When One Door Closes…

On March 12, 2020, I walked out of my pilates studio for the last time.

The view from the studio

There had been chatter for a few weeks about a virus that might make it to NYC. On Monday there was news that one case had been detected in the city and each subsequent day was filled with fear and uncertainty. Could I take the subway? Should I cancel classes? Do I need to wear a mask?

It was a Thursday, and although I had a full day of scheduled sessions, each client slowly cancelled. By noon I called the rest of the clients and told them not to come in. I spent the afternoon in my studio, alone, wondering if I would ever see it again.

I used every last bit of energy I had to enjoy my apparatus. I filmed some flows and explorations I had been meaning to archive, played loud music, and tried to find every single experience I wanted in that space. At the end, I sat in the middle of my floor and cried. I could feel it was my last time there and I was devastated.

A little back story…

ashley practicing side leg on the cadillac

I opened the studio in 2011 when I was 26 years old. I had spent the prior three years renting space by the hour from other studios as my client list grew. I worked at a busy studio for 5 years before that and had often dreamed about having my own space. When I opened my studio, I had just enough clients to pay my overhead expenses and thought it would take some time to actually turn a profit.

Instead of the slow build I’d imagined, I tripled my clientele in the first month. The studio was so busy I stopped taking on new clients quickly. I found other instructors, whom I adored, to teach alongside me. I got married soon after opening the studio, made many new friends and colleagues there, was pregnant in that studio, pumped hundreds of ounces of milk in that studio, created a community of wonderful pilates lovers, and found a passion in movement I had not found in years. I thought I would teach and work there forever. I loved it.

I was more proud of the studio than anything else I had ever accomplished (aside from making my daughter, of course). And I can honestly say that I loved going to work each and every day.

Meanwhile, in 2020...

But that all changed in an instant. That day in March, almost nine years after I’d welcomed my first clients into that space, when I felt I would never return to my studio, everyone told me I was overreacting. That I would be back in a few weeks. But I knew. I had been in business in New York City long enough to know that logistically, there is no way to keep a business like mine alive without income. And the virus was already global. It wouldn’t take long to sink my business. 

So I grabbed everything I could carry. My favorite props, books, and important business documents. Took an Uber ride home to Brooklyn, and looked around my apartment. It’s not large, but it is a nice space. I knew I wanted to keep my self practice alive and that meant rearranging my furniture. I made some sketches and, somehow, convinced my husband to reconfigure our apartment so that I would have space to continue working and teaching virtually. Luckily, our apartment building has a lovely roof deck and that became my second space. I carved out time each and every day for my own movement. 

My self practice had been important to me for a few years already, but now it was precious. It calmed my mind and soothed my fears. On the mat I could physically express my anxiety, have a cathartic experience, and come out the other end more at peace. I came to accept the situation and wrap my mind around a new life without a brick and mortar studio.

ashley in a backbend on the roof

And as I continued my self-practice, I got stronger. I realized I didn’t actually miss my physical studio,exactly. I missed the people and the experiences. But now I was having new and exciting experiences. I had massive breakthroughs with a long term hip injury and my inversion practice rapidly expanded. I was reaching long-chased-after goals and finding all sorts of new capabilities I didn’t even know might be accessible to me. Most importantly, I completely fell in love with matwork. 

Embrace and adapt. That’s what I kept repeating to myself. The longer I spent on my mat the more I realized this mantra would serve me personally and professionally. We are all in this together. We have all lost something in the pandemic, some of us more painfully and profoundly than others. I am quite aware of how fortunate I am that my family and I are alive and well, and that I have had the time and space to explore movement and teaching in a new context. 

I continued teaching my long time clients from the studio virtually. With location no longer a factor, clients I’d been inaccessible to before could work with me for the first time. I began teaching classes again and found that the accessibility of the virtual world was rewarding to both myself and my clients, old and new, in ways I never expected. 

I shared a lot of this on Instagram. And as I shared it, I found other people having similar experiences. So many of us turned to each other to stay inspired, give feedback and create a new community. This community included all my clients and friends from my studio as well as a new network that was international. My movement world grew larger and more personal in its new digital home. 

In my teaching, I saw my clients quickly become more independent. Not having the apparatus or me to rely on was freeing. They started practicing without me. They started advancing more quickly than before. They started setting new movement goals, ones that they had never considered before and, as they reached those goals, started looking for new ones. 

This is hugely rewarding to me because that is my experience, too. I have advanced more quickly in isolation than I ever did in the studio. Using what I have around, a few props, the wall and the mat, became more than enough for me. Sharing in the excitement of a rewarding self practice is profoundly fulfilling. Connecting this way has been one of the gifts of this year.

I was never able to go back and say goodbye to my old studio, which was painful. I had two dear friends pack up all my belongings and put them in storage for me. As they FaceTimed me to sort through springs, resistance bands, and old intake forms, I looked out my studio windows on a screen for the last time. That view had been the reason I took the space, and had been the backdrop to my professional life. It will always be my favorite view of the city. And as much as I’ll miss that view, what happens next is too full of potential to dwell on what I'll miss. 

I’m excited to open the door to my new studio. Welcome. I am so happy we can all be here. Everyone is invited and I am committed to making my work as accessible as humanly possible, in every way. You are welcome here just as you are, wherever you are. This space will continue to grow, shaped by the experiences you want to have for yourself. Whatever it is you want from your movement practice, I am here to support you. I will guide you as best I can with patience, empathy and passion. I hope this can be a place where you take your time, be progressive, and find your way. 

Find your movement. Find yourself. Start for free, anytime.

Be safe, be well,

 ashley xx