Our Teachers


Alex Lehman started practicing yoga about five years ago when he was attending school in Columbia, Missouri. A hot yoga studio opened down the street and he thought he’d give it a try as a way to cross train. The studio combined both styles of Bikram and Vinyasa into one set sequence. After a few months he was hooked.  He started practicing five to seven times a week and discovered the benefits of yoga, including, helping him work through depression, improving his sleep patterns, and boosting his energy.  Getting back in shape was just an added bonus.  Alex says it was humbling to be challenged both physically and mentally at something he could do each and every day.  He was thrilled to find out the studio was hosting a training.  In June of 2013 he took the plunge in to a one month intensive training. Over the next 200 hours his main focus was to find a deeper understanding of exactly why yoga affected him so positively, so he could pass that knowledge on.  Alex is passionate about helping his students set goals and guiding them on their yoga journeys so that they can discover more peace and balance in their lives. He is very thankful for all his friends and mentors in the yoga community who encourage and inspire him in his own practice. Namaste.




Alex Rimmel is an avid runner and a mother of three energetic young boys.  She reluctantly tried yoga a couple of years ago at the urging of a friend "to just cross train for running".  After experiencing the work out of a life time, she was hooked.  Friends and family started approaching Alex asking what this 'hot yoga' was and soon enough she became a cheerleader for yoga sculpt!  Wanting to solidify the deal, Alex completed her yoga sculpt training in October, 2014.  Alex loves the upbeat and challenging intensity of yoga sculpt.  But she doesn't take herself too seriously--be prepared for an occasional laugh in her class!  Alex truly believes in each and every individual and helping them achieve their fitness goals.  Alex is also a believer in the mental benefits of yoga and hopes to make every class, not only challenging for the body but for the mind too.


 Alisa Cubic first discovered yoga on PBS Chicago TV every day after elementary school. The teacher looked so peaceful, yet strong.  She wanted to be just like her. She dove into the spirituality of it all, and it continued through to her adult life.  Life happened though and she found herself separated from yoga asanas until a romantic winter reunion happened in 2013 at Yoga By Degrees. Alisa decided it was time to get serious about, not just her mind and spirit, but her body as well. What better way than to get certified to teach yoga? The yoga community provided her with the space to get to know herself deeper than she ever dreamt possible, all while allowing her to be her. Alisa hopes to bring this same safe haven to her vinyasa and restorative classes: love, kindness, joy and acceptance. 


Amanda Heidecke began practicing yoga five years ago in hope of finding some balance between life's stressors and her rigorous running workouts. Yoga immediately counteracted the miles she ran and calmed her anxiety. She does boxing as well so yoga completed her workout 'trifecta' to establish an all around fun, amazing, beneficial routine. It also brought her back to her roots with dance by challenging her balance and flexibility. A small yoga hiatus occurred after she had her daughter but soon the stress and anxiety began to return, along with the aches of running and boxing. Once again, yoga came to her rescue and this time it was Yoga Sculpt in particular.  After being able to experience the many benefits of yoga, weights and cardio combined , that's when she decided to become certified to teach Yoga Sculpt. She enjoys the practice so much she feels it is only necessary to spread the love to others. When she is not practicing, Amanda is a Registered Nurse. Helping people has always been a passion for her and teaching yoga is just another way to do so. She truly believes yoga is medicine for the mind, body and soul. 





 Andrea Brockert has always had a passion for fitness.  But it wasn’t until she discovered Yoga Sculpt that she found a way to combine strength training, cardio, core work and the ever elusive missing component from her daily routine; flexibility. After years of heavy weight training and intensive cardio, Andrea found herself exhausted on a daily basis.  She was waking up incredibly sore with extremely tight muscles.  She knew there had to be a better way to reach her fitness goals. She tried Yoga by Degrees about two years ago on a complete whim and immediately fell in love.  Yoga and Yoga Sculpt became a way, not only to get an amazing physical workout but it gave her the flexibility she had never had before.  The days of waking up in pain with little energy are gone and now she cannot wait to get to her mat to share the energy that yoga gives her with others.  She believes that yoga should be fun and invigorating; a complete workout for the body and soul.  Yoga heals and strengthens the body while simultaneously healing and strengthening the mind. 



Ashley Rae Swanson began taking Bikram classes in 2009 and loved pushing herself physically.  In 2011 she took her first Vinyasa class at YBD and was introduced to the spiritual side of yoga which changed her life. Through yoga she found a patience within herself and compassion and gratitude for those around her. When she’s not at the studio she can be found in the spa working as an esthetician or (her favorite gig ever) partnering with her husband John to raise their little guy "Forrest" who was born early 2014. Ashley believes you are only as good for others as you are to yourself and encourages her students to take time to feel good about themselves on a regular basis. 


Becca Smith has been a dancer since age two and has been passionate about movement and music her whole life. In 2013, she found yoga and it immediately resonated with her passions. As someone who struggled with stress and anxiety, Becca instantly fell in love with the peace and joy yoga brought to her life, on her mat and off. After experiencing the positive impact yoga teachers had on her life, she wanted to spread yogi love to others.


