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No other students, no teacher: Seattle’s tech-forward solo yoga studio

One of Sanctuary's private yoga suites. (Photo by Lauren Segal Photo.)

Using a door code, I let myself into Sanctuary, a new tech-informed yoga and meditation studio near the waterfront in Seattle. When the door shut behind me, the busy sounds of the city melted away. Up a set of stairs, the color of Himalayan pink salt, is the dim lobby, where a docent awaits you, speaking in hushed tones.

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The difference between Sanctuary and any other fitness or yoga class I have taken, is that I was the only student. There wasn’t even a teacher in the room. A video of an instructor was projected onto an entire wall of my private yoga suite. She was downward dogging on a beach in Mexico, the waves crashing behind her. I could have chosen another instructor doing poses in the Moroccan Jungle. It was my choice. Everything was my choice. The music, the temperature, if I want the room scented, what time I want to take the class, how easy or difficult I wanted it to be. All of these features are selected on Sanctuary’s app before you arrive. Have it your way: It’s the Burger King of yoga studios.

Admittedly, when I first learned of Sanctuary I thought, ‘ugh, this is so Seattle.’ It’s a place to take a solo yoga class in a city of introverts who don’t like to talk to strangers, let alone silently stretch next to them. And what about community?

I asked studio director Sarah Goble: What’s the benefit of taking a class alone?

“Great question! And one we hear often,” Goble said. “The experience of disconnecting to reconnect. When you carve out time in your schedule to be in a fully judgement free zone, a zone where you are not comparing whatsoever to other folks in a yoga class. We also chose not to have mirrors in the space so that there’s not even comparison with yourself. You start to develop more compassion for yourself being in isolation that way. And as you feel more compassion toward yourself, that actually spills over to other people. That allows you to feel more friendliness toward the other people in your life.”

Seattle’s Christine McHugh has taken a few classes at Sanctuary. She says its a welcome relief from crowded yoga studios where you need to fight for space to lay your mat and sometimes practice very close to other people.

“I would never admit that I compare myself to people in classes, but I do,” McHugh said. “I did belong to a studio for awhile that I stopped going to primarily because even though I’m super in shape I felt like I was out of shape compared to some of the people there. I was a little intimidated by it, and here I don’t have that intimidation factor.”

After your 50 minute class, you get another 30 minutes to yourself in the suite.

“You could take a nap, you could meditate, journal,” Goble said. “The private studios have an adjacent, beautifully appointed bathroom with our custom shower products. Take your time there, feel pampered, feel that spa-like feeling.”

What does McHugh do with her time?

“Mostly just sitting there, reflecting. Oh, and then I do take pictures too, of course. I take pictures and post on social media. That’s the only thing, it’s like, ‘This is so cool! I want to share with everybody!’ but then it disrupts my practice,” McHugh laughs.

You can also create your own class and invite friends to share a suite.

“We have more group sessions being booked on the weekends than anything else, so people are bringing friends,” Goble said. “But we’ve definitely had our repeat people that are like, ‘I’m an introvert,’ and this is a beautiful place to really calm and center for someone who is more introverted.”

Is Seattle really one of the friendliest cities in the country?

There is a price to pay for privacy. Solo classes are $50 and it’s $30 each if you come with a group.

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