Category Archives: Inspire Your Spirit


If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the Reader’s Digest series, Laughter is the Best Medicine. Those days you had to read all about it on actual paper. Today a simple search brings you instant funny on a screen that’s touted as almost as good as paper.

It feels good to laugh.  But, come on, really? Medicine? Yes.  Laughter has shown physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and quality-of-life benefits. So say researchers from around the world … so it must be true.

Turns out it doesn’t even matter much of you make yourself laugh or if you spontaneously laugh at joke.  The brain doesn’t really care either way.  In this era of evidence-based medicine, laughter is now discussed in the realm of alternative medicine.  And if you want to self-medicate – it’s OK, there aren’t any side effects, unless you count your checks hurting from laughing too much.

The many benefits of laughter include:

  • Exercises face muscles (hey free cosmetic benefits)
  • Increases oxygen levels (can you say aerobics?)
  • Releases endorphins (non-addictive feel good body chemicals)
  • Reduces stress (no laughing matter)

It’s no wonder there are so many images of the Buddha laughing.

These days there are laughter therapists helping cancer patients; , laughter yoga;  and of course a ton of comedy clubs, jokes online, and on TV.  It’s easy to get your daily dose.  So go ahead. Laugh. Chuckle. Smile.

Just keep in mind:

  • On the other hand, you have different fingers
  • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
  • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
  • Support bacteria. They’re the only culture most people have.
  • OK, so what’s the speed of dark?

More here.




How many times have you heard that adage that people are your best teachers?  That when something bothers you about someone else, it’s a reflection of something you don’t see in yourself?  It’s not an uncommon spiritual teaching.  Which of course doesn’t make it any less challenging to deal with. In this talk, ordained Tibetan Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, sheds light on how troublemakers can help you.

Understanding where you have work to do is a big part of any spiritual journey.  Troublemakers, as Pema calls them, will be the ones to point you toward your own neurosis.  Noticing how and when you get provoked is an important life lesson. Awareness is the first step. If you can laugh about it; so much the better. Unhook yourself and you are on the path toward personal freedom.

Awareness comes through slowing down your mind. All that chatter and noise. All the automatic response patterns – many we’re not even conscious of.  The to-do lists, the shoulda, gotta, didn’t – oh no!  Once you start the practice of noticing and slowing down your thoughts, you’ll be amazed how such a seeming simple task becomes a lifelong adventure.

Here are a few simple ways to bring more mindfulness into your day:

  • Set an alarm for 10-mintues and watch your thoughts
  • Notice what’s happening in your head when you’re at a stoplight
  • Waiting in line anywhere can be a great time to check your thoughts

Stop the incessant need to multitask.  A real challenge in this day of smart phones where all around us people are neurotically checking their phones, in cars, walking down the street, and when pushing baby carriages.  Can you just stop for moment to be in the moment? To see? Smell? Touch? Listen?

JoAnn Milivojevic

What’s SUP? Stand-Up Paddleboarding.

Stand-up paddleboarding that what’s up.  The sport is a combo of kayaking and surfing. You stand on a wide board and paddle your way through the water. Originally used by ancient Polynesian cultures, it’s been steadily making its way from Hawaii  as a great way to play on water and get a good workout too. Talk about balance and power, you’ll need that plus a sense of humor when you fall off. Read and see all about it here, at SUP magazine.

Finally thawing out of the cold, cruel and LONG winter this year, we Chicagoans are every ready to get out and play.  Enjoy the city skyline in a whole new way, by jumping on a board.  Yeah, Lake Michigan can be choppy, but hey there are rivers too and some days all our waters are as calm as glass.  This outfitter will help you get started with gear and lessons.

Up north, standup paddleboarding is exploding in popularity in Madison, Wisconsin.  This summer, industry leader SUP the Mag, is sponsoring the Midwest Standup Paddle Festival, a benefit for the UW Health Children’s Hospital and the Henry Vilas Zoo. It’s set for July 12 & 13, 2013 at Bishop’s Bay Country Club in Middleton, WI. The abundance of clean flatwater in the area plus the reputation Madison has for being such an active community led organizers to add Madison to its nationwide festival of events.  Madison is one of eight stops on their SUP America Tour.