Bonnie Smith began practicing yoga in 2002, but it wasn't until she took her first Bikram class the next year, that she fell in love with yoga. She enjoyed the intensity and athleticism associated with Bikram and was delighted to see her practice change and evolve the more she practiced. In 2007, she began practicing Vinyasa and was immediately drawn to how challenging and athletic the practice was, but how much less regimented Vinyasa was compared to Bikram. In 2010, she completed her 200-hour teacher training in Vinyasa at Yoga to the People in New York. Her classes aim to be challenging, but accessible, with a strong emphasis on breath and alignment. She attempts to create a safe space for students to tap into their deepest, truest selves. An avid music fan, Bonnie's playlists provide an ambiance which promote a challenging flow and rhythmic cadence. In addition to teaching and practicing yoga, she is in medical school training to be a physician.





Carla Canham began her yoga journey back in 2006 when she started taking classes to complement her practice as a collegiate cheerleader. What began as a fascination with the physical asana practice has sacredly and almost serendipitously morphed into a spiritual game-changer, allowing her to sweetly surrender both on and off her mat to the spaces in life between no longer and not yet. Carla is 200-hour certified through Yoga by Degrees Teacher Training program and has been a Yoga Alliance registered teacher since 2015. Carla’s enthusiastic approach to meeting students where they’re at and her ability to cue the body makes her classes a balanced combination of both challenging and accessible. If yoga is a journey to the Self, through the Self, then her mission as an instructor is to be a loving mirror to her students as they awaken on their own mats.  Carla graduated from Elmhurst College in 2010 with a Bachelor's degree in English and her teaching certificate. After living overseas for a year and teaching high school English for two years after that, she made the transition to the corporate world as a copywriter and editor. She nows instructs yoga full-time, fusing together her love for teachin and inspiring literature and fitness. Carla loves reading, writing, soap-making, and nature.




Carole Witteman  used to play tennis competitively and needed ‘something’ to soothe her tennis elbow and growing tightness in her shoulders and hamstrings. A friend recommended trying hot yoga and after her first class, she knew she was hooked. Soon after she began practicing Yoga her tennis elbow went away, she became increasingly more flexible, and started to take her yoga practice off the mat and into her daily life. After trying her first yoga sculpt class, she fell in love with the class because it combined everything: flexibility, strength training, and cardio. She was thrilled with all of the benefits she was getting from a regular yoga practice and wanted to inspire others to make yoga a part of their lives. Outside of yoga, Carole works full time as a business analyst and enjoys spending time with her family.



Catherine Bertini began her yoga journey over 14 years ago with the help of her oldest daughter who invited her to join a class. Yoga quickly became Catherine's passion and provided a much needed outlet during a difficult time in her life.  It continues to provide meditation, spirituality and relaxation in both her Vinyasa and Yin practices. In 2012 she fulfilled a dream of earning her 200 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher certificate from Prairie Yoga in Lisle, Illinois. In her life outside of the yoga studio, Catherine works as a Visual Merchandiser at a well­known Swedish furniture store where she enjoys using her fashion design degree. Her creativity is evident in every area of her life. As an instructor she hopes to help her students enjoy the benefits of yoga giving them another avenue in which to enrich their lives. This is her mission.




Colleen Taylor first went to a yoga class seeking an active outlet and stress release. She was instantly hooked. Colleen loved the physical practice of yoga and its benefits, but as her commitment deepened she realized the mental, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment that comes along with dedicated focus. She studied Psychology in college so her yoga classes incorporate the benefit of tuning inward and becoming mindful about oneself. When she's not doing yoga, Colleen teaches nature programs at a forest preserve and enjoys hiking, gardening, and spending time with loved ones. 


Christen Bridgewater came to yoga searching for a tool to help rebuild physical and emotional health and vitality. In yoga she found potent medicine, a way to still her mind and a concrete means of opening to grace. Originally inspired by the intensity of Southern California power yoga studios, Christen's practice now draws from a number of different yogic traditions.  In 2013 she attended 200 hour teacher training.  Christen holds a BA in Philosophy from Wheaton College and she has also spent several years in self-directed study of holistic nutrition, energy work and various other mind-body therapies. With a deep compassion for others and the desire to see people meet their full potential, Christen seeks to create classes that encourage presence in the now which allows her students the boldness to move forward with confidence and grace.



Daisy Lopez came to the Yoga by Degrees community in 2013. Sometimes willfully nonconformist and full of whimsy; she lives a full life…staying home, watching TV under a blanket with her furry loves: Toast (cat) and Sourdough (ferret). She enjoys playing Minecraft, Don’t Starve and Assassin’s Creed.  She also loves to read and do crafting activities like sewing and knitting.  She enjoys fishing, camping, an occasional romp through a renaissance faire and gardening. Musically, she likes melodic tunes from most genres including bluegrass, indie, punk, and alternative rock.  She approaches her practice with discipline and great humility for this life-long journey. Having completed her 200-hour training in 2015 at YBD, now this RYT endeavours to share her love for the only physical activity that will get her to leave her house. Ultimately, she seeks to be a witness to her students' practice while guiding them and providing them with a little bit of assistance. 



Deb Burks Donley is a technology teacher by day and yoga sculpt teacher by night.  She took her first yoga class at Yoga by Degrees in 2013 and practiced regularly.  She remembers the day on her mat when she was “called to teach” yoga and signed up for Yoga Sculpt Teacher Training immediately.  She completed it in February 2015 and has been teaching sculpt ever since.  Deb hopes to inspire and empower her students both in and out of the classroom by motivating them to find their inner peace while linking breath, body, mind and spirit.




