Purposeful Endeavor

Perceptions Yoga works to help
folks with life's challenges

The studio offers workshops, classes
to help people cope

VERNON, Ind. (October 2021) – Children, veterans, seniors, individuals, families – communities are looking for ways to help individuals in all walks of life who are struggling each day with challenging life experiences. Many times, people say, “I don’t know what to do. How can one person impact these overwhelming issues?”
In Jennings County, Ind., Karen Chilman and her yoga business partner, Charlinda Evans, found a way to make a difference. They started a business with a mission statement to make it possible for anyone to have “the opportunity to pursue wellness, self-care, wholeness and healing through the practices of trauma sensitive yoga, mindfulness and art.”
Chilman has taught yoga in North Vernon for about 20 years in various locations but never had a space of her own. Everything changed when she and Evans bought a building in Vernon in November 2019 at 139 E. Hwy. 3.

Karen Chilman in class

Photo provided

Karen Chilman, right, teaches a workshop at her Perceptions Yoga, Mindfulness and Art studio in Vernon, Ind. She and her business partner, Charlinda Evans, started the business to make a difference in the community.

They completed renovations in March 2020 – just as the COVID shutdown began. That is a devastating blow to a new business, but Chilman and Evans pivoted immediately to online yoga classes for their new business, Perceptions Yoga, Mindfulness and Art.
The renovated building gave them space for both yoga and art classes, plus gallery space for local artists. The business operates as a 501c3 not-for-profit because they want to serve everyone, regardless of ability to pay. 
Chilman serves as the executive director with a volunteer board over the organization. All classes are offered with a “pay as you can” fee policy. One of the classes, Trauma-Informed Yoga, is specifically designed to address challenges faced by hurting kids, individuals suffering from PTSD, and suicide prevention. The goal is to build a resilient community in Jennings County. 
Chilman explained that neuroscience has demonstrated that every childhood adverse experience affects the brain. “When we know better, we can do better. Understanding is an instrument for change,” she said.
Chilman retired from her career as an art teacher at Jennings County High School in June 2021. Evans is currently teaching at Jennings County Middle School. Both teachers have years of experience working with students affected by traumatic events. Chilman’s art students have returned to tell her, “Doing art saved my life.” Another student, a former addict, told her that photography saved his life. 
Chilman grew up on a farm in Jennings County  “I think I was born a little yogi,” she said. “I used to sit in the lotus pose as a preschool child. I always loved nature and loved to sit outside. She discovered “real yoga” just by chance after her sister-in-law invited her to attend a yoga training class. She found her niche in yoga after attending that class. 
She writes many grants to provide the funding needed to operate the business. Board members and other individual donors also provide needed funding. The fact that Evans is still working provides a financial safety net as well. They were excited to receive an REMC grant to provide materials for the art classes. Materials are expensive, and the students cannot afford to cover the cost. There are suggested payment levels, but students just pay what they can afford. They also recently received a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission Arts Recovery Program. 
“We all have a collective trauma in the pandemic. Everyone is dealing with it. There is fear and an upheaval of emotion,” Chilman said. “Yoga is not a religion. We don’t teach it as a religion. It’s about finding inner peace. We have Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and others in our classes.” 
There are different types of classes, such as a chair yoga class that is being held at Stream Cliff Farms. The regular yoga classes are held at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays. Yoga is good for maintaining bone density. In Yen yoga there are 6-10 poses on the floor that work tendons and bones instead of muscle groups. “Everybody can benefit from yoga training,” Chilman said.

Karen Chilman

Photo provided

From left, Karen Chilman and Charlinda Evans are pictured outside their studio.

Cheri Massey, executive director of the Jennings County United Way, said, “The classes at Perceptions Yoga provide an avenue for residents of Jennings County to become healthier. They provide services for the military also. We have supported their programs with grants. During COVID, they adapted by going online to provide classes. It is really good for Jennings County.”
The gallery is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and most Saturday afternoons. Each month there is a featured artist. In October, Fear Fair artist and designer Ashley Browning will open with a reception from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2.
There are many art classes available for kids, including “Wiggle, Zigzag and Twirl with Lines” for preschoolers and printing with found objects, vegetables and Styrofoam for children in grade school. Adult classes in October include Painting on Canvas, Pumpkin Carving, and Mixed Media Painting on Canvas: Autumn Still Life. They also offer custom painting parties for events such as bridal showers, baby showers and a fun night out with friends. During the pandemic they provided kits for the online art classes held with live teachers. There is still a monthly online art class. 
Yoga classes are available via Zoom, so they are accessible for everyone. Participants can choose to have the camera on or off. Students in a home setting don’t need special equipment. A blanket or even a roll of paper towels can be used as props when appropriate. Chilman also teaches special classes for the “Fit at Home” military program. Current active military such as National Guard are given a code to allow participation.
She is certified to teach yoga for seniors, kids, women’s health, addiction and recovery, suicide prevention, prenatal, depression and anxiety, PTSD, ADD and autism, caregivers, childhood trauma, mindful ness classes such as mindfulness stress reduction.

• For information about classes or donations, visit www.perceptionsyoga.org.

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