Chicago’s First Lady is lucky to have Sarah, a holistic wellness expert, Christian, a professional dancer and choreographer, and Zacharias, an experienced opera singer teaching our Sunrise Stretch Yoga Cruises.
In this week’s Feature Friday, get to know the instructors responsible for those magical Sunday morning cruises.
Left to Right: Christian Denice, Zacharias Niedzwiecki, Sarah Cunningham
1. Why did you become a yoga instructor?
Sarah: I became a yoga instructor sort of by accident. There was a teacher I was totally obsessed with and he announced he'd be leading a teacher training. I began to develop relationships with my fellow trainees and moved forward with the additional trainings I needed to become an instructor, seeing teaching as a great opportunity to stay in touch with all of my new friends.
Christian: After stepping away from a full time professional dance career, I was looking for something that could give my life structure, direction, and a means for connecting to deeper parts of myself.
Zacharias: I decided to become a yoga instructor because of the focus not only on physical wellness but mental wellness. So often we are only focused on aesthetic, even when we reach our fitness goals we are still dissatisfied. Then you realize it's not a problem with what's on the outside, but a way of seeing from the inside.
2. What is unique about your approach to yoga?
Sarah: I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and have been in private practice for over 11 years now. I like to think that due to my background and training that I bring a therapeutic element to the classes I teach. I see in others, and have experienced for myself how yoga has the power to strengthen both internal and external connections and the more we practice the more we get to know about ourselves and the more we know about ourselves the more empowered we become. My classes are challenging, designed to take people out of their comfort zones so that they can observe their automatic coping mechanisms and decide, right there on their mats if those strategies for managing stress are helpful or hurtful. In repetitive practice my students learn how to move away from automatic reaction and into informed response. Because of this learning component my classes have been dubbed "Sarahapy."
Christian: I believe that my dance background and knowledge of the body in such a dynamic way allows me to create unique sequences that inspire students to discover new ways of moving their bodies. Often times, students approach me after classes and say that they didn’t know they could feel so graceful and free. This to me is the greatest reward of being a teacher.
Zacharias: My unique approach to yoga comes from my rich musical background. I studied opera and performed professionally for the past 12 years including the Lyric Opera of Chicago. When you flow with me it is always to the beat of the music. The musical energy allows you to get out of your head and into the moment.
3. What are some ways you practice self-care?
Sarah: Because I'm outwardly inclined, I make sure to have downtime on my own: reading, writing, and playing with my little puppy dog Sammantha Jones.
Christian: As an introvert, I can become exhausted from constant stimuli. I have really discovered what can instantly ground and replenish me: finding some quiet time to myself, being out in nature, standing barefoot in grass, and anything to do with water.
Zacharias: My way of self-care looks like taking naps, staying in on weekends, or even rereading favorite book series.
4. Do you have another job besides teaching yoga?
Sarah: In my private practice, I combine the healing benefits of Western evidenced-based psychotherapy with the ancient Eastern wisdom of Yoga including breathing, mindfulness, and meditation. I also provide corporate wellness programming, lead workshops and women's circles throughout the city, and offer domestic therapeutic yoga retreats.
Christian: I work as a freelance dancer and choreographer. This has me traveling the world creating and sharing in art and movement. I believe this field of work goes hand in hand with yoga.
Zacharias: Other than teaching yoga full time at Yoga 2.0, and being a lululemon ambassador at the new lululemon Experiential Store in Lincoln Park, I'm a trainer at Barry's Bootcamp.
What's next for our fabulous yogis? Sarah has been asked to be a dancer in the Giordano Dancing with the Stars fundraiser happening this Fall. Zacharias loves volunteering and being a lululemon ambassador helps him stay involved in the community. Though they enjoy busy lives, they are able to find balance in yoga. Christian tells us, "I am so nourished by the yoga community and encourage everyone to discover their own version of yoga in their lives. This, in its simplest form, is listening to their breath and seeing how powerful it can be."
Sign up for a yoga cruise today and learn from Sarah, Zacharias, and Christian!