Erica Bertini has been practicing yoga for over 10 years. She first found yoga while working for a gym during college at the University of Iowa and felt yoga was a good compliment to her running and weight lifting workouts. As a lifelong athlete, she found that not only was the physical practice of yoga challenging, but also the mental meditation aspect. She recently decided to take the plunge and complete Yoga Sculpt teacher training, a process she has been contemplating for years. Erica felt that the collegiate athlete in her could help make Yoga Sculpt more accessible to everyone by motivating students to push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of. One day she hopes to complete her 200 hour yoga teacher training.  In her spare time, Erica likes to travel as much as possible. Recently she vowed to explore a new place every year, whether it be alone or with friends. She always tries to practice yoga while traveling to get a better appreciation for different practices all over the world.



Fiona Jenkins was introduced to yoga while vacationing with her family and immediately felt a connection. She fell in love with how she felt after practicing yoga.  She felt strong, flexible, confident and compassionate toward herself and life. On her return she immediately began taking classes and began her journey towards her certification, which she earned in 2012.  During this journey she explored different types of practices as well as other virtues provided by those practices. Fiona is certified in both Yoga and Sculpt Yoga.


George Hovorka was forced to undergo back surgery after 25 years of practicing and teaching full contact martial arts. After the surgery and some time, he gained 55 pounds and realized he needed to start doing something different.  George's wife Linda suggested he give Yoga a try to regain flexibility and strength. Initially, George says, his first impression was, "Yoga? Who Me?" But after one class at Yoga By Degrees, George knew this was something special. It was just a matter of time before he took Yoga Sculpt training at YBD. George says he really likes the mind, body, spirit approach in sculpt training and that students give all they've got and really share a wonderful togetherness in class. He says it's an inspirational experience as students help motivate each other to keep going in order to reach their own potential in each and every class. George says he can't think of a better way to live his life than being a part of that!



Geraldina Vaicekauskiene is a former lawyer and real estate agent.  She discovered yoga at a local gym in 2002.  Since then she has dedicated her life to yoga.  Geraldina completed a 200-hour teacher training in 2008.   She is originally from Lithuania and has traveled the world teaching yoga in three  different languages.   In her classes Geraldina invites her students to seek freedom in their bodies, minds and hearts so they can experience life to the fullest.  She believes that regular yoga practice helps to keep the body supple and creates a feeling of vitality and happiness.

Ginger Rubinstein
 discovered and soon after, treasured yogic philosophy while studying religious texts in college at UW-Madison. In 2009 she discovered the physical practice of yoga in the form of YogaFit classes.  She practiced in a double-wide trailer-turned gym, while she was helping rebuild from Huricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Then, after experimenting with a few studios around Chicago, Ginger finally discovered Yoga By Degrees and immediately fell in love with the complete practice of yoga and with life. The more classes she attended, the more her inner demons dissapated. They were replaced with serenity, acceptance, vibrancy, and love. She completed her 200-Hour teacher training at YBD in August of 2013 and is excited to finally bring the same healing and happiness that she found to her students. She hopes to spend her life inspiring others to emerge from their own darkness and troubles and find their own path to gratitude, lightness, and unconditional love for all. She says: "We can ALL do it!!"




Gizel Schwartz fell in love with yoga at a small Power Yoga studio in the city after the birth of her oldest son. After trying out and falling in love with different yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga and Iyengar, Power Vinyasa spoke to her need to move dynamically, while simultaneously turning within. As a Pilates teacher for over 13 years in the Chicagoland area, her classes are a by-product of her experience and focus on alignment, safety and core strength. She loves creative sequencing, theme weaving and fun, uplifting music to keep her students energized and coming back for more. After eight years and an almost daily yoga practice, she finally decided to obtain her 200-hr Yoga Alliance Vinyasa Yoga certification in 2014 during her third pregnancy - she didn't want to wait another moment! Her hopes for all her students is to have a vibrant experience on their mats and to radiate the healing power of yoga to themselves and others once they are off their mats.

Heather Avery was certified in 2008 and continued her 500 hour advanced studies in 2010.  She also works as a massage therapist so alignment is an important element to her classes to avoid injury as well as preparing for more advanced postures.   Heather strives to challenge her students while taking a light hearted approach to make her students feel comfortable and empowered.  Heather believes "The most important posture is the one from ear to ear. Bringing more joy to our practice brings more joy to our lives".








Jacqueline McBride began her yoga journey 23 years ago.  She always felt that it would be a good counter practice for all the running and triathlon training she did.  However, being a consummate adrenaline junkie made the flow and tranquility of a yoga practice difficult for her. Then one day she discovered Yoga Sculpt and ended up taking teacher training. She has been enjoying teaching Yoga Sculpt to others.  Jacqueline is grateful for the growth of her yoga practice and the ability to share the practice with others.  She looks forward to learning more about yoga and furthering her knowledge and practice.




Jenni Antonicic, is E-RYT 500 hour certified through Yoga Alliance. She came to Yoga through asana practice at her fitness center, and got hooked on the transformative powers of this multi-faceted discipline that continues to enrich her life. She completed her teacher training with Vinyasa master Rolf Gates in 2009 and has been looking forward to every teaching opportunity since. Jenni celebrates how Yoga teaches us how to cultivate and then wisely and skillfully apply our energy, whether towards improving our downward dog, or scattering joy to all beings. Her asana practice emphasizes anchoring to the breath (and our sense of humor!), building strength and stability as a foundation for flexibility and expression, and the self-illumination attained through brave and honest reflection. The wise words of Rolf Gates, to do “a little yoga a lot”, instead of a lot of yoga every now and then, catapulted her personal practice and has become the foundation of her advice for all students.   Breathe, Focus, Intention, Expression is her mantra.




