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Last Friday afternoon, instead of spending my lunch break glued to my kitchen table eating a sad salad, I found myself dancing in a frenzy around my house, joined by about 15 others unselfconsciously doing the same on a Zoom call. We threw our arms in the air and spun around -- some in workout clothes, some in dresses, some with dogs in their arms. It wasn't a quarantine-induced simultaneous breakdown, but a live yoga and movement class called Rhythm & Prana Flow.
The class is part of Peace Inside Live, an online platform born during the pandemic that offers daily, live, donation-based Zoom sessions with facilitators from around the world, focusing on mindfulness, meditation and movement. The goal is to make wellness accessible to everyone, no matter their financial situation or location.
"There's always been a barrier to entry in the wellness industry, and we've realized that and want to be part of the solution, not the problem," said cofounder Shira Lazar, who is also founder and CEO of the digital media brand What's Trending. "We realize how important it is to provide these tools to everyone."
Since Peace Inside Live started at the end of April, about 4,000 people have attended its virtual classes. Class sizes range from intimate groups of a few students to more than 100 people. When you take a class, you'll likely meet people from all over the world, and will learn from the community that forms as well as from the facilitator.
"We have this opportunity with the pandemic to make big change," said cofounder Jordana Reim, a former ad executive and producer who became a yoga teacher and healing trainer. "If we're just waiting for things to be normal again, we're missing the opportunity to question how each of us have been living, and what's perhaps missing. And practices of mindfulness can bring us to a place where we can take an honest but loving look into ourselves."
Daily classes for a donation
Lazar and Reim have known each other for about 15 years, across different careers and stages of life. When the pandemic hit, Reim had been hosting wellness retreats in places like Thailand and Mount Everest, which were no longer an option. She decided to try moving those retreat sessions online to see if they could still be beneficial without the in-person connection. Lazar attended one, and the two decided to collaborate on making a daily platform.
"The whole idea was to create peace inside, literally and figuratively," Lazar said.
You can find live classes on Peace Inside Live every day. Offerings include different types of meditation, breathing, movement, healing through sound, and studying happiness through the ancient Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita. There are also yoga and other workshops.
When you take a live class, you can donate directly to the facilitator through Venmo or PayPal. Facilitators often suggest a donation of $5 to $20 per class, and keep 100% of their earnings from their classes. You can also donate to access on-demand monthly classes. The average monthly donation is $15.
While this payment model may change in the future, for now, it's been working to build a community, Lazar said.
"We want to see what works for people, and we want to be sensitive and aware of people's needs and ability to pay for this," she added.
The founders also work with corporations on wellness activities. For every hour they work with a for-profit company on a virtual session, they donate an hour to a nonprofit, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Miry's List and Thirst Project, bringing mindfulness to those teams that often have many frontline workers.
Founding an inclusive community
Many people in the wellness community have come under fire for whitewashing practices and excluding people of color, both in terms of facilitators and class participants, Lazar said. She and Reim are aware of their white privilege, she added, and have worked to make diversity part of the platform's DNA, rather than trying to make changes later.
Facilitators and participants are located around the world, and the founders consistently reach out to BIPOC organizations and leaders to work together and ask how to support their own efforts, Lazar said.
Part of this work has involved Sunday Peace Inside Live Conversations, with people including Thupten Jinpala (the Dalai Lama's translator and founder of The Compassion Institute). The week George Floyd was killed by police, the platform began hosting twice-monthly discussions called The Other America, facilitated by Lazar and the influencer James Andrews.
These events are meant to provide a safe space for uncomfortable conversations around racism, social injustice and police brutality with storytellers, healers and activists. Panelists have included Kailee Scales from Black Lives Matter, activist and author Blair Imani and Corey Jacobs, cofounder of the Buried Alive Project. These sessions start with a meditation and turn into a conversation and call to action.
"What we have is a global community of people who are taking this look inside and making changes to take skillful action in this world," Reim said. "It's not even a new normal, but creating a world together where we're connected and where we have compassion."
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.