~ The following appeared in the September 6, 2012 issue of The Floyd Press with an expanded selection of photos.
Billed as “3 days of awesome,” the 1st annual Floyd Yoga Jam launched its inaugural festival over the Labor Day weekend, celebrating yoga, live music, dance and community along the banks of Greasy Creek, off Indian Valley Road in Willis.
The festival is the first of its kind in the region, featuring yoga teachers from near and far representing more than a dozen yogic styles. Yoga, which means ‘union,’ or to ‘yoke’ and ‘join together,’ is a practice commonly involving postures and deep breathing, but it is also “a term that suggests harmony and balance, or equanimity,” the Yoga Jam program reads.
Geared towards wellness and play, Yoga Jam is about more than yoga, say festival founders Shirley Ann Burgess and Laura Polant. “The intention of this festival is for people to come for three days and leave feeling fully refreshed and ready to take on their lives, maybe with some new patterns,” said Polant.
Situated on 35 acres and surrounded by another several hundred acres owned by Mike Turman, the festival line-up included inspirational speakers, weed walks, holistic health workshops, performance and interactive arts, children’s activities, curated vending booths, a food court, a beer and wine tent, and 17 bands playing everything from rock to devotional music throughout the three day event.
Dana Trixie Flynn, a renowned yoga teacher who has been referred to as the Janis Joplin of yoga, began her overflowing yoga class with a playlist and dance party. “I finally came up with an anachronism for Floyd,” she later told the group. “Fall in Love with Your Destiny.”
Co-founder of Richmond’s Project Yoga, Jonathan Miles ended his class by spontaneously guiding students to the creek for a cool-down and a spiritual folk song, Wade in the Water. “Go hug someone you don’t know,” he shouted as the class dispersed.
Susun Weed, author and director of the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, New York, led a weed walk for identifying medicinal plants and gave workshops titled Herbs for High Energy and Fabulous Fun with Plant Families. Weed, who first taught in Floyd in the early 90’s at the Indian Valley Retreat Center, says that “herbal medicine is people’s medicine.”
Other speakers and workshop leaders included folklorist Doug Elliot, Joe Klein of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, who spoke on mindful consumption led a morning mindful meditation that engaged people in play, movement and making a deeper connection to their inner life, and many more. Dr. Amrita from Yogaville, speaking on the Science of Yoga, reported that, “99% of the wheat today is hybrid wheat and contains 4 times the gluten, which is why so many are allergic to it.”
Bands that highlighted the uplifting spirit of the festival included local bands, such as the Alliens and The Kind, along with acclaimed up-and-coming musicians on the American music scene, like Trevor Hall, who sometimes infuses reggae-inspired songs with devotional chants. Virginia bands Brian Elijah Smith and Wildhearts and William Walter, who have both played on the main stage at Floydfest, also performed.
Hosting a socially and environmentally responsible event is important to the Yoga Jam founders. The festival is a carbon neutral event that donates $3 of the cost of each ticket to the Appalachian Carbon Partnership to help offset the festival’s carbon footprint, Polant reported.
Already planning for next year, the founders are grateful for the turn-out and for the community effort it took to “bootstrap” the first year event. “I want to give a shout out to the whole community. This dream could not have happened without all of them, without Mike Turman seeing the vision and believing in us, without Brandon Turman making it physically happen,” said Polant, referring to the infrastructure that the Turman’s provided.
With a mix of high energy and calm, under mostly sunny skies, festival goers (many carrying yoga mats and wearing yoga spandex) smiled as they played and danced and stretched their horizons. They came from all over Virginia and from Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and other states.
“I feel so grateful to be able to care for myself and share that with others,” said Floyd potter Sarah McCarthy after attending a yoga class.
“Awesome,” summed it for Burgess, as she posed for a picture with Trevor Hall following his inspiring Saturday night performance.
- Colleen Redman