Studio assistant program changes lives

Unpaid work actually works to alleviate mental health and personal struggles at Amara Yoga and Arts. Three studio assistants have become mentally healthier after working for free at Amara.

Amara is a yoga studio and art gallery that has over 20 studio assistants who work 3 hours out of the week cleaning around the studio, directing clients to the correct classes, signing up new clients, and everything else in-between. In exchange for the free work, studio-assistants are allowed to take as many yoga classes as they want. The studio owner, Kathryn Fitzgerald finds these assistants through the community and from friends of current studio assistants.

One studio assistant, Sharon Jackson lost her job and fell into a deep depression and anxiety. Because of this, she decided to go back to school at Eastern Illinois University in order to get a higher degree (at the time she only had her associates) in hopes of finding a new job. During a conversation with one of her teachers, Mary Atteberry, she had mentioned how yoga had helped her mentally. Sharon said that she could not afford yoga and that’s when Atteberry mentioned the program. She was then introduced to the owner and was brought on as a studio assistant.

Jackson said she took several classes a week, “It really helped with my self-esteem, sense of health and getting better in my body.”

Jackson also has many artistic interests that she was never able to really pursue. Amara holds different workshops and classes that need advertising, and Sharon offered to draw on the chalkboard in Amara.

The accepting environment that the studio provides is what keeps her on as a studio assistant. Jackson gets to use her artistic abilities without feeling judged and is allowed to do what makes her happy.

Another studio assistant, Colleen Read, was going through post-traumatic stress disorder, and the therapist she was seeing told her that yoga and meditation could be very beneficial to her. She was familiar with seeing Amara and signed up for a membership. Reed is a full-time student and a CNA, and that it was becoming hard to pay for a membership. Read then contacted the owner herself, and that’s when she found out about the program.

Read continues to attend classes weekly. She said, “I never really had self-love or confidence. I always felt stiff and uptight. I feel like I have really found me and that my anxiety has been alleviated.”

Studio Assistant Juan Gonzalez Machain was recovering from substance abuse and an experience he is grateful that happened to him in order to be the person he is now. One day while running into a friend, Amara came about in discussion and he was interested in being a part of the program. The program has continued to make a positive impact on his life and guide him in the right direction.

Yoga itself is a great way to cope with stress and various mental health issues, and Amara has found a way to give people this mental freedom.

Sources talked to:

Sharon Jackso-studio assistant

Colleen Read-studio assistant

Juan Gonzalez Machain-studio assistant

Kathryn Fitzgerald-Studio Owner

Terri Decker-studio assistant

Billi Jo Hart-In charge of studio assistant program

Mariah Guzman

Author: Mariah Guzman

Mariah Guzman, journalism sophomore