Peoria’s Soulside Yoga Studio Trains Fellows
This is the sixth in a series of blogs celebrating grant projects funded by our Clean Air Act settlement with the owners of the ED Edwards coal-fired power plant outside Peoria, Illinois. The settlement calls for the plant to be closed by the end of 2022 and makes $8.6 million available for local projects in job training, lung health, energy efficiency, solar power and energy. bus electrification. Each blog features the great work done by one of the facility’s grantees to promote public health and quality of life in the Peoria, Illinois area.
Soulside Healing Arts in Peoria, Illinois, a nonprofit, trauma-informed yoga studio with a pay-as-you-go structure, is currently training two new yoga instructors, April Foster and Taylor Hudson, with the help of with a grant from the Edwards Settlement Fund. The studio’s executive director, Hannah Ramlo, founded the nonprofit in 2018 with the goal of sharing yoga, a fundamental practice for her for managing stress, with the people of Peoria.
The studio applied for an Edwards grant with the aim of sharing the health benefits of yoga with a wider population than Soulside had been able to reach until now. Through its Community Yoga Corps program, Soulside partners with social service agencies and local schools to supplement programming with regular yoga classes. Yoga can help improve lung function, regulate the nervous system, and alleviate anxiety, addiction, and depression associated with trauma such as poverty, job loss, or chronic health conditions.
Yoga is an integral part of Hannah, April and Taylor’s life. Hannah describes yoga as a practice that allowed her to experience the world from a centered place and maintain her presence in every moment. For April, a mother of five, grandmother of three and longtime community member, it helps her slow down and put things into perspective. Taylor, a plant lover and part-time student, appreciates that the benefits of yoga are both internal and external, allowing her to be in tune with herself. The three women note that the impact of yoga extends to all areas of their lives, changing the way they react and improving their relationships.
Unfortunately, the benefits of yoga are not widely available. April and Hannah observed two main and interrelated barriers: cost and the underrepresentation of people of color. Yoga studios are often only accessible to people with disposable income, and the average cost of classes in the Peoria area is $15. For many people, especially in low-income areas of Peoria, this cost is a barrier to regular attendance. Soulside’s subsidized and flexible payment structure aims to ease the cost barrier by offering a range of price options, from $2 to $50 for a class.
In the global west, yoga is often associated with white women. April observes that there isn’t much representation of BIPOC people doing or teaching yoga and asks, without representation, why would people of color attend yoga classes? Hannah indicates that there is a preconceived idea about who should go to yoga. Soulside aims to ensure that their yoga instructors are like the students they teach, and the scholarship program is aimed at that goal. The benefits of yoga extend beyond any demographic, and Soulside hopes to reach as many Peorans as possible and reflect the city’s demographics in their classes.
We can’t wait to see how Taylor and April use their instructions to engage with the community. Taylor aims to reach people who never knew they needed yoga and guide them to better health and body awareness. April, who has extensive experience working in the community, hopes to combine this with her training as a yoga instructor to work with children and the elderly to support their mental health.
Other Edwards Institution-funded projects include a solar panel at Peoria Roman Arts and Culture Community Center; the expansion of an employment assistance program operated by Peoria’s Jubilee Ministries; the electric buses that two Peoria-area school districts have added to their fleets; an increased allowance for the PeoriaCorps Green Infrastructure Training Program; and the launch of a new all-electric bus for the Peoria Transit District. The NRDC and its co-applicants selected the projects with the help of their community partners Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Illinois People’s Action and Peoria NAACP. For a complete list of projects, visit EdwardsCleanAirSettlement.org.