“Bring one hand to your heart, one hand to your stomach, and just breathe. Begin to feel gravity pulling the navel towards the back of the body. I want you to inhale, fill your lungs with air. Exhale through your tailbone and neck, heavily into the mat. Let everything that happened before this class begin to dissipate. Fill the body with air, vitality energy. Exhale anything that doesn’t serve you.
Jacob Frazier, a neat, superbly fit young man with a well-groomed beard, leads three shoeless women and a male visitor through their steps in a dimly lit exercise room heated to 85 degrees. We are at BIÂN Chicago, which once might have been simply called a “health club”, but describes itself as a “private membership club built on the foundation of holistic wellness, vitality and social well-being” .
Three years ago, the space BIÂN filled with beige curtains, blond maple floors and large, vaguely Gerhard Richter-style blurry photographs was the empty shell of the former Japanese restaurant in the Montgomery Ward warehouse. at 600 W. Chicago, and Frazier was a professional dancer.
BIÂN opened in November 2020 at the height of COVID restrictions. Frazier was among millions of Americans — a Harris poll released last year found that more than half of our country’s employees wanted to change careers — pushed by the pandemic to trade one profession for another.
“There were no jobs for dancers back then,” says Frazier, who danced professionally for five years. “‘I always trained to support my body, so it felt like a natural change.’
Leaving the dance was easier than a stranger could imagine.
“Life is very hard because you live in poverty most of the time,” Frazier says. “So no, it wasn’t hard to give up. I was ready. I was tired of living like this.
If talking to dancers-turned-fitness-instructors and munching on a cucumber, apricot, pistachio, and yogurt salad seems out of place to me, it was. I was going through my own COVID-induced slump when Justine Fedak – who previously was in charge of brand strategy for BMO Harris Bank and now handles marketing for BIÂN – suggested a visit might lift my spirits.
He did, in addition to providing education. For example, I didn’t know that members of gym clubs – whoops, holistic wellness, vitality, etc. – regularly paid $150 for vitamin transfusions.
“Let’s get you an IV,” Sarah Tisch said brightly. She taps a pair of fingers on my elbow to lift a vein. I express my wonder at the practice. Do people really do that?
“We have professional athletes who come every week,” she replies. “The fortnightly is more common. A lot of people get the Glow” – the concoction I signed up for – “before big events, like before a wedding, because the vitamin C and gluconate really make your skin glow. “
Last year, Tisch was a registered labor and delivery nurse at Northwestern Medicine, where she had worked for eight years.
“Always the same surgery, that is to say the cesarean sections,” she says. The arrival of COVID has pushed Tisch beyond his limits.
“After the pandemic, I had no idea if I wanted to be a nurse,” Tisch says. “We were so scattered. It was stressful going into labor and giving birth, having to separate moms and babies. I had just finished.
She was considering quitting nursing altogether and becoming a full-time yoga teacher. Instead, she joined BIÂN as a nurse in November.
“Then I found this job, and it’s so perfect,” she says.
Dr. Marcie Claybon was also at Northwestern – an internist for five years – before becoming medical director and concierge physician at BIÂN. She appreciates being able to focus more on the patients.
“It’s black and white,” she said. “The level of medical care people receive in concierge medicine is exponentially higher. In a more traditional medical system, 20 minutes per patient is the model. In this system, I (frequently) spend two hours with patients for an annual review.
I felt in no way affected by my brew, let alone radiant, certainly not energized like Frazier’s class, working on core strength and mobility, energized me. The Washington Post took a dim view of the popular procedure: “Fad IV Vitamin Infusions Don’t Work — And Can Be Dangerous. Experts Explain Why,”
I’m asking Claybon about IVs.
“When it comes to IV therapies, there is little research on them,” she replies. “There is no evidence to suggest they are harmful.”
So it’s a placebo? Do people feel better because they expect to feel better?
“Part of the answer to all of these things is the placebo effect,” says Claybon. “And yet there is power in the placebo effect. Very good research suggests that the placebo effect is real. I think that’s part of it. I also think it goes beyond the placebo. Based on individuals’ experiences, how they feel when they receive the reminders. Based on that, there are tons of positive reinforcements.
The IV only left me with a penny-sized bruise in the crook of my arm that lasted for a week. But I shouldn’t say goodbye to BIÂN on a sour note. Hanging out there was like being on the set of a James Bond movie, with nimble young men and women walking around, exuding health and good nature.
If I lived or worked nearby, I would consider skipping the $300 per month subscription. I really enjoyed Frazier’s course. But considering the cost and distance, the Northbrook YMCA meets my needs admirably for a nearby treadmill and free weights.
As for IV drops with names like Performance, Revive, and Replenish, I’ll leave those to people who think they benefit from such things.