Ode To We Are Yoga
Many of you reading this blog have been a part of the We Are Yoga Studio or one of its other iterations at some point over the last 12 years. Spoiler alert: this blog is an "Ode to We Are Yoga", so if you would prefer to skip it, scroll to the end to read a bit about my Southern Spain Retreat, July 1-7.
It is strange to be so far away and “virtually” witness the closing of We are Yoga, an entity that has been such an essential part of my life for so many years. I wish I were there to share this moment with the WAY family and acknowledge how much this studio has meant to me, but this writing will have to suffice.
First, I’ll give you a little context. I entered the We Are Yoga community back in 2007. I’d recently moved from Chicago to Salt Lake City and contacted Jennifer Ellen, the owner of Flow Yoga. After a very sweet one hour conversation about our backgrounds, philosophies and yoga in SLC, we decided we were a good fit and she hired me to teach at her Millcreek location. That was 12 years ago and since then the studio has seen three locations (Millcreek, 21st and Parleys Way), four names (Sonic and Flow Yoga, Shiva Centre and We Are Yoga) and five owners, (Jennifer Ellen, Shiva, Jami, Sarah and Diane). Throughout those 12 years there has always been one constant - the community of students. In some ways the feeling sense of the WAY community is like a mantra that gets repeated over and over until a sort of invisible force of energy is created that allows you to come and go without disrupting the flow. Each mantra holds a different kind of energy which is why a meditation teacher may “prescribe” a mantra for you, depending on what you need to receive. The WAY community mantra is a wellspring of support, compassion and acceptance and I have seen many students and teachers return to this particular mantra again and again.
While I have no doubt that the mantra-like community of WAY will continue to be a source of support, the physical structure is shifting. Over the years, I’ve guided many of you through various gratitude practices and meditations. Two of my favorites are: What do you Love?and Taking in the Good. These have been invaluable practices for me as I’ve explored my own feelings about the WAY closure. If you’d like to join me, just picture what you have loved about your experience with WAY and imagine it in present time so that the memory becomes more alive for you. Here are some of the thoughts, sensations, emotions, and images that have come out of my recent, We Are Yoga-themed, gratitude practices:
I love the feeling of the little meditation room in the back of 21st (except during the period when Andreas may have been both working and living in it and it was covered in Ayurvedic oils:)) It was like being in a magical hiding place where no one would ever find you. When I recall it now, I feel both grounded and spiritually uplifted.
I love the cave-like feeling of 21st, studio C. I love the way that the darkness would hold a space for us when doing deeper, more emotional work particularly during Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy groups and teacher trainings.
I love 21st studio B - the way the light came in and shadows danced through the glazed windows.
I love seeing Selina at the front desk with her many brews and scents and then experiencing the energy of a packed Jami class on Sunday mornings.
I love the Steve Gold class and concert at 21st, the beauty of the music, the celebration of Jami and all of her hard work, and the memory of my then baby-daughter Maya sitting in Jami’s flower circle while Steve sang, There is So Much Magnificence.
I love feeling into the fresh start of the Parleys studio and the welcome that Sarah gave to every teacher and student at the front door. I love Sarah’s grounding presence and how much her way of being, helped me to be a better teacher.
I love the feeling of deep permission and trust I received from Jennifer Ellen, Jami and Sarah that allowed me to teach absolutely anything I felt called to teach.
I love the drama free, non-hierarchical feel of the studios and the incredible exchange of information and support between teachers, students, managers, owners and karmis. I love how blurred those roles have always been - how functionally healthy it has been to change roles with such ease and learn from and support one another without feeling stuck in any particular chair.
I love how frequently I’ve shown up for a class, rolled out my mat, and then looked up to find myself surrounded by other teachers and many of my own students. I love the feeling of being a part of a community formed by a web of relationships versus clear delineated roles. And I love the growth I’ve experienced over the last 12 years as both teacher and student in this nourishing and compassionate environment.
I love the beauty of the trees surrounding Parley’s studio B and the sound of bird song (even the woodpecker) that filled the room.
I love sitting on a couch for much longer than I’d planned (and despite my long "to-do" list) because the company was too good to leave.
I love the spaciousness to feel exactly what I needed to feel in any yoga class.
I love the creative explosion between Heather, Wanna, Sarah, Steve and I when we created the 300 hour Yoga Teacher Training.
I love the sunset in Parleys Studio A during a winter Sunday restorative class, the room full of pink and orange light, packed full of bodies resting in Shavasana, with the shadow of Shiva making its way through the room, beginning at the floor in front of me and ending on the back wall, hovering just above the earth.
I love having a place to experience over and over, the heart opening sensation of guiding a room full of people into shavasana. I love feeling the shift as one body after another allows itself to drop into the full support of the earth, and the deeper peace that is palpable in the room as each relaxed body helps the next to relax a little deeper. And as that feeling settles into my belly, I too, am blessed to take 5-15 minutes in meditation, absorbed in that communal peace. I love cuing students to rise to a comfortable seat and chant a "sea of oms" together, completing the practice with a “Namaste” followed by an inner pause to acknowledge or feel into what we’ve received. And finally, with eyes open, we see the presences we’ve felt around the room. And it is that last brief pause that I love the absolute most - the awareness of gratitude embodied.
And of course, I love my students. I know you are not only mine but I like how it feels to say it:) I love that through celebrations and grief, through my own pregnancy with Maya, studio changes and so much more, we have supported one another. And I love the bodily feeling of being supported. The physical sensation of being in a room full of people who genuinely love and care for one another. To be able to work in such an environment and to both serve and be served for so many years has truly been a gift and I am thankful to everyone who played a role in that experience.
I am so grateful to you, Jennifer Ellen, Andreas, Jami, Sarah and Diane for taking on such a difficult role for as long as each of you did. I know how much energy, love and sacrifice it took to hold that space for all of us.
I look forward to seeing all of you in the not too distant future. I’ll be guiding a retreat July 1-7 in Southern Spain. The retreat center is located on an Andalucian Finca and it is absolutely magical. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Think rolling hills, huge cliffs, olive, orange and lemon trees and painted white villages against a backdrop of every color green you’ve ever seen. Then add yoga, swimming pools, Spanish food, wine and culture, hikes and flamenco. This is a very rare opportunity and I hope you will share it with me. Register soon for the early bird rate!
As always, I love hearing from you. Please reach out with questions or sharings any time.