Recently, a student remarked to me after class,
“Thank you. This was exactly where I needed to be."
I suspect she was grateful not only to have placed herself in the practices on that particular day, but also to have done so in a space dedicated to yoga and nurturing the path of inner connection.
I’ve always thought of neighbourhood studios not only as yoga schools, but just as fundamentally as community centers. Aside from being, hopefully, one of the last places where we are free from our devices for a little while, studios that encourage community are a kind of modern marketplace, where ideas are shared and connections are made. And even more valuable and rare than that, dedicated yoga spaces are places that can spark and sustain the precious longings of seekers.
My practice was honed in local centres, meditation groups, and retreat sites. These were places where other seekers welcomed me. They gave me the space to nurture my burgeoning pull toward spiritual life. Sometimes being there was about getting a little reprieve from the daily grind, a place where I could be quiet and reflective. At other times, it was about having somewhere to go where I felt encouraged on my path and supported to dive deeper into my inner being. And sometimes, it was about being where I could ask questions, share a meal, hear others’ experiences, and just simply be with people on the same inner trajectory. All of this was, and remains, invaluable to me.
The yoga spaces I frequented quietly celebrated what was inherently sacred within me, even when I had not yet fully acknowledged that place in myself.
It was deeply comforting and supporting to be with others who, even though I didn’t know them on a personal level, felt connected to just by virtue of us being together there. In their company, I was able to give myself permission to explore a lifestyle and path very different from that of my friends and family. I felt further propelled on my path just by being there.
When I began clarify the vision for the studio I co-created in 2011 and co-directed until April 2016, I was clear that I wanted to create a space where people could feel uplifted just by walking in, where they could feel they have permission to just be as they were, and be welcomed to be with themselves for a while, away from the distractions of daily life. But more than that, I wanted to create a space like the centres I started out in, one that subtly yet powerfully honoured each person with love and respect. It manifested as a beautiful sanctuary for practice and connection.
Place is important. The people and the activities that take place in a space give it energy. Therefore, the discipline of how we act when we are there, how we contribute to upholding the intention of a space creates an energetic container within which yoga can thrive.
Just like that for the student who recognized the studio was exactly where she needed to be, a studio can be a sanctuary and an oasis of calm amidst the busyness of scheduled days. It is a place where we are welcomed into the practices of yoga within the context of our everyday lives.
This, I believe, is where the real and lasting transformative power of the practice takes hold. It happens through precious teacher-student interaction, and with the support of being with others on the same life-affirming trajectory. It happens not only by coming together once or twice a year in large gatherings or festivals, but through the week-in, week-out continuity of practice.
These days, we certainly don’t have to leave home to take class, or even to participate in yoga workshops, conferences or trainings. What are we missing out on if we use those resources to replace, rather than supplement, the live, in-person, and in-community experience of yoga?
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