Career change to promote health at BIÂN
“Put a hand on your heart, a hand on your stomach and just breathe. Begin to feel gravity pulling your navel toward the back of your body. I want you to breathe in, fill your lungs with air. Exhale through your tailbone and throat, heavily into the mat. Allowing everything that happened before this class to unravel. Filling the body with air, life energy. Breathe out everything that does not serve you.”
Jacob Frazier, a lean, superbly fit young man with a trimmed beard, leads three shoeless women and a male visitor through a softly lit exercise room heated to a gently challenging 85 degrees. We are at BIÂN Chicago, which may have once been referred to simply as a “health club” but describes itself as “a private members’ club built on the foundation of holistic wellness, vitality and social well-being”.
Three years ago, the space BIÂN fills with beige curtains, light maple floors, and large, blurry photographs vaguely reminiscent of Gerhard Richter was the empty shell of the former Japonais 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 said more than half of our nation’s workers want a career change — who have been prompted by the pandemic to swap one job for another.
“There was no work for dancers back then,” explains Frazier, who danced professionally for five years. “‘I’ve always cross-trained to maintain my body, so it just felt like a natural transition.”
Leaving the dance was easier than an outsider could imagine.
“Life is very hard because you live in poverty most of the time,” says Frazier. “Well no, it wasn’t hard to give up. I was ready. I was tired of living like this.”
If talking to dancer-turned-fitness-trainers and munching on cucumber, apricot, pistachio, and yogurt salad seemed wrong to me, it was. I was struggling through my own COVID-related doldrums when Justine Fedak — who used to be for responsible for BMO Harris Bank’s brand strategy and now doing marketing for BIÂN – suggested a visit might cheer me up.
It did, along with the offer of an education. For example, I didn’t know that members of gyms – whoops, holistic wellness, vitality, etc. clubs – regularly pay $150 for vitamin transfusions.
“Let’s get you an IV,” says Sarah Tisch cheerfully. She taps my elbow with two fingers to open a vein. I express my surprise at the practice. Do people really do this?
“We have some pro athletes that come in every week,” she replies. “Bimonthly 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 labor and delivery nurse at Northwestern Medicine, where she worked for eight years.
“Always the same operation, that’s caesarean sections,” she says. The arrival of COVID pushed Tisch beyond her limits.
“After the pandemic, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a nurse at all,” says Tisch. “We were so few and far between. It was stressful being in labor and giving birth and having to separate the mothers and the babies. I was just finished.”
She considered giving up nursing altogether and becoming a full-time yoga teacher. Instead, she joined BIÂN in November as a nurse.
“Then I found this job and it’s so perfect,” she says.
dr Marcie Claybon was also with 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 says. “The level of medical care people receive in the concierge medicine field is exponentially higher. In a more traditional medical system, 20 minutes per patient is the model. In this system, I (often) spend two hours with patients for an annual check-up.”
I didn’t feel affected by my IV in any way, let alone radiant, certainly not in the way Frazier’s classes working on core strength and mobility energized me. The Washington Post was skeptical of the popular process: “Trendy intravenous vitamin infusions don’t work — and may be unsafe. experts explain why
I ask Claybon about the IVs.
“There’s not enough research on IV therapies,” she replies. “There is no evidence that they are harmful.”
So it’s a placebo? Do people feel better because they expect to feel better?
“Part of the response to all of these things is the placebo effect,” says Claybon. “Yet there is power in the placebo effect. Pretty good research suggests the placebo effect is real. I think that’s part of it. I also think it goes beyond placebo. Based on individuals’ experiences of how they feel when receiving the boosters. There are tons of positive reinforcements based on that.”
The IV 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 in a sour mood. Hanging out there was like being on the set of a James Bond movie, with lithe young men and women striding around exuding health and bonhomie.
If I lived or worked nearby, I would consider canceling the $300 per month membership. I really enjoyed Frazier’s lessons. But considering the cost and distance, the Northbrook YMCA admirably meets my needs for a treadmill and free weights nearby.
As for IV drops with names like Performance, Revive, and Replenish, I’ll leave those to people who think they’ll benefit from things like that.