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The Fly Yoga Outreach Program
Sherry Sidoti Brings Her Healing Practice to the Community in Need

By Amelia Smith

Yoga is not the exclusive domain of perfectly poised women in expensive stretchy pants. It can also be a way to help diverse people through pain and trauma and out of negative patterns. FLY Yoga Outreach Programs is a non-profit organization dedicated to making yoga available to as wide an audience as possible here on Martha’s Vineyard, to help with serious problems like chronic pain and substance abuse. It’s a new organization and a logical extension of its founders’ belief in yoga as a healing practice.

In September 2001, Sherry Sidoti was living in California. Soon after she found out that she was pregnant, the terrorist attacks of September 11th happened, leaving her feeling “a ton of anxiety.” A friend recommended that Sherry try out yoga at local ashram. She’d known about yoga already, and she’d taken a few classes, but in her emotional tumult she needed it as she never had before. It helped so much that she devoted her career to it.

Sherry moved to the Island permanently in 2002 and settled down to raise her son, who she says is her greatest teacher. Her practice grew with him. She began by teaching prenatal yoga, which led to mommy and baby yoga classes, which in turn led to teaching regular classes. Eventually, she started a teacher training program and has now expanded her work to reach out further into the community, to those who might need it most. “Yoga is so expansive,” she says. “There’s always more potential.”

The community outreach program brings yoga to people who might not otherwise have access to the practice. “You can’t teach yoga and not be all-inclusive, you can’t keep it isolated only to the privileged,” Sherry says. She works with yoga teachers she has trained and continually mentors, some who are staff at organizations around the Island that FLY partners with, including the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, MV Community Services, and at the Dukes County House of Corrections. Sherry says that the program at the house of corrections has been very successful, and that she’s offered yoga scholarships to former participants there to help them continue their practice after they return to the community.

Kristine Leone, a counselor at Community Services, helped establish the program with Sherry as yoga for pain manage-ment, and taught in its first two sessions. “I have several clients who became addicted to opiates starting with a prescription,” she says. Yoga can help people taper off medication or manage chronic pain without medication. “It’s about educating and empowering people, brining them back to the innate abilities we all have to alleviate pain.” The program gets referrals from the pain clinic at the hospital, from the counseling center, and from primary care providers.

Irene Bright-Dumm also teaches in the yoga for pain management program and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Yoga Therapy. “Sherry reached out to me when we started putting this program together,” she says. “We’ve gotten a really wide array of participants, people with everything from chronic conditions like MS and chronic Lyme to people recovering from acute injuries. People come in with different needs and expectations.” She says that yoga helps support the body, and the body supports the mind and emotions. “You take what you need from it and then work with that,” Irene says.

The yoga for pain management classes are were initially supported in part by a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, but more support is needed. Sherry formed a non-profit in late 2016 because the program is growing to a point where she couldn’t support it all on her own. Over 70% of the students at Fly Yoga school get some kind of financial aid, some of which is repaid through community service, but the outreach programs need teachers with more experience and the classes would benefit from having less turnover. “Ideally, you get someone who is already working within the organization to lead the program because they understand the needs best,” Sherry says.

Although every person and every group is unique, there are some significant common threads among all these groups. “Lots of factors go into the addiction cycle and it puts people into a certain behavioral pattern,” Sherry says. “In recovery, you’re talking about re-harmonizing a sense of self, and of one’s importance in society and the community without the need for substances. It’s also about finding new ways of getting the ‘high’ naturally and experiencing the joy in life in a new way.”

Sherry and the other teachers in FLY Yoga’s programs try to teach a similar practice for a whole series of classes so that people can continue to practice yoga on their own and aren’t totally dependent on the classes. The program takes an inclusive mind-body approach, using yoga to help people move out of the fight-or-flight response to life and into a state where they’re able to rest, heal, and re-balance, and to find better union with themselves, others, and the community. Sherry stresses that yoga isn’t just about the poses and physical positions. “We are teaching and learning how to be healthier humans in body, heart and mind.” she says. vs

FLY Outreach Programs could use your support! To make a donation or learn more, contact Sherry Sidoti: 774-238-0176 or
Next Certified Yoga Teacher Training starts October 6th, 2017