Deep Breaths

W hether the schedule reads “park” or “parking garage,” students of Breathing Room Yoga Center just seem happy to roll their mats out together. A sold-out class of 25 gathered in the northwest corner of Wooster Square Park one evening in late July. They arrived in their masks, checked in with instructor and Breathing Room owner Margot Broom and found one of the socially distanced spots marked by orange disc cones in the grass.

Breathing Room, located on the second floor of LoRicco Tower at 216 Crown Street, adapted quickly to its forced pandemic closing. Within two days, Broom says, teachers had begun running classes on social media and Zoom. A survey of members when Phase Two of the state’s coronavirus plan was about to allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen elicited 400 responses within a matter of days; many studio members were hesitant to return. So, Breathing Room added outdoor rooftop yoga to its schedule, landing on the top level of the Crown Street Garage across the street three times a week. Temperatures in the 90s drove classes to Wooster Square Park on some dates instead. “It’s been really great,” Broom says. “People really like it. I think they like being together again and being outside.”

sponsored by

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

The theme for July at Breathing Room was kriya yoga—appropriate because, Broom says, “kriya” essentially means “surrender,” and in these times, we are all being forced to surrender to circumstances beyond our control. She lays out the three parts of kriya yoga, in Sanskrit: tapas (“fire or heat or challenge, and the self-discipline that we need in order to recognize that challenge is created for us to learn and grow, not be burned”); svadhyaya (“self-study, … the opportunity to observe ourselves in challenge or discomfort and be able to transcend our way of thinking around those two things”); and ishvara pranidhana (“the concept of being able to recognize that everything that is unfolding, for the most part, is outside our control”).

“When you put these three things together,” Broom says, everything “is unfolding as it needs to.” That may not be easy to accept, but ultimately, she argues, “that concept is so supportive to an individual trying to make it through these hard times… [I]t brings about more peace and more ability to cope with what feels so out of control and with what feels so uncertain.”

Whether or not you can say “ishvara pranidhana” or accept the lack of control facing us all, practicing yoga in the park is a good start. It was surprisingly peaceful at seven o’clock on a Tuesday evening as the blazing sun dipped behind the buildings and a marginally cool breeze swept through. A gap in the tree canopy revealed a pale half moon underscored by gauzy clouds. Calming music accompanied the shoosh of bug spray as people prepared to practice.

Broom took students, now unmasked, through a gentle series of poses—nothing too strenuous because of the heat. Even so, the humid air seemed to stick to the skin. Sweat trickled. Broom reminded us of svadhyaya, to recognize the discomfort and move through it.

It’s something Broom, like so many small business owners, has been doing every day since the pandemic first shut the city down in March. “It’s really, really difficult to keep up with our overhead costs of the business while just maintaining everything,” she says. She’s had to lay off employees and close the studio’s wellness center, which had rented space to several individual practitioners. “But we know the value that yoga offers to people’s lives, and we know, being in business for 11 years, that the community we’ve built and the people and the members that we have, that’s what’s keeping everything going,” she adds hopefully.

Breathing Room’s outdoor classes in years past have run into October and could potentially go even later this year. In the meantime, the studio’s own “second phase” began August 10 with a few indoor classes offering limited enrollment.

Despite the evening heat, it was still good to be outside, practicing with others, and not indoors in front of a computer screen. It was the best-case scenario for these times. And—ishvara pranidhana—it’s apparently how things are meant to be for now.

Outdoor Yoga
presented by Breathing Room
Wooster Square Park, New Haven (map)
Tues & Thurs 7pm through mid-autumn
Class/Membership Fees
(203) 562-5683 | [email protected]
Website | Facebook Events

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is a writer and communications pro whose perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the Green and a coffee milkshake. She posts twice-weekly content for book clubs in her Substack newsletter, Better Book Clubs.

Leave a Reply