I think my biggest issue with working in an office is that it’s socially unacceptable to do a few jumping jacks, squats, or burpees during the workday. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’m not a fitness freak by any means but I do love to move. As a trained dancer, I’m just not well equipped to sit for eight hours a day. So, one positive for me during this self-isolation period is my ability to break out into movement whenever the hell I want—it’s something I desperately need during this time of chaos, panic, and overwhelming stress.
Craving movement, I’ve discovered, isn’t a solitary feeling as local yoga and wellness folks have been taking it to the ‘gram, where they are offering classes, free lessons, and words of advice to support their own business and to impact others.
I talked to a few yogis, meditation facilitators, and wellness freaks on what they are offering for Chicago folks in times of need (and deep breathing).
In 2018, Jasmin Kyla began guiding meditations and customized her offerings to her demographic of mostly Black millennials. Kyla’s practice is centered around “holistic wellness, healing work, gratitude, yogic practices, and hip-hop culture,” and she typically hosts seasonal events on Chicago’s south side and in the south suburbs. She was recently one of the rotating instructors on the TRiiBE‘s daily RISE meditation sessions, but she is also currently teaching personal sessions. “I’m grateful and proud of the Triibe for cultivating efforts like the RISE session to support community wellness and wellness workers as we work together to endure,” she says.
She explains that we don’t have any control over nature, and COVID-19 is making that apparent to many of us. “What we do have control over is our individual and communal wellness. So it’s important we use that control to protect ourselves right now.” In this current climate, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength is incredibly important. “I strongly encourage everyone to be adding something extra to their diet to boost their immune system,” she says. “My favorites are anything with vitamin C or D, echinacea, elderberry, black seed oil, and sea moss.”
As for her personal life, the facilitator says she is spending time in prayer for herself, her family, and those afflicted by the virus. Currently, Kyla is completing a 200-hour yoga teacher training in Kemetic Yoga, and says she’s personally handling the crisis by entering a deeper space of surrendering, and has strengthened her practice of gratitude.
Where to find Jasmin’s meditation sessions? She’s been guiding meditations through Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts one to three times a week. You can book through calendly.com/jasminsbloom or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in to her Instagram for more information: @jasminsbloom
When? Schedule a time to book your session.
How much? Private meditations $20 for 20 minutes and $30 for one hour. She also offers sliding-scale pricing.
Nathan Paulus began teaching yoga in 2004, when he developed a fascination with the mind-body connection. In 2012, he began to practice tai chi and now teaches his own internal development under Timothy Suh and Patrick Kelly, who runs Nine Clouds.
The Logan Square resident is streaming two types of classes: meditation and tai chi. “Of course, connecting with the physical body, doing some breath work, and techniques for calming the mind are a great benefit,” he says. “They are also things that have more of a cumulative effect, so for those who have a good ten years of practice underneath them, stress is not as bad as someone who might be starting to think of these practices.” And right now, Paulus says, is the best time to begin to work on yourself.
Tai chi and yoga are a bit different from normal wellness or physical activity in that they are motivated by a person’s internal evolution. So the physical part of the practice is less about fitness and more about deepening the connection with oneself through the body and trying to go deeper still with meditation.
For Paulus, life is still fairly stable during the pandemic. “I am using this time to get home projects done, do my own internal practice with a bit more intensity because there is time, cook, practice my musical instruments, talk with friends, and take relaxation,” he says. “Also, I’ve been playing video games like I am a teenager for some escapism.” He’s also a musician in the band Magical Beasts, an experimental folk band which he says will be posting some music online very soon.
Where to find Nathan’s tai chi classes? For breathing and meditation classes, tune in to Five Point Holistic Health’s Facebook or Instagram. For tai chi classes, email Nathan, email@example.com, for an email to the Google Meet link.
When? Every day at 8 AM. New students can join on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Nathan advises people that it isn’t easy for people who don’t have experience.
How much? Free, accepting donations.
Like many people nowadays (and many people on this list), Natalie McGreal is utilizing the video conferencing app Zoom to teach at least one class a day during the COVID-19 crisis. McGreal says she’s been impacted by the virus in the same ways that many of us have. “[COVID] has definitely impacted me in many of the ways that most of us have been impacted: concern for the health of loved ones, social distancing, self-quarantine, etcetera. Adding to all of that, my professional life has been turned upside down,” McGreal says. “Along with being a yoga teacher, I am also a massage therapist and both of my industries have been devastated by this crisis.” In response to this, as well as her husband’s inability to work his woodworking job at a small company, she decided to continue her business virtually. “I had always thought about offering online classes,” she says, “but had been pretty intimidated by it. I am not very tech savvy.” However, within two days, McGreal rebuilt her business and has been teaching online ever since.
