At the Center for Recovery and Wellness (CRW) our holistic approach to recovery means that we offer more to our clients than traditional clinical services. In June, staff members Vaness Flores (Prevention and Wellness Educator) and Fiorela Caro (Recreation Coordinator) launched an outdoor meditation and yoga class for our Pride Site residents. The inspiration for the new class came from their mutual desire to connect with our clients and broaden their involvement at CRW beyond their prevention work with the external Lower East Side community.  

“As a team we made a document of ideas for activities we could do,” Fiorela recalled. “I proposed doing yoga and meditation because it has helped me so much to relax, to be more introspective, and that has led to personal growth.” Vaness, who also practices meditation, loved the concept. Many of the activities and groups that our clients normally attend are clinically based, so Vaness and Fiorela thought that it would be helpful to offer a recreational activity based on health and wellness.

“I’ll come out here in the snow—that’s how much I like it.” Brendon R., a resident and dedicated participant shared, adding that the class has helped him manage his anxiety and PTSD. “I’ve learned some tools through meditation to kind of slow down and put the fire out before it gets too bad,” he said. Brendan’s positive experience has been a common one. “The majority of people I’ve met here in the meditation class at first were like, ‘Alright, I’ll try it,’” he said. “Then they’re like, ‘Wow, that was great! When’s the next class?’”  

Meditation and yoga are helpful tools for people in recovery and in general. Scientifically speaking, these practices have been shown to actually change the neurological makeup of the brain. “I can just take three breaths every single day and in three months, my brain can change how it functions,” Fiorela explained.

Fiorela and Vaness have created a unique curriculum for each of their classes. “I decided to introduce what meditation can be by starting with breath work and teaching about the benefits of deep breathing,” Vaness said. She has since moved onto other themes like sound baths, Reiki, pressure points, changing negative language to positive language, and focusing on gentle self talk. 

Fiorela described her approach to creating a class that empowers her clients to practice independently.  “We started by using an app called Insight Timer and now I’m just leading the meditations myself, talking to clients while doing body scans, and doing some affirmations, as well,” she said.

“Sometimes I bring it back to the app because I want clients to know that they don’t need me to meditate.” Fiorela likes to remind her clients that meditation is a transformative power that they can access on their own. “This is your power, this can help you. It helps me; let’s do it together and let’s see how this transforms us.’”

Despite never teaching yoga and meditation before, Fiorela and Vaness have created a game changing wellness resource for our clients and have used it to build a supportive community. “When you’re in a place for recovery and you’re on your own, it can be easy to feel kind of lost or isolated,” Vaness said. “Being able to hold this class and have that constant reminder of, ‘You’re not alone, I’m here for you, you’re here for me,’ has been a great experience for all of us.”