Have you ever heard how Yoga Sanctuary came to be?
There were many twists and turns, like any good story. And there were many struggles, such as accompany and often inspire any worthy dream.
It all started when two friends in their twenties, yoga teachers of course, wanted to create a place in the community that reflected their personal values. Those two friends were me, Sara Rose, and Tara Starling. We considered yoga to be not only an incredible physical practice but one that connects us to the sacred in ourselves and in life. We wanted to teach somewhere that was an oasis in the community, where students could learn, study and expand their knowledge of yoga not only physically and intellectually but spiritually and emotionally as well. We wanted it to be a safe and loving environment in which students could grow and thrive.
The first struggle? Not finding a studio we resonated with that honored and upheld these values (there weren’t many studios back then, unlike now!) Sara Rose had taught in Northampton for about 6 years, since 1992, and Tara Starling had begun to teach by 1998. After a year of lugging our props around to various locations together we - Sara Rose and Tara - decided we needed to start our own center.
Not knowing what to name it, we played with ideas until one morning, when I was half-asleep in bed, in that seam between sleeping and waking I literally heard the name “Sanctuary.” It was so clear. That was it!! Tara agreed that it embodied exactly what we wanted to offer in our community: a place where we celebrated life as sacred, where we honored each students’ individuality within the support of a vibrant and caring community. And so in January 1999, Yoga Sanctuary was born!
I like to think that my dear friend Tara was Yoga Sanctuary’s midwife. She was there for the birth and the crucial infancy of Yoga Sanctuary which began in the Arts and Industry Building of Florence MA. She co-taught with me in our sweet, humble studio space (which we shared with 2 dancers) for 3 years. We started on a shoe-string budget, purchasing props on our credit cards, and scraped and painted the brick and plaster walls ourselves. We taught many adult classes, co-created children’s yoga classes and yoga summer camps together (some of the children we taught grew up, did teacher training at Yoga Sanctuary and one even teaches here today!) Tara then decided to become a midwife and soon planned leave the area to be trained at Yale Midwifery. She has since delivered over a thousand babies in this world, including supporting me at the home births of my two daughters! I don’t think at that age or time in my life, I could have created Yoga Sanctuary without her and I am forever grateful to have shared that beginning with Tara.
In 2002, I took over full ownership of Yoga Sanctuary and moved to a beautiful 1,000 square foot space in downtown Northampton. Above what was then the beloved bookshop, Beyond Words, I had beautiful soft maple floors installed, harvested from my soon to be father-in-law’s tree farm in Belchertown. It doesn’t get more local than that! My husband Matt and many generous students and friends once again helped us paint and prepare our new space. The studio grew there for 7 years and so did I and my family. My first daughter Arya “attended” many meetings with me as a baby and learned to crawl on a yoga mat at the studio! Our staff expanded, I eventually had part-time office help and then hired my first studio manager. Our Immersion and Teacher Training programs were born, and we hosted many visiting teachers from around the country. Then… I was asked to find a new location so the new owner of the building could eventually expand his store to our third floor.
I was pregnant at the time I first heard this news and very unhappy about the idea of moving, but my landlord was fair and gave me time to find a new place (it was about 18 months later). It was one of those moments in time where a jewel is hidden in a difficult situation. An amazing sequence of events led to my choosing to move into Thornes Marketplace, into the most extraordinary space for a yoga studio that I could have dreamed of! I ended up being able to choose the exact size I wanted Yoga Sanctuary to be. I remember to this day, a friend and fellow yoga teacher saying to me- “don’t limit Shri”. Shri means abundance, and auspicious beauty. It was an act of courage and leap of faith for me to sign a lease for 3,000 square feet of gorgeous studio space. I had been at one of those crossroads in life that was so scary at the time. Yet I can look back now as a reminder to dream big, do my due diligence to make sure I am prepared, and then take the leap. We are now in our 8th year here (that’s almost 18 years in business), and could not have a better location. We are a thriving yoga community, with 2 gorgeous studios, sharing a 3rd floor of wonderful businesses, in Thornes, the very heart of downtown Northampton commerce.
There are of course many more layers and twists and turns to Yoga Sanctuary’s story, some of which are simply parts of life. Comings and goings, saying goodbye to some beloved teachers as they moved across country or into new parts of their lives, welcoming new friends and teachers and new styles of yoga when Yoga Sanctuary moved beyond the one style that we had adopted for a long time. Alongside the joys of learning, seeing friendships made in our community, and experiencing the healthy growth of our studio, there were of course hardships. The strain of growth, painful challenges and losses endured are part of the story too (aren't they always?) What I am most proud of is the fulfillment of that first goal that Tara and I held together when we planted the seed for Yoga Sanctuary. As you read the stories of some of our students over the coming months, you will hear a similar theme. So many wonderful people came to Yoga Sanctuary looking to feel better, or solve a physical challenge, or to learn to relax. What they found was a welcoming community, the caring support of teachers and fellow students, expert guidance and inspiring yoga instruction. What they experienced was transformation, not just within the the sanctuary of an outer place, but within the most sacred place of all- their own inner being.