Acceptance of all is something most of us aspire to, but it can be a challenge. Sometimes we subconsciously label a person as different or as an outsider. Could that translate to judgment?

EmbodyGR in East Grand Rapids has made it their mission to address this issue. The nonprofit endeavors to change society by removing negative stereotypes and fostering empathy and understanding through an unusual means: making yoga available to diverse demographics.

The program, in place for five years, combines yoga and mindfulness practices, and, along with other organizations, works to make the world a better place through weekly yoga meditation, volunteer opportunities, community engagement, fundraisers, and more!

“EmbodyGR strives to help all of us feel better and do good,” according to founder Dana Christian Lee. “When we take care of ourselves, we are able to take care of others.”

To date, the nonprofit has served over 400 people in the greater Grand Rapids area with over 7,500 hours of yoga, meditation, and empowerment training. Collectively, the members have returned more than 2,000 hours of volunteer service to the Grand Rapids community.

EmbodyGR is a microcosm of the community. Meeting new people and becoming part of a society that cares about others and the community overall is integral to the success of human beings. The group celebrates universal causes and makes an impact through the neighborhood and beyond.

Many who attend EmbodyGR are there to get centered and to learn to live with health and happiness. For example, a woman who lost her daughter was one early attendee; others came for pain management or to alleviate depression or anxiety.

Founder Dana Christian Lee was a single mom who struggled financially and had postpartum depression several years ago. She tried yoga on a friend’s recommendation. She began to heal and to see the many benefits of her yoga practice. That led to the inspiration to start the nonprofit. She wanted to share her good fortune with others and go out into the community and do good.

Christian Lee founded EmbodyGR in 2014 when she offered her first free yoga class at Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids. That weekly Wednesday evening class continues today, and EmbodyGR’s goals include expanding the practice through affiliates to cities like Detroit and Chicago. She also wants to expand to the local medical community, to expose their employees to the benefits of yoga and meditation.

Christian Lee encourages people to expand their comfort zones. How will participants know they are on the right path? Because they will be afraid and excited at the same time as they head into unique and rich territory, according to the author.

“Checking Instagram and Facebook do not qualify as stepping outside. These lead to judgment and jealously. Uniqueness demands that you live your own life. Humanize others. Peer into their lives, their hearts,” Christian Lee advises in her recent TED Talk. Sage advice, I’d say.

To learn more about EmbodyGR and its inspirational leader, visit TEDxEastGrandRapidsHigh.

East Grand Rapids, MI