For those that haven’t heard LilOmm Yoga Studio in DC is closing at the end of this year. Although so sad it is an exciting next step in the journey for LilOmm – especially for the owner Pleasance Lowengard Silici.
I, like many I know, have been reflecting on the many feelings of this closing. Sadness of course, but also the joy we feel in our hearts for Pleasance. The unselfishness of this compassion from everyone is just a testimony to the environment and community at LilOmm. Many feel sad because we know that no matter where we go, this part will not follow. We may practice yoga but the community spirit will change. Which is sad of course.
What is this spirit I’m referring too? To that you have to start with the owner – Pleasance. If you don’t know her then let me help by describing her. First off she has an amazing smile and laugh. Wife and Mother of two – she is quite busy. Yet she has the ability to make each person feel at ease and that you are the most important person to her – she gives complete attention. Pleasance is very real and humble. She has a presence there at the studio that each person feels because you know she is there, involved and if not physically there you are bound to have a call or message from her quickly. Her spirit is in everything from the colors, displays to the props and supplies. As a teacher I rarely have owners come to my class but she does this. She isn’t there to criticize but be there. I’ve watched her handle upset clients over the years which is a hard part of the business. She is wonderful at holding space to let someone express their problems and not quick to rush on discussions. She meditates on the directions to take. Pleasance also trusts those that she has hired which is why so many of the staff and teachers have been with her for such a long time. The intension of the community is kind and supportive.
The first time I met her she reached out to me on Twitter. Ok maybe it was her assistant but either way we connected that way. She needed someone to come and take over a restorative class at Georgetown’s Lululemon class. So I met her and watched her class. We sat, talked and she was so open to ideas and suggestions. Most importantly she didn’t tell me how to teach. She wasn’t about turning her teachers into versions of herself; which is an amazing quality to have as a studio owner. Weeks later she told me she was going to open a studio called LilOmm and I started immediately. I remember the open house like it was yesterday. Anyway we all learned a lot about yoga studio operations from landlords, tenants, schedules, clients, teachers and our styles. But through it Pleasance never lost her ability to lead but also know when to let each of us, even the teachers, be ourselves.
Pleasance started herself in the school system so she came from a firm understanding of what being a teacher is. Not just a yoga teacher. Often under-paid, teachers work really hard, put in their own time to go the extra mile and also pay to continue to learn and grow. We know this but when it comes to paying for a teachers services it often goes unvalued. Which is why when someone stops to tell a teacher how much they value them it means the world. Often the positive is not heard – not as much as a complaint anyway.
But Pleasance had a vision. A place for everyone to be able to come, practice, have daycare, and have a place to sit and be together. Coming late to class was ok – better to come than not too. The idea that you could practice and have kids in the next room meant learning how to really be present. Including the parents letting go, stop and go hold your children. This moment in time is our practice – yoga is all around us.
As time went on Pleasance found a bigger and better space and we all moved to Tenleytown. She put together a photo shoot and I remember suggesting that I wanted to have the photo with my dog – to show that we are open to yoga as a practice in our life and that included animals. She open heartedly agreed and my picture with Sadie is still there; us going our Up Dog together. I would teach late night Prenatal and Adult Yoga classes and after the last class we would sit around, have drinks and snacks. Even Mac would show up after class to be with his wife Mary Ann and us.
With the larger space it meant Pleasance could set up a community area for referrals, articles, and cards. Tea and free water along with books you could borrow and trusted to return. She created different Facebook groups not only to post up schedules but that we could all share information and grow together. If someone saw something that was helpful we shared it with each other. The Corporate Facebook page would have announcements from students as well as recognition and bio of a teacher. If you were walking into class and new to the space you may walk in and not be sure if the students were coming or going. So many studios I know in DC just don’t have the space muchness the concern of setting up a communal area. But I really do think it helps add to the yoga experience. I hate to see students just rush in and out. They practice right there with some of the same people day and and out and don’t even know each other. I’d love to see more spaces where students could come early, sit, WiFi, read, have some tea and even after class even share resources together.
This community didn’t just happen because we willed it though. It happened from the top down. So back to Pleasance. I will always have a place in my heart for her that goes undescribed. I’ve always said she represents what yoga is for me. She not only practices but she lives it. She is always looking to improve and learn. I never feel as if she is superior and yet through her attitude I learn so much from her. She may not even know this but I say it here – proudly. I know, love and admire her so much; so many things I am not myself but really hope to be someday. She is my mentor and guide by which to live by. Pleasance is the first one there to organize a group of us for a meeting, donation or help others. She is the first one to see both sides to situations which is hard when you have clients and teachers coming at you daily with emails and calls. She is always ready to share news as we are all in this together. Pleasance knows just when to stop and step away from work as well. When she called me to talk about her decision to close I was so honored to be there and hold that space for her. I remember my own feelings and I put them aside quickly. ‘This was about her’ I told myself.
I personally can’t forget that almost 3 years ago when I was in the hospital she was one of the few that came to see me in the hospital. She came, brought me oils, lotions and rubbed my feet. Nothing is beneath her and to make someone feel good; that is her Metta. She continued to check on me and when I was trying too hard to come back and teach it was her words and reminder to let it go that helped me so much. I did let go and it was so hard. It didn’t mean it was for good though. I was so excited to return this summer and that I’ll be here for the close. I can’t help but see that with LilOmm closing that this too isn’t an end… just a step to a new beginning.
Pleasance is a beacon of light and of course many will part and go different directions in 2016. For that reason the community will change and be different. I have great hope though that although it will be different, that each of us will shine our light and will continue to be together no matter how far apart we are.
We are all responsible to carry and share the lessons that we have learned about community, compassion and of course … Love.
2016 look for Lilomm to be a place for family, pre/postnatal and Playtime Yoga – offering series and leasing spaces for classes. Adult Yoga classes will be under new ownership at Washington Yoga Center. Other teachers will also be moving to new opportunities here and far. I’m excited to continue Sundays Adult Playtime – a place for adults to practice with their family with LilOmm. More to come…