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How a Small Town Survives a Pandemic: Lauren Robinson of Sierra Shanti Yoga & Wellness Studio

On a windy February evening, Lauren Robinson and I donned our winter hats and took a walk on the canals. Lauren is the owner of Sierra Shanti, Bishop’s very own yoga and wellness studio. I’ve been taking classes at Sierra Shanti since it opened in 2013. When classes went online at the start of the first shutdown, I found solace in a familiar ritual. While the cows milled around us and the sun set behind the Sierra, Lauren told me what it’s been like keeping her business afloat, and what the future holds for Sierra Shanti.

Kendra: How did it feel, as a business owner, when you first started to sense the impending shutdown?

Lauren: It was so abrupt. My initial reaction was to focus on how I could keep the studio alive. We immediately started going online. Emotion went out the window, and I went into auto-pilot-action-mode. I had to, to survive! Of course the emotions came later. It’s been really hard—I never anticipated the rolling shutdowns lasting this long.

Kendra: You moved to Bishop just a year and a half before the pandemic started. It must have been incredibly difficult to face this at a time that was so vulnerable, both in your own life and for your business.

Lauren: I’d started a lot of exciting new things at Sierra Shanti, and the pandemic hit right when the business was in an upswing. February of 2020 was a really successful month, which was so exciting for me and for the community.

…And then March happened. But I had been hoping to start offering online classes anyway, and the crisis fast-tracked that.

Kendra: How have you saved your business so far?

Lauren: Hybrid classes: a combo of in-person and online. We want to be in service for people for safe, masked, in-person classes, when that’s allowed. We also want to serve people who don’t want to be inside the studio at all during this time. So we offer online and outdoor classes, also. And anyone who signs up for class, whether they can attend livestream or not, receives a copy of the class recording, valid for seven days. So really, anyone can practice from anywhere, anytime they want.

Kendra: What role does Sierra Shanti play in the local community, now as well as before the pandemic?

Lauren: I think now more than ever is the time to be focused on movement, wellness, and natural health solutions, all of which the studio offers. We also strive to create greater awareness and access to healing methods such as reiki, which is energy healing.

I’ve been working hard to evolve our studio into a place for overall wellness and a community center. It’s a location, a place to come back to, to foster that sense of support that we’ve all missed so much over the last year. It’s necessary for us as humans. We’ve been doing our best to continue to offer that throughout the pandemic. And we’ll be here for the community when we can all come together again. In these ways, Sierra Shanti is essential.

Kendra: Will you keep some of the changes you’ve made once we can all go back to normal?

Lauren: Absolutely. We can’t wait to reopen the studio in person, and we won’t be taking away online classes.

Right before the shutdown, Sierra Shanti had started hosting guest teachers who offered special workshops. Learning to host them virtually has opened up a whole realm of connections I’m really excited because we have a lot of fun stuff planned for 2021 already.

Kendra: So, hybrid classes and workshops is a bit of a silver lining, since it allows a bigger variety of people to participate in yoga classes. I mean, let’s face it, there is some amount of falling over for some of us (yes, me). And stuff like being afraid to get into plow pose.

Lauren: Yes! I had someone tell me today that she prefers the Zoom format. Some people are telling me they’re practicing more than ever, because they can just roll out of bed. We can also invite friends who live elsewhere to a virtual yoga class. We’ve got students in North Carolina participating. Another teacher’s mother-in-law has joined from her home in Israel.

Kendra: That’s a good reminder for me that Zoom isn’t all evil! Still, yoga is such a tactile activity. You get a lot from hearing the other students in the class breathe, seeing the subtleties of the teacher’s movements. How have you and the other teachers handled the dissonance of teaching such an intimate activity through the cold lens of technology?

Lauren: First I had to get over being camera shy! It’s been a major learning experience and challenge to remain authentically connected to my students through the screen. It would be easy just to go through the motions, if you will. But I don’t want to lose that sense of connection and subtlety, so throughout the practice I get up close to the screen and try to offer individualized support to students.

It’s not quite the same. I miss teaching in person very much. But this is the way things have to be right now.

Kendra: The virtual classes have been a balm this year, even for a grouchy luddite like me. Before the pandemic I always took a Saturday morning yoga class at Sierra Shanti with Ranae, one of your phenomenal teachers. As soon as that was up and running virtually, it was really nice to have some semblance of a ritual I remembered from my life before—even though it was in my house, by myself. It was comforting. And I knew the people in the class.

Lauren: Right, and you can see them!

