Nine months ago a light bulb went off in yoga teacher Sian Williams’s head. She lived at the West Tisbury Cohousing complex and, as a resident, the common house was available for her to use. Finally, she thought, a beautiful, available space for a yoga collective.
“We’ve attempted to do it at other times on the Island,” Bonnie Menton, a member of the now thriving Yoga Collective at CoHo, said. “Other times, there were too many disagreements about policy or schedule or the books, or the space fell through. But this time it finally worked.”
After much planning and many meetings, the Yoga Collective got under way last May. According to Ms. Williams, Ms. Menton and Mollie Doyle, another member of the collective, its evolution was a bit like that of a first-time yoga student in a Vinyasa class: They stumbled, they fell, then finally, everything got easier. They began to flow peacefully through the motions of building the collective.
The common house, once a relatively bare and underutilized building on the Cohousing campus, now looks as if it had always been designed especially for the purposes of yoga. The room is large enough to comfortably house about 15 bodies on mats. The walls are dressed in warm, floor-length red and yellow curtains.
“We needed lots of material,” said Ms. Doyle. “So I called a friend in New York city for a favor.”
The collective is constantly evolving but currently it includes nine of the Island’s top yoga teachers, who share a schedule, a space and the common goal of making yoga accessible to everyone. Currently the collective is comprised of Sian Williams, Jane Norton, Mollie Doyle, Robert Sidoti, Bennett Coffey, Vanessa Kent, Bonnie Menton, Fae Kontje-Gibbs and Patti Roads.
“We wanted to include a large variety of yoga offered on the Vineyard,” said Jane Norton. “I teach a Yoga for Arthritis class at the hospital.” There’s also “Broga” for men, early bird classes, a parent and child class, as well as Ashtanga and Vinyasa.
It’s also relatively cheap: A monthly unlimited pass is $108.
Speaking in the lobby outside the studio, Ms. Williams compared the experience of teaching at the collective to a family. You will often hear one member of the collective championing another. “We promote each other all the time,” Ms. Williams said. “We just want people to do yoga, we don’t care who you do it with. Yoga for the world, you know.”
“I’m the first to admit I’ve got strengths and I’ve got weaknesses,” added Ms. Doyle. “All yoga teachers do; come on, we’re human. If I’m not great at one thing, I’ll point you to a teacher who is, and she will do the same for me. You’re going to want different things on different days, and we provide that spectrum. The competition becomes level; there is no competition. It makes it just about the practice.”
Ms. Menton agreed. “It’s good that we have the ability to open teaching to everybody and let students know that it is important to take from other teachers. I take classes from other teachers so I can learn. It’s important to always keep trying new things and learning from new people.”
At one point during Ms. William’s class last Thursday one woman playfully attempted to avoid her final back bend of a series. Ms. Williams, who finds the practice “life-saving and full of joy,” grinned and said, “You’re only cheating yourself, honey.”
A few minutes later the same woman, who was now splayed out as if she were falling from a parachute, muttered something about “Chinese torture camps.” Mrs. Williams’ laughed. “Oh, I got this one from Mollie,” she said. “So be sure to thank her.”
The members of the Yoga Collective consider the space at Cohousing and each other valuable resources. Through this merging of minds, not to mention bodies, the teachers have not only increased the yoga options and knowledge available to the Island community, they have pushed their own practices to new heights. And they are just getting started.
Later, after class, Ms. Williams sat on the floor of the Common House’s entrance room and pondered the future of the Yoga Collective.
“We want to do lots of things,” she said. “We want more spaces, and definitely a hot studio. And clothes, awesome yoga clothes.”
And as for the nonphysical goals? Quite simply, a Vineyard yoga revolution.
“I want for everyone on the Island to be doing yoga,” Ms. Williams added. “Yes, this is an Island where a lot of people do yoga. But some still don’t. And we’re going to find them.”
The Yoga Collective at CoHo is located in the Community House at the Island Cohousing complex off of Stoney Hill Road in West Tisbury, with schedules online at theyogacollectivemv.com.