Last April during Volunteer Month we met Jean Jentz, an incredible yoga teacher who comes to the Living Well offices every Monday to lead an hour class for staff. Today we wanted to share more of the story as we so appreciate her willingness to share yoga and breathing techniques with us. Wellness is essential to work life balance, and teachers like Jean make it accessible to everyone no matter their level of experience.
She has taught Tai Chi since 2010 and spent her entire career in physical therapy. While a physical therapist Jean worked in several modalities having spent time in clinic-based pain care, pediatric school care, a pediatric hospital, private PT with a pediatric company that serves individual group homes, as well as hospitals. She also spent time in occupational medicine, which is therapy to help prevent injuries or support people after an injury, geriatric home care, and pretty much everything but sports medicine. To say she has spent her life helping people move and heal their bodies is an understatement.
Why yoga and tai chi after years of working physical therapy? Turns out Jean loves meditative movement. As someone who exercised for years with an emphasis on physical health, she got hooked on tai chi and yoga when she realized the link between yoga and pain relationships. She has practiced yoga since 2002 and loves that it controls her back pain. Jeans explains it this way, “In addition to flexibility and strength I get peace and calmness of mind. And I guess I also feel better in my body, I know my limitations and strengths and potentials.” When she dove in and saw that pain is in the brain and that a stretch can be interpreted as a movement or a challenge, it was like a lightbulb went off. Jean thinks the brain is an interesting and fascinating thing. “Our thoughts are based on a millennia of fear and training. And there are not that many threats that are actually life threatening. But we sit in fear so frequently,” Jean says. Adding with a wink that our minds tell us things that are not true. She knows from experience and practice that Yoga can help clear the negative messages. To this day she keeps her own backpain at bay with daily meditative practices and loves sharing the info with her students. And we are so grateful she is willing to volunteer her time, energy, and experience with us!
So, how did we end up with this incredible human at the office Mondays? Jean found Living Well when she was in need of eight volunteer hours during her yoga training back in 2019. When she was telling her friend, Fran McCloskey, that she was searching for a nonprofit who might be interested in hosting classes, Fran enthusiastically told her about Living Well. In the perfect small world story, Fran has a sister who lives at a Living Well home and she told Jean to get in contact with Kathy Anderson, our Volunteer Manager. If Fran’s name sounds familiar, you might remember her and her sister, Peggy, as they were featured in our 2021 Transforming Lives Gala Dreammaker video honoring Community Partner Mary Birch. They beautifully told us why Mary is such an incredible advocate, and in doing so it was clear how much they both appreciate the work Living Well does. Lucky for us Fran even joined our Board of Directors this year.
After an initial chat with Kathy, Jean made arrangements to come in and tackle her needed volunteer hours. She ended up loving it so much she stayed with us ever since, minus a break at the height of Covid. When asked why she stuck around, Jean says, “It is the culture and the people.” Jean smiled when recalling that every time she comes to the Northland office people greet her with a smile or a nod. While she isn’t sure if it is intentional or what we hire for, Jean thinks that the people are so incredibly attached to the mission of caring for others that it just feels good to be here. She also says, “Because it is on a Monday it gives me a chance to start the week with a fresh yoga class, and the employees are great at letting me experiment with things here.” In a way they go to school on each other. Staff gets a relaxing donated class, and Jean gets to perfect her lesson for the week. Everyone is just very open, making it a beautiful partnership.
When not at Living Well Jean teaches at the Blaisdell YMCA and loves to travel with her husband. And she loves people and connecting with others so much that they rent a room in their home in South Minneapolis on AirBNB, where they have become friends with many who have stayed with them. Jean is a natural connector, and she is deeply committed to taking care of her mind, body, and soul. That she ended up a yoga teacher is likely not a surprise to anyone who knows her. Program Manager MaryLynn Nelson, says, “One hour with Jean on a Monday centers us for the day and week. She teaches us so much during yoga and reminds us that we’re all individually unique and that’s ok!” And another regular student, Program Manager Brenda Mohrland, says, “Jean is a wonderful YOGA instructor. I actually look forward to Mondays now!”
Well, if anyone can make a Monday palatable, they must be special! And we think it is obvious just how incredible our volunteers are. Thank you, Jean, for helping Living Well by showing up and helping people help themselves so they can show up for others with a little more clarity and grace.
Take a cue from Jean and go move your body and nourish your soul. Go on a walk, do 10 minutes of yoga, or simply let your mind relax to get started. It is never to late to start a healthy habit or incorporate wellness into your routine. You are worth it!
Jean is considering filming short yoga and tai chi videos for our YouTube channel. If completed, we will share via social media so a larger audience can benefit form her work.