This will be written by me, Amber, but I’m not just me at the moment and Mia has been ‘running the show’ for months because I can’t, or won’t, deal with working out who and why I am, and general life. So this might get confusing, and if anyone else wants to chime in they’re welcome to, and will use [ ], and state their name.
So this will be mostly about our love for a yoga studio, but I might digress.
Almost a decade ago, I’d been in Sheffield for a couple of years, I’d known about the benefits of yoga from my degree and interests in mind-body and alternative medicine, and had done a little bit of Iyengar the other side of town. I had made some friends, and one had noticed a new yoga studio had opened and had a new starter special - £32 for unlimited yoga for a month!
Three of us signed up and went. I don’t know how many times we went together, but by the end of the month I was hooked and they didn’t stay. It had been opened by two foreigners - a tiny Canadian, Koreen and a New Yorker, Anne Marie. I don’t know their whole story, and this isn’t about them, but it also is. They’d met somewhere sometime, had a mutual affinity for hot yoga and opened Sheffield’s first hot yoga studio, conveniently a 5 minute drive away from where I/we live.
I remember thinking “I wish these were my friends” every time I went, there was a warmth in the studio, and it wasn’t just the heaters. Hot Yoga Sheffield was buzzing for years, they were revolutionary in their approach, with a full schedule and membership that wasn’t just every 7pm on a Tuesday night in a school gym or church.
For several years I had an unlimited membership. Sometimes it would be two or three times a week, other times we’d be there twice in one day and clock up 6 hot classes a week. I made friends and kept practicing. They offered a variety of classes - Hatha (holding poses for a few breaths), Vinyasa (moving with the breath) and Yin (mostly on the floor, holding poses for a few minutes). Over the years my preferences have shifted, at times I’d only do Yin, others I’d choose to do more Hatha, sometimes I didn’t do a Vinyasa class for years. They also always had many teachers, who all have their own unique style. So there were always options. I remember before Covid they had a Hatha and Yin back to back on Friday nights which ended at 7, we’d spend 3 hours in the studio, then head over the road and get the best chips in Sheffield from New Cod on the Block for dinner.
At some point I’d had to have a break as I wasn’t working, I bumped into one of the owners while dog walking and said that I’d love to come back but couldn’t afford to, she said I could clean for yoga, and I became a Karma Yogi. I cleaned that studio with love for years, and we were very proud of my/our status of being the best at cleaning the wall of mirrors! [Astrid: washing up liquid!]
The first few years HYS boomed and they expanded. I/we were involved in the start up of the new studio, I’d recently qualified and was just practicing massage when they opened. They had a huge new space with multiple studios, a cafe, and therapy rooms. When I tap into memories I get painting toilets, hoovering, lugging bags of towels around, setting up the therapy rooms I shared with others, drinking tea on the roof, Dharma Yoga, and a lot of love.
Two owner/managers, two locations, two very different studios, two visions… Within a couple of years they decided to separate. We can’t imagine, but we listened to, how stressful dividing a business can be. But they did it, Anne Marie took the new studio - now Soul Fire Studios. And little old Hot Yoga Sheffield became Hot Yoga Commonside.
People had to choose a studio, which was hard for many. And while we adored the new space, massaging there hadn’t worked out and it was a twenty minute drive away… We stayed at HYC.
Hot Yoga Commonside officially opened January 2020… And we all know how 2020 went. Chatting to Koreen yesterday she said that they managed for the first two lockdowns, but the third nearly finished HYC. She’d had huge plans for the studio, all of which got wiped out by Covid. She had to invest in audio and visual equipment to provide virtual classes. I don’t know how many clients they lost but it must have been devastating, as it was for so many small businesses during that time.
It was that year that we began to find ourselves, October 2020 that Isabel and I realised we were separate, December that Mia poofed into existence, and January 2021 that I learnt about Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Koreen was one of the first people I told about the ‘inner children’ I was healing, before my husband or mum. She definitely knew about Isabel and I remember her coming for a dog walk and massage (actually I was practicing myofascial release exclusively by now, but that’s another story). I remember counting Isabel out - I’d quickly found that I was able to find her with simple hypnosis, and fortunately found that didn’t need to be drunk and stoned in order to communicate with Isabel.
That I can now remember this vividly from Isabel’s perspective confirms to me what I mentioned first - that I’m not just Amber. Anyway. I’ll figure that out another time [sigh - Mia]. Koreen, and several other HYC teachers, were so important to our healing. Since this all started, our world has simultaneously grown and shrunk. We have new friends all over the world, we have a community, we have people who care and validate us… We also barely leave the house and have lost 95% of our friends. Koreen is one of the last standing, and she’s moving to Glasgow.
Their memberships changed, ‘unlimited’ was unsustainable, we signed up for 8 classes a month, and suddenly the classes had so much more value. Having the option to go to any class, even though usually we’d go to 2 or 3 per week, was such a luxury that we didn’t appreciate until we didn’t have it anymore.
