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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Decatur Healing Arts: 20 Years Fostering Holistic Well-Being

May 01, 2024 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton

Sol Room (Photo: John Wachs)

In spite of the fact that it has gone through three owners in its 20 years and managed to remain open through a devastating pandemic that gutted many of the yoga studios and wellness centers in the Atlanta area, Decatur Healing Arts (DHA) shows no signs of wear and tear. Its following in the community remains energized and loyal, its membership continues to grow and the vision of its founders has blossomed into a unique and thriving wellness center.

Corinne Chaves 

(Photo: Rob Sarabia)

In 2001, shortly after 9/11, Corinne Chaves left the corporate world, deciding that whatever she did next, it would be for people’s benefit, not corporate profit. She’d been a longtime yoga practitioner, but once she started massage school, “the idea of starting a healing center planted itself in my head,” she says. At the time, she was married to Jude Hasken, who’d been studying tai chi for more than two decades, and he was aligned with it. Having lived in Decatur for 10 years, they were drawn to look for a location at East Decatur Station, which, today, is a flourishing commercial and residential area, but in 2001, just one establishment was open for business there. 

The pair sat down with the three owners of the building for a long meeting and worked out the details. “This could be amazing,” they agreed. It was an auspiciously smooth transition.

They opened Decatur Healing Arts in May 2004 with 10 yoga classes a week, massage sessions, body work, and tai chi—Hasken’s specialty—twice a week. They brought in a few practitioners from the area and added to their programming. “I wanted to provide a place where people could find options and take back control over their own health and healing journey,” says Chaves. She says that our current medical model is often disempowering. “The doctor tells you what to do and doesn’t tell you [that] you have different options”—like herbal treatments or establishing a qigong practice, for example. “All healing is self-healing,” she says. “When we disempower people by telling them we have all the answers, we separate them from their knowledge of what’s best for them.”

Although today’s medical system is still far from holistic, attitudes and practices have evolved over the last 20 years. Chaves points out that Harvard Medical School has published its Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, and Emory University has a pain management center that’s all about acupuncture. Just in the last two to three years, she says, traditional medicine has begun showing signs of understanding that the energy body is aligned very precisely with the physical body. Yet, appreciation for the role of energy in health and wellness is at the foundation of DHA’s approach.

Change, of Course

In 2007, the acclaimed Daoist Master, Wu Dang Chen, personally invited Chaves to come to China to study with him, and it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. Having studied with him for five years already, she felt a call to dive more deeply into the philosophy and practice of Daoism. She made her travel plans and knew she’d have to sell the business in the interim. But she couldn’t find a buyer.

Susan Johnson had been a yoga student of hers, and during one of their sessions, Chaves described her predicament. Chaves remembers, “I told Susan that it might be the end of DHA. I told her I haven’t been able to find a buyer— and if I don’t get a buyer, I’ll have to close the doors!” Without hesitation, Johnson said, “Well, I’ll buy it!” All the financial paperwork was completed and signed within a week, and Chaves flew to China the next day. Another smooth transition.

Johnson ran DHA for 12 years, bringing it to profitability for the first time. “Susan has a way of being open to everybody, and she opened it up to the community in ways that hadn’t been done before. Her entrepreneurial spirit kept DHA alive and thriving and growing. That came from her experience and belief in the power of what DHA was offering.”

Nataly Baiz 

(Photo: Rodney Gardie)

When Johnson decided it was time to retire in early 2021, Chaves, who had returned to Atlanta by that time, mentioned it to Nataly Baiz, a loyal DHA customer who had been practicing yoga since she was 12 years old. Baiz had been getting massage and other services from DHA for years—many of them with Chaves—and had established an emotional connection with the center. In a massage session one day, Chaves mentioned that Johnson wanted to hand off the business to a new owner, but if she couldn’t find the right person, she’d have to close the business. 

“I just closed my eyes and said, ‘I will do it. Let’s do it!’” says Baiz, who had completed her 200-hour Hot Power Yoga certification by then and has since completed a 200-hour Kundalini yoga teacher training, along with her reiki master and cacao ceremonialist certification.

While Johnson had done well to keep the business open during the pandemic, Baiz, eager to dive into her new entrepreneurial venture, felt that it needed “a little more intention to get it updated.” So she went to work. The much larger office next door happened to become available, so she moved the business into it, essentially doubling its footprint, and then did “massive renovations.” The increased space provided enough room for a new meditation room, a new salt room, and more therapy rooms. Baiz quickly filled the void by adding new therapy services—including reiki, reflexology and shamanic energy healing—plus acupuncture and a wider variety of yoga classes. DHA had become an all-in-one wellness center.

Moving Energy

Jude Hasken 

(Photo: Maryann Luttrell)

Twenty years since opening DHA, Hasken’s tai chi and qigong classes are still offered once or twice weekly and continue to be well-attended. Since 1976, Hasken has studied with several Chinese masters of tai chi and qigong and is now certified to teach 24 and 108 forms of tai chi and five forms of qigong as well as Daoist meditation. During the pandemic, he kept classes going by wisely moving them outdoors so people could continue to attend with minimal risk.

“Being a spiritual person, I was looking for a community of like folks that understood that, at our core, we are all energy,” says Tracy Brown, a life coach who arrived in Atlanta from Los Angeles 18 months ago. She’s taken Kundalini yoga classes, received numerous massages, and participated in the cacao ceremony and sound baths—repeatedly—at DHA. “They’re all just incredible.” 

“I think Decatur Healing Arts has been a really good thing in the community,” says Hasken. “The quality has been consistent through the years,” he says, “in part because we have the best teachers on the planet. And I am not exaggerating! It makes people want to keep doing [the practices] for themselves.”

“Everything we do at the center is about moving energy in the body,” says Baiz. Its yoga classes, expert tai chi and qigong instruction, acupuncture sessions and several energy healing modalities are expressions of that intention. Beyond that, the staff is happy to help customers develop a personalized treatment plan that combines therapies and practices holistically to get optimal results. “People are hungry to learn more about how they can feel better,” says Baiz.

Maintaining the Vision

Tracy Brown 

(Photo: Jenny Levine)

Decatur Healing Arts must be doing something right. Countless customers have continued to come back year after year, and many practitioners have been practicing there for years as well. “I feel like I’m maintaining Corinne and Jude’s vision for Decatur Healing Arts,” says Baiz. Her vision for the future? “As a business, we need to continue growing, too,” she says, mentioning that she’s considering some new services to add to the lineup, including an infra-red sauna and nutritional IV therapies.

“I think one of [DHA’s] biggest invitations is for you to come back to yourself,” says Brown. “To help you release the energy that doesn’t serve you any longer and to make room for your inner light to shine more brightly.” ❧

Decatur Healing Arts will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an Open House on May 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Further, special discounts, programs and activities will be offered throughout the entire month of May for the public to learn more about it. DHA is located at 619-A E College Ave. in Decatur. For more information, visit decaturhealingarts.comFacebook and IG.
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