Fullerton: Lincoln Park Yoga Studio Taking New Approach

Chicago School of Yoga Photo by Amanda Boleman
David Duerkop, an instructor at The Chicago School of Yoga in Lincoln Park, holds a pose.
(Photo by Amanda Boleman)

Fullerton Stop IconBy Amanda Boleman
The Red Line Project

Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011

As the students bow their heads and say “Namaste,” Chicago School of yoga instructor David Duerkop sends them off into their day with peace and centeredness.

The gesture that represents a belief that there is a Divine spark within all people, Namaste is commonly said at the end of every yoga class to bring individuals together in a place of connection and timelessness.

“Yoga has changed my life in many ways,” Duerkop said. “I'm healthier, feel better, and look better. I feel more balanced and at peace with, and more connected to, the things and people in my life.”

The Chicago School of Yoga, located at 2442 N. Lincoln Ave., has been helping people get connected since its opening on June 8, 2010.

Originally opened as The Chicago School of Hot Yoga, The Chicago School of Yoga classes are typically heated between 88 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty minimal compared to the 95 -degree settings at rival CorePower Yoga.

On Monday, Oct. 10, the school officially made the switch from “The Chicago School of Hot Yoga” to “The Chicago School of Yoga” to avoid confusion and encourage larger overall attendance. With the word “hot” in the name, people assumed the school practiced Bikram, the most popular form of hot yoga, which consists of a set series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises.

 “One out of 10 calls that we got was, ‘So you guys are a Bikram studio, right?’” said yoga director Jessica Carlin. “That happened all the time, so there seemed to be this association between hot yoga and Bikram.”

She continued, “Bikram is a very branded, trade-marked company and our sequences really do not resemble that system at all. We wanted to get away from that idea.”

Duerkop added, “We decided to turn down the heat a little bit. We thought we were scaring people away because they thought it was too hot.”

“Un-heated” classes at 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit are also offered so students can reap the benefits from the warmth without being overly hot.

“Students can essentially build heat from the inside rather than relying too heavily on the outside temperature,” Carlin said.

Under the direction of Carlin, the school was opened by Mark Weiss of Mark B. Weiss Real Estate as a dynamic and breath-cued Vinyasa-style yoga school that continues to evolve and challenge the more corporate studios in the Lincoln Park area.

 “It took about a year for the school to really get going,” Carlin said. “In terms of my job, it was actually really fun. I dealt with what kind of classes we would teach, writing up class descriptions, schedule ideas, and recruiting and hiring teachers. That process was really fun for me.”

With affordable prices starting at a single class for $17 and $13 for students and seniors, the school offers classes for yoga practitioners at every level. Most of the classes are taught in the Vinyasa-style, which involves breath-synchronized movement and a strong focus on meditation.

“I like the breath-linked movement,” Carlin said. “I think that is a really important piece of moving meditation. I like the dance-like quality. It’s not so much orchestrated dance, but it feels natural to move on the mat in the Vinyasa format. Even when I practice on my own, it’s a creative tool – like music or paint- but I enjoy sequencing.”

The Chicago School of Yoga Entrance Photo by Amanda BolemanThe entrance of The Chicago School of Yoga, which has two studios. (Photo by Amanda Boleman)

The school comprises a small studio and a large studio with a maximum capacity of 40 people. Typically class sizes are made up of about 10 people, allowing the instructors to really help students to deepen their practice on a more personal level and get creative with their sequences.

“We offer Vinyasa classes that aren’t pre-formatted in any way.” Carlin said. “I know some studios in the area have branded, signature classes so here teachers determine for the most part what they teach.”

Duerkop said, “I like something that’s a little bit different – I don’t use a set sequence every time.”

Tracing back more than 5,000 years, the term yoga was first documented in the Rig Veda, the oldest Indian sacred texts. Stemming from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj,’ meaning to join or unite, yoga is intended to be a means for uniting the individual self with the universe.

