Community, Essays

Sacred Spacemaking: Celebrating 9 Years of Yoga on Union

Yoga on Union St New Bedford MA

Yoga on Union: one of the original placemakers in downtown NB.

On June 30, Yoga on Union (YOU) held it’s last class after almost 9 years of operation. It was, like the studio, a simple and understated celebration. Students, friends, and family gathered on mats to practice and say goodbye to the four walls that held so very much for so many people.

Now don’t feel sad just yet, because Yoga on Union lives on, and I’ll get to that in a few. But first, I want to talk about sacred space.

Juliet Loranger, yoga teacher and owner of YOU, had a few words about the making of a sacred space towards the end of class. The space itself, she offered, is not sacred without the people who show up, and the work that they do.

Yoga on Union with dog

Inside YOU: a sacred space for many.

Grumpy Yoga

I completed my yoga teacher training a few years ago. I taught for a couple of years until I started Groundwork, and floated from studio to studio looking for a place that felt authentic to practice. Eventually the pressures of money and time led me to practice primarily at home.

I had been to YOU once, and enjoyed Juliet’s class, but I didn’t become a regular until I got dumped unexpectedly. Suddenly studio practice felt like a necessity more than a luxury. I cleared Monday nights on my schedule and started showing up every week.

I kept going back because I was allowed to be real. There was permission to be upset, or frustrated, or distracted on the mat. In the yoga world, we often feel pressure to have some  ohm-shanti samadhi experience every time we practice. At Yoga on Union, I felt the space to work through my condition: grumpy, happy, sad, angry… whatever it might be.

Loranger wrote, in an email newsletter, that:

I had always wanted the studio to be a place where people with willing minds and hearts could come to give themselves a big chance to experience whatever it is they want. Where there was not only the possibility to grow and transform but the magnitude to remain the same as you came in, light and dark and colorful. Acceptance is laid into the studio’s ethos.

Going to class after a busy day at Groundwork, I often wanted to be the quiet anonymous person in the back. But I couldn’t escape the collective experience we all created on our mats. I, too, was accepted into the family, whether I was looking for it or not.

Allowing Human Moments

My colleague Steven Froias recently observed  that true success for AHA! New Bedford meant becoming “a community space that allowed human moments to happen in a city that needed more of them.”

Right on.

As such, Juliet’s words on sacred space rang oh-so-true as I sat on my mat at the end of class. Perhaps as we redevelop our city, write numerous plans, and launch cultural and ecomonic initiatives, we should consider this recipe for the sacred:

Make a space. Show up and do the work. Allow human moments to happen.

Students at YOU

Some of the humans who show up to practice.

 

The Future of Yoga on Union

Now if you are wondering what’s next for YOU, there’s good news. The studio will be reborn as School of Yoga New Bedford on the third floor of the Duff Building on the corner of Williams and Pleasant. The school will focus on the practice of learning and communicating, with workshops, class series, courses and trainings.

There is an additional venture on the horizon: a smaller space with short-format classes at an affordable rate.

Check out the School of Yoga New Bedford website for more info on the school, and Good Yoga NB for info on the small space opening this fall.

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Sarah

Co-founder at Groundwork!
Sarah lived all over South America, produced a documentary about Patagonia, and worked in digital marketing for a decade before settling in New Bedford to start Groundwork! She loves running a coworking space because she gets to meet the coolest people in the world.
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