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Ripple Effect: Yoganic Flow


What’s the power of a breath? If you ask Kerrie Trahan, founder of Yoganic Flow in Detroit, Michigan, she’ll tell you that a breath has the power to heal a person, a city, and the world.

A native Detroiter, Kerrie dislikes that her home is commonly thought of as an unsafe or bad place to be. “I’ve always wanted to show Detroit as being something better,” Kerrie said. “Those people who are suffering from the bad things that have happened or are happening in Detroit—maybe they would consider doing something else if they just took a moment to breathe.”

In 2014, Kerrie made getting Detroit to breathe her mission, founding Yoganic Flow based on the life she lived while studying abroad in South Korea: advocating for access to healthy food, a regular yoga practice, and community engagement.

Part of Kerrie’s goal in founding Yoganic Flow was to change how members of her community viewed yoga. “You don’t have to be anything or anyone or any size or any color to do yoga,” Kerrie said. “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”

With that mission in mind and her city in her heart, Kerrie’s been able to serve over 2,500 Detroit residents from a diverse range of age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. While Yoganic Flow had a pop-up location in the Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood for part of 2018, Kerrie’s main focus is community yoga classes in Palmer Park, a 125-year old, 140-acre city park in the heart of Detroit.

When you see how successful Yoganic Flow’s Palmer Park classes are and talk to its students, it’s hard to imagine a world where these classes didn’t exist. But that was nearly the reality. When Detroit looked for areas to cut costs in 2009, it planned on closing the park, but the community rallied to save the space, and in 2011, the non-profit People for Palmer Park was formed to ensure that the future of the park was bright.

And Palmer Park isn’t the only place you can find Kerrie bringing light to her city—she teaches in Lafayette Greens, an urban community garden in downtown Detroit, in schools, at lululemon, and she is in the process of finding a permanent home for her dream of a neighborhood wellness center to nourish mind, body, and soul in food-insecure neighborhoods within Detroit.

The ripples of Kerrie’s actions spread throughout Detroit, from the students she’s taught to those she’s inspired to become yoga teachers themselves. We saw it when we visited Yoganic Flow, and I felt it personally when I took a class at Palmer Park. (You can see behind the scenes on Pinterest.)

It takes a sacrifice to do what she’s doing, but Kerrie’s belief in a better, healthier Detroit is a reflection of what the city has given her; “I feel like Detroit made me a very resilient person and also a responsible and aware person,” Kerrie said. “I’m just really proud of it.”


[00:00:34] People want to feel better, they do. They like the church and the liquor to feel better. Hence, me hoping that Yoganic Flow can provide that better in a healthy way like that better. And not to say that we better go to church. I don't want anybody from Detroit to see that and be like "What? Yoga over church!"

[00:00:55] But it would be nice to just give people another option. Like you don't have to drink alcohol or necessarily go to one of 500 churches on your block to feel better. You could breathe.

[00:01:48] My name is Kerrie Trahan, the founder of Yoganic Flow, which is a community-based yoga organization in Detroit. So Yoganic Flow is for Detroit, but it was created in South Korea. My friend and I were living there, practicing yoga regularly. And when we both moved back to Detroit, we were like: "How can we live the life we lived in Korea in Detroit?" Meaning, how can we eat healthy and practice yoga whenever and not have to pay an arm and a leg for it? How can we make this lifestyle available and accessible in Detroit? And ever since 2014 we've been offering community yoga classes throughout Detroit.

[00:02:37] There are no other yoga studios in this community, so I'm really happy to be able to be here for our seniors. Rosedale Park has a large senior demographic so to be able to offer them something to also be healthy is great. A lot of our local yoga studios they focus on a very vigorous style of yoga, mostly Vinyasa. Some have Hatha and Yin, but even those aren't necessarily geared towards seniors. So to be in this space and offer this is such an honor. It makes me think of my grandma who would have loved to come to a place like this where she could deal with her back pain or her stress. I think a lot of people don't think seniors have stress but they also have a lot of stress. Just worrying about having balance and being strong enough to do basic things like walk up and down the stairs or walk to the local grocery store.

