Valerie first experienced yoga in 2007, while living in Chicago and undergoing a complete lifestyle change. She lost over 70lbs and transitioned from a meat based to a plant based diet. In 2011, she developed a full time yoga practice after completing her first 30 day challenge at Life Yoga in New Orleans.
At the time, Valerie noticed she was often the only women of color in the classes she was taking and was determined to help the culture of yoga evolve in New Orleans. In late 2013, Valerie immersed herself in a 200 hour power yoga training with Free to Be Power Yoga. Valerie launched the Ohm Well in early 2015, which is a yoga and holistic wellness company designed to help clients heal themselves from the inside out.
Valerie collaborated with Wildseeds, the New Orleans Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective to create a weekly Black and Brown Bodies in Motion Class (BBM), which centralizes the complex identities of Black and Brown individuals and is open to self-identified persons of color only. BBM is a direct response to the marginalization and or invisibility of yogis of color in traditional yoga studios and classes.
In addition to teaching yoga, Valerie is an urban planner, domestic violence counselor, educator and level IV Reiki master. She served for five years as a Civil Servant with the City of New Orleans, with the last two and a half years as a Senior City Planner. While working with the City, Valerie launched the first ever yoga wellness program for city employees at New Orleans’ City Hall, which is in collaboration with the Chief Administrative office and the New Orleans Health Department. Valerie has led classes at various locations throughout the City of New Orleans including Life Yoga Studio, FitNola parks, Dancing Grounds, Swan River Arabi, Longue Vue House and Gardens , Lululemon Athletica and Reyn Studios. Valerie is eager to share her love of life with others and is committed to creating a safe space for all of her students on and off the mat. Her classes are a combination of poetic sequences and infectious rhythms designed to ignite the fire within each of us.
In addition to teaching yoga, Valerie is also a new mom and is currently balancing her new journey of being a mother with growing and establishing a permanent location for The Ohm Well.
Educator, Poet, Full Circle Doula, Asc3nding Herbalist, Reiki Practitioner, Food Literacy Educator, Artist and Designer- Ellenie Marie Cruz uses her given and learned talents to promote the art of ancestral practices to heal self, family and community. Motivated by social justice, she has shifted from being a high school English teacher to a free agent and entrepreneur promoting radical change through holistic wellness, self-care and community building. Ellenie received her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary English Education and had a strong focus on her research of Spoken Word as a Method of Social Change and Education. Now she serves and impacts her community by providing a pop-up apothecary, herbal consultations and classes focused on using natural practices for self-care and wellness. She is the sole Organizer of the NOLA Herb Gathering, has most recently published her first poetry book Saturn Return I: Glimpses of the past, and is expanding her visual project, “Portal, P****, Pilon” to a visual exhibition and interactive workshop to address sexual trauma experienced by women.
I have been enough lucky to have been surrounded by yoga and meditation my whole life. Growing up with my aunt, a yoga therapist and meditation teacher, and my older sister, an Ayurvedic practitioner and Reiki healer, I was drawn to yoga and holistic healing from an early age.
When I moved to New Orleans at the age of 18, I began learning Reiki with Valerie McMillan of the Ohm Well. My journey to Reiki has been a transformative experience;
Reiki allows me to ground myself in compassion, and find power in my sensitivity. I have been training and apprenticing with Valerie since 2015; and I am incredibly grateful for all I have learned from her.
Last summer, I had to opportunity to study in India, where I had the opportunity to expand my reverence for the incredible history of yogic philosophy and practice. In Dharamshala, I began to learn the teachings of Dzogchen. After I graduate from university this Spring, I hope to begin yoga instructor training, and expand my practice further.