ABC Sanctuary

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A New Kind Of Community Center

Tucked away on East 6th Street in Alphabet City, there are a number of quiet, community-run spaces in which you can escape the noise and grit of the city. Most are verdant community gardens that can’t help but catch your eye as you walk by; but one of these places, ABC Sanctuary, is a bit harder to spot because it’s located on the third floor of the 6th Street Community Center at 638 E. 6th Street. Fortunately, there’s usually a board out front advertising the classes and workshops happening upstairs.

“Sanctuary” is an apt name for the colorful and sunny third-floor studio, in which you can take refuge in activities centered around the themes of wellness, movement, and community.

At the same time, ABC Sanctuary could also be called a garden: it is a space where growth of all kinds takes place. There is even a butterfly on one of its walls - or rather, a pair of giant butterfly wings painted in a mural by artists Chris Soria and Piyali Banerjee. Given that much of the cross-pollination happening here is between various arts - healing, movement, and visual - the butterfly is the perfect symbol for it. The mural frames stunning stained-glass windows that overlook the treetops on East 6th Street. Below the windows is a moss-studded altar.

The 6th Street Community Center has long seen itself as an incubator for grassroots businesses of all kinds, including East Yoga and Yoga High, whose founders got their start teaching here. Eventually, the third floor grew into a yoga studio called Finding Sukha. When their lease was up at the end of April last year, they decided not to renew it.

The floor was slated to be converted to office space, complete with cubicles breaking up its spacious sunlit room. Mike Lin, a physician who first began practicing yoga at Finding Sukha, heard the news and decided he had to save the place. He took over the lease and founded ABC Sanctuary last May. With his medical background, he is especially interested in promoting wellness and self-healing by bringing together Eastern and Western traditions. In fact, the professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has his own clinical practice, offers Ask Doc! at the Sanctuary where you can go in for a free consult for any medical questions and concerns.

The center offers classes for students of all abilities and ages, including children, for whom Honeybee House, a free after-school dance program, is held on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Within the yoga offerings, there is a wide range of styles, including Hybrid Yoga/Movement taught by Natalie Bishar, one of ABC Sanctuary’s board members, and an array of Hatha and Vinyasa classes throughout the week. With nearly twenty yoga, dance, and tai chi classes a week, the space still has plenty of room in its schedule for workshops and other special events, which are generally held on weekends.

Anyone with a relevant skill to share is invited to offer classes or workshops here. “If I could fill this space 24 hours a day, I would,” declares Mike. Referring not just to the amount but also to the variety of classes he’d like to offer, he says, “the more the better.”

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Ongoing workshops include a monthly new moon double gong bath, a goddess circle, and a meditation group called Circle of Light. Neighborhood residents who may not otherwise have access to yoga or dance classes have been able to take them for the first time here, since classes are donation-based. (The pricing is sliding scale - the suggested range being $10 - $20 - but no one is ever turned away for lack of funds.)

In addition, teachers, healers, and artists of all kinds have been able to grow their teaching skills here by renting the space on a donation basis. In keeping with the theme of cross-pollination, ABC Sanctuary hosts a monthly performance series called Spotlight Speakeasy. Mike also hopes to use the space as an art gallery more in the future.Like the community gardens nearby, ABC Sanctuary is a grounding and nurturing environment where people can come together and grow. Come see for yourself - and you may well take root.

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--Emily Haydock

For schedule and more information, visit abcsanctuary.com.

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