Cherokee Choices providing online exercise programs during quarantine 

by Mar 30, 2020COMMUNITY sgadugi, Health





With families of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) quarantining themselves to help stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), an EBCI tribal program is helping provide some exercise time.  Cherokee Choices, a diabetes prevention and education program under the EBCI Public Health & Human Services (PHHS) Division, is posting online yoga sessions, running a Facebook group for children to help keep them healthy and active, and hosting an online women’s strength training class.    

Rose James, a registered nurse with the Cherokee Choices program, runs an online, live yoga session. (Photo contributed)

“Our vision, ‘Generations of Wellness’, still holds true even during the COVID-19 crisis; however, our modalities must change,” said Robin Callahan, RD, LDN, MHS, Cherokee Choices program director.  “We are built on the theory of social support which holds challenging when you can’t have a face-to-face connection and everything we do must be online.  Now, more than ever, people need stress-management tools to cope whether they are quarantined at home teaching their kids or they are serving on the front lines providing essential services in the community.”  

She added, “Physical activity is a natural stress reliever especially if it is paired with being outdoors in nature or a mindfulness practice like a walking meditation or yoga.  Cherokee Choices is here to provide online support with the promotion of fitness, nutrition, and stress-management resources.”  

The program is providing a nightly yoga class (8 p.m.), taught by Rose James, a registered nurse with Cherokee Choices, that is shared on the Cherokee Choices Facebook page as well as the EBCI PHHS Facebook page.  

“I try and make sure I have classes available for ‘every body’ so you can choose from chair yoga or restorative or a more active ‘flow’,” said James.  

The program also runs the Cherokee Choices Kids Challenge which focuses on exercise, art, and nutrition for children ages 3-12.  

Piper Owle, 4, an EBCI tribal member, does yoga through the online yoga classes hosted by Cherokee Choices. (Photo by Keyonna Owle)

James notes, “They complete daily challenges, and students will receive a point for every challenge they complete which will result in prizes once schools are back in session.  It just started this week, and I am getting a lot of feedback from parents who are enjoying the challenges with their kids.  And, the children look forward to posting their pictures and seeing their friends complete the activities too.” 

James said that parents just need to post a photo or photos of their child completing each activity to the Cherokee Choices Kids Challenge Facebook group. 

She said the response to these online offerings has been wonderful.  “I teach yoga classes, along with Louise Brown, to Dora Reed, New Kituwah Academy, and Big Cove preschools every week reaching over 300 kids.  Cherokee Choices also offers free yoga classes three times a week so a lot of families and yoga students are finding it comfortable to be able to practice with someone they know during this time.”  

Keyonna Owle has been enjoying the Kids Challenge with her two children – Odie Owle, 8, a second grader at Cherokee Elementary School, and Piper Owle, 4, who is in Pre-K at New Kituwah Academy.  All three are EBCI tribal members.  

“I’ve found that my kids function a little better during this time with some sort of routine,” said Keyonna Owle.  “When I saw this offered, I knew my kids would enjoy adding this to our daily routine.  My little boy is very active, and without sports right now this has given him some sort of activity to keep moving.  My little girl just enjoys doing what he is doing.  The challenges have been a combination of things, and it’s been fun to see my kids be active and creative.”

Odie Owle, 8, an EBCI tribal member, decodes a Morse Code message as one of the projects in the Cherokee Choices Kids Challenge.

She went on to note, “We recently did the all water challenge (part of the Kids Challenge) and only drank water for the day.  Odie talked about it all day and mentioned to us several times how healthy it was!  This has been something fun we can do together, and it helps me fill up some time in our day.  I’ve been involved in several programs through Cherokee Choices and love that we can still be involved with them.  We appreciate Rose for offering up things for our kids to do!”  

James said the health benefits of yoga during this time of quarantine are immense.  “As humans, we are hardwired to experience the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ response and every time there is a change or perceived threat that you feel you have no control over, you experience this response.  Well, these are certainly times where we feel this hormone response daily, and in some cases hourly.  With the loss of security that comes during this pandemic, your body is constantly pushing out hormones that cause all different responses in the body such as anxiety, body aches, panic, high blood pressure, and the list can go on forever.” 

She added, “Yoga helps bring you into the moment by combining breathing, bilateral movement, and body relaxation poses to put your mind and body closer to an equilibrium.  Yoga also interrupts worry cycles, fosters self-acceptance and compassion, and lowers muscle tension reducing this automatic stress response that often comes without warning.”  

In speaking about Cherokee Choices’ overall goals for their online programs, James noted, “Right now, the goals are just simply to get adults and kids to be active with fun, different activities and to lessen the stress response in the body so that they feel more calm and better able to manage their day.  By reducing the stress just a bit every day, the long game is to reduce their risk for chronic diseases in the future.”  

Callahan said, “Cherokee Choices will continue to support the wellness needs of the community.  Please let us know your online requests by messaging us via Facebook or email me at”