People of People’s July Edition: Janelle Grant

I first came in to People’s on Alberta in 2008. I think it had opened not long before that. I had been to a bunch of other studios (mostly on “intro special” deals …still have never been to a $12+ class!) and rec center/community college classes, but was on the verge of being convinced that, despite feeling the benefits of the practice, this was really…not my scene. People’s changed that, by representing accessibility, DIY attitude, diverse community, a sense of humor. When the studio moved and started offering scholarships I was so excited. Getting a scholarship to help maintain a steady yoga practice was like having a little bit of health insurance, for real, because having this available meant making healthier choices and taking better care of myself. As classes started getting bigger I started seeing folks from the studio around town or friends from elsewhere in class (a shout out to all the secret punk rock yogis!). More recently my mom even started coming to classes with me. The scholarship got me thinking of how to give back and I started doing various sorts of work trade…painting, flyering, and mostly cleaning. It was so nice to know that those times when I especially couldn’t afford yoga classes (which often happened to be when I needed them most) I never had to go without.

I think I’m slowly learning to name the differences the yoga practice has made in my life. There are big life changes coincide almost exactly with beginning this practice that I did not immediately believe were related. Around that time I quit smoking, stopped having panic attacks. There are probably connections I still haven’t made. I’ve become a little more bold, a little less cynical, and less of an introvert. Even my friends and family have noticed I seemed more comfortable in my own skin. And I’m still working on this one but, I used to deal with hard times by running away whenever possible. I’d convince myself I wouldn’t have problems with depression if I didn’t live under such gray skies all year, so I could probably fix it by taking off for Mexico til winter was long gone. I traveled a bunch and turns out people are feeling a bit doomy and desperate about the state of the world pretty much everywhere. Being conscious of so much suffering is hard to deal with, but how do you begin to change anything without facing it for what it is, even when it’s super fucked up. I think this is true for both personal/internal and social/global struggles. So this piece about learning to sit with what troubles you is a pretty relevant teaching when you have grown up being taught to pretend everything’s okay, or to look for a quick fix.

Outside of my time as the studio, I work at a day center in Old Town for folks who are mostly house-less or in need of some basic needs sort of stuff or other help finding resources. I also work on-call in an emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence. I’m going on tour this summer with some friends in a Portland punk band…I’ve been sort of their go-to roadie for years and this time we’re going back to Mexico City! It’s been pretty much the only sort of traveling I’ve done lately since I went and became a student again…and I’m starting nursing school in the fall. I recently got back in to making art after years of having no real such outlet…this happened by accident, started by being gifted a bunch of materials and getting friends together to crank out protest art, props and banners for political street actions and demonstrations. I’ve been genuinely excited over the last year or two about what seems like a big shift in the local/global social climate, getting a sense that some sort of real change could be on the horizon and may be inevitable. I’m equally excited for what looks like it might be a real summer in Portland with a healthy dose of cold river swimming.