A History of Hot Yoga on MV: Andy's Story
I took my first yoga class at the Mansion House back when it was the Tisbury Inn. The instructor, Fae Kontje, sparked my interest about this whole yoga thing, but my fall on MV was coming to an end. Another island winter was closing in, and an employment opportunity had presented itself. A new resturant in Key West, Florida was opening for the millenium celebration. It was 1999, and the choice was a long, cold winter on the Vineyard or ring in the millenium on a tropical island. Needless to stay it wasnt long before I was standing in a coffee shop in downtown Key West looking at a bulletin board when I a saw a flyer for Ashtanga Yoga. I had taken only three yoga classes, but something interested me. The next day I grabbed my paper map of Key West (my flip phone didn’t have GPS), hopped on my baby blue schwinn, and searched the island till I found a large sign advertising YOGA. I grabbed a schedule and returned the next day with the recommeded large towel and water bottle. The room had three portable radiant space heaters, and in the location you would expent to see a clock was a thermometer with a single hand pointing to 105 degrees. The room was only large enough for two rows of yoga mats except there wasn’t any rubber mats. At the time yoga mats were rare, and only two companies were making them. Instead a super thin non-absorbant cloth towel was used. By the end of class, my extra large beach towel was soaked and I was hooked as I unknowingly took my first Bikram (not Ashtanga) yoga class.
True to my island blood, I returned home to the Vineyard that summer. I was happy to be home, but I longed for the hot room. By the time I left Florida I was practicing two 90-minutes yoga classes a day, every other day, and a single class in the days between. The instructers at the Key West studio had all individually took the time to encourage me to become an instructor, but my reply to them all was a half smile, a thank you, but not for me. As that summer approached its end, I was sitting on the beach under the drawbridge, and in a single moment of contemplation, I knew I was going to the fall teacher training. It was a greuling 500-hour two month intensive that would change my life forever. Two classes a day, five days a week, one on Saturday, and Sundays off to nurse my continually sore hamstrings. True to form, I returned home to MV with very little left in the bank and my body rung out from eighty-eight classes like a wet towel (no pun intended). I wanted to break the seal and teach my first class as soon as possible. The closest studio was in the south end of Boston. I contacted them and they were happy to have me.
Through that winter of 2000-2001, I traveled to Boston periodically to teach whenever they needed me. The summer was drawing close, and I had a strong pull to bring this method to the Vineyard. I hunted all over the island searching for places to teach, but the moment I mentioned 105 degrees everyone quickly turned me down. This all ended when I entered Triangle Fitness in Edgartwown and met Katie Fuller (now Blitz Fitness). She didnt bat an eye, not even when I ask to install a wall mounted heater. Classes filled up fast and I taught there for the next three summer seasons. During the off season, I worked on my Associates degree at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in Boulder, Colorado. Fate drew me away from Ashtanga Yoga in Key West, but I had not lost the curiousity. I began practicing at Richard Freeman’s Yoga Workshop. At that time he was a legend, so I woke early everyday to attend 6:00 AM Mysore Yoga. After a two hour practice, I was off to school and later that evening I would teach or practice Bikram Yoga. This was my life for three winters.
As the Summer of 2003 was closing in, I could feel it was my last season at Triangle fitness. I was kayaking at my favorite place, Sepiessa pond, and just like under the drawbridge, I knew that it was my last summer at Triangle Fitness. I knew I wanted to open my own space, and it was time to put my BA in Business Management from Springfield College to good use. I sold my Oak Bluffs home and started construction on a new studio with an apartment on top. During the construction phase, I rented a temporary space for the summer. There I taught Ashanga and Bikram Yoga until February 2005 when I opened Martha’s Vineyard’s first full-fledged Yoga studio, Vineyard Yoga.
Teaching was great, but I was looking for more from my Bodywork. As I longed for the Boulder winters, I began a two-year Craniosacral Therapy program at the Colorado School of Energy Studies. It was a modular format so every 4-6 weeks I would fly out for a 5 day intesive. I kept the studio open year round while my Massage Practice shifted toward Craniosacral Therapy. Two years and 700-hours later, I was a registered Craniosacral Therapist. One would think this was enough, but I still felt something was missing. I studied the lineage of Craniosacral Therapy and traced it back to Osteopathic Manual Therapy. I became very curious about Osteopathy, a manual therapy which was created in the late 1800’s.
I learned that Osteopathy was an accepted medical practice and Osteopaths were accredited the same privelages as medical doctors and later called themselves Osteopathic phyisicians. I was not interested in becoming a US trained physician. It was the manual (hands-on) piece of Osteopathy that interested me. Everywhere else in the world Osteopathy continued as a hands-on manual style therapy, just in the same way the Chiropractic community did, so I searched outside the US.
It didn’t take me long to find the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy (CAO) in Hamilton,Ontario. The CAO prided themselves as a school of “Classical Osteopathy.” They taught original Osteopathic and Craniosacral Theory blended with modern advancements in all types of Bodywork. I spent the next five years traveling to Canada in the same modular format as I did in Colorado. In 2012, I recieved my Masters in Osteopathic Manipulative Science and I became a full time Craniosacral Therapist.
My Osteopathic education led me to slowly phase out Ashtanga and all forms of Vinyasa from my teaching and practice. Bikram Hatha Yoga and the Bishnu Ghosh Hatha lineage made the most sense to me, my body, and practice. I began to see that Bikram /Hot Hatha students who also recieved Craniosacral Treatment healed much faster than the average of Vinyasa Yoga practioner. For this reason, I chose to teach some form of the Bikram Method for the next six years.
The Vineyard Yoga Studio was a large, beautiful space but with a second child on the way, it was time to seperate my home from business. In 2013-2014, I sold the space, bought a home in West Tisbury and opened a substanially smaller studio in Vineyard Haven. This space was much more managable and accessible to the island. It thrived and was successful for the next three years. My new home in WT had a garage that I converted into an office for my Craniosacal therapy practice.
It is now 2018, I’m married, with three kids, and life needs another change. My wife and stepson live part-time in Providence, RI. They commute to MV and I commute to RI. I am a Craniosacral Therapist and my wife is a Psychotherapist. I created business model Beyondmv as reflection of my life—& career— in two places. My life is full, and we need some space for all of this movement. Running a studio has been running me down. Beyond Hot Yoga in Woodland Center is now closed. The space will continue on a non-heated yoga studio and healing center.
I’ve taught yoga for 18 years and I can’t imagine that I will stop, but for now, I am taking a long slow exhale and at the botton of it, I will pause and see what comes next. Private yoga classes seem to be interim inspiration. I will use my education to teach Classical Therapuetic Yoga in the Hot Yoga Lineage (Bishnu Gosh). This method of Yoga was originally taught one-on-one and postures were prescribed to meet the person’s individual needs and symptomology. I’m excited to explore yoga from this classical lense and to see what life brings next.
I’m eternally gratefull for all the support, all the students, all the memories, all the blood, sweat and tears that have been shared. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.
Oh yah ….. Namaste!