On Tuesday night, Bikram Yoga Brooklyn Heights closed their doors after fourteen years of service to the community. Although we had known for some time that this was a possibility, we were hoping for a miracle and this news felt quite sudden. We found out on Friday night. On Saturday morning, my hubs and I took our last class with our beloved teacher Vin, whom many of you have read about and even grown some affection for. I held it together and focused on the yoga for 90 minutes, all the while sure that the emotion that was filling the room was not only coming from me. As everyone laid down for the final savasana I stayed sitting up, facing Vin, who had taken his position near the door, reluctant to exit for the final time. I stayed upright so I could see him–I never wanted to forget him standing there. He started, “What to say, you all know what’s happening…what to say.” His voice cracked. I lost it. I was not the only one. Sniffles could suddenly be heard bouncing gently across the room. He continued, now actually crying himself, “It’s been an honor, and you know…I love you guys…Namaste.” The room erupted in unrestrained applause. I glanced down at my husband clapping his hands wildly above his head. Then I looked back up at Vin who wiped a tear from his eye, placed his hand on his heart, and exited the room to leave us to our meditation.
I know a lot of you read in a piece I wrote recently how much my yoga community means to me. Still, I can’t let this era end without a few more words and a proper goodbye.
I have been taking classes at the Brooklyn Heights studio for almost eight years. When I first moved to New York City I had been practicing Bikram for about a year, but was worried I would not be able to continue because I could not really afford it. I remember my sister, who originally introduced me to the yoga, told me not to lose hope–that if my desire to keep practicing was true, the universe would find a way to make it happen. Shortly after I moved in next door to her in Brooklyn, she took me to the studio on Montague Street for my first class. It was an almost too good to be true, short seven minute walk from our apartment building.
The studio was never much to look at. Someone told me that years before the space had been a dentist’s office. The layout was a bit awkward, the yoga room was narrow, and the locker rooms were tight. The studio I had left in Michigan was better outfitted, shinier. Still, I felt right at home almost immediately. I think that’s what makes this loss so emotional for me. When I moved, it took me a long time to feel like I really belonged. I’m not a person who has a lot of friends, especially not close ones. This is by choice. I like people. But I also know what I am capable of–there are only so many close relationships that I can maintain. Rather than meeting new people, making plans with them, and getting to know them, I have always preferred that the majority of my socialization occur organically at the places where I spend my time–at work, at meetings, and where I get my exercise.
The other yogis in the studio were welcoming right from the get. I felt like I fit in, and people wanted me there, and even wanted to hear a bit about my life outside of the studio. At the same time, they didn’t ask more of me than I was able to give. No doubt it was my first happy and safe place in New York City.
The owners of the studio were kind of my yogi angels. I was nervous to tell people I barely knew that I couldn’t afford to take classes, but their kindness eased my anxieties and allowed me to open up to them. They offered me a deal. If I could manage to come to one class a week for a couple of months to show my commitment to the yoga, they would allow me to be a part of their work study program. I was ecstatic. For the next three years or so, I’d wake up early on Sunday mornings and head into the studio for a few hours to mop and vacuum and clean the mirrors and wipe down mats and dust out the lockers. In return, I could take all the yoga classes I wanted. I’d never been so happy and grateful to clean a toilet in my life.
Over the years, ownership changed. I made more money and started paying for my yoga and allowed for someone else in need to take my spot. The man I was dating became my husband, and shortly after started coming to class with me. It became our Saturday morning routine–8:30 AM class with Vin. We’d grab brunch and run errands afterward. It became what we did. A part of life we depended on. It was good.
As so many of us sat together after class on Saturday, Vin remarked that of course the only thing we can really depend on in life is change. Unfortunately with rampant greed throughout the New York real estate market and corrupt bullshit laws that allow landlords to keep their properties vacant until they get their price–we are seeing more and more change in our neighborhood and throughout the city. It hurts to hear about small businesses being driven out. It’s devastating when the small businesses are an integral part of your everyday life. Our studio was part of our home, and now, it’s gone.
Staring in those mirrors for ninety minutes at a time for the past eight years, I’ve grown to love the postures, and also to love myself. Whenever people ask me if they should go to yoga they usually have one goal in mind. They say, should I go, I want to…
Improve my flexibility. Relieve some anxiety. Get stronger. Become more mindful. Compliment my running. Learn how to meditate. Heal an injury.
The list always goes on and on, and my answer is always yes. Go. For all of it.
I’m not going to go on and on about the practice and everything it has given me because I’m not losing the yoga. I’ll get on the subway and hop to another studio to take classes. I’ll adapt. That’s the thing about being human–our resiliency is real. But so is our need to grieve and for me that means admitting when I’ve lost something and recognizing what it’s meant to me.
And so, to Bikram Yoga Brooklyn Heights–thank you. Thank you for being my safe place, my home, my playground, and my classroom. Thank you for being the community I could depend on when everything was new and uncertain. Thank you for being the actual ground where I found my balance–in more ways than one.
Dentist offices may come along, or banks, or Starbucks, but whomever it is will always be sharing that space–cause a little piece of my heart will always reside at 106 Montague. x