With the toll of the pandemic and the recent death of her mother weighing heavily on Cheryl Ferrill, she chose to step forward toward a future in holistic health and wellness in 2020.
She had been practicing yoga for five years and at the age of 60 became a certified yoga instructor.
“I was excited to learn that a yoga practice could be modified to meet individual needs, including for those who have physical limitations,” Ferrill said. “I want to teach people what I learned.”
Ferrill already had a background in educating others and after realizing her passion for tutoring local students, Ferrill obtained an associate’s degree in Teacher Education in Milwaukee.
Now, she was ready to take her yoga instruction to the next level—by opening her own studio. She wanted to launch a practice explicitly designed to help lift people throughout her community by serving clients who generally had limited access to health and wellness.
Ferill knew she would need additional tools and credentials to achieve her goals. So, after nearly four decades, she returned to Winona State University and this spring semester will graduate with her bachelor’s degree.
Ferrill was attracted specifically to the Health and Wellness Management track of the Healthcare Leadership and Administration program. The program is completely online and that meant she could stay in her community and continue to work.
“Everything that was in my Health and Wellness Management program geared me toward opening my yoga studio,” she said.
She learned how to be an effective leader, how to write grants, and how to have crucial conversations that impact her yoga studio.
Winona State gave her the skills she needed for her business, as well as the support she needed to complete the degree.
“If I asked a question, or if I needed an extension, my instructors were there for me,” Ferrill said.
They were there to support her not only in the day-to-day moments, but also in the critical moments.
At one point, the coursework in her Statistical Thinking for Healthcare class became so difficult that she didn’t think she could continue the course. Instead of throwing in the towel, Ferrill reached out to Barb Nascak in the Adult and Continuing Education Department for advice. By the end of the conversation and pep talk, she felt confident again that she could succeed.
Between the instructor support and her coursework, Ferrill feels empowered to follow her goals.
“There was just a wealth of information throughout the program that has helped me to get in the position that I am in right now,” she said.
After graduation this spring, her yoga studio will open within a community center at which she’s already teaching. In honor of her mother, who always uplifted her community and whose nickname was “Flo,” the studio is named Yoga Flo Wellness.
Ferrill is looking forward to shifting perspectives about yoga within her community and opening others up to the benefits of yoga.
Yoga is often perceived to be a practice only associated with specific religious beliefs or a certain demographic. Ferrill says she is working to counter those attitudes because she knows in her heart that yoga can be incredibly beneficial for everyone—no matter their background or current health condition.
Now that she is pursuing her dream of opening a studio, with having all the tools and support she needs, Ferrill is ready to hit the ground running—or stretching.
“I’m going to lean into this (studio) like I had to lean into my health and my own wellness,” Ferrill said.