Premier Care Rehabilitation offers free Friday night yoga classes in the city’s Fitzgerald neighborhood. The program, offered by siblings and co-owners, Corina Malone and Corey Williams, aims in part to promote social justice in addressing inequities to accessing health and wellness care. (Photo by Quinn Banks)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and two Detroiters are offering space to encourage healthy minds and bodies every Friday evening.  

Siblings and co-owners of Premier Care Rehabilitation, Corina Malone and Corey Williams, began offering a free yoga class in the Fitzgerald neighborhood a year ago. Malone, who grew up in the area, said she wanted to increase access to care and support better health outcomes.  

“I wanted to bring services to a community that, for one, needed them,” said Malone. “And promote social justice by addressing the inequities around access to health and wellness resources.”  

Premier Care Rehabilitation siblings and co-owners Corina Malone and Corey Williams said they began offering the free classes to bring needed services to the community. (Photo by Quinn Banks)

Yoga is known to reduce anxiety and depression, support brain function, and identify chronic stress patterns. The TRAILS and Youth Policy Lab at the University of Michigan released a report on school mental health in the Detroit Public Schools Community District that showed elevated levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. The spread and effects of COVID-19 played a part in the dramatic increases of threats to mental health, as have regional mass shootings like Michigan State University, and the economic climate.  

Malone, a 2003 graduate of Mumford High School, left the city for a few years after college and decided to return to Detroit to support the community. Her brother connected with Claudia Guerrero, a longtime yoga practitioner, who agreed to teach the class. Premier Care also provides yoga mats and towels for all class participants.  

Malone said that neighbors are encouraged to sign up for each class through an online link, but walk-ins are also accepted. The co-owner said the class draws between 10 to two dozen people each week.

Friday evening yoga class at Premier Care Rehabilitation lead by instructor Claudia Guerrero on May 12, 2023.

Even though her practice focuses on physical health and rehabilitation, Malone believes it’s important to see more of her neighbors nurture their mental health. She said that many people in the neighborhood have “debilitating” daily stressors that affect their mental health. However, the Mumford graduate said that discussing mental health is still seen as “taboo” in parts of the Black community, so giving people the opportunity to explore healing through yoga can be a helpful first step.  

“It’s just one of those things that’s overlooked,” she said. 

More free or donation-based yoga classes in Detroit:

  • Yoganic Flow and the Detroit Park’s Coalition: Yoga in the Parks; June 3- Sept. 2. Find more information here.
  • Yoga at Hostel Detroit: Every Thursday in May- October from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; 2700 Vermont St; donations accepted.
  • City Glow Yoga and Downtown Detroit Partnership: Silent Disco Yoga and Baby + Me Yoga; Beacon Park, Summer 2023; $5 donation.

Malone said she also recognizes that there are many who are concerned about their mental health but can’t afford to attend expensive yoga classes in studios or don’t have reliable transportation to visit more popular classes in the city. At Premier Care Rehabilitation, residents across age groups and financial ability are welcome for yoga.   

Guerrero said the class is a “flowy” vinyasa, where the focus is on the participant’s breath and repeated poses. The instructor said that social media has influenced people’s perception of the practice through handstands and flashy poses of participants putting their feet behind their heads that require extreme strength and flexibility, when the focus should be humble breathing.  

“I always encourage the student to let go of trying to get the perfect physical posture and instead of that, to focus on their breath,” she said.  

Claudia Guerrero leads classes at Premier Care Rehabilitation. She said she considers medication the highest form of yoga. (Photo by Quinn Banks)

Guerrero said she considers meditation the highest form of yoga and that regular practice can help participants to listen to their body’s needs, slow down and reconsider negative thinking patterns. The instructor said she encourages participants to consider yoga for more than just the physical benefits to realize how it supports their nervous system and a tool to use in every day situations.  

“If you notice when you are feeling melancholy or in a difficult situation, your heart begins to pop faster and faster and faster,” she said. “Perhaps you even stop breathing or your breath is agitated. But if you take a longer breath, you remember that you control your breath and not the other way around.”  

Jena Brooker contributed to this story. 

Olivia Lewis is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. She was formerly a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Indianapolis Star. She has also worked in philanthropy for the Kresge Foundation, the Council...

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