After a decade occupying the space at 348 St. Marks Place, packed up in May and moved down the block to 367 St. Marks Place. The bigger space hopes to be the first step towards Shambhala’s expansion in the community, according to owner and Studio Director Sarah Schumann.
Shambhala was founded in Prospect Heights in 2001 by Catherine Calderon, who had just finished her certification to teach yoga when the events of 9/11 happened. Calderon felt that she had to do something to unite the community, so she opened a small yoga space at her original location and invited anyone to come practice.
The small studio grew, and last year, Schumann purchased the business from Calderon, after teaching classes there for about two years.
“[Shambhala] has been a place for 10 years to connect,” said Schumann, a former first grade teacher who has also served in the Peace Corps. “Anytime you can connect with your body and spirit, something magical happens.”
Schumann admitted that she was nervous taking over Shambhala last year, since it was already established in the community, likening her move to ownership to “a new wave coming in.”
“I was learning the ropes. It was a leap of faith for the community.”
Earlier this year, Schumann signed the lease on the new space at 367 St. Marks Avenue, and enlisted her artist and handyman boyfriend to do the build-outs, using re-claimed wood and muted colors to create a relaxing and clean atmosphere inside. Outside, a bright orange door contrasts the white exterior. Schumann said she also relied on the help of Haiejaa Euma, Shambhala’s long-time “caretaker,” to make sure everything ran smoothly in the beginning.
“The old space was just vibrating, it was so lived in,” said Schumann. “This [new space] was a little cold, so it’s taken some work.”
Improvements to the space include a new office for Schumann to work out of, and two rooms for healing and bodywork. An expanded waiting area makes for more mingling space after classes. The new studio isn’t much bigger than the old one though, and Schumann said that was intentional: “I didn’t want a huge space, because I still wanted people to be able to connect with one another.”
With the extra room upstairs, Schumann has been able to invite more local healers to offer their services – currently the studio works with 11 healers, who perform Reiki and Thai yoga massage. Shambhala plans to partner with a local acupuncturist in the neighborhood, too. Schumann said they also now have the room to open a little “shop” by the front desk: a few shelves where they sell yoga clothes, bodyscrubs and tea made by local artisans and studio practitioners.
Shambhala will also begin to offer some new classes for the community, such as an African dance class that will begin on August 20. Some dance classes for kids are in the works too this fall, focusing on Latin dance and Salsa for children 7 to 10 and 11 to 15 years old. Schumann would also like to offer something for kids under 6, and an expanded pre-natal movement class for expectant moms.
Schumann insists that the aim of Shambhala is still building a community, without boundaries up against age, skill level or income. Currently they offer 18 classes with a sliding donation scale of $5 to $15 per class (a pay-what-you-wish community yoga class is held a few times per day).
“When you practice here, you can’t even go to the grocery store without seeing someone from class,” Schumann said.