Started in May of 2022, the Afro-Wellness series at North Commons Park offers fun, healthy, mindful, and relationship-centric fitness classes for everyone in the community. With support and funding from a People for Parks Fund Grant this year, classes run every Tuesday (Afro Cardio, 6:30pm – 7:30pm) and Thursday (Afro Yoga, 6:30pm – 7:30pm) and will continue through February 2023. They are open to all ages, genders, and bodies, with water, yoga mats, and any other equipment provided.
Both classes are led by instructor Kenna Cottman, who has taught African dance for over 20 years and has experience in group fitness like step and cardio kickboxing. Kenna is also a 200-hour certified yoga guide and has practiced African dance since childhood. “I’m really about culturally grounded heart health and healing for my Northside community,” says Kenna, who began volunteering at North Commons Park during the teacher’s strike to activate and provide opportunities for young people during the days. As a result of this work, Joy Fogg, Youth Program Specialist at North Commons Park, suggested Kenna continue leading more structured yoga and cardio classes. Together, they initiated the Afro-Wellness series.
Afro Cardio is a mix of contemporary dance and workout moves designed to connect participants with their hearts and hips. The soundtrack is Afrobeat, traditional African music, Caribbean, and Afro Latinx sounds
Afro Yoga takes participants through a sequence of yoga poses and dance moves designed to get folks in tune with their bodies’ natural rhythm and tap into the healing properties of breath linked with movement. The practice is suitable for all levels of experience, and everybody is welcome.
“It’s a sign of the respect my community has for me, the way Joy made space and got the materials I requested, the way the youth workers learned to set up the yoga room and the sound system,” said Kenna, “And whether its two people, 10 people, or just me and Joy jammin’ it up in the gym, I feel wrapped up in love and surrounded with support at North Commons.”
Afro Cardio and Yoga elevates cultural inclusion and health and wellbeing in the community. When folks see themselves reflected in the way that “fitness” and “getting in shape” are presented, it builds safety and security in self, and, as Kenna says, “They are much more likely to truly change and create new and healthier habits. That’s good energy that will ripple through the community in ways that bring peace.”
Featured Image: Instructor Kenna Cottman, courtesy of MPRB.