The rise and fall of a yoga studio. I’ve been teaching yoga as well as managing yoga spaces in various capacities for about eight years now and as a result have seen many studios come and go. From conception, to life, to death, and every once in a while even reincarnation, the studio life-cycle goes a little something like this;
The excitement of a new space opening — as fresh as an inhale. The passion that a new studio owner pours into their yoga baby. From the reworking of a raw space to the scheduling of classes and hiring of teachers. For many this moment is a dream come true. I can’t say that I don’t wish it for myself someday.
The arc of the breath — a community grows. The yoga hall resonates with the sound of OM. Students develop their practice, quiet their minds, and transform their lives under the helpful guidance of teachers and the shield of a nurturing sacred space. Those who are the space holders expand and contract as needed — sometimes growing, sometimes consolidating, making mistakes and learning along the way, some teachers are a perfect fit while others are not, some students become like extended family whose faces and practice become part of the vibration in the walls, while others are just passing through.
Sometimes the arc lasts, develops, and grows into something that is sustainable for all. The planets align as well as the numbers. The yoga being taught is inspiring, relevant, knowledgable, safe, and taught from the heart. The business is approached with mindfulness, accountability, savviness, and plenty of room for things to change and evolve. Other times the flow is interrupted. Whether it is from a spike in rent, exhausted funds or exhausted prana, a change of heart or a change of location. From this place, an exhale. The studio closing is not just inevitable but necessary. And what happens next is what makes you thankful that you have your practice.
Three years ago when OM Yoga Center, the NYC studio at which I did my initial teacher training, announced that they would be closing their doors I witnessed shell-shocked students and teachers grasping desperately for their next move. Similarly, after years together when I shared the news that I would be moving to Asia both my students and I grieved the disintegration of our current student/teacher relationship. This past December in Pune, as 1300 students of Iyengar Yoga gathered together for the first big event after the passing of BKS Iyengar his daughter, Geeta attempted to impose the tapas of his teachings upon us both as a way to adapt to the loss and more importantly as a way to keep his life’s work vibrant and spirit alive.
So here I am in Singapore watching yet another studio at which I teach close and —with all due sensitivity to those that are losing their yoga shala— it feels easier this time around. Perhaps it is because I have moved internationally twice within the last year and a half and I’m getting used to this feeling of starting again. Maybe it’s because my practice has wavered and changed course so many times that I have developed the necessary faith to know that what is coming next will be even better.
In asana class, we practice letting go of unnecessary holding, tension or tightening. We practice noticing and letting go of our thoughts in meditation. We practice witnessing the current moment, focusing our attention, and refining our sensitivity in yoga. We practice all of these great tools to help us in times of strain, stress, confusion, and change. This is what makes you thankful that you have an established practice to fall back on.
Life is ever-changing and our relationship to the yoga practice is constantly evolving as well. So if you or your teacher have moved, your yoga school is closing, your relationship to a style or teacher is no longer in alignment, or you’ve lost your practice, here are a few tips to ease the transition;
- Acknowledge the process of Grieving/Loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and yes even Acceptance. During my last semester of college as a dance major I was on an emotional roller-coster in anticipation of graduation and impending life as an aspiring professional dancer. In the middle of a Graham technique class I experienced my first and only panic attack. Those around me were in similar states of stress and anxiety. At some point a guest teacher came into one of our classes and gave a talk on transitioning into the professional world and he framed the process as if we were grieving the loss of our students selves. We surveyed what we would be losing and what we would be gaining with graduation. Awareness of this process helped ‘acceptance’ come much quicker.
- Seek advice and stay connected. Ask your teacher for recommendations — they are likely to know who teaches in a similar way or what studio you can continue to practice with them. Ask fellow students what they’re up to and make a yoga date to check our a new studio. Connect with your teachers on social media and exchange email addresses — there is no reason to be entirely disconnected these days.
- Become a spiritual tourist in your own city. Allow for this change to be an opportunity for exploration. Shake up your practice and try something you’ve never considered doing before: SUP Yoga, Aerial Yoga, Naked Yoga, Kundalini Yoga. Go chant at a Kirtan or attend a silent Vipassana retreat. Find a yoga workshop that scares/excites you and sign up. You might surprise yourself with what inspires you!
- The practice is yours. The excuses are many. Gone are the days when yoga is a secret art that only your teacher holds the keys to. If you have been working with effort, focus, and openness in class, the practice is now YOURS! Yes, there is nothing like a great teacher to lead the way but trust that there is plenty of yoga within you. Be brave and start a home practice until you resettle. *Warning* There WILL be dust bunnies in places that you never saw until you did Downdog in your living room. Clean it up if you must and get back on the mat.
Do your practice. Then let it go.