With the Town Hall packed to the brim as supporters of the Inkwell Yoga group enveloped the conference hall Monday afternoon, the Oak Bluffs Parks Commission agreed to allow yoga to return to the beach.
The single-agenda meeting, triggered by an overwhelming response by the public to the ousting of the yoga group on July 21, resulted in a “good faith” agreement in moving forward without requiring a special permit.
The commission decided to forgo its initial stipulation that the morning exercise group must secure a special permit application in order to use the beach, with the acknowledgment that Inkwell Yoga will not require payment for its instructed classes, and will accommodate Inkwell Beach permit holders’ events.
Linda Thompson, representing Inkwell Yoga, expressed her gratitude to the commission for moving up the meeting date–originally slated for August 8– and was first in requesting that the group be allowed to continue its daily yoga as a free and welcoming activity that promotes “health, healing and racial unity.”
“Those who practice yoga on the beach,” said Thompson “know first hand, and can testify to its many benefits to our body and soul. [It] boosts our energy and happiness, and relaxes our brain and stimulates our creativity.”
What seemed like a misunderstanding whether the instructional classes were free or paid, underscored the need for the permit, explained parks commission chair Tony Lima. He said notices advertising the classes for a fee were provided to the commission. Those concerns were put to rest as Thompson explained that Inkwell Yoga has not been, nor will it be a business requiring a fee for participation.
Yoga instructor Christopher Simms, who was not present, has been teaching the classes for the last seven years, said Thompson, and has become “a beloved, community treasure who gives so much freely to so many and requires little [or] nothing in return.”
With little pushback, other than minor concerns over possible town liability, and activity “snowballing” into something too large to control, the commission supported the group’s return to the beach, with a reachable point-person, and commitment to keep the classes free for all in perpetuity.
Commissioner Richie Combra steered the commission to its decision to ultimately accept the withdrawal of the permit application, stressing the harmless nature of the morning group activity. More than comfortable with having the lines of communication open with what he finds responsible organizers, Combra said he supports the group, acknowledging the benefits to the exercise. “I think it needs to continue,” he said, which was agreed upon by the rest of the commission, triggering massive applause, “[we’re] fully in support of it.”
Continuing to cause confusion is what sparked the removal; no complaints regarding yoga at Inkwell beach have been placed with the police department, Chief Jon Searle told The Times. Likewise, despite commissioner Amy Billings’ reluctance to compare Inkwell Yoga with the adjacent ‘Polar Bears’ swimming group, whom “[parks dept] never received complaints about,” Billings stated at Monday’s meeting that she was not aware of any complaints being filed about the morning yoga either.