Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center opened in 2001, an oasis of hope in a dark time. Now their space is in danger of closing on March 1st when its lease is up, due to a hefty rent increase.
Sadly, the popularity of up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhoods is now threatening the continued presence of those who made it so appealing in the first place.
But one thing owner Sarah Schumann does not want to do is increase class prices from the reasonable $18 drop-in ($13 for hour classes), and numerous by-donation community
classes. The studio’s credo is “We believe that yoga and dance should be available to all people, regardless of their financial situation,” and Sarah and her team have no intention of betraying that belief. Instead, she is turning to the neighborhood and yoga communities (at their suggestion) to volunteer funding—whenever they can and only at a level they’re comfortable with.
“Shambhala was opened by Cathy Calderon at a time when this community needed some
healing,” says Sarah. “The Fire Station on St. John’s was really hard hit on 9/11, and the leaders here from the Washington Avenue Merchants Association were looking for a way to connect the community. They identified Cathy as a leader and helped her to find (the original) space.”
Things were very different 15 years ago. “This was a neighborhood that the police precincts had left because there was so much corruption,” notes Sarah. “It was like the Wild West…the teachers weren’t feeling safe.”
But Cathy persevered, and the studio changed homes as the neighborhood evolved. “All the iterations were essential to our growth,” explains Sarah. After 10 years Cathy asked Sarah to take the reins.
Shambhala has everything from Anusara-inspired classes to Iyengar (with a rope wall!) to African Dance. “Burlesque is a new one that’s been added!” notes Sarah. “They’re all about helping people relax and have a space where they can move, breathe, and connect.”
And Sarah wants to Shambhala to continue to be that space, in its current home.
“It’s just one of those situations where I want everyone’s position to be honored,” says Sarah. “Our landlord’s lovely and he’s been wonderful, and well within reason.” The space is understandably much more valuable than it was when Shambhala first called it home.
During Open House discussions, the community came together with a suggestion: using the model of NPR, a sustaining membership.
“So many people who’ve crossed my path wrote notes and said, We’ve got to save it. You just have to ask.
Under the “Commit to Community” program, students can help Shambhala save its home through several monthly donation options: $10, $25, or $50. (Click here to make a donation.) There is also an auto renew option where students can take unlimited classes of any kind for a very doable $130 per month.
“And if we can make the rent increase, we’ll do it for a year, and then next year do it again,” says Sarah. “In a week we’ve already raised $1000 dollars. It’s nice to remember how many people are invested in this.”
If you’re not part of the Shambhala community but just want to help, straight-up donations are most welcome. Sarah nods to a woman in a pink hat walking by. “She’s my neighbor. She came to me and said, ‘I have a check for you, how can I give it?”
Positive vibes are encouraged too.
“If I could ask everybody to think about the places where they practice, and the benefits of their practice, the teachers that share their offerings and the vibrations that go out to the community,” she says.
“And I’d love everyone to know that on a corner in Prospect Heights there’s a little place that’s been here for 15 years, whose roots are deep, and we’re still trying to be here for our neighborhood. I love this magical little place and I hope that its community comes together to do it.”