Local yogis lead workshops for all skill levels at this weekend's Austin Yoga Festival
While Longhorn and OU fans chug beers and inhale corn dogs this weekend at the Red River Rivalry in Dallas, Austin yogis will be getting their yoga groove on for the first annual Austin Yoga Festival.
The brainchild of Austin yoga teacher, Russell Burns (who serves as director of the festival), the event has been in the works since March, when Burns started thinking about attending one of the many yoga festts around the country for a vacation. “I woke up the next morning and wondered why Austin didn’t have a festival, with all the yoga going on here,” he says.
Burns initially laid plans for the Austin event to be a small Saturday morning gathering in the park. But, once word got out among the Austin yoga community, so many teachers and studios wanted to be involved that Burns was forced to rent out Fiesta Gardens, an event space just east of I-35 and Cesar Chavez.
Yoga teachers from as far as San Francisco and New York City—over 130 total—approached Burns to participate, but it was important to him to keep the event as local as possible. “Austin has more yoga teachers per capita than anywhere in the U.S.,” Burns says. So he picked the best yoga teachers and studios in Austin for a stellar lineup. More than 30 yoga teachers will lead classes on four stages.
As a gathering of all elements of Austin’s yoga community—studios, teachers, ayurvedic practitioners and holistic wellness providers—there will be a sampling for anyone interested in any of the many aspects of yoga. Classes will explore all eight limbs of yoga and represent a wide variety of yoga lineages from ashtanga to kundalini.
Austin yoga teacher Zoe Mantarakis will be teaching “Tantra & Mantra,” a class that will focus on chanting and using voice as a part of practicing yoga. “Yoga doesn’t just have to happen on the mat,” says Mantarakis, who has lived and taught yoga in Austin since 2001. She is known for her challenging vinyasa classes and mixing music and yoga (Mantarakis will be leading a vinyasa flow class under the stars with music by DJ Manny at Boom Boom Pow on October 14).
Other classes include “Half Pint Harmony,” a session for children led by Amy Pancake; “Hridya Namaskar,” which translates to “To bow to the essence of the heart,” will be a fluid flow class taught by Sanieh Patricia; and “Introduction to Ashtanga,” led by Jenny Wicke, that will guide students through the lineage’s Primary Series.
In addition to the healthy activities, there will be plenty of treats on hand, thanks to Mel’s Meals; there will be veggie, vegan and gluten-free options in addition to carnivorous fare.
There will also be several free health evaluations, including free nerve scans from Austin Hillside Family Chiropractic and wellness screenings from Natural Health Center of Austin.
If Burns was allowed one wish for the weekend, it would be to dissolve the misconception that yoga isn’t for everyone. “I hope that someone who didn’t think they could do yoga comes out and finds that everyone can do yoga,” he says.
The Austin Yoga Festival will be held October 8-9 at Fiesta Gardens. Tickets range from $25 - $40 and are available online (a percentage of the ticket sales will go to the Austin Food Bank, Community Yoga, Amala Foundation and Yoga Care Foundation).