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Founders of new Las Cruces nonprofit: Wellness is a necessity for everyone


“Build curiosity, then trust.”

That’s the goal for Downtown Desert Yoga (DDY) owner Colleen Boyd (it’s also her quote) as she and two others launch a new Las Cruces nonprofit to help all segments of the community understand the importance of wellness and have access to it.

Personal wellness is “a necessary benefit to quality of life,” said Desert Community Wellness (DCW) nonprofit President Kasey Peña.

Peña, Boyd and Debra Knapp, Ph.D., who retired in 2019 as New Mexico University’s director of dance, formed the nonprofit last year. It’s based at DDY, 303 S. Alameda Blvd. and focused on yoga and related practices.

Part of DCW’s mission in creating sustainable partnerships “to share accessible wellness practices” in the community is helping people understand what personal wellness means. DCW’s definition has five pillars: physical, social-emotional, creative, financial and environmental, which interweave to support “living with passion and purpose” in harmony with the environment, community, career, belief systems, physical activities, selfcare, eating, self-esteem, creative activities and more.

“Applying wellness in our everyday life” is part of the DCW mission, and that means helping people deal with the stress and trauma that are a part of living for people of all ages, ethnicities, body images.

“We believe in a well-rounded (and bilingual) offering and being creative in what we offer,” Peña said.

An important part of DCW’s work is overcoming barriers to wellness, she said. Growing up in a poor family, Peña said one of her personal barriers was poverty.

“It seemed like a luxury then, and it’s not,” she said. Wellness is a fundamental necessity for everyone.

Through community partnerships, donations and grant writing, DCW plans to offer classes and programming free or at reduced prices whenever possible so people with limited incomes, including people struggling with poverty and homelessness, can still embrace wellness. Scholarships, bartering and work study are also in their plans.

DCW already includes a yoga apprentice program to help people of all ages, races and body types to connect with selfcare and wellness and guide others to do the same.

Another barrier, all three said, is the perception that yoga is a practice for a specific demographic, i.e., wealthy, white women.

“My passion is to make yoga much more accessible to the community,” Boyd said.

That’s why the nonprofit was formed – to expand community wellness to “a much more diverse community,” she said.

Knapp, a dance professor, professional dancer and choreographer, said she only recent came to appreciate the value of yoga.

“I hated yoga,” Knapp said.

But because one of her dance students was teaching at DDY, she took her first yoga class there just as she was retiring from NMSU.

“I just wept,” Knapp said. Yoga wasn’t about professional development, a performance or a grade, she said. “I was doing it for selfcare,” Knapp said, “just for the purpose of wellness.”

Helping others to value selfcare and wellness is “why I want to be part of this organization,” she said.

But DCW is about a lot more than yoga, Knapp, Peña and Boyd said. Its first ever wellness expo on April 18 will include movement, journaling and doodling. And there are plans to focus more on issues like food and nutrition, flower arranging and even comedy.

Meditation class

DCW will begin an Introduction to Meditation class Friday, April 16. The class will be held 8-8:30 a.m. each Friday via Zoom (at least for right now)

The cost is by donation, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting DCW.

For more information, call 575-810-WELL and email desertcommunitywell@gmail.com.

Desert Community Wellness Creative Practice Expo is April 18; Earth Day event is April 22

The new Las Cruces nonprofit Desert Community Wellness (DCW) will host its first ever Creative Practice Expo later this month, followed by an Earth Day cleanup event.

Creative Practice Expo

The expo is via live-streaming, 1-4 p.m. Sunday, April 18.

Register at bit.ly/dcwexpo.

The event is by donation. Donate at paypal.me/desertcommunitywell.

The expo will include:

  • Wellness in Doodling. “Explore the calming practices of doodling with creating mandalas and Zen tangles and discover how doodles can become a means of artistic self-expression.” Kasey Peña is the facilitator.
  • Movement for the Soul. “A mindful approach for exploring self-care through creative body movements.” Debbi Knapp, Ph.D., is the facilitator.
  • Visual Journaling. “Explore the creative self through multimedia journaling and writing.” Steph Preciado-Shelton is the facilitator.

Earth Day Pick Your Park Clean-Up and Yoga Flow Event

Join the Desert Community Wellness team at Apodaca Park, 801 E. Madrid Ave., in person at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 22. Or join via Zoom at your favorite park.

The event will begin with 30 minutes of yoga flow, followed by park cleanup.

Partnering with Desert Community Wellness for the event are Downtown Desert Yoga, Nuestra Tierra, Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Murals of Las Cruces.

For a Zoom link, email desertcommunitywell@gmail.com.

The event is by donation. Donate at www.paypal.com/paypalme/desertcommunitywell.

Desert Community Wellness