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Yoga Mendocino closing its doors

Contributed by Yoga Mendocino
Maggie Norton teaching at Yoga Mendocino during a yogathon fundraiser.

June 18, 2002 — The reopening of Phase III has come too late for some small businesses and organizations in Mendocino County. While gyms and fitness studios got the nod to start up again last week, Yoga Mendocino, in Ukiah, has shut its doors. 

Maggie Norton co-founded the non-profit studio with Mary Paffard, almost exactly eighteen years ago, after teaching yoga through the City of Ukiah Parks and Recreation Department and at the Mendocino Community Health Clinic on Laws Avenuein Ukiah. She remembers the highlights of teaching in the studio on Mason Street, with its hardwood floors and the light pouring in through the arched windows.

Yoga Mendocino studio
Credit Contributed by Yoga Mendocino
Yoga Mendocino studio

  One was the first Yogathon, where students got people to sponsor them as they did 108 sun salutations, one for each bead on a mala meditation necklace. “It’s a significant number, it turns out, in a number of particularly Eastern wisdom traditions,” Norton noted. “So it seemed like a number of good fortune, which it turned out to be.” That fundraiser brought in enough money to install a hardwood floor, “with a little bit of give in it, a little bit like a dance floor, not quite that much give, and that’s been a huge asset, and made the studio particularly special.”

Another Yogathon raised money for a palliative care unit at the hospital. Susan Baird Kanaan, the current president of the Yoga Mendocino board, has been a member since the mid-aughts. She recalls the poetry, concerts, lectures and classes with fondness. But as a non-profit, the organization also has a social mission. She said another reason for the fundraisers was to provide scholarships to people with cancer and fire survivors; to give classes to young people at probation and clients of Manzanita Services; “so that people in underserved populations, you might say, have access to the benefits of yoga,” she concluded.

Norton also thinks inviting monastics and lay teachers to give meditation classes was a benefit for people who might be hesitant to go to a monastery; “but they were more than happy to come to a space in Ukiah that offered meditation without anybody having to commit to any particular spiritual tradition.”

But, like many small endeavors, Yoga Mendocino was facing challenges before the pandemic. Baird Kanaan said, “We’d already been facing the ramifications of AB5,” which forces the reclassification of many independent contractors to employees. “And then the uncertainties of covid developed,” she recounted. “So we’ve been thinking about alternative futures.”

Norton added that the organization has been kept afloat by sustaining members, full classes, events and fundraisers. “Those latter two require large groups of people to come together,” she pointed out. “And that’s obviously not going to happen for quite a while.” She will offer one more yoga nidra class in July, with details to be announced on Yoga Mendocino’s social media and website. 

And at 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday, June 26, there will be one more get-together, of sorts, at the studio where so many people used to gather. “We’ll be doing a live event, obviously not very many of us because of social distancing, from the studio before we have to hand over the keys,” said Norton. “There’ll be yoga, meditation, some readings, some opportunity just to sort of see the studio again, even if it’s just from your computer. I’m looking forward to that. I think that will be as good as we can do for a farewell to the space for the community.”

Baird Kanaan added that she hopes “Yoga Mendocino as an organization is going to prevail. There’s been quite an outpouring, including from some unexpected places, of support and regret that the studio is going away. But hopefully some of that will translate into partnerships for new structures and new venues, new programs. We have to be open to these kinds of transformations.”




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