Kendra: Yeah! I don’t have any desire to do YouTube yoga—but I like Sierra Shanti’s live online classes. They’re filmed in the beautiful studio, with people I know. They make me get out of bed on Saturday mornings!

Lauren: And there’s that precious and rare feeling of doing something together.

Kendra: Exactly. Everyone checks in at the end of the class and shares ice skating reports and weekend plans. So, in a way, it’s like when you used to bring Great Basin coffee to the studio after class and everyone hung out.

That’s one of my favorite things about yoga—the community feeling behind it, and that’s carried over into your online format. And I believe Sierra Shanti has collaborated with others even during the pandemic, is that right? Have you made any surprising friendships?

Lauren: Absolutely. Together with Mountain Rambler Brewery we hosted a fundraiser for the studio called “Beer Yoga,” which I think you attended!

Kendra: I did! But I didn’t understand that we were supposed to have a can beer of with us during the class to hold during different poses. So I did the whole thing holding a large rock. That was a new experience!

Lauren: It was super fun! So many people said that’s exactly what they needed: something easy and lighthearted. The Mountain Rambler Brewery is such a great friend to all.

We also collaborate with the fairgrounds, who allow us to host ongoing outdoor classes there. On Sundays we have a $5 community class with Tiffany at the fairgrounds. And that’s happening currently, because we have some dedicated yogis who don’t care what the temperature is and just need to get their yoga on!

Kendra: So, why Bishop? How did we get so lucky as to snag you?

Lauren: Bishop had been calling me for years. I was living in San Diego before this. About five years ago, on Christmas Eve, I decided I’d like to travel somewhere and take a prana vinyasa yoga class. I started looking up places, and that’s how I found Bishop, and Kelley Doyle, the founder. Me being from the east coast, I was very much craving mountains and seasons that change.

So I decided on a whim to drive up! I called Kelley, asked her if she was teaching a Christmas Eve class, and she welcomed me. We were instant kindred friends, and after that I returned to assist her with some teacher trainings. Later she sold the studio to Meredith Jabis, who is also a dear, dear friend. Meredith knew how much I adored the studio. To my surprise, two years later she called and told me she was ready to make a transition, and asked me if I wanted to move to Bishop and buy the studio. I knew in my soul that I had to say yes.

Kendra: So many people have these serendipitous stories that brought them here, or brought them back. It’s such a special place.

Lauren:  It’s been hard through the pandemic to own a small business. But I wouldn’t want to ride out the pandemic in any other place. Truly.

Learn more about Sierra Shanti: visit https://www.sierrashanti.com, email Lauren at , call 704.877.4717, or follow on Instagram: Lauren; Sierra Shanti

Kendra Atleework lives in Bishop. Her book, Miracle Country, is all about the Eastern Sierra, California, and the desert West. It’s available at Spellbinder, Booky Joint, ESIA visitor centers, and everywhere books are sold. Sign up for her newsletter at Atleework.com—and learn about a bunch of upcoming outdoor book signings where you can meet the author. (Follow her on Instagram here.)

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14 hours ago

Inyo County has moved from the purple to the red tier!! ... See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook

Love that sound

Is that a good thing??

Purple..red?

Is there still snow on the ground. So pretty

Doug, Brad....that sound 💙

Shh! Silence!😁

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1 day ago

Have you ever wondered "what flower is that" while you were here in the Eastern Sierra? Well, this article identifies 5 of the most common, so maybe you won't have to wonder again (at least about this little handful)!

californiahighsierra.com/trips/flowers-in-california-high-sierra/

Thanks, California High Sierra!
Photo by Betsy Forsyth, April 26, 2019
#visitbishop #mindfultraveler #RecreateResponsibly
... See MoreSee Less

Have you ever wondered what flower is that while you were here in the Eastern Sierra? Well, this article identifies 5 of the most common, so maybe you wont have to wonder again (at least about this little handful)! 

https://californiahighsierra.com/trips/flowers-in-california-high-sierra/

Thanks, California High Sierra! 
Photo by Betsy Forsyth, April 26, 2019
#visitbishop #mindfultraveler #RecreateResponsibly

Comment on Facebook

I knew paintbrush thanks to my mom and camping trips. Have never seen the iris!

So beautiful and amazing picture thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

<3

Robert Yanasak

Visit Bishop: Regarding the attached article: Mules are not bovines, they are equines!

Indian paint brush?

