Having owned a yoga studio for six years prior to COVID, I know firsthand how pricey boutique fitness memberships are.  The overhead for my small studio (which was next to a bar, so definitely not ideal nor swanky) was $7k a month, and that didn’t include paying myself. 

We know how much more expensive organic anything is compared to their junkier counterparts.  We’ve seen the advertisements for $1 fast food items.  We’ve heard of — and maybe experienced — food deserts (read about them here from our friends at the Food Empowerment Project).

Something that I didn’t really talk about at the time is years ago I was on the food stamps program, which had all sorts of feelings attached to that socioeconomic status.  Prior to that, I regularly purchased all organic groceries whenever possible.  While on food stamps, I wasn’t able to do that.  And as I acknowledge that that is so bougie and such a first-world problem to have, I still felt like I was poisoning my kids with chemical-laden meals.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago where my daughter and I were having a conversation about doing cleanses.  She had mentioned that someone she knows was doing a hardcore cleanse, and the thought of wellness privilege came into my brain.

Obviously I understand how expensive it is to participate in group yoga classes, for example.  That is part of the reason why I’m creating a nonprofit and also why I like offering donation-based classes online.  But then I started connecting all of the wellness dots, and my eyes widened.

For someone like me, who is the sole breadwinner of the family and who has chronic health issues, something like a cleanse — whether hardcore or mild — could send me into a tailspin.  In the past, even a heatwave caused a flare-up.  Doing something more drastic might incapacitate me for several months.  For folks like me, sometimes doing the things that would likely help our overall wellness situation may not be an option.

This got me to thinking about ways we can reduce our stress levels that are free or low-cost, because we know stress reduction improves the immune system and overall health.  But sometimes lowering that stress level can be near impossible, especially if the remedy is tied to our economic status.  

So how can we reduce our stress and boost our health during a pandemic and time of intense financial instability?  There are definitely some options, and I’m sure most of them you already know about. 

Meditation is free and is so beneficial for your body, mind, and spirit.  Same with pranayama, breathing techniques.  Just slowing the breath down and focusing your mind on that breath will change your life for the better.  Doing movements at home is another great option.  Whether guided donation-based yoga or your own home practice, stretching does a body good.  Walking in nature — in a park, on a beach, in your neighborhood, or in a forest — is free or low-cost and will feed your soul.  Growing your own food is another way to make an impact on your overall wellness.  You can find organic, non-GMO seeds and plants online or at a garden store.  And if you’re local to the Southern California area, the Long Beach Community Table organization hosts all sorts of workshops on how to become more food secure by growing your own. 

As I’m in the process of creating my new wellness membership set to launch later this year, I will be adding an option where folks can apply for a scholarship program so someone doesn’t have to choose between feeding their family or taking care of their health.  I’ll also create a way for others to donate to that scholarship fund, including buying a membership for a friend and I’ll match the gift by donating to someone who couldn’t otherwise afford it.  Together we can use our privilege and make a huge impact on this planet, one person at a time.