And then there was yoga

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

When we last interviewed Marissa Grott, she was volunteering to teach yoga to detainees at Cook County Department of Corrections. The longtime Forest Parker was also teaching yoga at studios in the area. Now she has her own yoga studio in Oak Park. It's called And Then There Was Well.

Marissa opened the studio in January at 201 N. Harlem. Having her own studio has long been a dream for her. Starting one, though, required a scary leap of faith. Marissa has four instructors on staff and the studio offers classes every day of the week.

Two months after she opened her studio, the pandemic hit. Like many small business owners, she was worried about surviving a shutdown. She is taking the necessary precautions to keep teachers and students safe but it has been an enormous challenge. Thankfully, she has a solid community of supporters.

Belonging to the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce also helped. The chamber has kept members informed about changes in pandemic precautions. It has been proactive in helping small businesses survive and connecting members to the Forest Park business community.

Marissa is all about building community and promoting social capital. Even though she works full-time in development at Hephzibah Children's Association, she still volunteers at Empowering Gardens. The studio, in fact, offers a class called "Empower Every Body" where proceeds go to the garden center. She recently donated to the Flowers on Madison project to support the community and provided meals to first responders at West Suburban Hospital's emergency room.

Nothing was harder, though, than adjusting to the pandemic. For the time being, she offers a hybrid schedule of classes, teaching yoga outdoors, indoors and remotely. Outdoor classes are held in a private backyard in Oak Park. Many yoga studios have been forced to hold classes at outdoor venues.

At her studio, Marissa follows the guidance of public health officials, performs temperature and wellness checks on students at the start of each class and follows recommendations for sanitizing and cleaning. She has sought advice from experts to keep teachers and students safe. The measures she's taking are apparently working. Her studio isn't just surviving, it's thriving.

And Then There Was Well has welcomed hundreds of students for practice. Many of them have offered testimonials. One student praised the studio for not judging her anxiety but treating her fears with love and understanding. Another student said she was overwhelmed by a sense of peace after her yoga class.

Many people are searching for peace during these turbulent times and yoga helps them find it. It relieves their stress and anxiety and encourages students to look inward and process their thoughts. It not only helps students emotionally, it improves their physical health as well.

Marissa sees yoga as very important right now. It can help people who are recovering from physical injuries or illnesses. It can be particularly helpful for those with physical and developmental disabilities. She teaches Zoom classes to this vulnerable population. She also conducts a zoom class for seniors.

Marissa sees her studio as not just a place to practice yoga but a way for people to build relationships. It's a safe place where people are seen as individuals and feel at home. It connects students and helps them overcome their feelings of isolation. It can provide a sense of freedom to those who are feeling stuck. It offers a much-needed respite from the pandemic.

The mission of Marissa's studio is expressed on the studio's website: "You look around your world after all that has happened and then there was well."

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