Rebel Human was founded by Jenny Arrington and Tait Medina, Ph.D. out of the shared desire to help people live a more connected, compassionate, creative, and joy-filled life.
Like most good things, Rebel Human is a work of both sustained effort and serendipity. After decades in the health and wellbeing field—Tait as an academic researcher, Jenny as a teacher, and both as ever evolving works in progress—these two came together quite by chance.
Rebel Human is the product of many of their shared interests, values, and expertise: A background in the neurosicence of contemplative practices; experience in evidence-based, holistic, and action-oriented approaches to mental health and wellbeing; and a willingness to share openly and honestly about their own personal struggles, which they see as foundational to their work.
Tait Medina, Ph.D.
I've always been a driven person, sometimes to the detriment of myself and others. For many years I associated my worth almost exclusively with the honors, awards, degrees, and accolades that were bestowed on me by others. This relationship was linear: I was happy when I was recognized as being outstanding, and devastated when I wasn't.
I hit a wall (figuratively) when I was in my mid-20s. I was drinking too much, using alcohol to lift my spirits and numb me out. At one point, near the end of my beginning, I cut myself off from all who loved me so that I could be alone as I worked diligently to hate myself into being better. But, as it turns out, you cannot hate yourself into a version of yourself that you can love. Nor can you fill that deep hole with awards and the opinions of others. What you can do is work everyday to cultivate an outlook of hope, kindness, and charity for yourself and others. For me this takes diligence and discipline, and is a daily practice of pausing, paying attention, breathing, being, connecting, forgiving, and loving.
Having said all that, it might seem incongruous to list my accomplishments. But, for me it's not. Today I take pride in these accomplishments and don't find my wholeness in them. In fact today I find my wholeness in the broken pieces.
I received my Ph.D. in sociology with an emphasis in medical sociology, social psychology, and statistics from Indiana University. My research has focused primarily on cross-cultural and cross-temporal conceptualizations of health, illness, and healing and the impact these have on subjective and objective experiences of distress. At the core of my research is the principle insight that health and illness cannot be simply regarded as biological or medical phenomena. People's lived experiences are always informed by cultural, social, economic, and institutional contexts. I taught for a number of years at the University of Michigan and later worked as a senior research scientist at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago. I have had my research published in leading peer-reviewed journals such as American Journal of Psychiatry, American Journal of Public Health, and American Journal of Sociology. My work also appears in textbooks such as the Handbook of Sociology of Mental Health, and the Handbook of Sociology of Health, Illness, and Healing: A Blueprint for the 21st Century.
Prior to attending graduate school, I enjoyed a successful career as a professional ballet dancer. At fifteen I was hired by the First National Touring Company of The Phantom of The Opera as one of its original members and then later performed with the Broadway company. Throughout my career I danced on the stages of some of the most beautiful theaters in the world—the Civic Opera House in Chicago, the Kennedy Center in D.C., the Pantages in Minneapolis, the Orpheum in Boston.
Throughout my time as a ballet dancer, student, professor, researcher, and new mom I turned to the practice of meditation and float therapy as a way to manage my stress. I found these practices key to remaining mentally sharp, physically resilient, and emotionally balanced. I also found they made more space for joy, gratitude, compassion, connection, and forgiveness. In 2016 I founded Oto Float and in 2018 it's extension Backspace Studio as a way to bring these practices together under one roof.
Now: I believe that obstacles aren't in our way, they are the way.
I am the Wellness Advisor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and trained under Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Srini Pillay. In my work, I integrate the ancient tools of yoga, meditation, and ritual with the modern science of neurocoaching to help my students unlock their inner wisdom, connect with their instincts, and overcome their limiting fears.
I teach Yin Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, sound healing, and meditation at studios across the Chicago-land area. I’ve worked with all populations and ages, including private executive coaching. I also chair the board of a circus and performing arts school, performing as an aerialist there as well.
I have been featured in publications including US News & World Report, Chicago Tribune, Shape, and Chicago Magazine to name a few. My first book, The Kundalini Yoga Posture Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Teaching and Practicing the Postures, is launching this Winter.
One of my specialties is explaining complex concepts like the infinite, the spirit, boundaries, and energy in ways that make sense in our real life and are not “woo woo”. I also work to make connections between the wisdom in ancient practices and recent findings within the fields of neuroscience and acoustical physics. My students like to say that I teach only those things that have been proven through thousands of years of practice or have been peer-reviewed. I’m inspired every day by students, their bravery, their willingness to open up and dig into a process that isn’t always pretty. I am continually humbled by how powerful the practices are and love seeing how students heal, blossom, release, and become radiant.
Before: I smoked, did drugs recreationally, drank beyond my limit, was paralyzed with clinical depression, and imprisoned by anorexia and bulimia. More than a decade of these symptoms left my body, mind, and spirit extremely unwell.
This unhealthy “lifestyle” began to shift soon after I began taking a regular yoga class in 2004. I’ll never forget when my dear friend, Liz Lazar, commented that I was glowing and I told her I started to practice yoga once or twice a week. She then told me one thing she learned while living in an Ashram in the early 2000s. Her swami told her, ‘You can’t quit a bad habit. You have to bring something more compelling into your life, and the habit will just fall away.’ I realized in that moment that was precisely what was happening, and it’s a concept I revisit in my teaching consistently.
The transformation didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still a work in progress, but I found that “more compelling” thing that allowed healing to begin. A combination of somatic therapy, asana, meditation, and Kundalini Yoga, has given me the ability to process past trauma, forgive, and heal.