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3 days ago

Please #RecreateResponsibly !!! Locals and visitors alike, we will need to be EXTRA careful to do our part to prevent wildfires this year!! (most wildfires are caused by humans)Fire season already???!!
This fire occurred yesterday and was quickly out out by local fire fighters. Fortunately there were not the winds that we have today (it is currently howling).

Just a reminder to everyone out there that we already have VERY dry conditions due to a low snowpack from this past winter, so please please be EXTRA CAREFUL out there!!! Please take extra care with cigarette butts, campfires, and anything that could spark!!
#RecreateResponsibly #mindfultraveler #inyocounty #doyourpart

Photo by Betsy Forsyth
... See MoreSee Less

Please #RecreateResponsibly !!! Locals and visitors alike, we will need to be EXTRA careful to do our part to prevent wildfires this year!! (most wildfires are caused by humans)

Comment on Facebook

That’s good that the fire was put out quickly!

A FIRE, Already!!?? I wonder how many drivers are "Rubber necking" in town now? Like they've NEVER seen a fire before!!! If you're driving , DRIVE! If you want to look at the fire; pull over and park your car and gawk all you want!

Fire rings only.

broken glass which acts like a magnifying glass. just send the jobless out cleaning up

Beautiful

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7 days ago

Thinking about venturing this direction? Good to know:Wondering what is open? Here is the latest update:

WHITE MOUNTAIN RANGER DISTRICT

Roads open: McGee Creek Rd., Rock Creek Rd. to the Snow Park, Hwy 168 to Aspendell, South Lake Rd to Bishop Creek Lodge., White Mountain Rd., snow, travel at own risk, Silver Canyon Rd. (4x4-high clearance expect snow), Wyman Canyon Rd. (4x4-high clearance, snow), Glacier Rd.(Big Pine Canyon) to Glacier Lodge.

Road closed: Rock Creek Rd. at the Snow Park, Hwy 168 from Aspendell to Sabrina Lake, North Lake Rd., South Lake Road after Bishop Creek Lodge.

Campgrounds open: Bitterbrush (winter ops), Grandview (winter ops), Pleasant Valley (County), PV Pit (BLM), Baker Creek (County), Goodale (BLM), Taboose Creek (County), Tinnemaha Creek (County).

Campgrounds closed: Convict Lake, Holiday, Aspen Group, Palisade Group, McGee Creek, Tuff, Rock Creek, Iris Meadow, Big Meadow, East Fork, French Camp, Rock Creek Group, Mosquito Flat Backpacker, Pine Grove, Upper Pine Grove, Horton (BLM),Table Mountain Group, Forks, Intake 2, Four Jeffrey, Sabrina, Bishop Park, Big Trees, Bishop Park Group, Willow, Mountain Glen, North Lake, Cedar Flat Group, Clyde, Sage Flat, Upper Sage Flat, Big Pine Creek, Glacier Group, Palisade Glacier Group.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is closed for the season.

The White Mountain Ranger Station Visitor Center is closed, but visitor questions are being answered via phone, 760-873-2500, Monday – Friday, 8:00 am -4:30 pm, closed federal holidays.


MT WHITNEY RANGER DISTRICT

Roads closed: Onion Valley, Whitney Portal Rd., Horseshoe Meadow.

Roads open: Foothill Road, Division Creek.

Campgrounds open: Independence Creek (county), Lower Grays Meadow (winter ops), Portuguese Joe (county), Lone Pine (winter ops), Tuttle Creek (BLM), Diaz Lake (County).

Campgrounds closed: Upper Grays Meadow, Onion Valley, Whitney Portal, Whitney Portal Group, Whitney Portal Trailhead Campground, Cottonwood Lakes, Cottonwood Pass, Horseshoe Meadows Equestrian, Kennedy Meadows.

The Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association is operating their bookstore at the Eastern Sierra Visitor Center in Lone Pine, Thursday through Monday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visitor questions are being answered via phone, 760-876-6200, Monday- Friday, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, closed federal holidays.

Photo by Greg Connor
#mindfultraveler #RecreateResponsibly #inyocounty
... See MoreSee Less

Thinking about venturing this direction? Good to know:

Comment on Facebook

Chiquito pero muy hermoso🌲🌲🌳🌳🌵🌄🌪🌫🌬

Awesome!

Greatly appreciate this update!

This is such a beautiful area!

I would love to move there because it is so beautiful but lacking in basic needs.

Beautiful time of year to go up the Eastern Sierra

Beautiful picture!

So beautiful and amazing picture thanks for sharing 🙂🙂❤❤

Please take your trash out with you.

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