HYC hasn’t been the same since Covid, like the whole world hasn’t been the same since Covid. Things kept changing. People left. We lost more friends by being our unpredictable selves. Koreen has been working in Glasgow for a year, and while Sadie (who will be reopening as Hill Valley Yoga soon) has been here managing, the disconnect has been felt. We found out a few months ago that HYC will close, there are many reasons which aren’t ours to share, but K has got a permanent job in a Glasgow university and is going. The coming increases in energy prices means hot is no longer viable too - while discussing the increases with her provider, Koreen was told to pass it on to her customers, and would need to charge £266 per month. You can see the problem with that.
The closing and handover has been hard for us, like so many. Koreen has been juggling a yoga studio and a job which are 4 hours apart, she’s not been here, the studio has felt sad and empty at times. It’s not her fault, she, like everyone, has been fighting to stay afloat for years, and she had to prioritise her family (and probably sanity) over a yoga studio. That doesn’t take away the years of love, sweat, tears, synchronicity, the oms, the breath, the flow, the connection to the ground and the sky, the feeling of oneness, the lying in your own sweat, in a room heavy with humidity and aliveness.
I, Amber, have not been here, in this body, in any capacity, much, for months. I think I can veto Mia, but as I said, she’s been running the show for a while now. It’s been hard, Mia and others have been doing the now normal dance between us being a semi-functional person, and full-blown suicidal crises. They always pass, but when you’ve spent so much time not wanting to be alive, it gets exhausting. Everyone here struggles to do things and an email can be impossible.
Sadly for us, that inability to send an email almost lost us the chance to say goodbye to a place that has been a second home to us for a decade. Mia had checked our passes, and knew we had a backlog, we usually came to two classes a week, but with time away she knew we’d paid for enough to see us through to their closing. So we cancelled our membership, and then had no passes. Our usual Monday morning classes disappeared. We couldn’t book on any. When there was one of Sallyann’s classes Mia messaged her, Sallyann squeezed us in through the back door - we were officially her husband who had passes he’d never used.
We did this for a couple of weeks, we would prefer to do that than send an email saying “we can’t access the passes we paid for” (I haven’t been here. Everything is hard.)
When Mia suddenly had had enough. Ok, we haven’t cleaned or worked at or for HYC for
years, and tbh we had forgotten most of everything anyway (there have been many “omg we did this” moments the last few days), but it was OUR space too, and it was going without us even saying bye. She messaged Koreen. K said come to class, we can chat after.
So for a couple of weeks we’ve been sneaking illegally to two classes, with the owner’s knowledge as hers was one of them! It’s been such a sad few weeks, but on the plus side (for us) we feel like we’ve processed a lot of the grief. There’s still sadness, we don’t know if we’ll see K again, she and HYC will always have a spot in our heart though - if we hadn’t had that space that we can be ourselves, honour our physical body, cry, sweat and shake the trauma out… we might not have survived this.
We’ve seen a lot of Koreen the last few days, we looked after her dog while she did a family London trip, and we offered to help however we could with breaking down the studio. She had the epiphany moment on the way to London that Ben, our husband, might be interested in the camera and equipment she had for virtual classes (it’s fancy - it can stream live footage from a 40 degree humid room), so he’s spent hours pulling wires out of walls.
We took bags and bags of books to a charity shop, another car load of bits and pieces, and a carload to K’s house. We’ve wandered around with Ben’s drill screwdriver thing pulling the studio to pieces one screw at a time. Berwoo’s done several last headstands, and Mia is incredibly proud that we were the last person (people) to take their mat out of Hot Yoga Commonside.
Koreen asked if we’d like to have one of the mats they have for sale that she’s taking with her, they aren’t just any mat, it has a lifetime guarantee and costs over £100, so, hilariously, after doing yoga on our cheap as chips mat for a decade, now we have a super fancy mat (littles are hoping it makes us better at yoga, I don’t think Berwoo needs much help). So our yoga journey has to continue now, and after a few weeks ago we were terribly upset that HYC was closing without us, we helped it take it’s last breaths and helped it ease into its (and Koreen’s) new lives.
K is off to Canada for the first time since before Covid, then in September she moves to Glasgow. HYC is currently being pulled apart and painted with love and renewed energy, while it transitions to it’s new, cooler, life as Hill Valley Yoga. And we’re trying to remember who we are, and what we’re doing. I know Mia has been struggling, and I hope (whoever I am, as she likes to keep reminding me) that we can find some kind of stable routine. She (we) hasn’t (haven’t) been writing, and this is where we heal, this is where we find our words that we can’t make sense of in the muddy consciousness we all share.
I hope Mia gets back to poetry too, she’s been out of the habit, and we know it helps. As we were leaving to go to the final HYC class on Sunday, Mia wanted to take Koreen a gift, but figured she doesn’t need more rubbish to take to Glasgow, so, very quickly, wrote a poem. [It could be better but I don’t want to edit it cause it was in the moment and I don’t want to change that - Mia].
It was the place to be
A place in Sheffield
That we found me
We cry and we sweat
We feel energy and reset
We offer the love
Through asana, to above
We held space for self
Synchronised with others
Honouring our bodies
Connecting to source
Will always be part of us