The first time I took a yoga class with Primo Lombardi it was in the Parish Hall at the Chilmark Community Church — a short walk from his former headquarters at the Chilmark Store.

Unlike many people on the Island, I did not know Primo as the Pizza Man. I met him at the dawn of his days as a yoga teacher. He was excited, enthralled, ecstatic about yoga. And it came through in this class. Decades of feeding people informed his generous teaching style. He fussed over people’s blankets, finger placement and toes. As with a great dish, he knew every ingredient in a pose matters.

As I got to know him a bit more, I appreciated the voraciousness in his pursuit of the teachings and his passion for the practice itself. He followed John Friend, Douglas Brooks and many other masters around the world looking for the shoulder loop, sequences and the sacred. It was wonderful to be around this jubilant fervor.

And then, in a short time, he went full Bodhisattva, upending his bucolic Chilmark life on the pond to move to Oak Bluffs and open a studio on Circuit avenue. His wife Mary, perhaps even more of a fearless warrior, joined him.

So many followed him.

He had, as Mary calls them, “his guys” but he also had his ladies. There are too many to name, but I believe his essential message was what appealed to us all: “I found this thing called yoga. I love it. You will love it too. Come on. I’m getting old. You’re getting old. Just try it. You’ll feel great.”

He was able to coax laughter and ease out of this crop of aging bodies — mine included. He did this with fierce attention and some helpful slogan slinging.

“I call trikonasana tricky-asana” or “Lift the kneecaps, this isn’t beach-asana.”

I remember all this while currently on a yoga retreat in western Massachusetts. As most yogis and yoginis know, retreats are often times where we face the obstacles that impede our practice and breath. Primo was a great fan of the idea and teachings of Ganesha (or Ganesh or Ganapati), the great Hindu god and remover of obstacles. I suspect Primo embraced Ganesha and the intensity of retreats so much because it appealed to his particular aptitude for being able to face down his struggles and thrive.

Unlike Primo, retreats are challenging for me. But on Monday I felt light, free and happy to be on my mat. This surprised me and I wondered throughout the day why this was so. Then, as I was walking out of class at the end of the day, I got the news that Primo had died. Cancer had finally taken his body. My first thought was, “Well that explains it.” Here was Primo, after so much pain and suffering, taking the time to stop by and remind me of my yoga joy as he moved on. I shared this with a friend and fellow student of Primo’s and she told me that a few days ago, she too felt him.

“He’s making his rounds,” she said.

Among his many beloved phrases, Primo’s best was, “Open your heart,” said with a hard, Boston “Haaaart.” But, unlike “beach asana” it never felt like a slogan. When he said, “Open your heart” it came from deep within his barrel chest and opened our hearts.

Primo knew love. He preached it. He practiced it. He was surrounded by it: Mary, Primo Jr., Nina, Ari, his grandchildren, friends, teachers, students, his practice, Martha’s Vineyard, the world.

Primo has left his body, but his soul — a big healing, beating heart — is with all who loved him and were loved by him. And I will honor him as I practice, on and off the mat, and try to always remember that “the advanced version of the pose is with a smile.”

Mollie Doyle lives in Chilmark.