The following first appeared in The Floyd Press on August 22, 2013
The tents are bigger and new showers have been built. With over 30 teachers scheduled, 35 hours of inspirational workshops planned and 18 bands ready to get you moving, excitement is mounting for the second annual Floyd YogaJam, set to take place over Labor Day weekend at Burnette Farm Retreat in the Willis part of the county.
“The focus is healthy living, healthy movement and healthy community,” said festival co-founder Laura Polant. She noted that the wellness focus will come in all shapes and forms “from the health benefits you get from yoga practice to the joy of dance, to the freedom of expression in our Art Village, to our KidsVille and good food.”
Polant and fellow founder Shirleyann Burgess were busy at work on festival logistics in Burgess’s new home, which serves as festival headquarters and will soon be home to Living Light Yoga Studio and Sanctuary, owned by Burgess and currently located on Penn Road. The new 19 acre property along the Little River (formerly owned by Silvie Granatelli) is a 7 minute drive from town and features a studio and grassy creek frontage.
Polant and Burgess – both yoga teachers – describe their locally grown, carbon conscious festival as “unique,” in part, because of its rural mountain location along Greasy Creek, and also because of the range of activities geared to provide something for everyone. “This is a yoga, music and food festival,” joked Burgess when talking about the quality of festival menu options, ranging from organic vegan to local BBQ. Later, Polant decided maybe it was a yoga, music and art festival because of the festival’s Art Village component, where festival-goers can engage in community art with giant chalkboards, bubbles and the creation of prayer flags.
“Prayer flags are this year’s theme,” said Polant, recalling how she and Burgess were inspired by last year’s colorful festival-goers stretched out in poses in the yoga tent, looking like prayer flags. Blessings and prayers will be written on the flags, strung from trees and collectively released to the heavens at the festival’s closing circle Sunday at 9:00 p.m., she said.
Polant explained that the festival grounds, about 3 acres surrounded by another 300 acres, are separated by a footbridge into two meadows. One meadow is called BlissLand and the other is JamLand.
BlissLand is where yoga, chanting and meditation classes take place. It’s home of non-profit information booths, the Tea Shanti, a Healing Oasis for massage acupuncture and other healing arts, and KidsVille, which features a Mandala Sand Box and a daily schedule of kid’s activities. In an effort to support Floyd businesses and non-profits, a fresh salad bar at the Tea Shanti will be run by SustainFloyd as a fundraiser for their grassroots organization, which promotes locally sourced food as a component of sustainable economy. Red Rooster’s fresh roasted coffee and herbal teas made by RiverStone Farm will also be sold in the Tea Shanti.
JamLand is home to Center Stage, the Groove Shack, the Boogie Down Dance Hall, a Beer and Wine Garden, a Slackline Park (yoga on tightrope), the Om Café, food and art and craft vending, and the Merchandise Tent, where festival goers can meet-and-greet teachers, purchase books, CDs and more.
There is also a campfire circle onsite, along with hiking and biking trails. Primitive camping in the Enchanted Forest and onsite parking is free. Fresh Floyd water will be provided. “If you want to camp onsite with your car, it cost $25,” said Polant, who is coordinating about 30 local work-trade volunteers and 20 out-of-towners.
The YogaJam schedule draws on local talent, but organizers have also infused the roster with talented teachers from the west and east coast and headline musicians from as far away as California. Dozens of yoga traditions will be represented, including Yoga Dance, Laughter Yoga, Yin Yoga, Tantra Vinyasa, Couples Yoga and more. Floyd Countian Jagadisha will be presenting Nada Yoga (the yoga of sound), and Jeff Tiebout, founder of Blacksburg’s Blue Ridge School of Massage in Blacksburg, will be teaching Ashtanga Yoga. Burgess’s daughter Suzanne will teach a class in Kripalu Yoga class and Mike Turman’s daughter and son-in-law are set to teach Family Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Turman is the owner of Burnette Farm.
This year’s music line-up ranges from hip hop to devotional music and everything in between. “Dance music,” is how Polant describes it. Local acts include Scott Perry, Bernie Coveney, Deer Run Drifters, Train Wreck and the Unapologetics. William Walter will be coming from Charlottsville and Brian Elijah and the Wild Hearts from Dayton, Virginia. Out of town headliners include Main Squeeze, a funk band from Chicago, DJ Drez from Los Angeles, and Donna De Lory, who sang back-up for Carly Simon, Santana, Madonna and a host of others. Burgess and Polant are particularly excited to have hip hop, reggae, electronica, graffiti artist, MC Yogi, on the schedule (Saturday at 9:00 p.m).
Early morning meditation will be led by Harvest Moon Food Store owner and longtime Vipassana practitioner Margie Redditt. Joe Klein, founder of Inward Bound Mindfulness Meditation, will teach Mindfulness and Passage Meditation. Katherine (Moonflower) Chantal, herbalist and Harvest Moon co-manager, will be presenting a tea ceremony and poetry reading. North Carolina naturalist/folklorist Doug Elliot will lead a wild plant walk and share songs and stories with Floyd’s Tina Liza Jones. Evo-latic, local performance art dancers, will perform at the festival’s Welcome Circle Friday at 4:00. Aerial Yoga on silks, fire hooping shows and larger-than-life puppets from Ambrosia Farm will all be making appearances.
Although billed as a three day festival (Friday to Sunday), organizers encourage campers to start arriving Thursday afternoon (3:00) and to leave on Monday (by noon). The schedule was planned with Labor Day Monday in mind, a day to allow vacationing families to leave the festival leisurely and have time to explore Floyd, use program coupons for discounts at local businesses, and maybe take a kayak or float ride down Little River with On the Water, Daniel Sowers’s local business that will be shuttling interested attendees to and from the river throughout the festival.
Polant and Burgess are dedicated to making the festival accessible to everyone. Children under 16 are free and tickets are available for 3 day, 2 day or 1 day passes. Early ticket sales began at $100 for the long weekend. Currently, online tickets can be purchased at floydyogajam.net for $150 or $55 a day with a 10% coupon discount (code: YOGAJAM10 at checkout). Locals can purchase reduced tickets for $125 at Mickey G’s, Bells Gallery, the Black Water Loft, Living Light and the Country Store (a percentage of which will go to participating businesses). Tickets can be purchased at the gate for $150 for the weekend and $55 per day.
Last year’s festival drew 1,250 attendees. This year, organizers are preparing for 1,500 to 2,000. “We want to inspire people and motivate them to take back what they get at the YogaJam to their own communities,” Burgess said. “It’s also about finding the passions of the folks who live here, giving them an outlet to shine, whether its food, music, art or dance,” Polant added. Colleen Redman
Photos: 1. Laura Polant (left) and Shirleyann Burgess, standing on Burgess’s new property along Beaver Creek, hold up YogaJam art made by Lore Dieghan. The original (twice the size of this print) and prints to order will be on display at the YogaJam Merch Tent. 2. A yoga class in BlissLand at last year’s festival.
Update: Post festival Floyd Press story is HERE.