Your core muscles are like the glue that holds everything together while your arms push and pull you through the water. Lots of ways to keep that core strong as you move your limbs, and Pilates is one of the best ways to get in shape and stay in shape for all you do.  Great for post rehab and even better, Pilates is a highly efficient muscle balancing full workout that helps you avoid injuries in the first place. Good instructors can customize the workout for your specific sport.

Now go out and play!

JoAnn Milivojevic
Certified Pilates Instructor

Return to Life through Contrology

In 1945, Joseph. H. Pilates wrote:

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”  His doctrine, however, extends far beyond physical attainments.  The spirit is a rarely discussed but an essential component of Joseph Pilates’ work.  A spiritual essence is threaded throughout his book, Return to Life through Contrology.

“With body, mind, and spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert and disciplined person?  Moreover, such a body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.  Personal problems are clearly thought out and calmly met.” Ahhhh wouldn’t that be nice?


Having recently completed a long term assignment in a corporate environment, I truly believe that until the leadership practices and promotes healthy living ON THE JOB – corporate workers  will continue to be fatigued and on the dire path toward chronic lifestyle ills that are so rampantly on the rise today (heart disease, diabetes, back/neck pain …)

Pilates is an efficient, effective way to wake up and return to the joy of living — and  simple system to set up  in a corporate environment. Some employers have added small Pilates studios in their worksites to offer employees discounted private lessons. Wise – because employees can feel very vulnerable working out with their colleagues and subordinates.  Check out what what hotelier Bill Marriott created in his workplace once he discovered what Pilates it did for him.  Way to share the love, Bill.

For more information, Pilates classes and private sessions in the Chicago area, click the About Me tab above.


Jovanka JoAnn Milivojevic


Has there ever been a more controversial or polarizing subject?  That which is meant to unite us can serve to separate us instead.  Lately, I have been reading spiritual books, and talking about God with some of my Baha’i friends. From both sources, I discovered that the concept of God can be individually defined. God as you define it. In short, you get to make it up.  What a liberating discovery.


It can be called by many names: higher power, goddess, universal consciousness, prana, chi, positive guiding force, or grace.  Whatever works.

But how does it work?  How do I know God exists?  What does it feel like? Well, in one discussion a woman talked about the healing power of nature – how so many things heal – from plants to animals to us.  And that natural healing power to her, was God manifest.

My Baha’i friend hosts a monthly devotions gathering where she uses a deck of virtue cards to spark a discussion.  Virtues (e.g. love, forgiveness, independence, trust)  are another way people experience God.


These cards really help anchor me. And they make great gifts.  They are non denominational spiritual pick-me-ups that even agnostics can love. “They influence the vibration of my day,” commented a friend. They are certainly a way to gain new insights; a way to calm down; and a way to re-tune. Here is an excerpt from my virtue card today: Joyfulness

“Joyfulness is an inner wellspring of peace and happiness.  It is beyond ordinary happiness because it is not an occasional emotional reaction to luck or circumstances.  It is a deep sense of well-being that fills us with delight and hope…we allow joy to carry us through the painful times.  We take ourselves lightly and remember to play …”  The Virtues Project

Joyfully yours.

Jovanka  JoAnn Milivojevic

Reduce Cancer Risk and Return to Life

You’ve probably heard that poor nutrition and lack of physical activity can lead to so called “lifestyle” diseases namely high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and type II diabetes. But did you know that inactivity and a lousy diet increases cancer risk?

A recent report from the National Cancer Institute, highlights the effects of excess weight and lack of physical activity on cancer risk. Esophageal adenocarcinoma, cancers of the colon and rectum, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, endometrial cancer, and breast cancer among postmenopausal women are all associated with being overweight or obese.


No matter your age, your fitness level or social status – exercise WILL make you feel better.  As a Pilates instructor I’ve worked with retirees, lawyers, insurance executives and school teachers – some are uber athletes some are just getting started.  ALL are happier for having exercised. As Joseph Pilates has said, to be physically fit is to return to LIFE.


