Whether an avid fan of fitness or not, we are inundated with different ways to exercise. Losing weight is often the goal, but one small business owner believes weight loss should be a byproduct of moving one’s body, not the sole reason for it.

Woman kneeling on yoga mat. She's outside and in the shade of a tree.
Free Range Yoga owner Dawn Piper offers a variety of online sessions via Zoom.

For more than a decade, McDonough Power Cooperative member Dawn Piper has focused on offering students at Free Range Yoga and Community Wellness Center safe ways to increase their physical longevity and improve their quality of life. Those options include yoga therapy, strength training, Reiki and massage, among others.

Her business is located on the town square in Macomb, but classes are not limited to locals. When the pandemic hit, Piper was already offering online classes via Zoom, which ultimately sustained the studio during lockdowns. She has since added more studio space, additional virtual and hybrid sessions and expanded areas of wellness.

Originally from Missouri, Piper moved to the area 20-some years ago for a position with the Institute for Rural Affairs in Macomb. “What I gained from that was to help build community here,” says Piper. About that time, she began taking yoga classes, and a few years later, teaching them.

Eventually, she felt life pulling her further in that direction. “It got to the point that I finally [thought], ‘I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing,’” says Piper.

Now, the certified yoga instructor is also an internationally accredited yoga therapist. “I can meet people where they are, and not try to fix them, but offer some tools they can use to then help themselves and give them some autonomy,” she says. “It’s not about the pose; it’s more about being with yourself.”

Piper adds that yoga doesn’t have to be scary. “I’m not going to put [people] into a pretzel shape,” she laughs. “I want it to be playful, I want it to be light. And I want people to not be afraid of it. If I can get somebody over [that] threshold … that’s all they need. I want to meet everyone, all ages, shapes, sizes, conditions, you name it.”

She emphasizes that the center offers more than yoga. Her fellow instructors, who work as independent contractors, include her husband Tim, a professor at Western Illinois University and certified weightlifting coach, who offers personalized strength lab classes. His lifelong focus on strength training led her to weave it into her yoga practice.

Tai Chi, Qigong, circuit classes, dance and self-defense are other alternatives. “We choose [instructors] carefully based on the type of human they are,” she says. “They have to really care about people.”

She believes there are many benefits to movement — becoming more mindful, healing from physical or mental trauma and basic longevity — and that people must continue to challenge themselves, especially as they age.

“We don’t grow if we don’t face resistance. … I teach people who have had strokes, Parkinson’s, I used to teach a person who was blind. There are no conditions that will keep you from being able to move your body in a better way,” Piper says. “If you want to stay in your home … find somebody to help [you] develop some skills around movement.

“There’s a saying, ‘If you listen to the body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream,’” she adds. “You have to feel to heal.”


Free Range Yoga and Community Wellness Center

Macomb Square, 118 and 122 N. Lafayette St., Macomb



Zoom and On Demand options available