Living for three years without health insurance taught Karen Maricheau the importance of healthy living and regular stress-reduction techniques. Were she to become overwhelmed by the countless little stresses at work and at home, she knew her health — and her bank account — would inevitably suffer the consequences.
Now, to help other Reston residents without health insurance maintain healthy lifestyles and avoid exorbitant healthcare costs, Maricheau is starting a non-profit organization to teach yoga and offer healthy living tips.
"For a lot of people, if a health crisis overcomes them, they can't afford to miss work," she said Monday night as she prepared to teach a yoga class by candlelight in Brown's Chapel.
A certified yoga instructor and professional health care worker, Maricheau plans to open her classes to everyone, though they will be offered on a sliding scale to accommodate low-income people without health insurance.
Calling her new organization Reston Community Wellness, Maricheau said she also intends to bring in experts on diabetes, heart disease and other health problems to teach participants how to avoid the potentially deadly consequences of not maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly or failing to set aside time to simply relax.
RESTON RESIDENT Zina Bleck, who has health insurance but said her job at Northrup Grumman leaves her constantly stressed out, attended her first class with Maricheau on Monday night.
"We get so many e-mails and phone calls and requests to do something immediately," Bleck said as she spread out her white tiger Siegfried and Roy beach towel on the floor of Brown's Chapel, preparing to learn a few yoga techniques. "This sounds like a good way to find some balance in life."
Bleck's friend, Crystal Kurtzberg, brought her to the class Monday night. Kurtzberg said the weekly stress-reduction classes have helped rid her body of aches and pains.
"The stretching does a lot for my joints and my back," she said. "It makes a big difference. If I miss a class, I can feel it."
When she does attend the classes, Kurtzberg said, she feels the effects of the deep relaxation techniques for days, helping to keep her calm in the midst of daily stress.
"The total calming down really sticks with you," she said.
MARICHEAU is working to get the word out about her new non-profit organization, hoping to drum up interest among the less-fortunate demographics of people in the area.
According to Fairfax County statistics, an estimated 113,025 residents do not have health insurance. And many of those residents live in Reston, which is home to several affordable and subsidized housing developments.
As a volunteer at Reston Interfaith's food bank and at the Laurel Learning Center, Maricheau has seen for herself that there is a substantial low-income population in the Reston area and a significant need for healthy and relaxing activity.
"It's work. It's paying the bills. It's marital problems. It's mental health problems," she said. "People experience a huge deal of stress everyday. This can help everyone."