By: Anjali Sunita
Dear Students, Teachers, and Friends of Baltimore Yoga Village,
Baltimore Yoga Village has been our work and my dream for 14 years. Creating space for diverse wisdom-sharing in community that crossed age, race, and gender lines was central to the village dream. Yet time and time again, I am forced to see what a naive dream I had in my early 20s, where I have failed, where the system has failed, and how impossible that dream has been to fulfil when we as a society are not structured or ready. I do feel very proud and humbled by what we were able to accomplish together: So many nervous systems restored, bodies released out of pain, births of friendships, marriages, babies ushered in through prenatal yoga, studies for yoga for the blind – We launched pilots for yoga for arthritis. We welcomed, hosted, and fundraised for the monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery; we led life-changing teacher trainings, and weekly insight meditations. We created countless mini-communities and programs and retreats throughout the world. And, I’m certain that I don’t even know the half of all that has transpired between everyone who felt welcomed and at home. I do not take any of that lightly and plan to write more on this to you as I process what the past 14 years have meant to me on all levels. The gratitude I feel is immense.
I value each one of you.
And, quite simply, I can not run my life on the ideology of “profit over people”.
The choice to open or not open doors during a global pandemic is not a choice under a government that largely leaves suffering small businesses financially unsupported during this crisis. Nor is it a choice when considering how to keep the vulnerable among us truly safe.
I ask the implicit questions explicitly, Whosewellbeing do we want to center? How many lives are worth risking for the sake of our economic survival? For me, that one is a no brainer.None.
In the words of Professor Corina Mullin of The New School and CUNY and Azadeh Shashahani, Legal and Advocacy Director at Project South, “As we confront these interlocking health- economic-ecological crises, we must remember that it is the working class, poor, racialized and criminalized communities both in the Global North and South who suffer the most and who are also at the forefront of resistance. True liberation and survival—depends upon centering the needs, struggles and collective leadership of the most vulnerable among us”.
I know what many of you may want to know is when will things return to normal. It seems impossible to return to a normal that is unsustainable under these circumstances and keep with our mission “to honor the strength of each individual to foster a community of health, peace, and mutual respect.”
Transition is hard, and I fully feel that some of this news is disappointing to some, even heartbreaking to many:
– Effective immediately I am releasing the Mt. Washington lease.
– We still have time to assess our Hampden/ Mill Center space. I will be back in touch in September about this.
– For now we are offering classes online for the health and safety of everyone in particular to keep the vulnerable among us (healthcare workers, the elderly, poor people of color, essential workers, tribal members, people with pre-existing conditions, the immuno-compromised) safe. Please purchase class passes with the knowledge that this is how they will be used for at least several more months, if not always.
– I feel enlivened teaching during this crisis through Baltimore Yoga Village and my own practice with Village Life Wellness. I will continue to do so.
– Here’s my main focus, right now: I am in a moment of continuing to look for partnerships with teachers who interrupt and dismantle individual, interpersonal, and institutional racism, those who want more than individual healing, and those who work towards societal wellbeing. I seek students willing to live yoga and honor its roots. I am starting with this course.
– I’m looking forward to conversations and practices within the BIPOC community around decolonizing our relationships to yoga because it is within community we see ourselves and grow.
Perhaps, this community we have grown to love will ultimately shrink?
However, I am clear that this is in no way an end, just a pause between asanas. If yoga has taught me anything, it’s that contraction can lead to expansion and that during every challenge, being aligned with one’s heart, the whole truth, ancestors, and basic ethics (yamas and niyamas) is the foundation of any spiritual practice.
Thank you all for your love and support of Baltimore Yoga Village, teachers and community.
Baltimore Yoga Village