tl;dr: I love you, I’m sharing my experience; thank you for your support, please be kind.
Yoga studios are permanently closing around the world due to the pandemic. I reopened my doors on June 15 after three months of closure, of total loss of revenue, and still no agreement from my commercial landlord to support our long term business relationship with a promise to work with me, and 30k of deferred rent owing for the months we were closed. They have until the end of August to decide what they want to do; I hope/think they will come around.
I took the risk of reopening in part because, frankly, there is no better option. The bottom line for me is that owning the business of this studio is a decision I made, and a responsibility I bear to myself, to my teachers, and to my clients. I am called to teach, and to mentor and teach teachers, and I am called to this healing yoga system.
I reopened with a fully developed safety plan and an excellent cohort of reliable, responsible, and personally invested experienced teachers who are brimming with integrity, vision, and support. My safety plan, studio space, and protocols have been inspected by WorkSafe BC and Island Health during gracious on-site visits in person, and I keep myself closely apprised of the COVID-19 situation so that I may anticipate and prepare for developments before they occur. And I am extremely lucky to have a gifted and devoted husband who creates and maintains my technical solutions, that is when he is not holding me up with his lionheart and patting the pieces of me back together, which happens often these days.
I want to carry the studio through to the other side of this gauntlet and come out with more resilience and clarity than we had before: because the yoga is simple and it works. Apparently it works without showers, change rooms, full rooms, socializing, fruit on the front counter, music, props, social media, marketing, discounts, freebies, gimmicks, coming and going, and really all that much else. We all love a lot of that stuff, but it’s pretty amazing to watch how well the yoga works without any of it. Now it’s basically just shoes off, no drama.
By far most people coming through the doors are supportive, so happy we are open, so happy to see one another again. Patient, understanding, friendly, interested, practical, willing. And a few people are hostile and full of contempt for our protocols. Among all the stresses of small business ownership during COVID-19, this has been the hardest and most unexpected part of the work, being bullied for excellent high standards, for doing whatever we can to open the studio given the current situation.
I feel moved to state it openly: being in a position where my leadership requires enforcing or upholding public health and safety guidelines to keep the business open, and experiencing aggression and hostility from people attending yoga classes is bizarre and emotionally draining.
I know that I am not alone. And this has been the hardest few months of my life, with the stress and pressure of the whole situation, knowing that I have put myself and my family, and everything Prarie and I have worked so hard for the last twenty years, all on the line for this studio. I am under no illusion that I deserve success or that anything at all is owed to me, but I am highly aware of how invested I have become in these particular details in life. I have struggled more in the last few months with my mental health than I ever have before, with full recognition of my privilege, and especially the blessings of my family and friends, and my teachers and staff who have fiercely supported me when I’ve broken down. I know all that I have to be thankful for, and I feel ashamed to break down.
This time hasn’t been easy for many of us. And so many of us keep the hard things secret for fear of stigma, and are at risk of disintegration, falling off the map, or wandering out to the fringe of social awareness, where the other and the othered pandemic grips, the one that eats the mind and hoards stolen generations upheaved in crisis, addiction, sorrow. In the yoga community the hard things are often kept secreter still. There is an expectation to be well somehow, even unwell, to keep a rosy glow or else harshly dare to be outlawed. We need our friends when it’s fair; we need them more when it storms. Sometimes we need the other to reflect our own friendship back to our selves, when everything is otherwise bleak and confusing.
The practice goes beyond the class. It exists in the pause before the inhale, and the pause after the exhale, the markers of nothing that allow life to be known. Let the gaze be penetrated now. Let us take this perspective and see one another, and remember in each seeming unimportant exchange in a doorway that everyone has their own story. A dream, a wish, a worry. A grandmother, a mother, a daughter. A loneliness, a promise to keep, a reason to be, and a reason to be kind.