When Hurricane Sandy made it impossible for New Jersey-based yoga teacher teacher Jillian Pransky to travel to Kula Heart Yoga in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to teach a workshop, the students at held a fundraiser, collected goods, and drove up to deliver the items to a community shelter in Hoboken instead.
"I'm just so touched by that," Pransky said "I was supposed to be giving to them, but instead they totally gave to my community."
It's been a week and a half since Sandy hit the Northeast and many places, like Hoboken where Pransky teaches, are still dealing with damage and are without power and supplies. But even though times are tough, the local and national yoga community has come together to support each other.
"Sometimes I think the universe speaks to us and, for some reason, we're called right now to be kinder to our neighbor," said Lisa Aquino, the owner of Brahma Yoga in Seabright, New Jersey. Brahma Yoga, like many businesses and homes in Seabright, was severely damaged by the storm. Many structures there were "pulverized into toothpicks," Aquino said, but the kindness of those around her has given her hope. People in her community have offered their help and even temporary spaces to hold classes—though she hasn't taken them up on that yet. A good friend and fellow studio owner she knows in Pennsylvania has offered to mobilize the community there to help her get back on her feet. "People just want to be giving something to help restore what was lost," she says.
Other studios that didn't see the kind of damage that Aquino saw have faced other challenges in the aftermath of Sandy, like extended power outages.
"We've created this community where we're all helping each other," said Emma Canarick, who owns Inlet Yoga in Masaquan, New Jersey, that has been able to hold classes even without power. "In these times it feels so much more important and that much more realized." Canarick now has a generator to light and heat her space, but she held classes for several days by candlelight. For those classes, she accepted donations to give to local shelters.
Breathe N Flow Yoga in Freeport, New York, also held candlelight classes in exchange for donations for relief efforts. Studio owners Leah and Manny Hartofelis estimate that 75 percent of their students have been affected by the storm. Staying positive has been a way to help them deal with loss. They've been encouraging students to say something they're grateful for at the beginning of each class. "Even people who don't have a home any more have expressed gratitude for things like friends and family or to be able to do yoga," Leah said.
Teachers and studios across the country are holding benefit classes to raise money and awareness for the areas that have been impacted by Sandy (and now snowstorm Athena, which dumped snow and caused more power outages and transportation woes this week). New York City teachers Elena Brower, Schuyler Grant, Sadie Nardini, Anita Goa, Tara Stiles, Michael Taylor, Kristin McGee, and Nicole Nichols are joining forces to hold a big benefit class, Om to Heal Our Home, on November 15.
"It's so unbelievable and so lovely to see that there are so many people really living their yoga," Aquino said.