YOGA JUNCTION - A DOWNTOWN RITUAL
Rituals are the deeply personal ways we choose to celebrate our lives. It could be a run on Coal Creek Trail, a spinning class at the Rec Center, a ride along the single tracks of Marshall Mesa, or even a solitary early morning walk to Moxie or Bittersweet.
The week of March 9th is one that will forever be seared into our collective memories. That week, a killer virus that seemed so far away, seemed to arrive overnight onto the doorsteps of Louisville, Colorado. Our lives were turned upside down in ways we never could imagine. Owners of downtown businesses were especially stung. That dark week in March, it seemed like the very walls were closing in on their brick and mortar establishments.
Melissa Williams could see the coronvirus storm approaching. The Louisville resident owns Yoga Junction on Main Street. “When the virus moved to Seattle, I knew we were in trouble,” said Melissa. “We ramped up cleaning measures. But at the end of the day, there is only so much cleaning you can do.”
On Friday, March 13th (yes, Friday the 13th) Melissa closed the doors of Yoga Junction. This was three days before Governor Polis issued the statewide closing of schools and non-essential businesses. At the end of that troubling Friday, Melissa took a deep breath and pondered what was next.
Melissa arrived in Louisville in 2005. A sojourn across several Western states ended when Melissa found a place where she felt the intangible pull of ‘community.’ In 2009, Yoga Junction was born. It has since become a downtown Louisville success story. Before the virus, fifteen instructors taught 5-7 classes per day, seven days a week. The studio has been a refuge for community members seeking the healing power of yoga. By mid-March 2020, this important ritual for so many in our community began to quickly unravel.
Melissa’s challenge was not just how to save her business, but how to serve her yoga community at a time when it was needed most.
Unlike many of the restaurants, shops and other small businesses downtown, Melissa had a viable alternative to keep Yoga Junction alive – thanks to the now commonplace technology of Zoom. When she closed Yoga Junction, Melissa was not familiar with the video conferencing service. Fortunately, one of her instructors was. “We put classes on Zoom on Saturday, the day after we closed our doors,” said Melissa. “By Monday, we had the full schedule worked out.”
While the doors of Yoga Junction have been closed for two months, the business continues. Even the coronavirus cannot stop this daily ritual for the people of Louisville. ‘Mind, Body and spirit’ is the mantra, and for Melissa, the healing power of yoga has never been more important “Nobody thrives in uncertainty,” says Melissa. “Yoga is vital. It is a way to reduce anxiety, stress and insomnia. Some people are coming more now.” In a world turned upside down, Melissa says yoga provides balance. It is a ritual that provides stability in a world that sometimes seems like it has gone mad.
The interactive nature of Zoom allows Melissa to maintain connections with her yoga family. Like most technology, Zoom has its limitations. It cannot compete with the communal experience of practicing yoga. And that is what Melissa misses most – the social component of yoga, and the human connectivity is creates.
Like all businesses in downtown Louisville, the future is filled with many questions and few answers. Melissa does not know when Yoga Junction will resume activities at its Main Street studio. Safety is the top priority. A big predicament facing Yoga Junction is the use of masks. As of now, Boulder County requires all to wear facemasks in places where social distancing cannot be maintained. However, Melissa says that wearing a mask inhibits the focus on the breath that is integral to the yoga experience. “It seems difficult to practice yoga with a mask,” Melissa says.
While there are no plans in the near future to open the Main Street studio, Melissa hopes to continue another ritual – Yoga in the Park. “I am trying to find a way to do this beginning in June,” says Melissa.
Roughly translated, yoga means ‘union’ or ‘unity.’ So it is fitting that ‘unity’ is part of the word commUNITY. In Louisville, Melissa found community. And here, she has built a yoga community. Melissa Williams does more than teach yoga. During these uncertain times, she helps heal wounds caused by the stress of our COVID-19 world.
In these times of great change, one thing is certain. Once the coronavirus nightmare passes, Yoga Junction will continue to serve the community from its Main Street studio. “I don’t intend to go anywhere,” says Melissa.
Until that happy day, Melissa will continue to use technology to help community members continue the ritual of mind, body and spirit. More than anything, she dreams of the day she can say “Namaste” in person.
927 Main St.
Words & Photography by Chris Wheeler (Great Divide Pictures)