Jenny Bergold, is no stranger to the beauty of yoga and the art of teaching. Jenny has been practicing yoga since 1999 and taught multitudes of students about the dynamics of television studio production. Now, she has combined her two greatest talents – yoga and teaching – to provide students a revolutionary form of yoga, meditation and relaxation. A 2009 graduate of the Heaven Meets Earth Yoga Studio in Evanston, Illinois, with an emphasis in the Radiant Child Yoga Program, Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa, Kundalini Yoga, and Meditation, Jenny's teaching style is uplifting and motivational. Previous to her yoga instructor training, Jenny worked at BATV (Batavia Access Television) where she also taught television studio production to Batavia High School students. A 1996 graduate of Ball State University, Jenny also worked at WTTW Chicago Channel 11 as an associate producer on such well known programs as Handy Ma’am, Trinity Irish Dance Company, and Art Safari.



Jenny Giagnorio has always been active playing sports, striving on the challenges and competitiveness. It wasn’t until a trip to Nicaragua where she decided to try yoga for the first time and boy was she surprised! It wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be but afterwards it had her wanting more! Once she came back, Jenny decided to try Yoga By Degrees and immediately fell in love. That’s where she found the class that would blow her other workouts out of the water, Yoga Sculpt! Not only did it help her with her balance and flexibility but it also gave her an amazing workout! A few months in, Jenny decided to go through the teacher training program to become a Yoga Sculpt teacher. She loves to bring energy and intensity into the classroom so be ready for some fun and a great workout!




Jennie Lindau was introduced to yoga in high school and took her first yoga class in 2012 looking for an outlet for life’s daily stressors. After her first class she fell in love with the way her mind and body felt. She began to notice the benefits yoga provided her on and off the mat and never looked back. Shortly after, she began incorporating yoga sculpt into her routine. She loves the energy and intensity that yoga sculpt offers, while challenging you to push yourself just a little further. Jennie is excited to share her fun, high-energy sculpt class with her students.  



 Jen Pope discovered her love for yoga in college when she was looking for a new, healthy way, to handle anxiety and stress.  She stumbled upon a magical yoga class that left her feeling at peace because it enabled her to cultavate a connection between her body, mind, and spirit. She found her way to YBD in 2014 and took a leap of faith to get certified to teach restorative, vinyasa, and in 2015, sculpt. Jen has been able to use her yoga to improve her health ,strength, and inner peace. She tries to create a class that allows students to flow or rest by listening to the authentic rhythm of their own hearts in connection to the universe. Yoga restores and embraces all aspects of oneself and allows surrender and motivation to live life with grace, integrity, and vibrancy! Her life mantra is "Shine".  She strives to share her light with others and encourages others to shine and share their light as well.


Jenny Thiede fell in love with yoga while completing her student teaching at Arizona State University. She began teaching yoga classes as part of physical education curriculum in high schools. During the summer of 2011 she studied and earned her 200-hour yoga teaching certificate on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii. She loves sharing the powerful beauty of yoga with others and strives to create a comfortable, focused, and fun yoga class. 



Jori Deegan is passionate about health and fitness. She fell in love with Spinning a decade ago and became a Spin instructor four years ago.  A few years ago she stumbled upon a Yoga Sculpt class,and was instantly hooked.  She decided to take her teaching to a new level by getting certified to teach Yoga Sculpt and Restorative Yoga, with the intention of deepening her own practice. Yoga has helped Jori maintain balance in her own life and it has given her a sense of clarity. She hopes to share these benefits, along with confidence and strength with her students. Jori is a proud mom of two beautiful daughters.  Her kids love yoga also which is why Jori now operates her own kids yoga studio out of her home and makes the practive a "family affair"! 


Yoga By Degrees

Julie Lomax found hot yoga in 2005 after moving back to the Chicago area. Knee and back pain forced her to stop running. Yoga not only provided a low impact workout, but actually alleviated the pain that had plagued her for many years. While initially a physical exercise, yoga became so much more. Yoga became an oasis where Julie could relax, rejuvenate, and refuel – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Besides alleviating the aches and pains, yoga has been instrumental in maintaining hormonal balance and dealing with depression. Julie has been on a journey to wholeness and wellness for nearly 10 years. Yoga teacher training was the next step in the path. Julie wholeheartedly believes something as amazing as yoga needs to be shared. She likes to set her students up for success by encouraging her students and providing the proper alignment for each posture, as well as explaining the benefits. Julie lives in Naperville with her husband and daughter. She can often be found walking or biking (sometimes even snowshoeing) at the Morton Arboretum. Julie is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher and has also received certifications to teach Yoga Sculpt and Yin Yoga.  


Kaitlin Pawl grew up an athlete.  She played tennis in high school and college and then she started running. After a few half marathons, she was burnt out and turned to yoga for something new. She was amazed at the incredible workout yoga provided.  It challenged her, increased her flexibility, and brought her a peace and stillness that she had not experienced in other workouts. Shortly after, Kaitlin began her Yoga Sculpt Teacher Certification and now loves leading her classes through dynamic, high-energy workouts. Kaitlin also has a passion for holistic nutrition and loves sharing the benefits of a healthy, active, well-balanced lifestyle with others. 