So while being active and eating right will do much to prevent diseases, how about just feeling better about who you are? How about igniting your spirit? Finding joy? Feeling powerful and strong? How about simply climbing those stairs without feeling fatigued?

All that and more belongs to you.  If you live near Chicago, join me for Pilates, Zumba and/or Yoga.



Each day is a new opportunity to start anew.

Depressed? Anxious? Exercise Helps says Mayo Clinic

Exercise is the great elixir.  Fountain of youth and mood enhancer.  For those that need proof, countless scientific reports show that exercise helps those with diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. Ditto for anxiety, depression.

It doesn’t matter what you do – it’s moving that matters. Bike. Hike. Garden. Lift weights. Jump rope. Dance. Wash the car.  If you’re in Chicago, you can join me for Pilates, Yoga, and Zumba.

Even more good news is that exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re feeling better.  According the experts at the Mayo clinic, the benefits are many.

How exercise helps:

  • Releases feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increases body temperature, which may have calming effects
  • Boosts confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Takes your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Improves social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Helps you Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptom

While exercise can make you look better, the most significant benefit is that you will feel better for having done it. Just move!



how to lose a pound a week


A pound has about 3,500 calories.  To lose a pound a week (considered very reasonable and doable by most dietitians) you need to reduce 500 calories a day.  That could be a combination of diet and exercise – the best way to go.

EASY WAYS TO CUT CALORIES: (each tip about 100 or more)

  • use nonfat milk instead of whole milk and a no cal sweeter such as stevia or truvia in your coffee
  • skip the bagel and have a banana, hard-boiled egg or English muffin instead
  • substitute high fiber, high protein extend crisps for potato chips
  • use yogurt or mustard instead of mayo
  • half the rice or pasta and double the veggies
  • eat an open face sandwich with only one slice of bread


Most people burn about 400 calories/hour when at a moderate rate on the treadmill.  You an break that up into 2 30-minute sessions or 3-20 minute sessions in any given day.  Just ensure you’re at a high enough heart rate. An easy way to gauge is if you can talk but not sing while you’re exercising.


exercise 4xweek = 1,600 calories burned

cut 300 calories daily = 2,100 calories saved

total: 3,700 calories (or at least a pound a week down)

Play with these concepts and come up with your own food and fitness plan so that will not only fit in your jeans come Jan 1 you just might be flaunting it in your skinny jeans!


Jovanka JoAnn Milivojevic


Do you want to lose weight? Stress less?  Exercise more?  Thrive instead of just survive?  A wellness coach can get you there.

I know you’ve heard these promises many, many times before.  Weight loss is a multi-million dollar industry.  There are countless books, seminars, and workout DVDs that promise you’ll lose weight and feel great.  Some with outrageous claims like lose weight while you sleep, or the all chocolate diet.

Why does wellness coaching work where other programs fail?

Because it is designed specifically around you. Wellness coaching inspires you to reshape your life using your personal strengths, motivations, and passions.  It’s about looking at what’s right, what’s working and how to use that positivity to fuel your wellness goals.


An athletic coach helps athletes reach their highest athletic potential; a wellness coach helps you reach yours. Wellness coaches are specially trained professional who help you design and reach goals specific to you. No one-size-fits-all diets, fitness, or stress-reduction programs here.  The whole process is designed around you.

How?  By asking the right questions and setting the right goals at the right time.  For example, what motivates you to lose weight?  Motivations are personal and include everything from desiring to play with grand children to feeling sexier to walking pain-free during exotic hiking treks. Motivations inspire your journey. Your existing strengths empower to stay the course.