McGreal’s first yoga class in 1999 ignited a spark in her, but it wasn’t until 2012 that she would become a teacher and devote herself to “teaching trauma-sensitive yoga with a focus in gentle, restorative, and meditation practices.”
“The yoga community really is something special,” says the Humboldt Park resident. She considers yoga, meditation, and stillness vital in these challenging times. “The live online classes I am teaching have been such an incredible lifeline for myself and others. We get to see and interact with each other. We get to breathe and rest with each other. It is powerful.”
Where to find Natalie’s yoga classes? McGreal’s teaching schedule can be found on her website along with links to attend her classes and information on how to pay.
When? Every day.
How much? McGreal is asking for a minimum donation of $5 per class. Her Sunday workshop, “Art of Relaxation,” is $10. For folks in the industry without a steady paycheck, McGreal offers the classes free of charge.
Mia Park began practicing yoga in 2002 with a background in gymnastics and martial arts. She has more than 2,000 hours of teacher training and leads yoga nidra training as well as restorative yoga nidra workshops. She’s also a professional actor and rock drummer. Most recently she was in the play Fast Company at Jackalope Theatre, which was supposed to run March 4–April 11 but closed on March 13 because of the crisis, and she’s had one band practice for a recording session, but her Oak Park bandmates have since been ordered to shelter in place.
The Tri-Taylor resident is sharing her 20-minute practice of yoga nidra, which means yoga sleep, and includes yoga-based relaxation and meditation techniques perfect for our everyday stress. It’s something we may all need to incorporate into our new work-from-home routine. “The intention of yoga nidra, as with all yoga practices, is self-awareness on the deepest levels,” Park says. The purpose of yoga nidra is to slow the brain’s activities and “activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system), and allow your body, mind, and energy to heal itself.”
“Wellness is the only thing that will get us through these trying times,” Park says. “It’s time to commit to as many self-care mechanisms as we can, which should include daily movement of your body, whether it’s naked dancing to the Clash or walking outdoors for 20 minutes—clothes optional, but please stay six feet away from anyone you encounter.”
Lie on your back, listen to Park guide you, and practice mindfulness. “Love is the strongest medicine we have, and it kicks COVID-19 in the ass,” Park says.
Where to find Mia Park’s yoga nidra classes? She will live stream on Facebook and Instagram accounts. Her 20-minute nidra sessions live permanently on her Facebook.
When? Tune in from 2–2:20 PM.
How much? Free! Donations are accepted via PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp at @miaparkmiapark, and Zelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since she was five years old, Natalia Montalvo has been dancing. It wasn’t until she took fitness classes in college that she discovered Zumba. In 2014, she became Zumba certified and has been teaching ever since.
Montalvo advises people that staying active and keeping our bodies moving is essential during these times. “It is so easy to just lay around and be on our phones the whole day, but with just one hour of movement, whether that be dancing, working out, yoga, etcetera, can boost our immune system, metabolism, and help us forget about all of the horrible things that are happening in our world,” she says.
Originally from Mexico and now living in Pilsen, Montalvo says she’s currently unemployed. “But instead of getting down about it,” she says, “I am using this time to rest, create, plan, and be grateful for the things I do have.” By conducting online classes, she’s earned some income through donations and students’ generosity.
Where can you find Natalia’s Zumba classes? Via Instagram Live at @natmontalvo_, and Zoom.
When? At least four times a week.
How much? Free, donations accepted.
Fitness director Seobia Rivers, of nonprofit community organization Healthy Hood, has been working with various Chicago-based wellness professionals to encourage healthy attitudes and movement while in self-isolation. Healthy Hood was created to “decrease the 20-year life expectancy gap between affluent communities and communities of color.” Every day, the Pilsen-based organization has several fitness classes along with some cooking classes and classes specifically for mental health.
“Wellness in all its elements is very imperative right now!” she says. “Especially during this time where you are more at risk if your immune system is weak. You have to be strong mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually at a time like this or else it will be hard to navigate through this time.”
Since much of her self-employed work has been cut off, she’s been enjoying her downtime. While completing an online course in school, working with Healthy Hood, finishing up personal projects, reading more, and reconnecting with people, Rivers says, “I’m alive and healthy, I’m leading with gratitude!”
Where to find Seobia’s livestream? @healthyhoodchi‘s Instagram page will be featuring different workouts every day of the week.
When? Every day.
How much? Free, donations welcome. v