Kara Pluth began practicing yoga in 2005 and instantly fell in love!   She says the most rewarding part of practicing yoga for so many years, has been seeing how her personal practice has grown. Her passion to teach was sparked while attending school in Colorado. Kara completed her 200 hour training in the summer of 2012.  She says her practice extends off of her mat and in to her entire life. She says her teaching style challenges her students both physically and mentally and she is constantly growing and learning with them.  




 Karen O'Connor was a multi-sport athlete in high school and college and has always enjoyed an active lifestyle. Once college was over, she started running and doing small races (5Ks, 9Ks, and 10Ks) and joined a gym. After her second son, neither of those things were working for her anymore so she tried her first Yoga Sculpt class  She immediately loved it! She loved the way she felt afterwards - energized and strong. It inspired her to make healthier choices throughout the day and she was addicted! Karen started Yoga Sculpt training two months after her first class and is excited to share her practice.  



Kate House loves to run and her tight hamstrings are what first brought her to the mat. Her hope was that yoga would beautifully complement the time she spent running. But it didn't take long for Kate to fall in love with yoga in its own right. Through the YBD 200 Hour Vinyasa and Sculpt Teacher Training Programs she deepened her personal practice and found a way to share her love of health, fitness and fun on a daily basis. Her goal for every class is for students to leave feeling uplifted and with a smile on their faces and in their hearts.





Katie Shannon has been active her whole life.  She was a swimmer and water polo player from the age of five through college.  After college she felt burnt out with all water related sports and took up running.  Katie fell in love with outdoor running and progressed from 5Ks to marathons.   All of the running was taking a toll on her body so a friend suggested yoga as a way to keep flexible and avoid injury.  One time on her mat was all it took.  Katie immediately saw the unending physical, spiritual and emotional benefits of yoga and began to broaden and strengthen her practice.  She considers her mat a sacred space and she credits it for her good physical health. It has also enabled her to learn to “breathe through” challenges in her life including raising her four children.  If Katie could, she would put yoga into a box, wrap it up and give it to everyone she knows. 



Kelly O'Donnell took her first Yoga Sculpt class several years ago and was hooked!  Growing up a gymnast and cheerleader, she has always enjoyed intense and fun workouts.  She loved the mind body connection and conscious focus on breath.   She feels that the emotional piece to her workout has been a huge benefit to her life.  Yoga Sculpt is and has been a wonderful bridge to appreciating and enjoying all forms of yoga and she hopes to deepen her practice and training.  Kelly cheers her students on to challenge themselves physically and mentally.  


Kristin Sassi is a recent graduate of YBD’s 200 hour teacher certification program.  She started practicing yoga in 2001, at a time when everything in her life needed to change. Seeking ways to overcome a health crisis, yoga became a key part of her physical, emotional and spiritual recovery. As her health recovered, she became a holistic health advocate, counselor, and colon therapist in Lincoln Park for 12 years. She brings compassion into her yoga teaching for those still suffering from unhealthy lifestyle choices, yet have a willingness to use yoga as one of the ways to change it. The meditative side of yoga helps her to stay calm while raising two high-spirited boys with her husband, who also is a supportive and avid yogi, or “bro-gi.” Music has been another channel of creativity for Kristin; she spent years in the Chicago indie music scene as a singer-songwriter. She brings this love of music to her classes and always looks for ways where music can be a part of the inspiration and healing that students take with them when they roll up their mats and leave the class. 


Kristina Reyes started her yoga journey at Illinois State University where she studied Theatre and English education. While using yoga and guided meditation as a tool for directing character development and stage movement, she observed how the yoga practice transformed stage fright into fearlessness.  Kristina became increasingly interested in the phenomenon of the mind-body connection; she began to study how meditation and yoga influence long lasting changes in the brain and body.  She now integrates yoga practices in her theatrical teachings; helping performers overcome fear to embrace their own self-efficacy.  She also uses yoga as a tool for students with learning disadvantages; helping ease anxiety, build confidence and maintain focus.  She would like to thank her YBD brothers and sisters for their genuine kindness and generosity. “You all are what make this establishment welcoming and beautiful. You inspire me and make me feel proud to work for Yoga By Degrees.” 


Kyle Sellers first came to yoga during her student teaching experience in college seeking a fun, stress relieving outlet. As a former gymnast, she instantly connected with the strength and grace of yoga. Now, her practice helps her find balance among the many facets of her life. Kyle loves to bring the mindfulness she harnesses from yoga into her daily life as a 1st grade teacher. In 2015, she took her practice one step forward by completing the YBD 200 hour teacher training. Kyle believes all yogis are perfect exactly where they are on their mat. She hopes to empower her yoga students by linking the mind, breath, body and spirit to find peace in the present moment. 


Lara Devine completed her certification through the Chicago Yoga Center and is a registered teacher with the Yoga Alliance. As a distance runner, Lara turned to yoga as a means of cross training. Yoga instantly touched her soul, allowing her to reconnect with the gymnast/dancer of her childhood. As a mother of four, business owner, and athlete, Lara relates to the many different reasons people turn to yoga. She is passionate about helping her students find the strength & peace within. 



