personal_photo-202-e1521993049665-1000x600From The VoyageChicago (view original article here)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Loukia Mastrodimos.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey to wellness started a long time ago, only I didn’t know that. I never gave my health or wellbeing much thought. I was healthy physically and emotionally and took that for granted.

Somewhere in my mid-30’s, that started to change. Physical changes started to appear in my body like a sore back, headaches, anxiety, weight gain, and fatigue. I attributed all these changes to the natural process of getting older. I was a full-time high school teacher and coach and the hours were long and stressful. I coped with my stress by eating and shopping. By 2009 at the age of 39, I was at my lowest point physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially.

At 195 pounds with a variety of aches and pains and thousands of dollars in debt, I knew something needed to change. I was successful in starting an exercise routine and I made some small changes to my eating and lost some weight. In the background, I was still experiencing high levels of stress, financial burden, and a lack of self-esteem. In 2011, I became an assistant principal and to help deal with the stress of this new role, I began to practice yoga.

Again, I found some relief, both mentally and physically, from a regular yoga practice. On the outside, I appeared to “have it all together.” On the inside, I was in pain. I didn’t enjoy my new career and I was still drowning in debt. I wore a “mask” every day. Great career, confident, financially stable, emotionally well. A yogi that practiced self-love and self-compassion. All of those things couldn’t be further from the truth. The “mask” I wore daily was exhausting.

In June 2014, my mother passed away. She wasn’t sick very long and her quick passing took me by surprise. I had established some healthy behaviors: my yoga practice, avoiding fast food (mostly), and was (mostly) out of debt. However, I still regularly used negative self-talk and had other self-sabotaging behaviors that kept me from living my best life. Overindulging in food was just a symptom of my unhappiness and inability to cope with stress. I never really got to the core of WHY I continued to repeat behaviors that were not contributing positively to my life.

After my mom’s passing, whatever healthy behaviors I had in my life went out the window. The last 6 months of 2014 came with an immense sadness and grief along with feelings of guilt. I was eating badly. I wasn’t moving. I was stressed. The first Christmas and New Year without my mom was very hard. By January 1st, I had hit my rock bottom and my grief was all consuming. I had gained weight but even worse, I had lost hope. At the urging of my sister, I started seeing a grief counselor. Shortly after, I began utilizing the services of a health & wellness coach. Slowly, I started feeling more positive about my life and the future.

Before my mom’s passing, I had been debating on changing careers for some time. I was a high school assistant principal at the time and I was constantly stressed and anxious every time I stepped into the office. I was no longer fulfilled. At the one year mark of my mother’s passing, I went on a wellness and mindfulness retreat in Arizona. That sealed the deal for me: I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Yoga and being coached to health & wellness were the tools that helped me stop the negative self-talk and self-sabotaging behaviors. I knew that this was the career path I wanted to follow so I could help others live their best life. I wanted to devote my time, energy, and enthusiasm for wellness with others seeking the same for themselves. After a successful 20-year career in public education, I decided to make a career change in 2016 and became a certified yoga instructor and a health & wellness coach.

Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely not! Every entrepreneur and small business owner will tell you the road is bumpy and there will be incredible ups and downs. I am still experiencing that bumpy road but the struggle is worth it; that’s how I know I’m on the right path. Erini is the Greek word for ‘peace.’ I want others to experience peace in both mind and body so that they can live a full life. When I created Erini Yoga & Wellness I wanted to provide others with hope, support, and instill a belief that their own self-care matters.

It’s not uncommon for someone’s self-care to take a backseat while their busy having a life-working, raising a family, taking care of aging parents, etc. Before you know it, years have passed, you’ve neglected yourself, and you’re not able to take care of yourself much less others. I became a yoga instructor and a wellness coach to help others feel good and know that change and new behaviors can happen at any age. My “mess” has become my message: You can live a life that is thriving not just surviving.

I didn’t know anything about running a business I just wanted to make it my life’s mission to help others never feel like I did. Marketing, social media marketing, networking, taxes, customer retention… you name it and I didn’t know it! So, I began working with business coaches that specifically assist wellness entrepreneurs with the business side of health and wellness. Leaving a six-figure salary with a pension and amazing health insurance on the table has been the biggest struggle. My past unhealthy relationship with money is something I’ve had to work at and not let that define me as I started over again.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I specialize in mind-body wellness. Wellness is not about achieving a certain pant size or a particular number on a scale. It’s about the whole person. I work with individuals, school teams and faculty, and corporate entities to improve their wellbeing. Whether it’s teaching a weekly onsite corporate yoga class, speaking at a workshop on mindfulness and meditation, or a one-on-one coaching relationship with an individual seeking to feel better, my work always comes back to helping the client develop confidence and create behaviors that impact both mind and body.

I specialize in helping clients reduce stress. My signature program is called “Reduce Stress with R.E.S.T.” (Rejuvenate, Eat Well, Sleep Well, Tech-Free Zones). Clients are taught and coached through strategies and techniques to reduce and manage stress in a healthy manner. Chronic stress is a major cause of inflammation in the body which can cause illness. This program provides resources, tools, strategies, and exercises that over time will lead to behavior change that will improve the negative effects stress has on the mind and body.

In this fast-growing field, just about anyone can call themselves a health & wellness coach. It’s important for an individual seeking the expertise of a coach to investigate their background and training. In addition to my 20 years as a teacher and certifications, I have “walked the walk so I can talk the talk” having been through the process of change and transformation myself. I am a certified yoga instructor with a 200-hour E-RYT designation which means I have experience of over 1000 teaching hours. My health & wellness coach credentials are from the Wellcoaches School of Coaching.

Wellcoaches delivers the gold standard of coach training, education, certification, and support, in partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine. To obtain certification in addition to formal classroom training, I did a practicum working with practice clients, completed an online course called “Organize Your Mind” that covers brain science, coach science, and self-science, took a written exam based on the coaching psychology, theories, and models of coaching, and demonstrated mastery in an oral practical skills exam, a 30-minute “mock” coaching session, conducted live with an examiner.

I’m most proud of the fact that by stepping way out of my comfort zone and taking a huge risk to change careers, Erini Yoga & Wellness has made an impact on the lives of its clients. Whether it’s a 72-year-old first-time yoga client discovering her strength and balance for the first time or parents who learn how to be present and mindful so that they can manage stress and be an active participant in work and family life, I am honored to walk the wellness journey with every client as their coach, “cheerleader”, support, and accountability partner.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes! Chicago and the surrounding suburbs provide a perfect opportunity for the wellness business to thrive. Whether it’s the numerous parks, bike and walking paths or access to fitness and healthcare facilities, the Chicagoland area provides numerous opportunities for individuals to be well.

However, access alone doesn’t result in healthy habits. The key is developing the internal motivation, learning and implementing new behaviors, and having personalized support to make healthy changes. That’s what I do at Erini Yoga & Wellness.

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