Two yoga teachers with a vision, College sophomore Karen Zhao and Wharton junior Natalia Chadee, aim to engage the larger Penn community in meditation and yoga.
“I felt that more people could connect to it. My vision was to create a community that promoted health and taking care of people,” Zhao said.
Together they founded Be Here Yoga, which Zhao describes as “a movement towards empowered living, calm living and authentic community.” The group offers free weekly yoga classes in Harnwell College House’s rooftop lounge in collaboration with the Live Well program there. They have about five teachers, a turnout of between 10 and 25 students for every class and they collaborate with other groups on campus.
College sophomores Corey Loftus and Karen Zhao, College freshman April Chen, and Wharton juniors Makena Finger, and Wharton junior Tai Bendit-Shtull make up the Be Here team, teaching yoga and meditation to a growing community on campus.
The group held a yoga class inside of the Sweetgreen on 39th and Walnut streets in November. Afterwards participants received a free salad and merchandise. The event was a success, with over 300 people signing up to fill only 25 spots. College freshman April Chen attended the event, and continued going to classes before becoming a teacher, she said.
“It’s a really fun and welcoming environment. They make the experience of doing yoga very special,” Chen said.
In addition to the accessibility of the classes, which are free and open to all skill levels, the sense of community is what draws many of its members.
“You can really feel the community. I already feel like I know people by name,” College junior Tanya Datta said. Datta only recently started to attend classes.
The movement has grown as more people are drawn to the group’s inclusiveness.
“To see it go from a few of us to an entire roomful of people is really cool,” College senior Eileen Wang said. Wang has been going to classes since the group first started.
“It really just grew naturally because people were interested,” yoga teacher and Wharton junior Tai Bendit said. “It’s people who authentically want to be involved and be engaging in the wellness of the community which attracts such a great group.”
Zhao said the group fills a need on Penn’s campus.
“A lot of Penn is building up a wall of perfection or having things together,” Zhao said.
In contrast, co-leader and Wharton junior Makena Finger says Be Here Yoga “empowers people to live more authentically, and live more in community through yoga and meditation.”
“I think that authenticity is really being comfortable with who you are and feeling like you can express yourself fully,” Zhao said. “I definitely think that there’s a need for some kind of community.”