Seeking a New Space, Local Yoga Studio Maintains its ‘Bliss’

September 13, 2022 | by Catherine Lenox

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Photo courtesy Yogabliss

After Maria Bliss taught the last class at Yogabliss’s former studio, she and many of her students walked the mile to the new space she rented inside the Mercer Island Community & Event Center. “We tried to create closure and call on the truth of ‘who we are is more beautiful than the space we’re in,’” Bliss says.

For the past 20 years, Yogabliss has guided the Mercer Island community to “follow their bliss,” but when the pandemic began, stay-at-home policies hit the small business hard. The studio moved to online classes, “but Covid was long, and our attrition was huge,” says Bliss, the owner and founder of Yogabliss and long-time islander. When they reopened, they found people still cautious about attending in person.

To compensate for the loss of students, Yogabliss negotiated rent relief from their landlord. However, the relief included a provision that terminated their lease if another tenant wanted the space. Unfortunately, in June 2022, one did, leading Bliss to pivot once again, a familiar dance for small businesses trying to survive in such turbulent times.

Photo courtesy Yogabliss

Yogabliss currently runs its classes out of the Mercer Island Community Center & Event Center, a temporary solution that calls back to the business’s origins in shared spaces: it began in 2003 when Bliss rented out a dance studio in the Sunnybeam School and began teaching yoga.

Within a few years, she outgrew the studio and found a small space on the north end of the island in The Mercer building. “People helped us,” Maria says of the build-out. “One woman went to Ikea and bought a cubby for our shoes. Another helped choose rice paper for our lights. Still another staged our room.”

Photo courtesy Yogabliss

In 2012, she moved again, into a much larger spot – the first designed to be a yoga studio – and with space for multiple, overlapping classes; a massage room; locker rooms; and a “heart center” where people could chat after class. As Yogabliss grew, younger teachers taught ashtanga and hot yoga, while others taught restorative, gentler yoga. “We provided what students needed,” Maria says. Hundreds of people flowed through Yogabliss each day. “I kept thinking, ‘pinch me, how did this happen?’”

Unfortunately, the pandemic and loss of their lease brought that all crashing down. “We did not choose to leave,” Maria says. But using the same mindfulness she taught in yoga, she works to adapt, accept, and “find gratitude in even the most difficult times.”

While she still hopes to find another space to make entirely a home for Yogabliss, she continues to teach from the dance studio at the community center, using a condensed schedule of classes and roster of teachers. She also shoots the virtual meditation class outside.

 “Covid abruptly and painfully took the wind out of our sail,” says Bliss. But after pivoting, adapting, and working hard to stay afloat, she remains measuredly optimistic, remembering how the community showed up for her in the past, like the first time the business moved. “Hopefully, we are creating an energy and new chapter that says, ‘this is what happened, and this is what is needed now.’ We’re going to be okay.” She has confidence that she and her devoted group of teachers will find a new location and a way forward for Yogabliss in the future, even as the pandemic reminds her daily of what she cannot control, she says. “Life, just like yoga, is a practice of adaptation and acceptance.”