he benefits of yoga are at the center of a program that insurer ConnectiCare has rolled out in several cities that, as the Farmington firm’s Senior Director of Public Relations and Corporate Communications Kim Kann puts it, “speaks to our mission of providing health and fitness to the communities we serve.” T
Now operating in four cities, including Bridgeport, Yoga in Our City offers free classes throughout the state, with Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury rounding out the schedule. The one-hour Bridgeport classes, overseen by Great Heart Yoga owner Stacey Turechek, take place through Sept. 15 on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. at Veteran’s Memorial Park, and on Saturdays at 9 a.m. at Seaside Park, although Kann noted that classes are available every day of the week if one considers all four cities.
And, she said, some people travel from city to city to take advantage of the free classes.
“We’ve had people here from Stratford, Fairfield, Trumbull,” Turechek said. “It brings people from all levels in — there’ s no holding back. Sometimes people can be a little afraid to go to a studio because they’re not sure about their body or whether they’re wearing the right clothes — and there’s the financial barrier for some people as well. But by being free and open to everyone, it encourages them to try something they might not otherwise be comfortable doing.”
Kann noted that Yoga in Our City accommodates participants culturally as well, with Spanish-language classes available at Hartford’s Pope Park.
“I think most people associate yoga with relieving stress, which is certainly true,” Turechek said of the health benefits of the discipline. “Moving your body a bit can make you feel better and the whole meditation aspect is valuable, too.
“But there’s a physical aspect to it as well. It can relieve pain, lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, even relieve insomnia. People of all capabilities can do it. I think it can heal just about anything, honestly — but then I would think that,” she laughed, “given what I do.”
ConnectiCare became a presenting sponsor of Yoga in Our City in 2013. The initiative was started by T.J. Clynch, founder of Hartford consultancy Civic Mind, in 2011.
“T.J. approached us with the idea, and we loved it,” Kann said. “It made perfect sense for us to get involved, since it’s such a good fit with our mission and our culture of giving back to the people of our state.”
When the decision was made to expand into Fairfield County, Bridgeport was the obvious choice, Kann said. “It was really important for us to find the right place in the county. We have an office and center at 4551 Main St., which gets a lot of traffic.”
She said the Bridgeport classes average about 25 people per session, while in Hartford and New Haven “they can go well over 100.”
And once people try it, they tend to come back. “I’d say that 99% of the time, if they take one class, they will return,” Turechek said. “And if it’s not their thing, there’s no worries. You have absolutely nothing to lose.”
Kann also affirmed that ConnectiCare has committed to remaining on the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, having submitted its rate proposals to the Connecticut Insurance Department on July 8. Along with Anthem, it is one of two insurers to be available on the exchange for the past five years.