People You Should Know

Denise Sutherland: Improving Lives Through Yoga

Denise Sutherland leads weekly chair yoga sessions with our guests who want to improve their physical mobility, relieve stress and build confidence in their own abilities. Denise, a certified yoga instructor, spearheaded the program with CHI nearly 2 years ago.

“I know for certain that yoga works on the outside as well as on the inside. I felt it could be a good resource of transformation for the CHI guests.”

Denise shares how she got involved with The Chicago Help Initiative:

“Several years ago, I somewhat fell into a local ministry for the homeless and became acutely aware of the interior issues the homeless deal with, especially their feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem.

“So when I met Jacqueline Hayes, the founder of CHI and fellow parishioner at Assumption Church, I offered to teach chair yoga to the meal guests. Yoga has been a transformative discipline for me personally and from my various yoga teacher trainings, I know for certain that yoga works on the outside as well as on the inside. I felt it could be a good resource of transformation for the CHI guests.
“When I began teaching the chair yoga class at CHI in 2016, the students, on a physical level, could barely lift their arms up to their shoulders. Since then, the regular class attendees can easily coordinate their movements with their breath, follow my cues flawlessly, and maintain centeredness when doing the postures and in meditations as well. 

“Much to my delight, the yoga students who attend the class each week have reported to me that they are using the techniques from class for physical and stress relief in their daily life routines. They are also now exhibiting inner and outer attitudes of confidence, and demonstrating the attributes of discipline and commitment. 

 ”For example, one of my students, Ron (read his story), has recently secured a job with a challenging commute. Even though he’s exhausted from having to get up so early and from the physical demands of the job, he is determined and grateful for the opportunity.

“What is really amazing is that he requested to work one weekend day in lieu of Wednesday so that he could make the yoga class each week!”

Do you have a special skill or expertise that might help enrich the lives of the disadvantaged Chicagoans we serve? We’d like to hear from you. Please contact us.

Learn more about our programs and volunteering with CHI

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Did you know?


of the people we serve are military service veterans.

Goodness. All-encompassing goodness. In a world filled with so many who have so little, they give so much.”