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Find Yourself with Gawea Yoga

By Marina I. Jokic

Lockport is an old-world town in Illinois, located 30 miles west of Chicago. The city is one of the best-preserved canal sites in the entire country, situated along the Illinois and Michigan National Heritage Corridor and serving as headquarters to the Illinois and Michigan Canal when it was in operation. Lockport's history is inextricably linked to the history of the entire Midwest.

In this inconspicuous yet historic town, Gawea Yoga studio was founded in 2014 by Brianne Spans, a veteran yogi and a free spirit. While living in the jungles of Panama and Nicaragua, Spans' yoga practice took on a deeper meaning. Immersed in nature, she learned the meaning of true connection between mind and body. Although yoga might seem to be a strict discipline, through following its rules, the practitioner can attain freedom of mind and body. Yoga also leaves room for self-expression and allows the mind to move beyond the material plane of existence.

After attaining her 500-ERYT Yoga Teacher Training Certification from Nosara Yoga Institute in Costa Rica, Spans also pursued paddle board yoga certification in Montreal. She earned her bachelor's in kinesiology and has been working as a personal trainer since 2003. Over the years, Spans has learned to listen to her body instead of exclusively trying to attain perfect posture and breathing. Once you are attuned to your body and mind, the right posture and breathing will come naturally, Spans points out.

"The vision was to get back to the traditional roots of yoga [since the popularization of] gym yoga has [undermined] the true essence of [the discipline]," Spans said. "We believe in leading yoga practices that cover all the key components of yoga."

Asanas, pranayama, and meditation are taught in every class at Gawea Yoga, ensuring that no student leaves without knowing the basic precepts and practices of the discipline. Building a strong yogic foundation allows students to enjoy their practice to the fullest. There is worship yoga available especially for Christians who might be hesitant to attempt the practice. Gawea Yoga welcomes everyone into its community regardless of his or her religion.

"We encourage students to live to their fullest potential and live from their true authenticity," Spans said. "Gawea Yoga is a very friendly space [and] a lot of students call it their home; many students have built strong friendships at our space and it is so great to see [them] encourage each other to [attend] class."

The latest rave in the yoga world, paddle board yoga combines traditional postures and a natural but unlikely setting. Spans and her colleagues lead various retreats, hikes, and snowshoeing throughout the year, but her favorite season is summer and early fall on the river. She takes her students down the river and drops anchor for a yoga practice on the paddle boards. The board provides quite a stable surface contrary to popular belief. Spans is one of the very few instructors certified in paddle board yoga in the area.

"[Gawea Yoga] is a place where you go to find your true yoga tribe, [and] most of the time, we feel a little left out in this fast-paced world and lose touch with our authenticity," Spans said. "Gawea Yoga is the perfect place to bring you back to you."

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