Laurel Williams has been into fitness since her many years as a gymnast. After becoming a mother of twins she needed a little something extra to keep busy, because apparently the twins weren't enough. Yet she wanted to be able to continue her workout regimen.  Laurel first became certified in Pilates. She then discovered barre classes. After she trained and taught for more than five years, a close friend introduced her to Yoga By Degrees. Laurel started at YBD in November 2012 and was immediately hooked. She quickly knew that this is where she wanted to be.  Yoga and Yoga Sculpt have helped strengthen her mind and body, as well as brought back some flexibility. YBD classes have also helped Laurel immensely with running. In fact, Laurel will be running a couple more half marathons later this year.Laurel received her yoga sculpt training from YBD and is thrilled to be sharing her energy and enthusiasm in her classes with all of you.






Lindsay Feyer discovered yoga after her back was aching from digging too many holes in the ground making soil survey maps. Apprehensive about practicing yoga in public, she started to practice privately in her own home and immediately started feeling the emotional and physical benefits. After several years of home practice and a running injury,  she found the confidence to venture out to an actual yoga class and she was hooked!  In 2013, she completed her 200 hour Certification and in 2014 she went on to add Yoga Sculpt to her repertoire. She loves teaching sculpt because she gets to squat, sing and cheer!   Lindsay wants to share all the amazing benefits that yoga has brought into her life. She strives to create a safe, welcoming and energizing environment where every student can challenge himself/herself to find the positive changes a regular yoga practice can bring into their lives.



Lisa Brennan fell in love with yoga in 1997, while pregnant with her second child. Even though her big belly got in the way of most poses,  the healing and restorative power of yoga got her hooked. She continued to practice for the next 15 years, eventually becoming a teacher herself, completing YBD's Teacher Certification Program in Jan. 2014, after being inspired by the amazing teachers here! Off the mat, Lisa spends her free time embarrassing her three teenage children and unsuccessfully attempting to get them to unload the dishwasher. She is also owner of a private Counseling practice in Western Springs, "Harmonious Healing," specializing in Women's issues (Anxiety, Stress Management, Divorce), & Family Therapy. For fun, Lisa also loves to bike outdoors, sing & play the guitar...which does not embarrass her teenagers at all.

Lisa's passion for Yoga, coupled with her Counseling background, and training as a Music & Sound Healing Practitioner, provides her with a unique perspective and set of skills as a Yoga teacher. She enjoys combining the use of Yoga, music, sound, meditation & psychological concepts to help promote healing the body, mind & spirit. Lisa also believes laughter is the best medicine...so if this Yoga gig doesn't pan out, look for her on the stand-up comedy circuit, or pursuing her dream of writing skits for Saturday Night Live. But for now her dream is to just get a good night's sleep, and to get that darn dishwasher unloaded.





Loreta Medoniene s a teacher by profession and by calling.  She holds a BA in linguistics and a 200 hour Teacher Training certificate from Prairie Yoga. She says she has a pure heart and pure soul which is searching for liberation and enlightenment as a human being. She is a true believer that a teacher approaches when the student is ready.  Loreta teaches vinyasa style in her classes and emphasizes the importance of conscious connection between movement and breath, playfulness and determination. She also believes in the the significance of two core principles of Yoga: Practice and Non-Attachment, on and off the mat.





Loukia Mastrodimos began practicing yoga when Yoga by Degrees opened in Wheaton in 2011.  She went to the open house and never left the community!  Loukia came to yoga looking for a physical and mental outlet due to the stress of her job as a high school assistant principal.  She says her yoga practice has helped to strengthen both her mind and her body.   Loukia completed the YBD 200 hour teacher training program in 2015 and is registered with Yoga Alliance.   After 20 years in education, she is retiring to pursue a career as a yoga teacher and a wellness coach.  Loukia says she is  looking forward to utilizing her experience working in education as a yoga teacher to help her students find their inner warrior, both on and off their mats. 




Margaret O'Mullen has been practicing yoga for most of her adult life.  Her teaching style reflects her interest in many styles of yoga. With grace and ease, Margaret guides her students through breath-synchronized movements that promote self-discovery, personal growth and a feeling of satisfaction.  With her positive and uplifting personality, she encourages her students to embrace their abilities as well as their disabilities and is inspired by the courage and humour her students bring to their mats. She delights in the way yoga has infused all parts of her life and is excited to share the benefits of yoga with everyone.  Margaret enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, reading and playing tennis in addition to furthering her education and volunteering in her community. 




Marianne Torres left the corporate world to raise her three children with her husband in Naperville after working in the finance industry for over a decade.  She decided she only had room for two of her main passions: Her family and physical fitness.  After dabbling in long distance running, cross training, spinning,  group classes, and instructing at a local barre studio, Marianne re-discovered yoga about 8 years ago.   She was drawn to the discipline of yoga, its emphasis on breathing and proper body alignment, the mind/body connection and the overall rejuvenating feeling after a particularly invigorating practice.  Over the years, Marianne has practiced under many wonderful teachers in many different styles of yoga, inlcuding Hatha, Baptiste, Sivananda, Ashtanga, Anusara and Jivamukti.  In the Spring of 2013 she completed her 200-hour RYT Certification and registration with Yoga Alliance.  

​Marianne's Vinyasa classes are playful and challenging and draw inspiration from many styles of yoga.  She guides her students through a practice that embraces breath as the link between body, mind, and spirit.  Marianne loves working with yoga "newbies" and designs each of her classes to help her students  de-stress and escape the madness of everyday life by bringing focus inward.  Come to Marianne's class prepared to sweat, work hard, smile a little, and leave feeling connected, refreshed, inspired and cared for. 


