In a very touching letter to the Yoga community, Om Shala Owner Kelly O’Roke announced the 10th Street Yoga studio in Arcata will be closing permanently.
To the Humboldt Yoga Community,
First, thank you for your understanding and patience with the time it has taken me to fully assess the situation we are in. I apologize for the lack of communication to the greater community as I struggled to grapple with what to do. Thank you for your notes of support and love, and I will get to your individual questions in time.
I bought Om Shala from Peggy Profant in 2017. I had no experience in running a business, other than my own self-employment as a photographer, doula and yoga teacher. I sincerely wish I could tell my whole story here, as my heart feels a great desire to be understood, to be forgiven by those who will grieve or rage at what I have to say next.
I didn’t come here to become a famous yoga teacher. I came here from Oklahoma to try to claim life, both for myself and for my daughter, after experiencing years of harassment and abuse and terror. I knew the studio could not provide much financially for us, but it was a way out. So like so many of us who end up behind the redwood curtain, we came here as refugees. This huge green expanse wrapped us up in its arms, I was so swept away by the beauty and the magic of this healing place. I felt that I had finally come home after a very long journey.
I used to say Yoga saved my life. The truth is, I saved my own life, but I started that process by using tools I learned at the yoga studio. I felt in debt to that space and to the teachers who shared these tools with me, and I wanted to share it too. I stepped into an established community here that I didn’t know anything about but I did my best. At first I wanted to make everyone happy. I was terrified and I didn’t know if there was really a place for me and the apparently quite different kind of class that I taught.
I didn’t know how to make money here while running a business that couldn’t pay me anything and raising a 5-year-old daughter by myself. I tried so many things. I watched the rest of my small savings drain into the payroll and overhead of the studio over the next three years, and as my financial safety evaporated, my mental health deteriorated as well. I went to extraordinary lengths to save this studio, and as a result, I stopped eating and sleeping and completely withdrew socially—my PTSD related anxiety completely out of control. Tragically, I even stopped practicing the only tools that had helped me live a normal life in spite of the trauma in my past.
By sacrificing my well-being in this way, I took what was a $70,000 loss at the studio in 2018 and in 2019 I broke even, even while lowering our prices by 50%. In 2020, we had begun to recover and were in the black for the first time each month since the fall of 2017. I felt that perhaps I had finally started to get a handle on this, and I was so incredibly proud of what we accomplished as a community. I learned so many incredibly important lessons about boundaries, about saying no, about leadership, about failure, about my own limitations.
This is the part of the story where all of our stories converge.
Everything is closed and we are all wearing masks and our kids are out of school asking us when they can see their friends again. I am sitting in my garden with everything I have worked for over the past 7 years evaporating before my eyes. This, my sweet friends, is yoga. Where we sit back and clearly see what we are holding on to, clinging on to, and gradually we choose again and again to be at peace, and to let go. There is no way we can recover financially from this, and even if there was a way, I am simply not equipped or healthy enough to carry it on.
It is with a very heavy heart, that I have made the decision that Om Shala will not re-open in our current space on 10th street, if at all.
I’m sure some of you have already heard through friends or rumors, but this is our official announcement that we simply cannot afford the roughly five thousand dollars in fixed overhead each month that this beautiful studio space requires. Money supposedly set aside for small businesses such as ours is not available, as banks ran out of that money nearly immediately, our business interruption insurance does not cover disease related closures, my commercial line of credit was pulled when the lender went under after so many called in their credit due to this disaster, and I am exhausted and broke.
Many of you have questions about your passes, or canceled events. I am so sorry. I have so little left. I am currently calculating liabilities and the remaining cash in our account and will be prioritizing the largest liabilities first, and working my way down until I am at zero, and likely I will still end up filing bankruptcy. This means that events and YTT payments will likely be able to be refunded at least partially, but class passes and memberships may not be. I know it sucks. In the last few weeks, I have received some very kind notes of encouragement. Mostly though, I have received requests for refunds and only one very sweet offer to donate real money of some kind to keep us afloat, and that was from a teacher who doesn’t even live here locally.
For those of you who felt that Om Shala was home, please do not lose heart, I am in talks with individuals who may have more resources and energy and passion to continue the Om Shala community in a new space in Arcata, with a simpler and more sustainable model. I wanted to wait for certainty before releasing information, but I know something needs to be said now before rumors get out of hand. Please continue to be patient and we will keep everyone up to date as we get more information and try to work something out.
If any of you in public policy are reading this, please consider that people who do work in healing and wellness could really use some long-term support. Perhaps we have seen enough of our favorite community centers and yoga studios closing? Could you provide subsidized spaces for teachers to work in? Could you subsidize movement studios so that regular people can afford a monthly pass? I hope that perhaps we can recognize as a culture, the importance of maintaining our bodies and understanding our minds, so that we can create a more peaceful, joyful and ease-ful way of living here on earth. Big-hearted people who are willing to sacrifice their well-being so that other people can find theirs have carried this industry for a long time, but maybe we could do better when the dust clears….
Thank you to all of you who welcomed me. The faces of the people I wont see in my beautiful space anymore keep popping up in front of me and my face is covered in tears. Erica, Mel, Greg, Shawn, Susan, Joe, Dan, Natasha, Janet, Jenny, Jane, Jazmine, Justin, Vala, Winchell, Robert, I am so sorry. I know there are just countless others who have found something special within our walls—countless people motivated by love and the earnest desire to feel better, or to help others feel better. I feel there is more to say, and that I’ve said too much at the same time. Thank you. Just thank you for this experience. Thank you for giving us safety, a home, a community, and the lesson of a lifetime. Keep practicing, maybe I’ll be practicing beside you soon. I hope so.