Can Joy and Grief Co-exist?

A personal reflection from Branches Co-Director, Leena Miller-Cressman

It’s my most sincere hope that you can find our classes or events to be a soft place to land, whether it’s back in community or back in your body, and that you can re-realize the joy of practicing together.

Leena Miller-Cressman

You may have noticed that the studio has been busy this past month! We’ve added some classes, and the schedule is feeling more full after such lean times in the thick of the pandemic. Hooray!

None of this is to pretend that our healthcare system is okay or that COVID is gone, but we sure are glad that many people are feeling up for in-person classes. The contrast between this January and the one from 2022 has me feeling reflective…

The Marathon We Didn’t Know We Were Starting

Looking back, even though our classes weren’t busy, the pandemic was the busiest time of my life. For example, I started making sourdough bread years ago (before having kids) and I just made it again for the first time the other week. Unlike some folks who got into it during the pandemic, I had absolutely no time for a cozy and nourishing habit like baking my own bread. Like so many parents, I was juggling work and childcare while schools and daycares closed and opened, and closed again. And I was also hustling more than ever to keep the studio afloat through pivot after pivot.

Over this period, there wasn’t time to slow down, reflect, feel or to grieve what was happening. I just kept moving forward. These days I don’t think too hard about whether I would have gone ahead with everything had I known how long it would all take. But thanks to so much hard work from our whole dream-team, a deeply supportive community, and vital government small business supports, here we are – finally.

When Joy Shines A Light On Grief

The other weekend, a lovely group of 14 people gathered at the Branches for the first of two Deeply Chill Restorative Immersions. In the closing circle, a number of participants remarked on how healing it was for them to be in a group again. One participant shared afterwards, “My heart is overflowing from the wonderful group of humans who shared practice, space and stories. The way TBY co-creates community is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”

Hearing this, it’s impossible to put my gratitude into words – having folks come together in our new studio home ignites my sense of purpose. But the joy I felt from hosting a group of people moving and breathing together was also tinted with melancholy. It felt a little more complex because it was in such high contrast with what it was like during the times we were isolated from one another.

One year ago, we were grappling with a stark sense of emptiness (literal and figurative) during the shut-downs associated with the Omicron wave. Re-encountering vibrant togetherness one year later has revealed the hidden grief that I didn’t have time to process when I was too busy moving forward. It all became quite clear when this song popped up in a playlist and I started crying!

Anyone Else Still Feeling the Effects?

Realizing how much we missed something only after glimpsing it again is such a bittersweet gift. For me, finally giving those emotions some airtime is helping me let go of tension, land in my body more fully, and move forward in a more wholehearted way. Are any of you still working through the changes of these past few years?

It’s my most sincere hope that you can find our classes or events to be a soft place to land, whether it’s back in community or back in your body, and that you can re-realize the joy of practicing together.

Next week we’ll be sharing all the details of our annual Community Week, so stay tuned for info on how you can join in!

With care,


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