Marie Gerken found yoga in 2003 while living in California when a neighbor invited her to a class at their local community center. Shortly after, she moved to Chicago but continued exploring and practicing yoga after her fourth child was born.  A competitive tennis player in her earlier years and a life long runner, Marie found yoga to be a more nurturing path of exercise.  She spent the next several years practicing at different health clubs and studios while continuing to build her knowledge of yoga by attending workshops and retreats. She contemplated teacher training for almost two years, then finally decided to commit to Yoga By Degrees' program which she completed in December 2014.  Marie aims to provide her students with an authenitic yoga experience that involves yoking the mind, body, and spirit in a way that helps them to be fully present both on and off the mat.  Marie enjoys celebrating the unique beauty and gifts every individual has to offer and strives to help students reach contentment of heart, mind, body and soul. 





Yoga By Degrees

Meghan Rohde was first introduced to Yoga during her college career at University of Wisconsin, Madison. With an intense schedule as a Dance major Yoga was consistently used by her Professors as a tool to open the body in class and focus inward before performances. After graduating college in 2009 she took her first HOT yoga class and she instantly became addicted. Yoga became the perfect complement to her dance career. Yoga has become an inspiration in her personal life as well as in her dance choreography and teaching. After moving to the Chicagoland area in March 2011 she decided it was time to further her love for Yoga and decided to pursue her Yoga Certification at Prairie Yoga in Lisle, IL where she studied with an amazing faculty.
Meghan is continually amazed with how Yoga has strengthened her body while helping her find more inner peace and gratitude for all of life’s moments. She is passionate about sharing this with her students in a comfortable and rewarding environment. She believes Yoga is a gift that is truly for everyone. Believe her when she says your mind, body and soul will love it!


 Melissa Lessard has been practicing yoga since 2005. After developing a daily practice she realized how passionate she was about the feeling of wellness and happiness she achieved and wanted to help spread that sense of peace throughout the community. She completed her 200-Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga by Degrees in 2015 and has eagerly joined the yoga community to share her experiences and love. Having a background in Psychology and Social Science gives Melissa a distinct perspective on mindfulness that aids her students. While she's not teaching hot yoga to adults, Melissa empowers girls in elementary school through an after-school program that combines yoga, reading, and mentoring. Through Mission Propelle she equips girls to discover who they are, what they believe, and how  to advocate for themselves.

Michelle Rodriguez did not fall in love with yoga after her first class. In fact she had a very different experience  After her first class, she said "I will never do this again!  I'm not Zen enough."  Then she was asked to leave her second yoga class a year later because she was giggling and being an immature 19 year old.  After a year working at her college recreation center teaching aerobics and dance classes, she was put on the schedule to be trained to teach yoga.  After much hesitation she decided maybe the change of pace might be good!  It wasn't until a month passed by that she noticed that her back problems were improving, that her body was becoming stronger in new and different ways and she found a new sense of calm in stressful situations.  She found herself wanting to learn more and grow her practice because now she truly believed in Yoga and what it could do.  For Michelle, the proof was in the pudding!  It was doing her mind and body good and she was able to do things she hadn't been able to do in a long time.  After taking a Yoga Sculpt class at YBD in the spring of 2013, she was hooked! A year later she was trained in Yoga Sculpt and now loves to add her own spice to her classes. Yoga, high energy, relaxation and weights/cardio...it's a one stop shop and she can't stop 



Nadja Lalvani took her first yoga class in 2005 and has been obsessed with it ever since!  When her duties as the spokesperson for the City of Naperville began to interfere with her yoga practice, she knew it was time to follow her passion and take a leap of faith, boldly ending a 15 year career in politics and government.In June 2012, Nadja completed her 200 hour teacher certification under the direction of Jonny Kest and Victoria Sturenfeldt-Rowell. She is qualified to teach ashtanga, vinyasa and slow flow. Nadja's teaching style is fun-loving, heart opening and healing. She believes the three most important elements of her class are connecting with students, helping them to connect internally with their authentic selves and to challenge and guide them to their edge for maximum growth and transformation. She believes in the amazing inner journey that yoga facilitates and is thrilled to share yoga's life changing powers with her students and fellow yogis and yoginis. Nadja is a first generation Pilippindian or Indopino. (Her dad is from India and her mom is from the Philippines.) She lives in Glen Ellyn with her other obsession, her spectacular son Julian. She currently serves as president of the PTC board for Glen Crest Middle School. 



Nosa Ebomoyl discovered Yoga while using the p-90x, a series of home workout dvds which included yoga. He was impressed at how the body could be challenged so rigorously without the use of any weights. What was most inspiring to him was how with patience, breath and daily practice he could push past physical limits. A tool he uses in his personal practice, particularly in difficult balancing postures, is to silently repeat the mantra "calm down". Through this he finds that he gets into challenging postures with a little more ease, much like the calm in a storm.  Nosa believes with each passing day we meet on our mats and we are given the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. He strives to bring a combination of tranquility and endurance that leads to strength of mind among his students.




Yoga By Degrees

Samantha Raphael has been practicing Yoga for over a decade and teaching for many years. She's registered with the International Yoga Alliance and has trained with several Masters and teaches in a variety of yoga styles. Samantha strives to lead a yoga class that makes the practice a truly inspiring adventure. She offers a unique and pragmatic approach to teaching that focuses on nourishing your mind, body and spirit while leaving you feeling energized and uplifted. She says: “I believe working towards the strongest, flexible body possible for ‘you’ helps you feel more ‘at home’ in it.”

