TELLURIDE – In Sanskrit, the word yoga means "union." Oftentimes, the implication is that yoga is a unifying force between the mind, body and spirit. Yet that description leaves out a crucial yogic concept – the practice of yoga unifies person to planet.
The marriage of yoga and the outdoor, natural world is one of the fundamental tenets underlying this popular practice; it is also one of the reasons Telluride is such a spectacular place to practice yoga, and the impetus behind bringing the first annual Telluride Yoga Festival to town, July 11-13.
The three-day, yoga intensive event will bring some of the country’s most renowned yogis to Telluride, including Senior Ashtanga instructors Richard Freeman (of Boulder’s Yoga Workshop), Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane, Senior Iyengar instructor and Colorado School of Yoga founder Nancy Crum Stechert, Advanced Certified Jivamukti instructor Alanna Kaivalya, and many more.
The Telluride Yoga Festival is the brainchild of Telluride Yoga Studio instructor Aubrey Hackman, who says she found herself continually having to leave Telluride to find comprehensive yoga programs that went beyond the typical hour-long class. In her yoga-inspired travels, which took her from instructor trainings in New York to yoga retreats in Hawaii, Hackman formed relationships with many of the nation’s foremost teachers.
“Whenever I left Telluride, though, I always felt like I would rather be here doing yoga than anywhere else,” she says.
Thus sparked Hackman’s desire to create a yoga-intensive event in Telluride.
She partnered with her yoga student and 20-year Telluride local Elaine Demas – a professional event planner – last year. Next weekend’s festival is the culmination of their efforts to bring world-class yoga to the Telluride Valley.
The weekend’s schedule of events boasts three yoga workshops daily, led by prominent instructors of the popular yoga methods Vinyasa, Iyengar and Ashtanga, as well as classes taught by instructors schooled in the less known practices of Tibetan Heart, Forrest and Jivamukti yoga.
Celebrated Ayurveda Specialist Dr. Robert Svoboda, the first Westerner ever to graduate from a college of Ayurveda, in 1980, will deliver the festival’s keynote address on Friday night.
On Saturday, visiting yogis Freeman, Doane and Svoboda will be at Between the Covers bookstore for a book/DVD/poster signing, from 1:30-2 p.m.
In addition to the three daily yoga workshops, festival attendees as well as the public will be treated to interactive yoga presentations in Elks Park on Friday and Saturday from 1-3:30 p.m. AcroYoga founders Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Klein will present their acrobatics-inspired yoga, and Jason Magness and his group the Yoga Slackers will rouse the crowd with their balance-intensive Yoga on the slackline.
Telluride is the perfect locale to host a yoga festival, Demas says, because the marriage of the internal self to the outer, natural world – one of the basic ambitions of yoga – comes naturally when students are surrounded by pristine environments. Preserving Telluride’s environment is also one of the foremost goals of the Telluride Yoga Festival; 25 percent of the net proceeds will be donated to local nonprofit environmental preservation group Sheep Mountain Alliance. The festival has also committed to a “Zero Waste” policy, encouraging students to forego plastic when they shop in town by using the reusable bag they receive at registration instead, and bringing their own reusable water containers to every class, where they can refill them with Culligan purified water.
The Telluride Yoga Festival has also partnered with The New Community Coalition to help attendees offset the environmental impacts of their travel and participation in the festival. A voluntary $25 donation to TNCC’s Green Fund will go toward local renewable energy and energy efficiency projects such as solar modules on area schools.
Hackman and Demas expect between 250-300 people from around the country to attend the first annual Yoga Festival. There are still passes available, and Hackman encourages yogis of every level to attend.
Children are also invited to join in on the fun, with a special kids program, “Be Your Own Hero,” to run in conjunction with the festival. This one-of-a-kind program is being offered by three experienced professionals; two hold masters degrees in creative arts therapies and work at The Children's Hospital, and one is a published author and the creator of Storytime Yoga. The children’s program will be held each day in the Ah Haa school and is $30 per day.
Full weekend passes for the festival are $380 and include all workshops and lectures – a good value for this type of event, as compared to others in less-eye popping venues like New York or San Francisco, Hackman says. A three-class punch card is also available for $180.
Telluride resident Kristin Taylor is the artistic talent behind both the Telluride Yoga Festival logo as well as the event’s website, www.tellurideyogafestival.com. For more information or to register for the Telluride Yoga Festival, visit the website or call the office at 728-2477.