top of page

Fires of Transformation: A Letter from studio owner Lisa Mae about the closing of our physical space

Dearest Bhakti Yoga Center Family, This letter is long. There is so much that I want to tell you. You can skip directly to the FAQ’s section here, if you’d prefer.

Many of you have been here long enough to remember that we started the space we now call The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center on the Summer Solstice in June of 2007 as The Bhaktishop, out of a tiny by-the-hour dance space on SE 10th and Burnside, next to the anarchist bookshop and across from Union Jack’s. These humble beginnings held a tender seed of a vision for community-building through the practice of yoga, and though many iterations of community have passed through the space, that vision has strengthened and grown over these thirteen years. I certainly never, in the furthest reaches of my imagination, dreamed that we would transform into a fully-accessible online live-streaming yoga and movement center. I am astonished and humbled every day by the way the teachers, and you all, have so gracefully adapted to that new way of being together.

Even as we moved to SE Division in 2008 and the space you loved grew and morphed, year after year, what we didn’t plan for were the relationships: the falling in love, the birth of children and the burying of parents, the partnering and uncoupling of friends and lovers, the constellating of creative collaborations and the fostering and fledging of over 100 incredible new teachers.

We scrawled love notes on the walls and floors under the cork along with rose petals when we opened, and we danced and sang and chanted mantras, moved and cried, so many tears absorbed into the planks of this floor.

I, for one, knew nothing about business or how to run one, or people and how to manage them. I only knew that running this space on yogic principles and with highest integrity mattered to me. What I always held in deep esteem and high regard was community, and the potent strength of the collective to organize in shared power and shared values. Somewhere deep inside, I always understood the power of collective movement, and the deep, abiding need that adults have for communal spaces to share experiences as we grow and heal and expand into the most vulnerable, most connected versions of ourselves.

Over these years we have raised up young teachers, many of whom were just stepping into understanding of their own adult lives, and we mentored and groomed their wings with them as they became strong, powerful voices of hope and inquiry. We also feathered our nest with strong, vibrant, experienced teachers, the kind you turn to for guidance and wisdom on the winding and often surprising path of your life. All grounded in the teachings and the wisdom of the practices of yoga, all dedicated servants of the truth with their whole heart. These teachers have lived here, for what now feels like ages, growing and being grown by all of you, and their dedication and sacrifice remains boundless.

I had no idea that deep friendship and connection would form with all of you, either. That we would journey to beautiful tropical places or snowy mountains in search of a space to unplug and reset so that we could all return as changed, charged human beings, ready to serve in all the ways that we were raising our hands to serve in our lives. That we would link arms and hearts and share visions for a world and future that held more potential for grace and collective power than the one we have steeped in. Thousands of you over the years have graced these walls with your radiant breaths, your blistered and broken hearts, and shared your lives full of transformation and hardships with us; the honor of bearing witness to your lives as you navigate them stings my eyes with tears of privilege and humility.

Holding the community in its tender vulnerability, you all let me founder and fail a lot of times, too, and somehow stayed nearby as I learned to stand in my own accountability and make public corrections. So many of you stayed close during 2007 as I navigated both opening The Bhaktishop and a divorce simultaneously, witnessed the messy public exit of a founding business partner in 2011, cared for the space while I survived breast cancer in 2013, and starting in 2014, honed the ever-changing mission of this center toward one with a stronger equity and accountability lens and a real inquiry into who is truly welcome in yoga spaces. In 2015 and then AGAIN in 2019, you listened and grew with me as we ultimately changed the name of the Shop, twice, to help undo any harm caused by the former name, The Bhaktishop, and to speak to the whiteness that had pervaded the yoga world for so long. You donated money and time and effort toward so many of our justice missions, and helped create a means in which sharing resources and redistribution of wealth was truly a reality and not just lip service. And of course currently, in 2020, you’re growing your own capacity while we all build an ongoing, amazing and vibrant online Live-streaming class platform in our first global pandemic together. All with more questions than answers about how to alter that course for a future we want to build.

All these years later, I have a much more abiding understanding of the sacrifices one must make to try to run a yoga center on yogic principles; foremost among them to be in loving, selfless service to the truth, to do less harm, to not hoard power or resources, to be in right relationship to self and each other, to bear witness and care for community compassionately, and to undo suffering whenever we encounter it. I have not always excelled at this, but it remains my heart’s mission to continue to emerge into this potential that lives inside all of us. I have become so deeply identified with this yoga center and all who share its heart, like an organism or a rhizome, silently growing under the ground. Our art-wall, covered with images of hearts and lungs, is a tribute to celebrate all of you, and all of this, after our remodel/re-emergence in 2015. It was a way to put my own heart on the outside, where you could all see and know my love and affection and deep connection to every one of you that ever supported this space and these humans that decided this practice, this community, was a good idea.

The problem with humans is that we think we have time. Time to do all the things we long to do, time to say the things that matter, but later. Tomorrow is a false story that we all tell ourselves, and so I am telling you now: I love you. I have loved you for all of this time. I have been honored by your trust and your depth and your care and your wisdom in pursuit of knowing yourself more deeply. It has been, and continues to be, the honor of my life to witness you and serve you all in this way. As you know, we have always believed in people over profit, embedded with practices that help create a world of inter-dependent care and support. We have a chance to walk that talk at this precise moment in history.