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Local Folks

Woman shares benefits of yoga with community

Prana Yoga Studio owner Lisa Bertke said she embraced yoga as a calling after years of working in corporate sales left her stressed, dissatisfied, and unheathy.
Prana Yoga Studio owner Lisa Bertke said she embraced yoga as a calling after years of working in corporate sales left her stressed, dissatisfied, and unheathy.

Flash back 15 years or so, and Lisa Bertke was a working mother of three, with a high profile sales career and a stress level to match.

She regularly came home with extra work from the office, and a stash of antibiotics to compensate for an immune system that just couldn't keep up with the demands she was placing on her body.

"I was so stressed out," she said. "I covered five states, I was always sick, I felt like I was always on antibiotics for something, and I could not get well. "

Recognizing she needed a break, she balked at a free corporate vacation and chose instead to attend a yoga retreat in Mexico.

"It was on my mental radar, I think. I knew I was stressed," she said. "When I put the coffee pot in the fridge, I knew it was time for a change."

While in Mexico, she had her "Aha" moment.

"This is how I want to feel the rest of my life and this is what I want to do."

She said that's a common reaction when people begin practicing.

"It peels a layer of the stress off, and you can feel again," she said.

After resigning from her sales job, she started out teaching for free, while working on her yoga certification. She focused her efforts on yoga for breast cancer recovery, and pitched a program to Geneva's Delnor Hospital which would measure the effects of yoga on patients.

"We would measure their mobility, their attitude, their sleep, their sense of well-being," she said. The results were profound, she added, and the research she and other yoga instructors completed was utilized to secure a grant that would later fund LivingWell Cancer Center in Geneva.

Now, she's a decade into owning her own yoga studio, Prana Yoga Center in Geneva, and she's sharing all she loves about the ancient practice with as many students as are willing to let themselves go.

"Prana is a multi style, multi level center, and that's important to me. Whether you are a beginner, or looking for more, you'll never get bored," she said.

But as the practice of yoga has expanded in the suburbs, so too has the misunderstanding of its purpose and benefits. At Prana Yoga Center, Bertke is determined to show her students all that yoga can offer, regardless of what got them through the door in the first place.

""A lot of people find yoga for different reasons, stress, spritual longing, or just sickness," she said, adding that her center offers three tracks of yoga--restoration and healing, strength and performance, and depth and transformation.

"There are a lot of doorways, but it all merges eventually," she said.

For Bertke, yoga has been more than a calling - it's a life journey.

"I am still a student of yoga. After 15 years it's still a thirst," she said. "I am still inspired and still growing. That's what yoga does. You are more present in your life, no matter what you are doing."

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