Healing Mind, Body, City

Hannah Ramlo in her Warehouse District studio. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
June 4, 2018

When Hannah Ramlo '18 walks through Peoria, she sees a city, like any other, that needs healing. The central Illinois native and nonprofit leadership graduate student is using mindfulness to build bridges and decrease barriers to wellness.

With a background in mindfulness activities, including certification in trauma-informed yoga, Ramlo is launching her own nonprofit to make activities available to the city. She developed Soulside Healing Arts through Big Idea, an entrepreneurial competition through Bradley’s Turner School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

“I hope it will be a place that represents the demographics of the city where people of different races and cultures can come together,” Ramlo said. “This is one way I can help bring healing to the community.”

She’s motivated by early career stops in Chicago and Cincinnati, where she worked for social service nonprofits. She saw human service staff burdened with stress and burnout. She also saw communities struggle to cope with traumatic situations and life burdens.

A woman she met while teaching yoga showed how holistic health treatments could positively impact lives. The woman joined a yoga class while going through alcohol addiction recovery and noted the weekly sessions gave her peace of mind and a sense of control that helped when life felt overwhelming.

“A lot of us have healthy ways to mitigate stress, like a network of friends, but I’ve seen so much burnout in the workforce and general population,” Ramlo said. “It’s everywhere. Some just have less access to resources that can prevent long-term symptoms.”

Ramlo decided to put her passion into action while working on her graduate degree. The Big Idea competition was the motivator to finalize work to launch the studio. As a competition finalist, Ramlo received startup funds and access to experts to help establish operations.

Soulside’s Warehouse District home gives Ramlo flexibility to expand classes for a variety of ages and backgrounds. She currently teaches yoga at local businesses and introduces children to mindfulness practices at a Peoria social service center. As Soulside expands, the business could host as many as 10 individual instructors who could use the facility for class and office space.

It’s also a home with missional importance. Located near the Cedar St. Bridge on the Warehouse District’s southern edge, it’s only a few blocks from Peoria’s River West public housing. That makes Soulside a bridge between the city’s diverse socioeconomic communities with an opportunity to bring them together in one place.

"Part of community wellness is building relationships across differences,” Ramlo said. “The studio location provides the opportunity to become an intentional space for the peaceful blending of cultures, backgrounds and thoughts."