Yoga center finds new spot

MIDDLEBURY — On a recent morning Otter Creek Yoga founder and director Joanna Colwell did something you’ll likely never see her — or anyone else — do again.
Almost apologetically, Colwell walked across the recently laid wooden floor of OCY’s new Marble Works studio space in her cowboy boots.
It’s OK right now because the space isn’t quite finished, but the remodeling will be completed by Oct. 8 for OCY’s grand opening. Colwell anticipates OCY’s relocation within the Marble Works to the former Farmer’s Diner space will be the business’s long-term destination after a somewhat nomadic 11 years in Middlebury.
Colwell, 43, took her first yoga class when she was 20 and was “instantly hooked.” She said she has been very fortunate over the years to have had some top-notch teachers who furthered her love of yoga and who encouraged her to become an instructor herself 18 years ago. She chose to emphasize a form of yoga advanced by B.K.G. Iyengar, based in Pune, India.
“It is characterized by great deal of attention to body alignment and precision, and to instruct each student how to safely get into the pose, how to work in the pose, and how to get out of the pose,” Colwell said. “It is safe and it is very challenging.”
Colwell and her family moved to Addison County in 2000. She first began teaching at the Addison County Parent-Child Center, then moved on to spaces within St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society headquarters. Five years ago, she established Otter Creek Yoga in a smaller spot within the Marble Works.
The business has flourished to a point where OCY now has an e-mail list of almost 800 customers — some regulars, some sporadic clients. Membership spiked last year when Otter Creek Yoga joined the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Connection, which gives co-op members a 10-percent discount on classes.
The teaching roster has also expanded to include Sansea Sparling, Russell Comstock, Annie Konopke and Mary Claire DeHaven. Together, they cover yoga skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. Classes are also offered to seniors and children.
Attendance has been so good in recent months that the current yoga studio has occasionally gotten cramped, Colwell noted.
“Particularly when the weather gets nasty, we get a lot of people in to do yoga,” she said. During this past winter, Colwell noted, the yoga studio was “bursting at the seams.”
A few weeks ago, 30 people attended a class on a Saturday morning.
Colwell and her colleagues agreed it was time to cast about for a larger space. They found it a mere stone’s throw away, still within the Marble Works, in the former home of the Farmer’s Diner.
As workers get the spot ready, OCY is planning an Oct. 8 grand opening, beginning at 9 a.m., featuring free classes all day.
“I have loved the Marble Works from the moment we moved here,” Colwell said. “I knew I didn’t want to be any place else but the Marble Works.”
Since the yoga business does not need all 3,000 square feet, around one-third of it will be set aside and ultimately rented by the Marble Works to healing arts practitioners, according to Colwell. One of those practitioners has already joined the fold under the auspices of Otter Creek Yoga: certified advanced rolfer Duffy Allen. Rolfing involves soft tissue manipulation and structural integration to help people rid themselves of body pain and improve posture, among other things.
The new space features, among other things, two restrooms and a larger coatroom/gathering area for clients. Colwell praised Marble Works officials for taking great pains to make the spot energy efficient with extra insulation and radiant floor heat.
She hopes the OCY’s new digs will turn even more people on to yoga.
“People who have never done yoga should not be shy,” Colwell said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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