If this were a year like all the ones before, I would open the February blog post with, “This month we celebrate fourteen years of community at 401 N. West Street.” I would proceed to go on and on about how the blue came to be, and what we have collectively created and accomplished in the past year. Full of emotion and gratitude, I would talk about the goodness and greatness experienced in those four walls and the enormous contributions made by all involved to create a yoga home for thousands of students since we opened back in 2007. But this was not a year like all the ones before. This year has been something else entirely.
On May 26, 2020, I made the announcement that we were permanently closing the door at 401 N. West Street. I’m wildly grateful for the whisper from the universe that the COVID situation was not only not going to disappear, but it was going to be with us for a long, long time and would radically alter our lives in unimaginable ways. When I shared the news with the community, it was with the phrase “We are not a building.” I hold fast to that. We are decidedly far, far more than what could be contained in brick and mortar, or we would by now have ceased to exist. And yet there’s something about this particular anniversary— the first without that beautiful, light-filled space in Glenwood South— that makes me teary for an entirely different reason.
I regularly hear from students and teachers about how much they miss the studio. I believe every word. I also think that the memory of the studio is a container into which one can pour all of the unspoken grief for all of the lost, missed and never again to be had things, places and habits for which we are each silently mourning. I’m beginning to realize that until now, I have not given myself permission to miss the building. There has been far too much work to do, changes to make, transitions and transformations to see to. My practical nature stamped “it is what it is” and “had to be done” on those crazy, foggy, swirling, aching months from when we closed in March until I locked the door for the last time in July.
Today, I return to the truth that we are not a building. And, also, I miss it, too. I miss the smell of incense when you first walked in the door. I miss standing at the desk and seeing your faces as you strolled in, whirled in, trudged in from the street. I miss those sacred moments at the hall altar before stepping into the studio to teach: offering my time, my words, my life to hopefully be of service; to a greater will and purpose. I miss the cork floor under my feet and light streaming into the room, baking whoever had set up along the back wall at just the right or wrong spot. I miss walking among you, the yoga flowing through me, flowing through you, surrounding, healing, connecting us to tradition and Truth. I miss touching you, hugging you, seeing your whole face live and in person. I do miss all of these things. Focussed on the necessity, the practicality, I had simply not made the space to feel that missing until this moment.
The sadness welling up in me has no twinge of regret, and for that I am also grateful. There are yoga studios open and operating across the country, and without judgement for their own difficult decisions, I am clear that the choice to close blue was the right one for me. Even after all of this time, I still do not wish to be teaching in a room with tape on the floor separating mats after implementing endless sanitizing protocols. I do not wish to teach wearing a mask, requiring students also to cover their faces and keep a distance from each other. And I strongly believe that doing otherwise is both irresponsible and lacks consideration for our wider community. I find myself in yet another- perhaps the ultimate- both/and moment. It was and is the right decision. And it was and is heartbreaking.
For me, closing the studio wasn’t just about leaving a physical location, it was shedding what was perhaps the best chapter of my life. It was releasing an identity I cherished. It was tossing into a burning dumpster once and for all the illusion of security. And yet here we are. We are still here! Still, we gather to practice together in 2D- whether in real time or via recordings. Every day the profound power of the teachings is transmitted- I believe this 100%. I’m learning a new language of how to read a room that has no walls.
As a collective, we are still committed to showing up in bigger and better ways: from educating ourselves, engaging in hard conversations about race, privilege and social justice to raising awareness and funds for those who are on the ground working for equality and justice, and serving those most profoundly impacted by the pandemic. More people than ever before are participating in the deeper practices and studying the depth of yoga and all it has to offer. We are still here! Doing all the things!
Today I hold the missing and the celebrating together. I’m grateful we’ve been able to reach so many people who never had the opportunity to step foot into Suite 105 at 401 N. West Street. I’m thrilled beyond words to see so many students who have long since moved away join us again- coming back to their yoga home. I’m inspired by the teachers at blue and how they’ve innovated, created and reinvented ways to share the richness of yoga with as much or more impact than ever before.
Back when I said “we are not a building” I admitted that I didn’t know exactly how to define us or what the future might hold. I still cannot. Our collective— and each of us individually— is undergoing a metamorphosis. And for now we are the goo in the cocoon. I trust that magic is happening in there, even though it has not yet taken shape. As we reside in the center of the unknown, I want to celebrate what we had and what we have. As we start our 15th year, let us recommit to the promise of showing up for each other and our community. Let us take another breath and another step, knowing one day soon, the wings within the chrysalis will begin to flutter and another iteration of our beingness will begin.
After eleven months, We have evidence that we are, in fact, not a building. We are a community. And that community is resilient, supportive, inclusive, courageous, compassionate, expansive, generous, dedicated. What else we shall become remains to be seen, and for now I am holding it all with deep gratitude. Thank you for 14 years of growth, learning, joy, tears, sharing, breathing, serving, laughing, being. As we dig for the truest and best parts of ourselves and share it with each other, we make the world better.