Yoga integrates mind, body and spirit to achieve peace and tranquility by using a vast array of spiritual techniques, practices and series of poses and postures. It is believed to have developed during the period of ‘Sat Yuga,’ or the Golden Age, which was known as a time of peace, harmony and eternal truth.

According to a 2008 study by Yoga Journal, an estimated 15 million to 20 million people practice yoga in the United States alone. The wide range of benefits associated with the practice includes:

  • Body reshape
  • Flexibility
  • Toning, strengthening, and lengthening muscles
  • Strengthening your spine
  • Improving circulation
  • Reduced risk of sports injury
  • Pain relief
  • Weight loss - lose pounds by balancing your metabolism
  • Heightened energy levels
  • Stress relief
  • Increased balance, coordination, focus and discipline
  • Clearing your mind
  • Calming your soul
  • Ensuring healthy and balanced functioning of the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, nervous, digestive, elimination, respiratory, endocrine, and mental systems of the body
  • Management of chronic health conditions
Turn up the heat and benefits also encompass:
  • Warm muscles for greater flexibility
  • Achieving a deeper stretch
  • Flushing toxins from the body
  • Improving efficiency of the immune system
  • Creating a cardiovascular workout
  • Burning calories
  • Building endurance

In terms of heat, Duerkop stated, “It really helps me feel like I’m doing more and getting more of a cardio work out.”

 Duerkop first started doing yoga in the late 80’s to combat stress from his job at the Chicago Board of Trade, but the practice didn’t stick with him right away.

“I was doing traditional yoga –sitting and stretching type of things. It wasn’t the fun, athletic type of yoga we do today,” he said.

Mainly focusing his efforts on running, Duerkop would take yoga before and after he would do a marathon. About six years ago, he started to practice yoga more seriously and became a certified instructor three years ago.

“One of my teachers had kind of planted a seed, ‘Oh you should do a teacher’s training, you would make a great teacher,’ – that kind of a seed – and I just thought about it, but didn’t really have the time to do anything about it,” he said.

At that time Duerkop’s brother John was suffering from throat cancer so he was spending a lot of his time with him. When his brother passed away three years later after a 10 year battle with cancer, he decided he was ready for a change.

“After my brother died, I just wanted to change the direction of what I was doing. I took time off from my job and started yoga training,” he said.

 “I like to joke about how yoga has completely ruined my life!” he said with a laugh. “I had to change jobs because I began to see how unhealthy my work environment was. I went from having rather large pay-days to making a very modest living. I also had to change most of my friends because I had changed so many of my former bad habits that our friendships revolved around.”

Duerkop also had to change his wardrobe.

“None of my clothes fit because my body had changed so much!” he exclaimed.

Despite his jokes about how yoga has ruined his life, Duerkop said, “Learning to teach yoga has given me the ability to, on a daily basis, share something that I love and that I have found to be meaningful in my own life.”

Also a strong advocate for the positive changes yoga can bring, Carlin has been in love with yoga for more than 12 years.

“I loved the idea of linking breath and movement – it felt like dance, but seemed to have a deeper quality,” she said. “What inspired me to continue yoga was the meditative quality, the challenge of the physical practice and how yoga has changed over time.”

Her undeniable passion for yoga inspires students and instructors alike.

“We have excellent facilities, a nice blend of class styles and a wide variety of qualified teachers,” Duerkop said.

“And I also need to say, we have a very informative and thoughtful director,” he added, referring to Carlin.

Shira Brenman, a student at the school, said, “I tried a bunch of studios, but settled on this one. I like the community family feel—it’s much less corporate here. I also found a few teachers that I was really picky about. I really like Jessica [Carlin] and Erica [Lupiloff] in particular.”

Carlin encourages people of all ages, shapes and sizes to try yoga and explore what the practice has to offer.

“Try lots of different classes, studios and teachers until you find a good match,” she said, “Be willing to feel awkward. It will get easier over time and the essence of yoga will reveal itself on its own.” 

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