Jennifer Kustanovich is not only the president of the Odyssey at Stony Brook University but is also an illuminating yoga instructor. She's an inspiring proactive leader in the wellness industry. Her expertise in movement expands onto Zumba and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
On the last day of her in-person class, she gave everyone a way of contacting her and made sure to check up on all her clients. She wanted to ensure that they were doing okay and to remind them that she is always there.
"Once we started online classes, it was definitely a challenge to go from teaching a group of smiling students to my laptop screen, so I encouraged clients to turn on their cameras, so we could feel like a community as much as we could. And, of course, I always encouraged clients to unmute themselves if they had questions and ask away at any point of the class." - Jennifer Kustanovich
This is exactly why she is my favorite yoga teacher. Jennifer isn't just here to say "Namaste," she wants to see the essence from all her students and this isn't even her most genuine attribute. As a professional in the Health & Wellness industry, she takes upon her role gracefully. I have known Jennifer for a year now and I can truly say she is deeply committed to everyone's well being.
She is a real yogi.
You bet she's as ambitious as her sun salutations because she is here to talk about the reopening strategies within her zen yoga studio. I wanted to get her whole story, from the beginning of lockdown to the reopening. She has a beautiful story to tell.
Did you receive an email from the recreation center at Stony Brook University amidst the declaration of the pandemic?
I don't think we actually ever received an email from them. Once everyone was forced off of campus, that was that. After spring break, my boss reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in teaching online classes a few times a week and I eagerly agreed. I missed bringing movement to others.
What is the best way to register for your classes?
The Rec center uses the Atleto app where students and staff can register for classes. As soon as the school made the official announcement that we are moving online, all those classes on Atleto were canceled. Once we got the green light to start Zoom classes, students were again able to register through the Atleto app, and from there were sent a Zoom link.
What do you teach?
I teach a variety of classes, but, generally, I teach Zumba, yoga, core focused (Core & More) or HIIT classes, and guided meditation workshops.
Why did you start teaching?
I first received my Zumba license when I was 15 years old. I love to dance and fell in love with Zumba at a very young age. I wanted to bring a mix of fitness and fun to everyone, so I started to establish charity Zumba events where people would come and donate as much as they can for a specific charity. Movement is a huge part of my life and I want to share that with others. I want to bring people together and show them what they are capable of because we are ALL capable of so so so much.
What do you love most about teaching?
I love encouraging clients and seeing their faces light up when they realize, "I can do it and I'm so proud of myself." Lifting up others and recognizing that I'm helping people, make all the hardships worth it.
What is the current state of your studio?
Currently, the Rec Center is offering classes, but only my boss is working. We are all taking a break for the summer as the school figures out what next semester will look like.
What virtual classes are you offering? How can people find those classes?
As of today, I don't have a definitive schedule for group classes but am taking privates. You can find me on Instagram (@jenniasana) and feel free to DM me if you want to schedule something or have any questions about fitness or anything.
What is your biggest takeaway regarding COVID-19?
We will push through, but we have to do it together. We have to stand up for one another and it's our societal duty to keep one another safe.
What long-term effects do you see COVID-19 having on the wellness industry?
It is forever changed — this is one of the first times that people can take someone's class from ANYWHERE in the world. I've found some of my favorite instructors who live miles and miles and miles away. If not for this period of time, I wouldn't have found these amazing people — we can always find light in all the darkness.
What is one thing you want the world to know about the wellness industry in light of COVID-19?
We aren't going anywhere. We will always be here to support, motivate, and help you.
How comfortable do you feel being back in the studio?
I don't think studios will be opening soon. However, there are a variety of outdoor classes that I definitely feel comfortable leading and participating in.
When do you think you'll be back in studio?
Maybe by the end of the summer or beginning of the fall. I have no clue, but I can only hope.
What extra precautions do you anticipate studios taking to ensure that participants feel safe?
It all depends on what type of studio and materials are used, but overall there will be a ton of Clorox and Lysol wipes everywhere. I assume students will be encouraged to bring their own materials: mats, blocks, straps, weights, etc. And as a courtesy, studios will ask students to either take off their shoes or if sneakers are needed, spray the bottoms with a disinfectant spray. Additionally, students will wash their hands as soon as they walk into studios and a proper distance between clients will be mandated, including a smaller limit of class capacity.
Finally, as instructors, we won't give hands-on adjustments for the time being.