Six students sat on mats at the Coastside Yoga Collective studio on Main Street on a Friday afternoon. It was a special class commemorating two special events: summer solstice and International Yoga Day.
“Happy Friday, everybody. Thanks for coming,” said instructor Margaret Haight as gentle music permeated the studio. “We are going to start in extended child’s pose. Take a big, cleansing breath, then let it go.”
CYC is celebrating its first summer on the coast. The studio opened its doors in January, when four Coastside yoga teachers — Natalie D’onofrio, Ali Bye, Deb Heminger and Margaret Haight — came together to create the collective practice.
D’onofrio said she’d been on the lookout for the right place to start her own yoga studio ever since she moved to the coast eight years ago. When a space became available at the little strip mall next to Hassett Hardware, she knew it was perfect.
The group completely transformed the space, which had previously housed a pet grooming salon and electronics store. They replaced the old shag carpet with rustic grey laminate flooring and the glaring fluorescent tubes with recessed lighting and a ceiling fan.
The new studio feels fresh and intimate, with a wall of mirrors, spare white walls and a single wall adornment of a unity circle made from string art.
D’onofrio brings more than 20 years of yoga experience to the studio. The former triathlete says that she was originally drawn to yoga by its physicality.
“At first I thought yoga was kind of a joke, but once I tried it, I realized how hard it was and how my body felt afterwards,” she said.
Her initial inspiration was ashtanga yoga, a structured and physically challenging practice, and she remembers diligently practicing power yoga twice a day. Over time, her interest grew to the more meditative and spiritual aspects of the practice.
Her journey led her to live for a time in Rishikesh, India. The small town in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India is known by some as the “Yoga Capital of the World.”
“It is completely different from here,” said D’onofrio. “That’s where I really got introduced to meditation and all these different avenues to explore in yoga.”
CYC offers classes in many different styles of yoga, including prana vinyasa, yin yasa, yoga buti and even a yoga shred class set to upbeat music that incorporates free weights. The studio also provides unheated, warm and hot classes, depending on student preference.
Besides yoga classes, the CYC also offers teacher training events and will hold its next 200-hour teacher training in the fall. Those seeking adventure can join the studio in October 2020 on its first yoga retreat to Rishikesh.
D’onofrio says the most valuable thing the studio has to offer is the quality of the instructors, many of whom are her former students.
“We have some of the best instructors on the coast,” she said. “Now I do a lot more work behind the scenes, creating this place where all these beautiful people get to express themselves.”