[00:03:31] I have had never done it before when I was in my early 30s and decided to try it. And so it's been a long time since I tried it again and then I heard about the presentation that they were having here. So I decided to come out, find out what it was like and really enjoy it. I think the teacher is great and she should take it at your own pace. Anybody in the 70s, you've got to take things at your own pace.

[00:04:12] So in Detroit, in metro Detroit too, It's not just racially divided it's definitely divided in terms of class.

[00:04:21] So keep going straight and I'll show you that Livernois divide like how is so different on one side compared to the other.

[00:04:37] So close, these communities are right by each other, but vastly different. It's almost like they speak different languages and there's just one street in between them.

[00:04:58] But do you see the difference in the sides? And then it gets worse as you go south which is when you get back towards my grandmother's neighborhood. And the kids who went to my high school, I mean they had all sorts of issues going on like dad's in jails, grandmas was raising them, moms on crack and heroine. So a lot of people were exposed to things on this side that kids on the other side of Livernois just were not exposed to. What. As you'll see in our class to mind if if young people come out because something that usually we have maybe people that are 35 and up. But there might be some people younger than me that come or around my age and you'll see that it's people from both sides.

[00:06:17] Alright. Hi everybody. Just so we can get a lot of people in here, get really close to the person next to you. Like you love them. You will soon.

[00:06:18] As Aaron is surely going to tell you today, this word yoga literally translates as unity. So just think of it that way while you're breathing on someone's neck.

[00:06:38] We started offering classes at Palmer Park five years ago and despite the reputation, 50 to 80 people come out every single weekend to get together and do this practice and everybody made it out alive and I think that that created a sense of safety and community in that space. So now it's it's just become normalized to be in the park. And that wasn't always the case.

[00:07:03] But now it's becoming this big beautiful community hub and yoga, I think that has something to do with that.

[00:07:34] The diversity is wonderful and it brings people together. Like even today, the fact that we were there were a lot of us inside, because of the rain, as opposed to outside. And there was a closer space, I mean, and it certainly gives you a sense of community here. You're doing this very positive thing together. You're close to are physically close. I mean Kerrie always encourages us to like say hello or say goodbye. You know so that's another aspect of Yoganic Flow that's different than other studios is that you're here to connect with your neighbors.

[00:08:10] I just love the work that we do and Kerrie is phenomenal as you already know. She's just about the mission and I'm about the mission. And for her to be a part of that kind of community where people are really here to do the work, to heal people, and to give people tools to heal themselves is just phenomenal to me. And there's so much yoga going on in the city of Detroit right now we got goat yoga, beer yoga. But. We want people to carry on with them for 20 years 30 years, generation to generation. That's why we do this work.

[00:08:52] Bringing yoga here was also to change the perception of yoga. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. You don't have to be anything or anyone or any size or any color to do yoga. So when we brought that here we were hoping to change that perception. And I think that we've effectively done that.

[00:09:16] One more. Breathe it in. The light in me honors the light in each of you. Namaste.

[00:09:29] I love Detroit. Even when I lived abroad, when I lived in other states. I'm always like, "I'm from Detroit!" I'm just really proud of it because I feel like Detroit made me a very resilient person and also responsible and aware person.

[00:09:47] But being from Detroit is hard, though.

[00:09:49] I think I was talking to someone earlier here about how when you tell people from you're from Detroit, they're like "You're from Detroit? I heard it was so bad there.".

[00:09:59] But I've always wanted to show Detroit as being something better. But then you live here and you really know people who have been killed, who are maybe doing illegal things to make a living for themselves. And you see all these you know harsh realities that the community is facing and it's like I know it's bad but there's still some light and goodness in us.

[00:10:22] And even those people who are suffering from the bad things that have happened or are happening in Detroit. They still need yoga, too. They still need that healing too. Maybe they would consider doing something else if they just took a moment to breathe.

[00:11:01] The light in me honors and bows to that same light in all of you. Namaste.

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