Yoga in Vergennes: Moving the community together

VERGENNES — Vergennes’s newest yoga and exercise studio is a shared space in more ways than one.
The studio, which sits on the second floor of an apartment building on Main Street that overlooks Vergennes City Park, has been owned under several managers throughout the years. It was handed over to co-founders Rebeccah Brinton and Jamie Smith in January.
Since then, the two yogis have gathered five other teachers and a collection of loyal students, and classes have commenced almost every day since the year’s beginning. Together, the instructors named the studio “Vergennes Movement.”
“The vision is to have a community space where people can practice movement,” Brinton said.
Classes range from 55-minute 6 a.m. cardio workouts, to late-morning gentle yoga, to “Music, Movement and Mindfulness” for preschoolers. The instructors, many of whom are current or former grade school teachers, have drawn a multi-generational crowd.
“There’s no body type or personality type or age,” Brinton said. “There’s such a large range of people, and I hope that anybody feels really welcome to be in the space, even if they don’t know what they’re doing or feel insecure or inflexible.”
Children as young as nine years old accompany their mothers to classes, and seniors are invited to stretch out aches and pains in classes that can be adjusted for skill level and areas of need.
It didn’t take long for the community to gather at the newly opened space just after New Year’s. 
“It was a new business, so everyone was trying to be supportive of all of us,” Smith said. “At the first hot yoga class I taught, there was barely space for me to roll a mat out. And when I walked in the room, they just kept coming in and coming in and coming in.”
Though the number of regular attendees has stabilized since then, the instructors have devised a system that allows them to focus less on the number of people walking through their doors and more on the classroom experience they give to their students.
Each teacher contributes a set amount of money to the space, and instead of a membership system, the instructors handle the cost of their class directly with the students. For Smith’s Hot Yoga class, for example, a student could purchase a 10-class punch card for $135, but that card can’t be used for, say, Brinton’s Vinyasa Flow class.
The system enables the teachers to avoid overhead management, which often becomes stressful, time-consuming and a distraction from the studio’s mission to heal.
“Taking that stress off has been really liberating,” Brinton said. “I, personally, have watched other yoga studio owners get so stressed out about not making enough money, and the classes become about how many people are walking through the door. As a teacher, that’s not where you want to be. You want to be practicing with these people and sharing an experience with them.”
The space, shared equally among the teachers, is also used on less frequent occasions by massage therapists, sound therapists, and other specialists in the business of healing. Brinton and Smith are interested in various uses for the space, as long as they contribute to the studio’s mission to “cultivate well-being with an emphasis on supporting our community.”
The instructors find healing through yoga, which supports strength, self-awareness and confidence.
“For a woman, I think it has given me a really positive relationship with my body and the changes that it’s continually going through,” Brinton said. “I think it allows you to be able to react to situations from a calmer space.”
Certified yoga instructor Nancy Spencer, who was formerly a biology teacher at Harwood Union Middle School, brings attention to anatomy during her classes. She said students want to know, specifically, how a movement or stretch is helping their body.
“There’s people who come who have no sense of spatial awareness of their bodies, so we teach them about the sacrum or the psoas (muscles),” she said. “So you’re backing up a practice that is very authentic and touching peoples’ deep inner selves with scientific context.”
Spencer also believes that yoga can bring people together in the most basic sense.
“Yoga creates a freedom in the body, mentally and physically,” she said. “The Sanskrit interpretation of freedom is love, and I think it does bring compassion and love. So there’s the physical end, but I think it makes your life so much richer.”
More information about Vergennes Movement can be found on their Facebook page, or at vergennesmovement.weebly.com.   VERGENNES MOVEMENT INSTRUCTORS Kathy Rossier, left, Jamie Smith, Rebeccah Brinton, Nancy Spencer and Mary Jackman Sullivan offer multi-generational yoga, dance and fitness classes in their downtown Vergennes studio.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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