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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

WHAT YOGA MAY BE: Prayers and Wishes for 2021

Dec 30, 2020 09:30AM ● By Sheila Ewers
As you know, yoga is near and dear to our hearts here at Natural Awakenings. At the very least, a regular yoga practice induces peace—an extraordinary claim for any activity. Because of the immense importance of yoga to us, I turn over this month’s space to our inestimable yoga editor, Sheila Ewers. As every January is a new beginning that absorbs the lessons of the past, Sheila has profound thoughts to share about yoga in the anticipated post-coronavirus world. ~ Paul Chen, Publisher

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This time last year, I owned two vibrant studios that regularly hosted classes of 20 to 30 people. My marketing team had just published a slick, 16-page booklet advertising our 2020 offerings, including three international retreats, more than 18 multi-day workshops, and a  schedule of 40+ classes. Reviewing our work, we congratulated ourselves and felt a sense of pride and excitement about the year to come. It felt like the years of hard work building our two communities were finally paying off. The future looked bright and full of prosperity.

Then came March.

When the pandemic hit, and the world shut down, so did every yoga studio in the United States. I closed our doors, created an online platform, reinvented all of our workshops, rescheduled all of our retreats, counted our reserves, and calculated that we could last for about three months before things grew dire. I never imagined that we would still be in the throes of such challenging times as we enter 2021.

Around metro Atlanta, many long-established yoga studios have closed their doors permanently—YogaWorks, Sacred Chill, Sacred Thread’s beltline location, Westside Yoga, Decatur Yoga, Grey Owl, Progress Yoga and Bhumi Yoga, to name a few—as well as my own Duluth Yoga Center.

As we grieve these losses, many might find themselves wondering what will remain when we finally have relief from the fear of contagion. Will the yoga culture change, or will we return to what we had before?

As a long-time practitioner, a seasoned teacher and a studio owner, I hope that we learn and grow from the struggles of the past year. I hope that we make a commitment to fortify our practice, our studios and our communities to build deeper resilience and longevity.

Here are my wishes for where we go with yoga—post-pandemic and beyond.

For the practice:

May those students now practicing yoga in the privacy of their own homes retain an appreciation of their ability to trust their unique inner teacher, lighting the way for greater wisdom and self-awareness to emerge.

May the emerging collective thirst for tools to bring peace and healing lead each of us on a lifelong quest towards wellness. May that quest include the embrace of all eight limbs of yoga and a deepening understanding of the connections that bind us together.

May the isolation and silence forced upon us in quarantine become chosen and cherished as we learn to nourish ourselves with stillness and quiet the fluctuations of our minds.

For the sustainability of studios:

May studios, awakened by the racial unrest in our nation, consciously create communities with greater equity and inclusion, adopting programs and policies to ensure that shared spaces are welcoming and safe for students of all colors, beliefs, cultures and orientations.

May communities and students who’ve witnessed the economic fragility of independent workers and privately owned businesses realize the value of their support and contribute generously to help make the business of yoga more viable.

May students, having felt the pangs of separation when studios were forced to close, recognize the value of sangha—spiritual community—and nurture companionship by returning to yoga spaces to mingle with others on the path.

For the community:

May the national and international communities, awakened to the fact that we are inextricably united, recognize what yogis have always known: that we are all one. May we learn to honor the divine light within everyone we encounter.

May more yoga teachers—stirred to action by witnessing the suffering that has permeated so many lives—help bring the healing practices of yoga into communities that need it most.
May administrators and decision-makers of schools, corporations and other large organizations recognize the power of mindfulness, meditation, conscious breathing and yoga to alleviate stress, increase awareness and cultivate the health of mind and body. May they support programs that make these more accessible to all.

For the planet:

May the benefits of our yoga practices reach beyond the mat as we recognize all sentient beings’ inherent dignity and value and as we work to bring peace for all beings everywhere.

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Sheila Ewers, ERYT500, YACEP, owns Blue Lotus Yoga in Johns Creek. A former professor of writing and literature, she leads group and private lessons, yoga philosophy workshops, yoga teacher training and retreats. Contact Sheila at [email protected].

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