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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Letter from Publisher: Yoga Studios: What We Stand To Lose

Sep 01, 2020 09:30AM ● By Nicholas Bruckman
This month’s special section about yoga is the fourth time we’ve dedicated a section to the topic, and, in fact, marks three complete years of yoga content in every single issue. I always relish the coming of the yoga special section, including the planning, the execution and the fun of featuring local yogis on our cover.

But, as with all else 2020, this year’s edition comes under dark and ominous clouds.

Yesterday, I received one studio’s newsletter. This paragraph was a punch in the gut:

“Time to get real REAL. We need you. In fact, we need you now more than ever. Have we mentioned that whole ‘needing you’ thing? Good. We want no surprises if/when we have to shut our doors for good.”

It was particularly painful because this studio is owned by a friend. “Our monthly revenue waivers between 20 to 30% of our pre-COVID numbers,” she wrote. “We will not make it through without additional support from our community. That is a hard fact.”
Atlanta has already lost a number of studios, including Duluth Yoga, one of the two studios owned by Sheila Ewers, our yoga editor. I spoke with her today to gain a sense of mood in the community of studio owners. The first word out of her mouth: “Despair.”

“It’s really hard,” says Sheila. “Most of us make almost nothing anyway. We do it out of love because we adore our communities and believe in the practice. It’s virtually impossible to make it at 25% capacity. And there’s no end in sight.”

Readers of our yoga section know that our articles are more about the practice of yoga off the mat than on. When I tell people that Natural Awakenings is Atlanta’s premiere publication focused on natural health and personal evolution, what is unspoken is that our yoga section is the foundation of our personal evolution content.

When a yoga studio closes, we don’t just lose another beloved neighborhood business, we lose a center for light, love and service. We don’t just lose a place where community gathers, we lose the incalculable support of a peopled environment that is a reflection of our higher selves. Where yoga practitioners gather, the yogic impulse is intensified, so, when a yoga studio closes, we don’t just simply move on to the next one as we might look for the next gas station. Finding a simpatico yoga studio is more like finding the right church.

“The beauty of most yoga studios is that they show up authentically, pursuing something nourishing, something spiritual,” says Sheila. In that way, studio communities are more like sanghas, the Buddhist spiritual communities of ordained persons and laypeople.

Sangha is one of Buddhism’s “Three Jewels,” which Buddhists are exhorted to take refuge in—meaning, spiritual safety can be found within them. Part of my personal version of going for refuge is: “I go for refuge to sangha, my traveling companions, whose virtuous intentions and actions inspire, enable and support me on my own road to liberation.”

I am sure that Atlanta’s thousands of yoga practitioners are concerned about the future of their favorite studios and that many are attending classes, in person or remotely, maintaining monthly memberships and buying class cards or gift certificates well in advance of use. I am sure that many of you are supporting studios in other ways; Sheila says that some students are making very generous donations. And I am sure that given the extraordinary times we find ourselves in, many of you are maxed out on what you’re able to do.

My purpose here is to simply point out that when a yoga studio closes, what we really lose is sangha, a mirror of our higher selves, a group of spiritual friends who help you grow, advance, evolve. If yoga changes lives, and it most certainly does, then sangha is your inspiration and your accountability partner.

There is little in this world that is more precious and sacred than sangha. If you’re able to do just a little more for your home studio, please consider doing so. And, at Sheila’s suggestion, perhaps reach out to your studio’s owner or manager. You never know how helpful you can be.
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