When the sangha gathers Friday at Mandala Yoga Center for Healing Arts at Amagansett Square, it will observe both the center's reopening at its renovated space and its 20th anniversary.
The sangha — a Sanskrit word meaning association or community — is in a celebratory mood, the reopening coinciding with the lifting of most Covid-19 regulations and the long pandemic's apparent decline. The gathering will bless the new shala — Sanskrit for home, and in this context a place for yoga practitioners to practice and grow -- starting at 5 p.m. Chanting will begin at 5:30 in the renovated center's big room, with sitar by Gian Carlo Feleppa and harmoniums played by instructors.
The center's summer schedule, which includes classes at the reopened center, outdoors on the square, at Scoville Hall on Meeting House Lane, and online, goes into effect on Saturday.
The center has been reconfigured, Amagansett Square's management having partitioned the building to accommodate a new retail space, but features a large room as well as a smaller space and a reception area. The entrance is now on the south side, facing the square's parking lot.
"It's brand new and beautiful!" said Jolie Parcher, the center's founder.
It has been a long road for Ms. Parcher. The Roslyn native trained to become a teacher in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 1990. "I had a dance teacher at college who turned me on to yoga," she said, likening the practice to "a meditation for the body." She opened the center in another building in Amagansett Square in 2001, moving to the present space six years ago.
A yoga center's survival through a pandemic is no small feat. While most commercial activity on the square was able to continue, a business such as Ms. Parcher's could not. Classes migrated to Zoom, at reduced rates and even offered freely, as people stayed home through a government-mandated lockdown and waves of coronavirus transmission.
"Yoga says just do your practice," Ms. Parcher said. "Don't ask yourself if you want to, or if you feel like doing it, or if your practice is good or bad, or if you're feeling strong or weak. . . . I saw how the gifts of yoga became so much more palpable and actual during the pandemic, when we needed it. So many people made spaces in their homes and found their home practice. For the first time in their lives, perhaps, they were getting up and doing something most days of the week. Teachers were amazing in finding ways to connect with students through Zoom, and lingering after class. Student after student reached out to me saying, 'Thank you, you saved my life during this pandemic.' It buoyed me, because there were so many stages. I didn't know if I was going to make it. I wasn't always sure people would want to come back."
Since in-person classes resumed at Scoville Hall, people cheer and clap at their conclusion, Ms. Parcher said, ecstatic at being together again. "We did what we had to do on Zoom." She is grateful for "the amazing good fortune of being able to take masks off and lift spacing requirements just when I'm getting ready to reopen" at Amagansett Square.
In-person classes, which resumed at Scoville Hall earlier this year, will continue at least through the summer, Ms. Parcher said. Students have been invited to practice with or without a mask, as approved by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some classes continue online, and the center also has a growing library of on-demand content, accessible via its website.
Amagansett Square's management was "extremely generous and supportive of me through the pandemic," Ms. Parcher said. "I was the only space in the square that couldn't have a business open — everybody else is retail or food. They came up with the idea of splitting the space so they could get somebody else in on one side. They worked with me."
Those attending Friday's celebration can tour the new space or sit outside (the windows will be open). Participants can "chant and bless this new incarnation," Ms. Parcher said, and put a blessing, for the center or for themselves, into an "intentions jar."
The reopening, she said, is "a story of amazing adaptability and collaboration, and an active metaphor of what yoga offers: patience, endurance, deep listening to the many layers of oneself, sthira and sukha — the balance of effort and ease."