Good Karma: Monthly yoga class blends fitness with giving

Fit & Fun

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

A mother-daughter team in Ann Arbor has taken the peaceful, stress-relieving practice of yoga and enhanced it to help causes both locally and internationally.

Karma Yoga was started eight months ago, the brainchild of Community High School senior Chelsea Cendrowski, who co-teaches the class with her mom, Victoria Cendrowski, fitness supervisor for Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation Department. Both teach fitness yoga classes for the Rec & Ed Department, as well.

Yoga class
Chelsea Cendrowski leads a yoga class in the dance studio at Community High School. Cendrowski and her mom, Victoria, donate their time to a monthly Karma Yoga class, with proceeds going to nonprofit groups.

The two donate their time one Saturday each month to teach the class. A $10 donation is suggested, but those attending can pay whatever they can afford – no one is turned away.

“It’s bringing the (good) karma back on ourselves,” Chelsea Cendrowski said. “We want as many people to come as possible.” The group usually draws between 15-20 people and anyone is welcome. The facilities in which they host classes can handle up to about 30 people, she said.

After reading “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder – a book which chronicles the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer and his Partners in Health organization – Cendrowski said “It made me think ‘what can I do to help others’?”

Since there were no longer Saturday Rec & Ed yoga classes, she got the idea for the donation-funded yoga class to benefit nonprofits. “Some are just groups I know about, my parents know about or what I hear from others. I welcome suggestions too,” she said.

To date, the class has raised $1,500 for causes both local and international. Donations have been made to Doctors Without Borders, the One Million Reasons campaign for the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation, Cambodian Children’s Fund for Education, American Red Cross Disaster Relief, Ann Arbor’s Food Gatherers and The Smile Train which does free cleft surgeries for children.

“I like to think it’s helping the local community as well as reaching out to others outside of our community,” Cendrowski said. “I feel lucky to have this opportunity. It’s more than I expected. I feel honored that so many people show up to support the cause.”

It’s Cendrowski’s way of “taking yoga off the mat” and extending the practice out into the world, she said.

Yoga is a mind-body practice, Cendrowski explained. “There are studies that show that yoga changes your brain chemistry,” she said. “You think more clearly. It’s a great stress reliever and a great workout. It’s your time to focus on your body and allow it to relax.”

It also teaches patience and strength and allows participants to apply it in their life, she said. The Karma Yoga sessions are a mix of yoga with Pilates.

Cendrowski hopes to study in a health field upon graduation from Community High School and, if she attends college locally, will continue leading the Karma Yoga into her college years, she said.

Victoria Cendrowski said she is extremely proud of her daughter and the Karma Yoga effort. “It just warms our hearts that we’re able to do this and it goes to a good cause,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

She noted that the classes include all age and ability levels and “is always a nice group.”

“It’s a mother-daughter bonding,” she added. “Coming from a mother’s standpoint, that’s my favorite part.”

Casey Hans writes and edits this newsletter for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.
E-mail her or call 734-994-2090.


Karma Yoga

Yoga class
Karma Yoga is held on one Saturday per month.

What: A monthly, 90-minute yoga class in Ann Arbor to benefit a selected nonprofit which changes each month. December’s collection went to Doctors Without Borders; January’s will be for the local Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley chapter. The nonprofit has built more than 90 homes in Washtenaw County since 1990.
When: The next class will be from 9-10:30 a.m. Jan. 15, 2011 at the Eberbach Cultural Arts Building, 1220 S. Forest St., at the corner of Wells Street, Ann Arbor. (When the weather warms, the classes will move to the dance studio at Community High School.)
Cost: Suggested donation of $10 or whatever you can afford.
Who: The mother-daughter team of Victoria and Chelsea Cendrowski donate their teaching time. (Victoria is the fitness supervisor with Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation Department (Rec & Ed); Chelsea is a student at Community High School.)
Details: E-mail Chelsea Cendrowski at to RSVP for class or to be put on an e-mail list for future classes.
Rec & Ed Yoga classes: There are many yoga offerings though the district’s Rec & Ed Department Visit (classes can be found under both fitness and yoga sections) or call 734-994-2300.

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