Voices of South East: Yoga classes bring self-love, healing from trauma to South East neighborhoods

It’s no secret that 2020 was a traumatic year.

From the COVID-19 pandemic, to the murder of George Floyd, to the protests, elections, and vaccinations, stress and trauma have afflicted many residents in Fort Wayne. Some of the most extreme effects have been felt among the city’s BIPOC communities and economically vulnerable neighborhoods.

As a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, Diane Rogers has taught African dance and drumming classes in her neighborhood for decades. In 2020, she saw firsthand the pain and trauma her community was experiencing, and she knew that this trauma wasn’t going to disappear on its own. It was going to take root in her neighbors’ bodies and minds.

“We might think sometimes that we’ve gone through something, and the trauma is gone, but really, it lands on top of us,” Rogers says. “We carry a lot of trauma in our bodies—in our ears, in our throats, in our chest, and in our hips.”

Diane Rogers, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

That’s one reason Rogers decided to add to her repertoire of drumming and dance classes in 2021 by becoming a certified yogi through Baptiste Power Yoga in Fort Wayne. From January to April, Rogers took a teacher training program at Baptiste to earn her credentials as 200-hour registered yoga teacher. Now, she and a fellow teacher she met in the program host a $10 yoga class twice a week in South East Fort Wayne. The class is from 5:50-7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Diane Rogers, back right, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

In July, Rogers launched her new venture, Rooted Connection, LLC, as a way to bring her knowledge of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and self-care to her neighborhood. She serves on the 3 Rivers Yoga Foundation board, under the umbrella of the Baptiste Power Yoga, and wants to help more communities experience the power of yoga. 

For a while, Rogers was hosting classes in her own backyard with a babbling fountain and an expanse of soft grass. She recently secured an indoor location for the classes at Amistad Church in the 46806 zip code at 1701 Capitol Ave.

Rogers’s assistant in the yoga classes is Haley Evans, who also lives in South East Fort Wayne. Evans describes Rooted Connection yoga classes as an all-levels, slow flow class for people of all abilities. That means it’s welcoming to all skill levels, and there are modified practices you can do in a chair if you have physical limitations. Throughout the class, Evans sits in a chair and demonstrates each modified move while Rogers leads on a mat.

Diane Rogers, left, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

Evans says one thing that sets Rooted Connection yoga apart from other classes she’s experienced is how Diane blends her yogi training with her drumming expertise. When the class begins and ends, she ushers participants into and out of the experience with her melodic 432 frequency handpan, or hang, drum.

“It will soothe you immediately,” Rogers says.

Diane Rogers uses various singing bowls during the class.

She also uses a tongue drum and various singing bowls during the class.

Rogers has decades of experience leading drumming and dance classes through her Omotayo Rite of Passage nonprofit. In 1982, she created the program to improve and maintain at-risk youth’s sense of pride, while enhancing the development of their artistic skills and talents. She also served on the Fort Wayne Police Department for 27 years from 1989 to 2016.

Diane Rogers uses a tongue drum and various singing bowls during the class.

 
Rogers says she was first attracted to yoga during the pandemic as a means of seeking healing for herself.

“I was being a caregiver for both of my parents, so I needed to find a way to reconnect with myself when my cup was empty,” Rogers says. “Once I started going through the training at Baptiste Power Yoga, I learned that I am a yogi at heart—made from scratch.”

Diane Rogers, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

Now, through her work at Rooted Connection, she wants to share these values of self-love and power with her neighbors in South East.

Along with drumming, another element that sets Rooted Connection yoga classes apart from other classes Rogers has experienced is that there’s less of a focus on mingling before the session begins. While Rogers has a friendly, outgoing personality, her yoga classes are intended to be a more reflective time of personal healing for participants. A tranquility fountain in Diane Rogers's backyard.

“I just want people to be able to drop their stuff and experience a zone of self-love here,” Rogers says. “In this community, we go through so much stuff. This is a community where a lot of people know each other, but everybody’s been traumatized, so when you come to yoga, you can get on your mat and work through that. Right now, everybody needs to love themselves. Because if we love ourselves, then we can be better neighbors and family members.”

At the beginning of the class, Rogers introduces herself, and her intentions for the session.

“I’m going to play my handpan drum for you now, so you can remove this energy you’ve felt all day and make room for wellness,” Rogers says, tapping out a soothing rhythm after she talks.

Diane Rogers of Rooted Connection, LLC, ushers participants into and out of the experience with her melodic 432 frequency handpan, or hang, drum.


As the class progresses, she moves through several sets of yoga poses, asking participants to notice their surroundings—the ground beneath their feet, the clouds in the sky, or to focus their attention on their breath or outstretched fingertips, utilizing the yoga practice of “drishti” or focused consciousness.

“Once we learn how to focus, we can go through anything without power and come out powerful,” Rogers says.

Diane Rogers, left, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

Her yoga class is part-meditation, part-workout.

“You’re going to sweat,” Rogers says. “You carry fire inside of you, and I don’t want to you to burn anybody; I want you to burn away the things that don’t serve you anymore.”

Diane Rogers, back right, a longtime resident and current President of the Oxford Community Association, leads a yoga class in her backyard for her neighborhood and community drop-ins.

Throughout Fort Wayne, several outdoor, drop-in yoga classes have been popping up across the city in 2021. A group called Discover Yoga Fort Wayne has been hosting pop-up classes for newbies to advanced practitioners in downtown, everywhere from The Landing, to the Wells Street Bridge, to the patios of local bars, breweries, and coffee shops.

Having grown up in the community, Evans says she’s seen a growing interest in practicing yoga and mediation in Fort Wayne. That interest is only growing during the pandemic, as more residents across the U.S. seek relief from increased awareness of mental health challenges and stress.

“Throughout COVID, there’s been a focus on self-care and treating our bodies well,” she says. “People want to do something for themselves. They want to feel better and to be more mobile. Yoga is becoming huge in the Fort Wayne community, and it’s great to see.”

About eight men and women participate in a recent yoga class in Diane Rogers's backyard in South East Fort Wayne.


On a recent Tuesday night, the Rooted Connection’s yoga class has eight participants: Six women and two men. One of the men is Carl Woods, a 62-year-old retired engineering teacher from Concordia Lutheran High School.

Woods says he’s known Rogers most of his life, since they graduated high school together at Snider. Now, they work together at the Oxford Community Association, where he is the Trustee. He has never taken yoga classes before, but he has been curious about the benefits of yoga and meditation for a while. He is also borderline diabetic, so when Rogers said she was offering classes for $10, he decided to try it out.

“Yoga can help with digestion and the whole physical body,” Woods says. “I just want to be healthier and be part of making a positive difference in the neighborhood.”

Diane Rogers uses a tongue drum and various singing bowls during the class.

Ever since his first class with Rooted Connection, he’s been a regular.

“I noticed a difference the first time I took Diane’s yoga class,” he says. “I feel so refreshed. I don’t feel tired. I feel loose. I could do it again right now.”

Attend a yoga class

Where? Amistad Church at 1701 Capitol Ave. in Fort Wayne
When? Tuesday and Thursday nights

Arrive at 5:50 p.m., and bring your own yoga mat and block. Chairs will be provided for those who need them. The class runs until 7 p.m. and costs $10 for drop-ins.

This story is a part of Input Fort Wayne's Voices of South East series, running from August-September 2021 and funded by the Foellinger Foundation. For more information, read the first story in the series. Email story ideas to our Project Editor Angelica Robinson at [email protected]

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.