It’s time to celebrate all things yoga, and YogaCare!
Three years ago, yoga instructor Greg Van Hyfte was a student in the Social Services Administration school at the University of Chicago, and a Schweitzer Fellow. His project was to bring weekly yoga classes to Chicago Family Health Center, where I work as a family physician.
The classes were a hit.
A year later, Greg reached out to me asking if I wanted to bring the classes back by partnering with him on a Schweitzer Seed grant, made possible by the American Medical Association Foundation. I gladly said yes, and we started a new series of gentle therapeutic yoga classes, that continued after the demonstration period on a pay-what-you-can basis. The following year, a new seed grant brought a new class to CommunityHealth Englewood, taught by Greg and Julia Lee Pedersen. A mini-grant from the Institute for Translational Medicine allowed us to study the impact of the classes on pain and stress immediately after the first class, and three months later. With a team of volunteer interns, we gathered rich qualitative data on a cohort of 75 participants.
Nearly everyone reported liking the classes. 79% of respondents reported continuing the exercises at home.
“Now I get along with my kids!”
“My back pain is gone!”
“These classes are important in these neighborhoods.”
The classes remain a hit. We began to think about how to grow our organization, and bring yoga to more people on the South Side. In partnership with Pritzker MD/MBA student Kevin Stephens and Booth School of Business MBA student Kristin Cho, we entered the Social New Venture Challenge. We had a ten week crash course in how-to-start-a-venture. For profit or non-profit? Funding structure? Target population? Unit economics? With outstanding coaching from the Social Enterprise Initiative, we created a viable business plan, and a business presentation. We pitched it to real-world judges, from foundations to private investors. YogaCare became an SNVC finalist!
YogaCare had a big week at the end of May.
Tuesday May 29 was the final SNVC presentation. Kevin and Kristin did a fantastic job representing the team! We didn’t win any money, but over the course of the 10 weeks we won an enormous amount of access to business knowledge, which has allowed us to apply to other funding sources.
Wednesday May 30 was the IntoSomethingGood Chicago challenge, through Good Work Chicago. Julia and Greg represented YogaCare, with enthusiastic support from yoga class participant Nubia Ptah. And YogaCare became an IntoSomethingGood Chicago finalist! June 12th will be the final competition, a three minute pitch at the GoodNightChicago finals on the roof of the Godfrey Hotel.
Thursday May 31 was the University of Chicago Innovation Showcase. YogaCare had a booth in the Winter Garden of the Booth School of Business, joining other business ventures founded through the University of Chicago. You can read more about the New Venture Challenge winners (and see YogaCare in action if you scroll through the pictures) in a Chicago Tribune article here.
On Saturday May 31, I hosted YogaCare representatives on air to discuss the healing benefits of yoga through the University of Chicago Medicine’s “Dr On Call” radio hour on WVON 1690 am. Dr. Sonia Oyola, an integrative medicine physician and yoga course instructor joined Greg and Nubia to talk about their experiences with yoga. What is yoga? Why and how did they come to do yoga? How does yoga impact health? Who is yoga for? Are yoga and organized religion compatible? What does stress do to the body? What does deep breathing do for the body? How do you meditate? What is mindfulness? Where do you go to find yoga classes on Chicago’s South Side?
We had a blast on the radio, even leading the listening audience in a 4-7-8 mindfulness breathing exercise. (Breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Breathe out for a count of eight.)
It felt great to talk on air about something we were all passionate about.
This is an exciting time for YogaCare, as we grow from a little project to a full fledged venture, creating a place in all neighborhoods for yoga to promote health.
You can come and support us at GoodNightChicago June 12 from 6-8 pm. Your ticket buys you a vote that you can use to address health disparities one yoga class at a time.
Questions about YogaCare? E-mail co-founder Greg van Hyfte at email@example.com.