How A Yoga Studio Survived A Pandemic

Chandler Kidd

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A Tibetan philosopher, Shantideva, once said “If a problem can be solved, what reason is there to be upset?” Kate Sullivan, who runs a yoga studio in Bushwick, says she lives her life by this.

When COVID-19 halted life in Brooklyn, Sullivan had to adjust how Kalā Yoga operated. The studio opened just three weeks before the start of COVID-19 restrictions. “I put one foot in front of the other and kept going,” Sullivan said. “I also knew that drip by drip people would come.”

Kalā Yoga quickly switched online and started livestreaming classes in March, 2020 and resumed in-person classes in November. Although the studio is continuing to do livestream some courses, the studio currently operates at 33% capacity. 14 people are able to practice at a time inside the infrared panel-heated room which uses hospital grade filters and the windows are popped open for cross ventilation. Sullivan also says she enforces mask wearing in classes.

Before opening Kalā Yoga, Sullivan worked in special education. After reading Rolf Potts’s Vagabonding, a book about dedicating life to travel, Sullivan decided to do just that. She packed up a car and drove to California where she began training as a yoga teacher, focusing on fluid yoga, a practice started by Kevan Gale, Sullivan’s cousin. It’s a kind of vinyasa-based yoga, meaning that classes are full of movement that focuses on the body and breath while focusing on Buddhist principles. 

“A difference you might notice in my class[es] is that I offer themes based on the fundamental principles of Buddhism that we can all relate to, even if one has no knowledge of the teachings,” she told Bushwick Daily, suggesting some of these: loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. 

“This is a place where we want to showcase local artists,” Kate Sullivan says about her yoga studio. 

On a recent Monday morning, Pia, one of Sullivan’s instructors, opened a class by mentioning that all the moves could be modified, altering aspiring yogis to only do what is most comfortable. She warned that her classes are full of movement, but that if a break is needed, there would be no judgments. 

Her reminders to smile were gentle and I left the class calm and rejuvenated. As a yogi for five years myself, I began practicing at a studio that was much like Sullivan’s on Melrose street. While studios can feel elitist in their focus on demanding a certain skill levels to attend classes, the approach at Kalā reminded me of the very reasons that I got on my mat for the first time: to bring peace and joy to my everyday life.  

The studio smells like a mixture of incense, candles, and a blend of essential oils. On sale are prayer flags, incense, candles, meditation bells, and books about yoga. Sullivan, a recent mother, even sells children’s books on topics like inequality and racism. Besides hosting yoga and meditation classes, the space doubles as a gallery for new and upcoming artists. Photographers, painters, and sculptors are encouraged to apply. 

“When it is safe, that is something we plan to do, we are looking for upcoming artists and I want to encourage local artists to apply. This is a place where we want to showcase local artists,” Sullivan said. Kalā Yoga is also enforcing COVID-19 safety precautions, checking students temperatures upon arrival and making sure all students are wearing masks. 

Prices for classes at Kalā Yoga run at $25 per drop in and the studio also runs a new student special that goes for $30 and a week of unlimited classes. A month of classes cost $149 or $1,200, annually. Virtual classes go for $59 a month or $10 to drop in. The studio also offers a July retreat program in Vermont that runs for $550. A negative PCR test or proof of vaccination is required to attend.

Kalā Yoga is located at 331 Melrose Street.

Top photo credit: Chandler Kidd

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