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From Burnout To Bodhisattva

Less than two years ago, Jenny Carrington was living in California, burned out and at a crossroads.

“I was strapped for cash, going through a lot of personal stuff, depression and anxiety,” she remembers. “My dad told me, ‘You have to start every day with gratitude. Take a walk outside and be thankful for what you have. No matter what happens, the sun is going to shine every day.’”

Carrington took that to heart and began a journey of self-discovery that led to a real eureka moment. “I had a friend who was in yoga teacher training. I was walking along the beach and spotted people doing calisthenics, and it really inspired me. At the same time, I had a friend in a yoga training and I was going to some of her classes. And I thought, ‘This is really a practice that you can do anywhere.’ And that’s where the name Freedom2Fit came from.”

Carrington is the founder and Executive Director of Freedom2Fit, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people find their ways to health through learning, creativity, and empowerment. The mission is to provide free or affordable holistic wellness and fitness programs to populations that are underserved or at-risk.

“Typically yoga, at least in our mind's eye, takes place in a candlelit studio, not in an urban setting,” noted Carrington. “And urban populations are often the ones experiencing poverty and extreme stress. And so the practice of yoga is something that is really needed. So I really wanted to mesh the urban vibe with the spiritual self-development practice that is yoga.”

Back in L.A., Carrington literally took her yoga practice to the streets. “I didn’t have enough money to go to class,” she explains. “And then I found Deb!”

That would be Deb Radloff, a NYC yoga teacher, actress, and singer who serves as Deputy Director. “I was going to a Halloween party,” Radloff remembered, “and I walked in and there was Jenny doing a spontaneous forearm stand! I asked her if she would like any advice on how to make what she was doing easier. She told me about Freedom2Fit, and I thought it was such an amazing vision and exactly what I would like to do.”

Carrington, who moved to NYC, aims to create “a welcoming and open space for anyone to start their journey anywhere.” Programs in development include “Dance For Diversity," which will be brought to schools. Through dance and education, the program will “teach youths to recognize, engage, affirm, and love themselves and one another regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, or body type.”

“Walk For Well-Being” will be a Walk-a-Thon event raising funds for prevention and intervention programs geared towards families that suffer from domestic violence and live in homeless shelters. The program will combine nutrition, fitness—yoga, dance, walking—and education.

“Seasons of Love” is an educational program comprised of NFL2FIT (Nutrition, Fitness, Listening & Learning so that Families and Individuals Thrive), and MLB2FIT (Meditation, Relationships, Body & Behavior…). NBA2FIT and NHL2FIT are currently in development.

The first major Freedom2Fit event was Julybalaya, a community festival held over the 4th of July weekend at the Kymberle Project in Bed-Stuy. Consisting of three days of live music, the theme was “Artists Putting Community First.” The event began with Gloyo, a beginner's yoga class where everyone was encouraged to wear white under special lighting effects that allowed us to glow outside as well as (hopefully) in.

The class started with yogis, but soon several of the musicians joined in for perhaps their first-ever asana experience. It was an inspiring moment, proving Jenny’s point that yoga can be offered anywhere, and, to a borrow an iconic phrase, people will come.

“We’re bringing awareness to the community at large,” says Carrington. “And we’re targeting services for kids at a young age who are drawn to this naturally. They’re drawn to physical exercise, to movement; they want to do it! Yoga and nutrition are not very accessible to low-income communities, so we’re really trying to reach at-risk kids, kids in poverty, kids in foster care or whose parents are in jail. And even the homeless population, just getting them up and getting them walking. It doesn’t have to be advanced—it just has to be personal.”

Learn more about the organization by clicking here.

—Jim Catapano

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