Interview with Patti Mitchley - founding member and instigator behind The Space

Patti, you were the instigator for creating The Space. What was your motivation?

There was a gap in Raglan yoga after Ani (a well established teacher in the community) left. I'd heard that business people who were not involved with yoga were maybe looking at opening upa studio in town. I thought the time was right to get moving on the idea and that it was important to create a studio that was delivered by yoga teachers. I did a bit of a business projection and there was a group of local teachers who were open to it.

I called around a few other teachers in town and said “let’s move” on this. From that emerged the collective.  I think I called Sheridan first, I knew she had been running classes already.  Bexie came with her network and a huge commitment to community. Also Jocelyn, Dee, Shannon (and Bucko) at that time. They all contributed a lot to our start up. Each with a different point of view and stylistically everyone’s yoga is delivered uniquely. Then later Bethany came on board. She's been great and I knew she was the right fit. She's driven and got lots of energy and just the right amount of sweetness.

How does the collective work?

We share. We share costs, workload and decision making. We do things by consensus and if we don't all agree we keep talking until we find a way through.

We've all brought our own skills to the collective too and that's not just teaching. Bexie has built a website and has heaps of community spirit and networks. Bethany is super organised and comes from a finance background. Sheridan has facilitation skills and has vision. It's the mix of skills that's created the potency of the collective.

As teachers we have different training and styles of practice. When we began it was about doing what we could. At its core the schedule has to be sustainable, equitable and viable for everyone. And we all need and can manage different things. The teachers take responsibility for building their own classes and as a collective we support the overall growth of The Space. For some it was tough in the first few months. Since then it's grown organically, responding to our needs and the needs of our students.

The Space is in the centre of Raglan. How important is that?

It's really important - for visibility, for bringing yoga to the community. It's important that it's not seen as exclusive and not just a ‘spiritual thing’.  It's real, it's tangible and it can be accessible to everyone. I like how its brought some yin to the yang energy down the lane too. Before it was a lot of boys and hackey sacks.  The location of The Space makes it more accessible. Yoga’s not special - it's not just for ‘special’ people or ‘spiritual’ people or ‘housewives’ - Yoga is our natural state - it shouldn't be hidden and hard to find. Where The Space is located, speaks to that.

And this building has a long history. It has been a home and offices and Yoga was taught here years ago and it still holds all that memory.   Its a lovely space to practice and come together.  It’s great to have the background sounds of people together, enjoying each others company.

Have there been challenges running a yoga studio above a night club?

Sure there’s noise and air pollution sometimes, but this is part of what makes it what it is. We're been making the “that's not going to work” work.  That's what yoga does - it builds capacity.  It's been part of the learning, so we're not just pretending, the challenges are faced and solutions and compromises are actualised.

We've been committed to our working relationship with the Yottie and both businesses have had the capacity to find a way through. There’s more to gain from working together.  It helps that we function in different time zones.

What have you learned from your experience with The Space?

A new way to ‘do business’.

From a teacher/student point of view I’ve learnt a lot about courage. This work is building my ability to respond and be sensitive to what's needed.

I’ve also learnt that everybody's really different; and really we are just the same.

How do you see The Space developing from here?

I'm open to anything as long as the balance of sustainability, equitability and viability stays strong. Earlier we talked about making Raglan a “yoga destination” and I don't care so much about that now. What I do care about is taking care of each other and serving our community. If we are well here and making a space and a stand for well being, it will naturally become a wellness destination.  As this community models that, so it will be.

From the start, one of our core values has been to further develop and grow the yoga community here.  This is an offering from the heart…. but it's been real because it fully takes commitment and work.