How did you find your calling in wellness?
Over the past 17 years, I have harnessed tough life experiences — including growing up in poverty, having been the victim of abuse and assault, experiencing systemic racism and becoming a teen mom — to support and guide others on their individual spiritual paths. Prior to launching my career in wellness, I spent 10 years as a police officer. Notably, I was also the only Black woman in my unit. The police force was where I found Reiki, something that I often describe as my gateway to energy work and healing.
After completing my 300-hour yoga teacher training in India, I came back to the U.S., quit my job and began seeing clients for energy work and coaching. Having practiced yoga for more than 20 years, I was tired of being the only person of color in the yoga studios I attended. Seeking to challenge the lack of diversity and representation in yoga studios, I opened the doors at Urban Sanctuary in 2016. The studio provides wellness and yoga to marginalized communities, specifically people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, with a safe space to practice self-care.
How do you ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment at Urban Sanctuary?
At Urban Sanctuary, we welcome all shapes, sizes and cultures. We pride ourselves in not only providing a brave space for people to show up just as they are, but we also offer unique experiences, such as breathwork and healing practices. What makes us different from traditional yoga studios is that we specifically focus on energy and healing.
Because the majority of our teachers are BIPOC, including myself, we welcome a diverse group of humans to join our community.
How did design and architecture influence the space you have created at Urban Sanctuary?
Our building is rich in history. The building was once a one-story brick residence in the early 1890s. Esteemed Denver architect Merrill H. Hoyt, a design architect for institutions like the Denver Press Club and Steele Elementary School, designed the iconic facade in 1915; for the most part, the building has since been maintained its original architecture. In 1916, Lewis Douglass and Frederick Douglass Jr., sons of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, operated the Douglass Undertaking Company until the mid-1940s.
Since then, an upholstery company, pool hall, bar and school have all been a part of the Douglass Undertaking Building’s story. In 2016, we moved in, marking the building’s latest evolution and notably, Denver’s first black, woman-run wellness studio. When you step inside our studio, you can see some of the original architecture that’s melded with our own touch.
“The success of Urban Sanctuary stems from what we practice off of our mats. We support marginalized communities. We speak up for equality and we stand against any racism of all forms. This is our foundation and our mission.”