Two ways to meditate combine in one new Bristol shop

BRISTOL — What do yarn and yoga have in common? Much more than you might think, it turns out.
A group of Addison County women are opening up a yarn shop and yoga studio — appropriately called simply “Yarn and Yoga” — on Bristol’s main drag that offers both of those things.
One of the group, Bristol resident Elissa Cobb, explained how yarn and yoga are, in fact, similar.
“Why not combine the essence of meditative qualities of knitting with the mindful properties and life-affirming joys of doing yoga?” Cobb said during an interview at the store Monday. “We found a lot of research online about yarn and yoga, and the Yoga Journal had several articles about the meditative qualities of knitting.”
Cobb said the epiphany to open up a yarn and yoga studio came to her in a dream.
“Basically, I sat up in bed one morning and thought ‘yarn and yoga,’” Cobb said.
She pitched the idea to other women she knew, who gave her positive feedback.
Anne Wallace, another partner of Yarn and Yoga, recalled that first conversation.
“After a yoga class one day (Elissa) said, ‘I woke up thinking about yarn and yoga,’” Wallace said. “I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body, but this sounded like a fun group of women, and I’m very interested in creating community.”
In addition to Cobb, 61, and Wallace, 65, who retired from the Addison County Parent-Child Center in Middlebury two years ago, there are five other partners of Yarn and Yoga. They are Diane Corey, Mary McGuire, Janet Chill, Laurie Lawy and Karen McEachen. All live in Bristol except McGuire, who resides in New Haven.
The group rented the space formerly occupied by Recycled Reading on the south side of Main Street. Much of the 800 square feet of space is covered with shelves for yarn; the space is cozy. Cobb said she’s not concerned about the limited space.
“In a real community, people bump into each other,” she said.
In addition to its meditative benefits, Cobb said knitting is a good way to step away from the hustle and bustle of 21st-century life for a while.
“There’s something uniquely special about the kind of communication and learning and developing when people sit together and create something beautiful rather than use their hands for technology,” Cobb said. “Not to bash technology, but we don’t want to lose this art, the art that happens between people.”
For Cobb the new studio will offer her a way to cope with chronic pain. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a pain disorder characterized by hypersensitivity to stimuli that don’t normally cause pain.
“I wanted to find a place where I could specialize in yoga for chronic pain, gentle yoga and restorative yoga,” Cobb said. “It has helped me calm my symptoms of fibromyalgia.”
Cobb said she hopes the new studio helps others cope with constant pain. For that reason, she specifically sought a location where customers would not have to navigate stairs. The front door of the studio is right off the sidewalk, for easy access.
Cobb said that the yoga she will teach at Yarn and Yoga will be geared toward those who find movement “less easy.”
“The yoga that we do, anyone can come and take part, if they’re looking for something that’s a little bit more mindful, restorative and gentle,” Cobb said. “It’s not going to be vigorous exercise yoga.”
Cobb is no stranger to the ancient Indian art — she taught yoga for 35 years and was the director of Phoenix Rising Yoga in Bristol before retiring in 2012. She’s also been knitting since she was a kid, and said she enjoyed shopping at Knits and Bolts in New Haven before it closed. So to her, opening a yoga and yarn studio was the next logical step.
“Those are two things I love to do — why couldn’t they be in one place at the same time,” Cobb said.
As most of the partners are retired, Cobb said they’re not out to get rich on this venture. Rather, they hope to build a center for the community.
“We decided we’re only going to do it as long as it’s fun, we’re having a good time together, and no one is working too hard,” Cobb said.
This isn’t to say they won’t run Yarn and Yoga like savvy businesswomen — but if the money starts pouring in, all of it won’t be lining their pockets.
“We’d like to get our investment back, and we’d like it to be successful, but we’re not in the business to make a lot of money,” Cobb explained. “If we do, we’re going to find ways to give back to the community.”
Cobb said she hopes the studio also will host storytelling nights for children, and plans to teach yoga and knitting to people of all ages, from teens to senior citizens.
Cobb said the group plans to hold their grand opening on Friday, June 20, just in time for the Pocock Rocks music fair and street festival the following day. The store will be open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on the 20th, and many items will be on sale. Cobb said the group is also putting the finishing touches on their website.
Despite the challenges of opening a new business, Wallace said she is optimistic.
“I think that we’re going to make this a really fun place to come to,” Wallace said. “It’s going to be intimate, and that’s part of what makes it exciting, in a way.”

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