Annual Martha’s Vineyard yoga festival is a feast of activities

Lynn Christoffers

On Labor Day weekend, yoga studios across the Island will host the third annual Martha’s Vineyard Yoga Festival. Studios will open their doors to visiting teachers from around the country, giving local yoga practitioners a chance to experience something and someone new.

The Chilmark Community Center is where much of the festival’s action will take place. To make the center a little more yoga-like, co-producer Mollie Doyle and festival founder Kathy Bega enlisted local architect, Peter Breese to revamp the space.

“We reworked the vibe of a very dreary entry space,” said Mr. Breese. “We made it more comfortable, finished and welcoming — we activated it.”

The custom-designed Community Center will not only host classes but will feature a pop-up yoga clothes shop and health food café. Chris Fischer of Beetlebung Farm is in charge of everything edible at the festival, including Friday night’s vegan feast to be served at the Beetlebung Greenhouse. During the day, there will be smoothies, salads, Chilmark coffee, and snacks from Not Your Sugar Mama’s available at the Community Center.

The festival kicks off on Thursday when FLY Yoga presents Saul David Raye at the Chilmark Community Center from 9 am to noon and 1pm to 4 pm.

Claire Parkhurst, owner of Tapas Hot Yoga in Vineyard Haven, said she was thrilled to collaborate with Ms. Bega and Ms. Doyle. “They’ve worked so hard to bring such great teachers, and they really wanted to involve the already-existing yoga community,” she said.

Michelle Boullion — a yoga teacher, Lululemon Ambassador, and owner of Wild Tiger Yoga in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — will teach two classes at Tapas Hot Yoga. Ms. Boullion, a participant in the past two festival’s, is looking forward to escaping the Louisiana heat and returning to the more forgiving late summer in New England. She will teach a “power hot” class in Ms. Parkhurst’s heated studio.

Ms. Boullion stresses the importance of a balanced workout. “Strength plus flexibility equals functionality,” she said. “I don’t just want my students to be able to do a headstand; you should be able to carry your kids around, walk to work, etc.” Before class, Ms. Boullion will discuss the method and benefits of self-massage and myofascial release using foam rollers and tennis balls to release tension and relieve pain. Ms. Boullion will teach at the Chilmark Community Center on Friday, August 31, at 8 am, and at Tapas Hot Yoga on Saturday and Sunday at 10 am.

Lindel Hart, owner of Hart Yoga in Shelburne Falls, is also a veteran of past festivals. He said he is excited about returning to the Island and called the last two festivals “phenomenal experiences.”

Mr. Hart has known festival founder Kathy Bega for several years. “I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s thrived and grown under Kathy’s vision; she’s a powerhouse and incredible organizer,” he said.

Mr. Hart teaches restorative classes full of props like bolsters, blankets, and blocks to support the body in a comfortable way. Poses are typically held for 5 or 10 minutes. “The stillness opens the body and then the mind into a state of release,” he said. Despite the slower pace, participant’s leave both relaxed and energized he said.

Mr. Hart will teach a one-hour restorative class from 5 to 6 pm at The Yard on Friday and Sunday and at the Chilmark Community Center on Saturday.

Astanga is a system of yoga with a loyal following. Whether it attracts devotees or creates them is up for debate, but the practice, with it’s synchronized breathing and movement simultaneously creating lightness and strength, can become addicting.

Having Barbara Verrochi and Kristin Leigh, founders of The Shala in New York City, here for the festival will be a treat for seasoned Astangis and newcomers alike. Participants should not expect to hear much specific alignment instruction from Ms. Verrochi or Ms. Leigh.

The focus is on creating a rhythm and sticking with the flow for the entirety of the class “to get away from the constant chatter of the mind,” according to Ms. Verrochi. Think of it as a 90-minute dance that will leave you sweaty, energized and wondering who ever said yoga was easy?

Ms. Verrochi and Ms. Leigh will teach on Saturday at 10:30 am and Sunday and Monday at 8 am at the Chilmark Community Center

Other great teachers include Sara Ivanhoe, on-Island for the first time to teach about drishti (a gazing technique), yoga nidra (a sleep-like state of meditation), and the gunas (yoga philosophy); Toni Melaas at Primo Lombardi’s new MV Yoga Center on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs; Kelly Morris, dubbed “New York’s most popular teacher”; Lynda Lee O’Laughlin, and meditation with Sarah Davis.

If a yoga-filled Labor Day weekend isn’t enough, there is more to see and do. Andy Estrella of Vineyard Yoga will host Dr. Todd Bezilla, who will give a lecture series on osteopathic health.

Kimberly Cartwright of Om of Motion in West Tisbury is sponsoring a free bike ride with meditation on Sunday from the Chilmark Community Center, and Griffin Hughes of the Boathouse and Nicole Corbo of Aloha Paddle are offering a sunset paddleboard session at Lobsterville Beach on Sunday.

This year’s festival is a la carte. Participant’s can sign up for one class or many.

Ms. Doyle and Ms. Bega agree that one of the best parts of the festival is its intimate size. “I wanted to keep it home grown,” said Ms. Bega, “no headsets or huge crowds.”

Ms. Doyle added, “These are some of the biggest names in yoga, all in one small place.”

For more information or to buy tickets go to