn’t me. When I started again at TBY my first class was a level 1 with Patricia who right from the start said do what I could, but at any point take a break in child’s pose or whatever was comfortable. I soon started to stay in basics classes not because it was easier, but I had time to find the pose and the adaption to make that pose more accessible without making it easy. My evolution is only finding the adaption I need for whatever is going on in myself. I’ve had 2 knee replacements and a torn quad tendon since I started practicing at TBY. So I meet myself where I am.
J: How do you apply what you learn through practicing poses, meditation, breathwork, and philosophy that has helped you to evolve as a person?
PAUL: I feel I have been pretty in tune with my body, but yoga continuously hones and gives me new tools to achieve more. One thing that always happens when I go to physical therapy (PT), to peel the so-called onion of my physical body, is that almost any exercise my therapist gives me is something I notice we are practicing in yoga. In general, inertia is something we can all leverage; the more we move, the easier it is to move. My practice is continuous confirmation of how I think, in general, that we all have stuff we’re dealing with and that acceptance of others and yourself brings peace.
J: You have decided to be a spokesperson for cerebral palsy and you’ve asked me and Andrew to help you get the word out. What do you want people to know about this disability that you’ve been living with since you were a child?
PAUL: I’m not sure yet. I’m mostly frustrated with the medical community and the fact that there is not enough awareness being shared by doctors about holistic ways to age easier with CP. It also extends to insurance from the standpoint that massages and PT are preventive and should be covered like flu shots are covered.
J: How do people who are not living with a disability help to create awareness?
PAUL: We all need to realize there are many disabilities and people with disabilities–many of which may not be visible. We all can strive to be more aware that we don’t know what someone else could be going through. Let’s continue to tear down biases and accept and embrace diversity.
J: You ride a motorcycle, travel and you’ve landed your dream job working for Microsoft. Congratulations! You’ve shared with me your admiration for Bill Gates. How does his wisdom inspire you?
PAUL: Bill Gates was known as an aggressive businessman who founded Microsoft and developed the technology that I love working with and that brings me great joy. I consider myself a tech nerd which is now “cool.” Bill Gates made a lot of money but has become a true philanthropist and humanitarian. He and his wife, Melinda, have founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to which they’ve pledged to donate 95% of their wealth. The foundation is pretty diverse in their intentions but much of the focus is to help improve health, sanitation, and poverty at a global level.
J: Share your thoughts on the importance of community and, more specifically, the yoga community at TBY and beyond.
PAUL: Again it comes back to acceptance. As I said before, the first time I walked into TBY I got a sense of acceptance and let’s figure out how to make this work. If we all take that approach life, in general, we could make things better and better is good. Are common theme I hear is meeting yourself where you are so why can’t we meet other people where they are? Not to sound like a broken record but let’s embrace diversity because it is diversity that makes us all better.
Paul has enjoyed a long and fruitful career path working his way up from a junior computer operator to lead programmer/analyst always leading the charge to bring new technology to the companies where he worked. Those companies include Mid-City National Bank, Mid-America Bank, Signode and now Microsoft. Paul has two daughters, Linsey and Jamie. He was married from 1990 to 2008 and now describes himself as enjoying a second bachelorhood. He says for years his life revolved around caring for his daughters. Now that his children are young adults, Paul’s hobbies include traveling and riding his Indian motorcycle.