This month Shree Yoga turns ten and I am beside myself with feelings about it. One decade of this place that has been a home and healing sanctuary for me, as well as a business that I have participated in running and thus a source of a share of stress and worry. It’s been a beautiful paradox to see how even a yoga studio business is one that comes with its share of challenges. What strange language it is to say that one would “run” a business, as if to lend fair warning to newcomers jumping in that it will keep you on your feet, running: thoughts running late into the night, running budgets, running over well-mulled scenarios of how to best deal with a tough customer. I guess it’s inevitable that running a business is demanding – like all the big things in life – it is bound to draw deep on one’s resources and bring up liabilities along the way.
I have learned so much from my role as a steward of Shree Yoga and am certainly a better adult for the skills I’ve acquired in: management; bookkeeping; planning and organising; envisioning the future; keeping up with changing times and markets as well as toilet paper stocks; team development; individual development; self-advocacy; calling out bull$^*!; recognizing privilege and social structures that bring some people in the door and not others; realizing that no matter how badly I try to break boundaries between myself and others, the reality of my whiteness, ableness, and privilege is a barrier that is mine to look at and deal with and won’t be unraveled just because I’ve good intentions; the truth that yoga is not for everybody; that truth for me that yoga has saved my life; renter’s rights; the list goes on, but I’d rather highlight something else.
I have grown way more as a person because of Shree Yoga itself, not my involvement in it. Like any powerful thing in the universe, this project has become more than just a collection of its parts. Direct from Shree’s mission statement: “The mission… is to create a safe, nurturing, and welcoming environment for people to gather and gain awareness through movement.” I suppose the big idea of a mission statement is to be something laid out at the beginning of an (ad)venture, a wish, a seed tossed to the winds, with the hopes that the pieces fall into place. I have to marvel at what a brilliant and heartfelt prayer Genevieve and I offered up so many years ago and am most grateful to all of you who have participated by gathering and gaining awareness there, together.
To think that we had any idea what it would mean to actually create a safe space for all beings, or to truly be inclusive within the unavoidable confines of our own capacity and humanness is a falsehood. Resisting the temptation to proselytize that yoga would be the thing for everyone, because it worked for us, has been our commitment, and our teaching. In support of our mission, we chose to work with many different people who share many different “styles” of yoga practice. And still, we have a long way to go. We made a powerful appeal in the scribing of the mission statement, set our minds to doing what it took to keep the doors open, and have been patient as the project taught us, guiding from the inside. I believe it is relationship with everyone who walks in the door that keeps us all accountable and evolving. It (the mission) is happening.
Surely, Shree has more growing to do to better be and embody its quest. It is my hope that in the coming years the studio will continue to improve upon this assignment to be a safe, nurturing, and welcoming environment for people to meet each other, and more importantly, to make time and space to meet themselves. Better means of living and breathing in relationship to others comes only from knowing and loving oneself. I hope that Shree can provide what the people need as we all move through strange and trying times on our planet and that in some way, the heart of the yoga that is eternal – an invitation to connect to something bigger – maintains as a means for all people to realize that our individual plights, loneliness, discomfort, and grief are not ours to carry alone. We are in this together.
A dose of kindness goes a long way in this world. I am content to report that all the individuals involved at Shree strive to create a space for kindness, a household for such behavior for everyone who walks in the door. Ever-evolving and becoming better practitioners as well as teachers, we rely on each-other and the world beyond the doors of the studio to continue learning what kindness and respectful treatment looks like. It is my dream that Shree endures far beyond what I can even envision in this moment, and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds. In the kind-while, I am more delighted than I ever expected to be as a ten-year business-owner and partner in what I believe to be a superrad project.
To this great experiment and to you for your presence, I bow deeply.
Love and big respect, Suki Ola