Dearest Yoga Studio,
How are you? Are you cold? Are you lonely? Is your fear of abandonment kicking in?
I’m writing to see how you, the place that so many of us call our second home, are doing in these strange times. So often, we frequent you as a refuge from our usual daily lives, but as you probably know, these are unusual times.
When I started practicing yoga 25 years ago, we didn’t have many options of places to practice and clothes to wear. We practiced in our living rooms, in boxers, on towels, without props, like so many of us are doing now that all the studios are closed. Over the years, yoga has changed: studios opened, yoga clothes became fashionable, and I have enough mats and props to host a small class in my backyard (when we are allowed to practice together again).
Now the yogis of the world are all at home—at the very source of what we seek refuge from when we visit you. We can hear the teacher’s voice online, but we can’t make eye contact or feel the breeze as they walk by. The cues have all changed because we’re no longer “facing Magnolia” or “looking out on Ravenswood.”
We are in our own homes or spaces staring at our to-do piles of laundry or books or projects or kids/pets who need our attention.
We’re using technology to practice, which means many of us are on social media until the moment class begins and may even see alerts pop up while we are on the mat. The practice is not any easier at home. If anything, it is a lot more real.
The delivery folks still ring the doorbell and without the sacred embrace of the yoga studio, we are being asked to be even more self–disciplined than ever before. If I oversleep, should I “log in” to class late and just practice part of it? If I told four friends I was taking a class at 12 p.m., but I got the time zone wrong because she’s in Chicago and I’m in Los Angeles, should I feel bad that they went and I didn’t?
It is like we are wearing blindfolds as we practice right now; the poses are familiar, but everything is a little bit different.
Oh yoga studio, how I miss you! You were always the perfect temperature and, if not, we could tell the teacher and they would make the adjustment if they saw fit (most of them are mind readers and can see the sweat and open the door or see the chills and bump up the heat!). But now it’s all up to me.
If it’s too hot because the central heat kicked on while I was simultaneously running the space heater, I have to stop my practice, walk past my life, go to the thermostat, make the adjustment, and return to the mat without getting a piece of chocolate and pray that no one talks to me along with way. Then I have to hope I didn’t miss too much or lose my concentration, but isn’t that what yoga is all about? Returning to the mat and the practice over and over again? Each moment that I connect my movement to my breath is yoga, so can I make adjusting the thermostat part of my practice?
I do enjoy being able to arrive at “class” just moments after making the decision to go, without any commute at all, and there’s always enough upfront parking at my house. I like being able to burn incense and candles since no one at home has chemical sensitivities and we are not fragrance-free here, but I miss seeing the familiar faces at the front desk, swimming in the stream of students both coming and going, and watching the way people choose their spots in the room after kicking off their shoes at the door.
I don’t know how long we’ll be apart, Yoga Studio, but I do know that when the captain turns off the seat belt sign and we are “free to roam about the cabin,” you will be one of the first places many of us go. You will be filled up again, I promise, with the voices of the students and teachers alike. The music will play and the smell of sweat (in hot studios) will be something no one thought they would ever miss.
Until then, please rest. Rest in the knowing that we have not left you for good. All the support you and your walls have provided throughout the years is greatly appreciated. You give us space to explore our inner knowingness so that when we go home, we can show up in the ways we learned how to in your rooms.
When kids fall down at home, we remember falling over in Nataraja, Lord of the Dance pose, and all the emotions we have navigated through: being embarrassed of falling, being too shy to try, hearing the inner critic tell us we’ll never be as good as them, the list goes on. We can pick up our child and hold them the way Child’s pose holds us and remind them that falling down is part of life, just like the teachers have whispered to us so many times.
At the end of every class we practice Savasana to allow our nervous systems to digest all that happened in the last 60 to 90 minutes. When this shelter in place ends, I promise we will return. We will return in droves with smiles on our faces, not caring that we had to park blocks away to get inside. Everyone will be hugging and laughing and drinking tea.
We will reminisce about how it was, or how it used to be, or how it could be different going forward, but you—oh distinguished yoga studio—with your stoic, yet graceful, demeanor and disposition will humbly say in silence, I’ve been here waiting for you the whole time.
With love and gratitude,