It’s exciting to discover your unique strengths.  Everyone is good at some thing.  At many things really. In wellness coaching, we use these strengths to catapult you toward reaching your goals.  For example, perhaps “love of learning” is strength for you.  Then reading articles about health and fitness; experimenting with new fitness routines; and/or trying new food combinations might be relevant to you.  Or perhaps “passion/zeal” is top strength.  Discovering what you’re passionate about and using that as tactic will help you reach your goals in way that is interesting and fun.  To discover your top strengths, take the VIA questionaire. (scroll half way down the page for quiz)


The process of wellness coaching progresses through several stages:

  • You provide background information through a well-being assessment so that you and your coach are well-informed on the key issues, including medical considerations.
  • During the first 60-90 minute coaching session, you identify your priorities and develop a personal wellness plan including a vision, three month goals and the first steps.
  • In subsequent 30-40 minute weekly coaching sessions you and your coach review the progress toward your vision and goals, explore and resolve the most pressing issues, learn something new, and then agree on a set of goals for the following week. You will enjoy plenty of ah-ah insights along the way.
  • By the end of three months, you can expect to reach more than 70% of your three-month goals and feel energized and confident to embark on new areas with or without your coach.


We all need someone to believe in us, help us, and inspire us. I believe that we can reach our wellness goals. But we need to give ourselves a true chance. We need to accept that long lasting changes require time, patience, a sense of a sense of humor, and lightness of being.

I’ve helped clients make inspiring discoveries about their motivations and be surprised by their capabilities. As a wellness coach, I can help you uncover and use your strengths to get you where you want to be.  It’s an exhilarating journey!

If you’d like more information or a free mini-session, contact me at

In Health,

Jovanka JoAnn Milivojevic

What’s Your Emotional Goal?

We diet to lose weight, seek to exercise more,  to quit smoking, to reduce stress.  But what about your mental health? Thoughts drive how we feel and how we interpret the world.  When was the last time you actually sought to bring more positivity into your life?  It’s about more than feeling good, it’s about more than surviving,  it’s about thriving….


Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, and distinguished professor at UNC-Chapel Hill has deeply studied the role positive emotion plays in life.  It goes way beyond pleasure (but what a bonus side effect that is!) As it turns out, positivity (joy, happiness, love) helps you broaden your outlook and build your life.  When it comes to survival it is as important as appropriate fear, anger, and sadness.

In study after study, she and her colleagues found that those with more positivity saw the bigger picture and more available options. Those with more negativity, saw fewer options and got bogged down in details (not seeing the forest for the trees so to speak).

Being scientists, they crunched numbers and found the ideal ratio of positive to negative emotion is 3 to 1.  We need both in our lives.  but most of us dwell more in the negative – so we’ve got some work to do (and it’s interesting and fun too)

You can think of positivity as levity and negativity as gravity.  Too much levity and we’re floating around, flighty, ungrounded; too much negativity and we crash to the ground in a miserable, weepy heap.  As Fredrickson points out in her book, Positivity; appropriate negativity grounds you in reality; heartfelt positivity opens and uplifts – enabling you to flourish.

All we need to do is get a grip on our thoughts, tune in to the positive more and see what happens.  If you’re like most people, the results will inspire and amaze.  At very least you’ll enjoy more life and so will the people around you.  First you need to assess where you are so you can  build a working plan. Just like learning to eat better and exercise more, we need guidance, goal, and daily actions. Check out


Set your self a goal of increasing positivity in the next 21 days. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Employ mindfulness. check in with your head – what are you thinking, feeling? curb negativity’s fascist grip by not indulging or suppressing – but by letting it go (it takes practice!)
  • Avoid gossip and sarcasm. we all like to take jabs at others every now again, but reconsider. This kind of focus drags you down along with the person your undermining.  What kind of positive things can you say instead?
  • Savor Goodness. Good is good.  Drink it all in. Relish every nuance, taste, sound, sight.  Share it if you can.
  • Play. My personal favorite!  Whether it’s dancing, doing somersaults,  painting, playing chess, or reading.  In which activity do you lose yourself?  Does time stop?  Where self-consciousness ceases? This is play.  This is flow.  Find it, do more of it.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – it’s in our constitution.  You have the right to be happy.  With every right there is responsibility.  Yours is to give positivity a heartfelt try.  You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Jovanka JoAnn Milivojevic