Through movement and breath, Samantha guides her students on a journey of self-discovery where they're encouraged to let go of past judgments and criticisms, and learn to cultivate mindfulness that transcends to living each moment to its fullest, both on and off the mat.


Sasha Boheme would never have considered practicing yoga had she not been encouraged by her mom. Together, they attended a variety of Vinyasa and Sculpt classes which eventually developed into a regular (and very sweaty) practice. For Sasha, yoga not only became a fun alternative to working out at the gym but it also became a significant outlet for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. She believes that yoga and mindfulness have the power to restore physical and emotional balance, as well as to improve self-acceptance. As a speech-language pathologist, Sasha encourages her students to communicate openly with themselves and to be in tune with the language of their minds, bodies and souls. Sasha completed her 200 hour training through YBD. 



Sarah Cleveland first discovered a love of fitness while she was on her track team in high school. She found the required long runs to be a great stress reliever and also enjoyed the team camaraderie at track meets. While in college and in her early twenties, Sarah loved taking all kinds of exercise classes and enjoyed running to explore her new environments and often joined run clubs and met several friends through her fitness pursuits. She knew from her first step aerobic class at her gym, jamming to Marky Mark "Good vibrations", that she had a goal of becoming a fitness instructor!
Sarah majored in Health Education in college and strongly believes in investing one's time in exercise for the health of the mind and body. She first discovered yoga while she was training for a half marathon as a way to counteract the harsh effects of running long distances. Once she tried Yoga Sculpt, Sarah knew she had found the perfect blend of the intense and fun cardio with strength training, along with the yoga benefits. She became certified as a Yoga Sculpt Teacher and looks forward to bringing her love of fitness into her classes in a fun and energetic environment!
Sarah lives in the western suburbs of Chicago along with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle, Guinness. She leads the elementary school run club and looks forward to the day when her daughters can take her classes!


Sarah Pogorzelski started on her yoga journey three years ago while doing P90X in her basement.  What started as just a workout turned into so much more and eventually led her to Yoga By Degrees in 2012.  Yoga has become such an integral part of her life, from reaping the benefits of yoga as cross training to the peace she's found in dealing with everyday challenges.  In 2014 Sarah decided to take a leap of faith and completed the Yoga By Degrees Teacher Training program.  What she learned there, encouraged by her amazing husband and sons and surrounded by her inspiring yoga family, has given her a unique voice that she loves to share with her students.  






Serafina Nuzzo was introduced to yoga by her mom when she came home for Christmas break a couple years ago. Serafina is a longtime athlete. She played basketball and soccer from the age of five through college. She was skeptical of yoga at first, questioning its intensity, but once she took her first Yoga Sculpt class she instantly fell in love. Serafina was hooked on the challenge Sculpt provided her with.  She loved that it incorporates flexibility, stress/tension relief, strength training, and cardio. Serafina's classes are an amazing fusion of a yoga class and a gym session.








Shaun Emerson was encouraged by his wife, Lisa to start his yoga journey three years ago in the heat of a Bikram studio. After an eight-month love affair and four month long breakup with Bikram, Shaun found himself at Yoga by Degrees. YBD Sculpt became a family affair often attending classes with his wife and two daughters. Prompted by his girls and curious to learn more, Shaun entered and completed the YBD 200 hour Teacher Training program. During his training, Shaun shifted from sculpt to flow and found, not only his breath, but a love for it’s quiet, yet vigorous, elegance.

Stacey Zagortz began practicing yoga in 2000.  She initially came to the mat for yoga’s physical benefits and to break up the tedium of a normal exercise routine. After several years of practicing, she began to incorporate yoga’s breathing techniques into her practice which allowed her to enrich her practice, on and off the mat. She credits yoga for helping her be calmer and to be a better wife, mother, and person. A former school teacher, she is a registered yoga teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance and has a Master’s of Education. Married with two sons and two cats, Stacey recently moved to Glen Ellyn from Dallas, Texas. 



Teresa Rizzo initially practiced yoga for the physical benefits but was surprised to discover, that after consistent attendance, yoga had changed not only her body but also her outlook on life.  She soon realized that by doing yoga ,she not only was stronger physically but she was much more content, fulfilled and more herself than ever before. Teresa completed her 200 hour yoga teacher training at Yoga By Degrees in June 2014.  She says she found her purpose in life as a yoga teacher. She encourages her students to find confidence and self awareness in her classes by challenging themselves both physically and mentally.


Todd Combs found yoga several years ago as a workout to counteract the effects of thousands of miles of cycling. As a newbie yogi, and not understanding the benefits of moderation, he let his ego drive him to take 340 yoga classes at YBD the first year it opened in Western Springs. Once skeptical of yoga's "spiritual side", his interest in the deeper meaning of yoga led him to sign up for YBD's 200 hour teacher training course. Yoga transformed his life both physically and spiritually. Todd is the proud husband of Dr. Irene Combs, who has a private optometry practice in Western Springs, and father of three daughters and one son.  He hopes to see you on your mat soon! 



 Valerie Holze found yoga and immediately felt at home in the safe, nurturing space that it offered. She sees yoga not only as a physical discipline but also as a joyful, expressive way to heal. The principles of yoga have become a strong guiding force in her life, promoting mindfulness, love and presence in day to day living.  Valerie urges her students to honor themselves and take what they need from their practice, whether that’s an empowering physical workout, emotional release or even a nap. She encourages her students to slow down, follow their breath and let their practice naturally unfold.