Get to know: Kerrie Trahan ’05, using yoga to go with the flow

Kerrie Trahan '05 is bringing the healing benefits of yoga to Detroiters.
Kerrie Trahan ’05 is bringing the healing benefits of yoga to Detroiters.

Everyone in Kerrie Trahan’s family assumed she would go to law school—even Trahan herself.

But when several circumstances in her life led to stress, anxiety, depression and destructive habits, Trahan said she knew she needed to focus on taking care of herself. She found that care through yoga. And now, she brings the health and wellness benefits of it to areas of Detroit that don’t often see it.

Changing Directions

When she first started at University of Detroit Mercy, Trahan explored the biological sciences and planned to become a pharmaceutical representative.

“When I first started college, an aunt of mine influenced me and encouraged me to look at the course descriptions of a variety of classes and make sure I was picking something that I really enjoyed doing,” Trahan said. She began political science and sociology classes. “I really loved all of my classes and I was really fueled to get into the material just because of the subject matter.”

After graduating from University of Detroit Mercy in 2005 with a Political Science degree, Trahan moved to New York to take pre-law classes at Cornell.

“I enjoyed a lot of the pieces of the program, but I had a really impactful professor who asked ‘is this really what you want to do?’” Trahan recalled. She said she began to question the direction of her life, so she returned to Detroit and, what she calls, really bad habits. “I was already leaning on bad habits to cope with anxiety and depression. I also realized I hadn’t done the work that I needed to do to deal with the death of my father. I had gone right back to a physical state that I thought I had grown out of.”

While trying to figure out her next step in life, Trahan immersed herself in yoga, something she had enjoyed doing for a few years prior. She said she should have been studying for the LSAT to get into law school, but instead, she went to Korea where she studied yoga and realized where her passion was taking her.

Bringing yoga home

“While I was in Korea, I was eating better and doing yoga. I wanted to do that in Detroit, but it just wasn’t accessible. Shortly after I returned from Korea, I went to Haiti for a mission trip and started thinking about how I can be a service to the world instead of being so career-driven,” said Trahan, who still thought she’d end up in law school.

Her time at University of Detroit Mercy and the service learning aspect of her education helped drive her forward in developing her next ideas—bringing yoga and wellness to those in the city of Detroit.

“The course curriculum at Detroit Mercy really expanded my perspectives on many things,” Trahan said. “I developed a curiosity to not only learn about myself, but also the world.”

When she saw a sign at her yoga studio for a training program for those interested in teaching yoga, she decided to jump in.

“I told my family and they thought it was a joke and asked when I’d be taking the LSAT,” she said. “I wasn’t the most fit person and I wasn’t really flexible. It was really surprising for them. I thought I could show them that yoga works and is helpful and effectual.”

She said the early stages of the process were tough. She would teach a class and the feedback would be harsh and cause her to question decision to her explore teaching yoga. Through the process, she learned to trust herself to get better and learn from the critiques. Trahan said she threw herself into yoga and attended trainings in Columbia, India and Mexico. She said she saw the value in yoga and meditation and wanted others to experience the benefits—especially those in Detroit.

“In Detroit, we have a high prevalence of people using drugs, domestic violence, kids who are born predisposed to certain emotions and triggers. It’s because of the chronic stress we are under and having no healthy outlet to deal with it,” said Trahan. She hoped to ease some of the stress through yoga, and do it without a high price tag.

“When I came back to Detroit, I realized there weren’t a lot of yoga options in the city. Even the yoga options that did exist were priced like the yoga studios in the suburbs. Those facing big financial challenges like many Detroiters don’t see the value in paying $15 per class. That’s just not feasible for a lot of people in Detroit. A lot of our city can’t afford basic needs, so how can they afford yoga,” asked Trahan.

It spurred her idea for Yoganic Flow, a yoga studio in Detroit. She said it empowers people to take care of their health when they don’t have access to or money for insurance. Yoga offers relaxation and mindfulness, which can reduce the risks of stroke and heart attack. Lower stress can lead to fewer instances of many health-related challenges, like diabetes and obesity.

“Yoganic Flow is in the community—schools, community recreation and senior centers and taking yoga to the people who might not come to a yoga studio,” Trahan said. These include children and those with physical limitations. There are also senior classes, all levels of adult classes, programming for schools and summer camps.

One of her students, Marcus Barnes, said the work he has done with Trahan has impacted his physical and mental health.

“Her guidance has helped me tremendously step out of old individual cycles and into a healthier conscious connection to self and to a broader community that shares common goals and awareness. I highly recommend Kerrie and Yoganic Flow to anyone searching for a higher awareness while building community,” Barnes said. “It’s been an amazing experience for me.”

Trahan said growing up, she was always busy. Her life was loud. In her house, someone was always talking, using the phone or the television set was on. She said the constant sound wasn’t giving her conscious brain a minute to be true. She wants to teach others about how to quiet their minds and make time for themselves.

“I encourage those exploring yoga to look through the different yoga options and find what works best for them, just like my aunt encouraged me to explore what interested me the most in college,” she said.  “Personally, I like the quiet meditation and yoga. I don’t want anyone to talk and I just want to follow the sensations.”

In her classes, Trahan said she keeps the mood light. She said in addition to the yoga, she wants to build community among those who attend and encourage them to promote healthy living.

While Trahan didn’t get her law degree, she now has a master’s degree in community health and is making an impact on Detroit and the communities around it. She said local schools are seeing a demographic shift and dealing with children with myriad social and emotional issues. These schools are bringing in Yoganic Flow to help the students find healthy ways to deal with their stress and emotions.

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