Roc Girl to Know: Meet Imani Olear of Yoga 4 A Good Hood

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Photography by Meghan Marin of Meghan Marin Photography

Tell us your name, age and what you do.
My name is Imani Olear. I'm 48, a senior pastor and founder of Yoga 4 A Good Hood

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Give us a little of your history.
Originally from Columbus Ohio and came to Rochester to be a pastor in the Lutheran Church. I studied everything from social work, teaching, theology and now yoga. I grew up not knowing we lived in poverty. I thought everyone had chickens in their yards, grew their own food or picked up government issued cheese. My mother struggled with mental illness but she was the best person I have ever known. She taught me the value of seeing people, truly. Those factors brought me to attempt to bridge the gap so many feel in poverty of not being seen.  

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Why did you start Yoga 4 a Good Hood?  What do you hope the community gains though it?
Yoga 4 A Good Hood is a program birthed in conjunction with Reformation Lutheran Church and our hope here in Rochester NY is to make yoga accessible to all levels of persons in different economic situations, ethnic background, mental health backgrounds, victimized by violence, or homelessness and bring them into an environment that promotes healing and community. 

My mother struggled with mental illness but she was the best person I have ever known. She taught me the value of seeing people, truly. Those factors brought me to attempt to bridge the gap so many feel in poverty of not being seen.
— Imani Olear
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As I have practiced yoga over the years, off and on, I have noticed the lack of people of color, those publicly struggling with mental illness and persons of certain economic backgrounds accessibility to a yoga practice. I have also noticed in my work with rape crisis services and as a pastor the need for people to breathe. For many within our communities, yoga and meditation is a practice that is out of reach and not in touch with the realities of what they are experiencing. Not only that, for many, they have expressed that they see no benefit in having a yoga practice because they have to go back to the hell of life. 

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As a woman of color, that comes from brokenness, experienced hardship and struggle, abuse and self degradation I understand the need for peace in ones life. Yoga coupled with my faith in Christ has been an inspiration for creating a balance in my practice on the mat and off the mat. I strongly believe that bringing Yoga 4 A Good Hood  on a larger scale into the city of Rochester will begin to address the issues of brokenness, hardship, struggle, abuse and self degradation and people will find peace within instead of always seeking something outside of themselves. 

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I began this project in May 2013 at Reformation Lutheran Church that started with two people coming on a regular basis once a week, that has grown to an average class of 20-30 people THREE times a week.  Y4AGH believes “we build relationships that break down barriers.” We accomplish this through listening to each other, honoring each others stories, talking about our faith and getting a really wonderful workout through Vinyassa style yoga that helps with building endorphins.

What are your favorite things about Rochester?
How the people I meet here in the ROC ... once you're seen... they always see you. And if they don’t see you... they will search you out and love on you.  

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