running a yoga studio · yoga · yoga teaching

The day I surprised a burglar/stalker at the yoga center

Once I decided I was going to sell my yoga center before going on sabbatical, it seemed like my letting go was an invitation for all kinds of weird, whacky and unusual things to start happening. A brand-new, pregnant student shows up in a gentle class and passes out in the front row, necessitating my first ever 911 call. She ended up being fine, and the baby was fine, too. People with whom I had been corresponding for some time- months, even years- FINALLY began to show up for their first class with me, JUST as I was leaving. And one day I walked in to a robbery in progress, though I didn’t fully know it at the time.

My yoga center was located in an old brick building. Having grown up in New England, with its ubiquitous factory buildings lining the banks of many a river, I had a certain attraction to high ceilings and the sense of ‘possibility’ that waits in large, open rooms. It was a perfect yoga center space, but it had some challenges. Mostly, it had to be open at all times as a pass-through to the offices in the back hall (even though they had their own rear entrance); something to do with fire regulations and such. I had an office I could lock, but shelves full of yoga props were open to one and all for class use, and for pilfering (not that there ever was any. Bad juju!)

I entered the building one morning, and heard the usual sounds coming from the neighboring offices. Walking up the stairs and into the yoga center, I could see that something was amiss but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I rounded the corner and saw the back door was open to the hallway. Hmm…

I went to explore. A young man, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a doo-rag over short dreadlocks was looking intently at the psychic’s bulletin board. I tend to assume the best about people, until proven otherwise, and asked him if I could help with anything. He said, “Uh yeah, I want some information about yoga classes”. I gave him my full spiel, while backing out of the hallway and into my space. I mentioned a class was about to start and he decided to stay, jeans, wallet-stuffed pockets, socks and all. I rolled out a mat, got him some props, and wished hard for more people to come in, fast. I didn’t feel threatened in his presence, but I did sense that things were not as they seemed…

As others arrived, I went to the CD player to put on some music. It wasn’t working, and when I began to fiddle with the buttons, I happened to turn it around… and saw the speaker wires had been disconnected from the base. Odd, especially as I was the last one to have used it the night before and disconnecting speaker wires was not on my closing up routine.

Suspicions confirmed that something was going on, I looked around the room. Mr. Doo-Rag was lying in his mat, texting away, legs crossed and looking perfectly at ease. A couple other students had come in, including at least two who were brand new to the studio. Great…

I left the room for a moment to just check in with my neighbors, and was met with a locked door and hushed voices. Down the hall someone was waving to me wildly, one finger across their lips. Turns out that an assistant in their office was being stalked. When I asked about this stalker, and heard his physical description, I let them know well, imagine that, I thought I had their stalker up in my yoga studio right then and what would they like to do about it?

If that wasn’t a conversation stopper.

So I went back and led a nerve-wracked yoga class. Some folks later said they thought I was being a little weird, others said it was great as usual and they had NO IDEA that something was up. Mr. Stalker- as I was now calling him in my head- did manage to follow along fairly well, even though baggy-bottom jeans can really impair an asana practice. His phone buzzed a few times, and he would stop to take the call. The looks on the faces of the other students was priceless; maybe they figured he was one of Liza’s charity cases, or was out on a day pass or something.

Finally, it was time for savasana. With everyone on their mats, and our guest snoring away (yes, he was just so comfy that he fell asleep and snored. I guess stalking people is exhausting?), I kept my eyes open and tried to plot what I would do at the end of class.

After savasana, one very helpful student showed Stalker-Man how to put his props away. When he started to ask about other classes, and what hours the yoga center was open and was someone ALWAYS there, she very helpfully filled him in on the details of what a loosey-goosey operation I was running.

All bodies finally out the front door, I locked it, hauled butt up to my office and called the police. They showed up pretty fast and got a detailed description from me. All those years in art school, and I’ve become pretty good at describing criminals when I need to. When I got to the part about which pocket the guy’s wallet chain was hanging from, the officer looked at me with a kind of amused resignation and said, “Okay lady, I think that’s enough”.

Stalker-Man was apprehended later that day. When his car was searched lots of electronic items were found, none of which had a tag or a receipt. The young woman being stalked did not want to press charges. Turns out she and the guy had dated- or some other modern equivalent- and she was now pregnant, although maybe not by him- and there was a lot of drama happening, none of which I really cared to know about.

It all made for an interesting story. I was happy that years of yoga training could keep me calm and centered. I could have made other decisions about how I might have handled the situation from the first moment I suspected- then knew- that something was going on, but I did what I did based on my reading of the room. I had the guy in socks, with pants that rode under his butt, my phone and yoga straps in hand at all times. Some part of me likes to think that, had I felt like trouble was a comin’, I could have tied him up in one of those Iyengar poses so well he would have been in it until the middle of the next day.


One thought on “The day I surprised a burglar/stalker at the yoga center

  1. Intersting story and you handled it well. Thank goodness no one got hurt.

    I went to a somewhat new studio in my town. It had only been open 1/2 a year or so and it was my first time attending.

    In walks a guy as you described with baggy pants. I noticed a group of women at the check in desk talking. This guy sits down and pulls his pants up, says “now I’m going to get flexible”. He sounded a little wierd and I didn’t think much of it.

    The instructor begins class with seated poses. All of the sudden I look at the door and in walks the police. They go to the guy and say, “didn’t I just pick you up last week?”. Turns out the guy was inebriated and decided he wanted to try yoga.

    How many people get drunk and decided to try Yoga? Your situation seems much more dire but I just wanted to share.


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