Since 2003 and through various forms (Yoga & Health Workshops, Harlem Center for Healthy Living, Harlem Wellness Center) our wellness space has been a place of safety, personal care and development in a stressful and chaotic world. It is a true community of HEART in Harlem where the intention is to offer gifted and inspired instructors space to become allies in health for body, mind and soul.
To educate, motivate and support life-long healthy living practices in Harlem. Health disparity is addressed through multiple holistic entry points that include youth recreation, diverse group exercise classes, innovative healthy eating education, mindfulness meditation, bodywork, holistic retreats, personal development seminars and community building. In addition to being a wellness hub in Harlem, the Harlem Wellness Center takes programming on the road to serve our most vulnerable populations in community centers, senior residences, public schools, shelters, and public housing.
Why we do it
Harlem has had high mortality rates since the 1960s, with heart disease, cancer, and diabetes as leading causes of death. The risk of developing these chronic diseases is increased with weight. Looking at Harlem, a 2006 study found 39% of adults are obese (vs 19% in Manhattan), 33% are overweight, 9/10 adults report eating less than the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and 48% of adults report not exercising at all.
Lower-income minority individuals have significantly higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the general population. In making it possible for all to participate in our center and by encouraging healthy eating and fitness, the Harlem Wellness Center aims to reverse that trend.
To address the exponentially high rate of adult onset diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, CAD) spurred on by unhealthy lifestyle habits in Harlem, NY. Improve the longevity and quality of life for Harlem residents at greatest risk.
While multi-million dollar developments are springing up in Harlem, many longtime residents continue be vulnerable as a result of the harsh socio-economic realities related to the decades of disinvestment in the historic community of Harlem.
The rates of adult onset diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, CAD) spurred on by unhealthy lifestyle habits are exponentially high in Harlem as compared to all other areas on the island of Manhattan. Through awareness, support, education and programming the Harlem Wellness Center, in its various iterations has successfully fought to improve the longevity and quality of life for Harlem residents at greatest health risk.
JOY, GROWTH & HEALING Harlem Wellness Center is a safe, warm, positive community. We cultivate and practice understanding, kindness, fairness, and respect as a means to facilitate joy, growth, healing, and relief from the strife of the world.
LONGEVITY, QUALITY OF LIFE & HEALTH PARITY We go beyond opening our doors to give access to our services by actively outreaching and delivering programming off site to build a bridge between the HWC and those least likely to seek out our services. We are committed to leveling the playing field for balance, quality and longevity by addressing health disparity.
COMMUNITY, SERVICE & FELLOWSHIP A community weaving our unique selves and gifts in the fabric of the mission. By sharing our time, talent and financial resources we hope to create healing and wholeness in our lives, community and the world.
About the Director
As the Founding Director of the Harlem Wellness Center, Vivian Kurutz is committed to building community around health and wellness. Vivian is a certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition and Weight Management Coach, and Yoga Instructor. To execute Harlem Wellness Center’s mission, Vivian has cultivated a team of exceptional certified trainers and health and wellness practitioners with many years of experience.
In 2003, Vivian began leading community yoga and healthy living workshops. Prior to launching Harlem Wellness Center, Vivian founded and ran Harlem Center for Healthy Living for five years (2008-2013). All of her endeavors in this area have been focused on inspiring healthy lifestyles to improve the longevity and quality of life for all.
Our story by Vivian
As a child looking through family photo albums, I noticed that many of my physically unhealthy relatives were at one time healthy and active. It occurred to me that if I did not do something different I would likely follow the same health path that included hypertension, diabetes, obesity, stroke and early death. I didn’t know what this “different” path was at the time but it stayed in the back of my mind.
In 1993 I attended my first yoga retreat in Upstate NY with my teacher Dharma Mittra. The combination of nature, yoga, meditation, whole foods, physical activity and positive social connection changed my life. I went on a quest to understand how to incorporate that experience of balance and wholeness in my daily life in a sustainable way. It’s been a journey. During the journey, people in my life noticed my lifestyle and became curious about what I was doing to improve the quality of my life. As I studied and learned, I was called to action to share.
I then began dreaming. Dreaming of what it would be like for people living in inner city communities where preventable adult onset diseases due to lifestyle are exponentially high, where people experiencing the greatest life stressors such as poverty, violence, unemployment, sub par housing, below standard medical care, and poor diet, may have access to the opportunity to improve the quality and longevity of life through holistic education and activities.
That dream has become the Harlem Wellness Center where we aim to redefine wellness in the Harlem community to translate from emergency health services to personal tools to profoundly “care for yourself”. We do this through group exercise, meditation, bodywork, special workshops, support and community building. Additionally our outreach projects meet the community where they are through partnerships with public schools, low- income housing, department of probations and neighborhood institutions.
By showing up for these past years in various iterations to fulfill this mission, I have had the honor of witnessing many transformations similar to my own.