Over the years, I’ve tried several styles of yoga — Power Vinyasa, Bhastrika, Hot Yoga (which is amazing for those of us who are always cold), hatha, and restorative. Recently, I took a class at the Yoga Barn in West Tisbury, taught by owner Scarlet Johnson, who opened the space in 2008. Set back from the road, the land surrounding the Yoga Barn is breathtaking, with plush green meadows, swaying trees, rock walls, and wooden fences. The yoga room is spacious yet cozy, with tall ceilings, large windows, soft lighting, and what must be a nearly 5-foot-tall Sacred Dream Circle, made by Zelda Hotaling, hanging in a window behind where the instructors lead the class. The Yoga Barn offers a variety of live and online classes, including Anusara, Kripalu vinyasa, moderate flow, myofascial release therapy, and more.
The class I attended was a 9 am Slow Vinyasa. Vinyasa is a form of yoga where poses are linked together with the breath in a flowing sequence. The style of vinyasa can vary in pace and intensity, depending on the teacher. Though I regularly work out, and was once a committed yoga student, it’s been a minute since I’ve taken a yoga class. It’s amazing how quickly the body forgets, but once my startled muscles adjusted, I remembered why I love practicing.
“Moving slowly and holding poses for a while requires more core work, which we all need,” Johnson explained. “It also gives the body time to relax, and helps with the effectiveness of the poses.” I can vouch for the effectiveness of the poses. My hamstrings and stomach muscles had a lot to say the next day.
Johnson also teaches restorative yoga, which, according to the Yoga Barn website, is good for beginners or practitioners seeking a slow, deep, meditative practice with hands-on assists. “The difference is pace and number of poses. In restorative yoga, we do a total of around five poses in an hour-and-a-half class, which includes savasana (a resting time at the end). “Today, we did at least 100 poses,” Johnson explained.
I was taken aback by this revelation — 100 poses? I was also surprised at how quickly the hour and a half went, and appreciative of Johnson’s reminder not to judge ourselves harshly or compare ourselves with other students. “Listen to your body,” Johnson said, several times during class. “Loving kindness in, loving kindness out.”
For some, this kind of talk is corny, or perhaps “new-agey.” Our inner critic is loud and insistent, however, like that toxic neighbor who criticizes everything we do, or those relentless advertisements telling us we’d be gorgeous, wealthy, and infallible if only we worked a little harder. We could all probably use some gentle reminders to be kinder to ourselves.
“I love getting out of the judging and comparing mind into the sensing-feeling body. From here, we have a better chance of feeling open, and are more willing to listen to others,” Johnson said. “Inclusion and acceptance come about naturally when our minds are quiet and open.”
Though yoga can be a solitary practice, it can also provide opportunities to connect with other practitioners. Sharing a positive and/or challenging experience on a regular basis with other people can create strong bonds. According to yogajournal.com, studies suggest that as yoga students breathe and move together, a mental synchronization takes place as well. It’s no surprise, then, that the Yoga Barn community class is so popular. This free class runs on Friday evenings at 5:30 pm, and is taught by rotating teachers. Jason Mazar-Kelly is one of those teachers, and has been with the Yoga Barn for 10 years.
“Yoga helped me overcome obsessive-compulsive disorder in my adolescent years, and I am driven by the desire to share those gifts with others who experience mental differences,” Mazar-Kelly said. “Yoga also allows me to see the person across from me as someone just like me, with a heart beating, lungs breathing, and a whole world of experience at play. The community yoga class creates access to the practice for underserved populations who may not be able to afford to pay for class.”
Experiencing a yoga class together doesn’t just provide growth and learning opportunities for students, however. “I meet and connect with a diverse community that is both local and global. This means I often learn from the participants in class, which expands my knowledge, experience, and ability to guide many different populations through the transformative practice of yoga,” Mazar-Kelly said.
Regardless of whether you are a practitioner or teacher (and aren’t we all a little of both?), there appears to be a place for everyone at the Yoga Barn. “The main reason I built the Yoga Barn is to bring people together. I love hearing snippets of conversations that happen in the hallway, or when someone comes up to me on the street and says, ‘I can’t afford yoga clothes. Is it OK if I come anyway?’” Johnson said. “I did this because I want everyone to be able to do yoga.”
The Yoga Barn will be holding a yoga teacher training this winter and spring that will be led by Sherry Sidoti, Jason Mazar-Kelly, and Scarlet Johnson. The training offers the option to become a certified yoga teacher, or to simply have an immersive yoga experience. To learn more about the Yoga Barn, check out its website, mvyogabarn.com.