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Grateful Yoga helps some Northwestern students relieve stress

Alan Yu

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When Prachi Murarka came to Northwestern, she wanted to become a senator. Now the SESP ’10 is training to become a yoga teacher in hopes of helping people become more conscious and caring.

Nick and Lela Beem, the owners of Grateful Yoga, 1108 Davis St., helped bring about that shift, Murarka said.

“I was inspired by how two people can live a life of yoga, make that their entire life, and really help people in the process,” Murarka said. “Seeing the fact that they can make it and feeling their encouragement throughout the entire process was definitely one of the major factors that got me here and even to consider this as an option.”

The Beems, a husband-and-wife team, opened Grateful Yoga in June after teaching at the Heartwood Center, 1818 Dempster Ave., for five years. Grateful Yoga’s teaching philosophy includes the idea that yoga is more than a workout, they said.

For them, yoga’s tradition of meditation, philosophy and postures can bring people to a more balanced life, as it did for them in college.

While writing her senior thesis, Lela Beem said she smoked and drank to ease the stress. Yoga gave her the resolve she needed to change her habits, she said.

“I remember a moment in yoga,” Beem said, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply. “I really like to breathe deep, the feeling of breathing. My body so much more wants to breathe than it wants cigarettes, so it was just over for me.”

Yoga not only changed Lela Beem’s habits but also brought her closer to her future husband, she said.

“That was, from the start, one of the things that attracted us to each other, and our relationship grew as we both grew as yoga practitioners,” Nick Beem said. “It’s all woven together pretty intimately.”

He said ideas from yoga and meditation made them understand how they are responsible for their own actions and cannot blame their partners, which helped their relationship.

Classes at Grateful Yoga focus on these ideas, allowing students to learn the history and philosophy of yoga in addition to the postures, said Richard Joseph, an NU professor who takes classes at Grateful Yoga.

“There’s a lot of yoga that’s done as a form of exercise,” Joseph said. “Their teaching is as far removed from that as it can possibly be.”

The studio consists of one large room with a hardwood floor, spotless white walls and green curtains. The space facilitates the practice of yoga and meditation, Communication senior Kelsey Melvin said.

“The decor itself puts you in the right state of mind,” said Melvin, who also takes classes at the studio. “As soon as you step into that place, you know that it’s a safe place, a place where you can practice yoga on your own terms. It’s a stress relief.”

For Murarka, the classes not only reduced stress but also helped her look more deeply into her everyday life and her future.

“A lot of times Northwestern students get bogged down by what we have to achieve and don’t really take the time to nurture and deal with who we are,” Murarka said. “We’ll work on the deeper level and can really make more of an impact in whatever we’re doing, whether in business, medicine, engineering, journalism … all the things Northwestern has to offer.”

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