Sedona Yoga Festival
By Nikita Mehta
Every year, we here at SF Yoga Mag make resolutions at the end of the year; resolutions to practice more yoga, to get outdoors more (maybe to more festivals?!) and to show up in the world as purveyors of light and love. This year, after ringing in 2018, SF Yoga Mag will be headed to the Sedona Yoga Festival to bask in the red rocks, absorb the energy of the earth and, practice some yoga! This festival is unlike any other and in order to get you excited about this amazing festival, we sat down with festival director Heather Shereé Titus.
Sedona is known for its amazing energy. Why is this the perfect place for a yoga festival,especially at the beginning of the year?
So true! Sedona is a powerful destination especially known for its purifying and healing effects, for its Vortex energy. In yoga we might talk about it this way: There are 108 marma points on the body according to Ayurveda, and there are also 108 tirtha points on the earth. Sedona is one of them, and a major one at that. Each tirtha point has its own nature. People who visit this sacred land report that they have the opportunity to bring light to the shadows and to look deeper at aspects of their behavior, and experience powerful healing from these releases. Each individual’s experience is going to be different.
This is also a place where the opportunity to powerfully connect with nature. The innate intelligence of life itself emanates from the rocks and the trees; the connection is natural and just easier here. When someone can find the connection with life, they can then can release things and let them go and heal them and energize and revitalize. Tap in. Tune in. It is an incredibly beautiful place to explore, the scientific studies of human nature will show that the orange and green and blue skies that make up the Sedona landscape are the most pleasing colors for the human eye. And the sunshine! Sedona is a really inspiring place to be, especially when it is snowy winter almost everywhere else in the country!
This yoga festival has been running for the past 5 years; what have been your favorite aspects of creating this experience for participants?
The joy that unfolds! Seeing and hearing about the powerful transformative experiences that the participants have when they come to SYF, seeing them dig deep and do the work and then bringing that joy and inspiration home with them... there is a lot of reward in that.
Another thing we recognized is the power of collective intention and how it is amplified by the Sedona energetic landscape - it became apparent to us in the first couple of years how powerful the container of Sedona is for a shared intention such as this - with such a large number of people practicing yoga, meditation and inner work together in Sedona, it has a strong ripple effect! People would report to us that they would take the energy home with them and it would impact their families and their communities and their yoga teaching. Many write to describe major life transformations. This served in making the decision to emphasize the healing aspects of yoga for trauma and PTSD within the conference, choosing to move forward on a different track than other yoga festivals by integrating the healing aspect into everything we do at SYF is a big part of my “why”, the intention I can tap into to do this work.
Look, even if one goes to yoga for stress relief, or a nice butt... it is a science of self-realization! So, as one continues to practice, the practice will do its work on you. People start to recognize the benefits and they start to ask the deeper questions, ‘what’s really going on here?’ ‘How can I go take this to the next level?’ And so everything that we implement in this festival, whether it is laughter yoga or a fun filled DJ inspired vinyasa class, which we have plenty of, is still and always in partnership with really authentic and dedicated yogis. Bringing the trauma informed aspect became a really big part of this process and in offering the integrated 20-hour training for yoga teachers within the festival we can amplify that ripple effect with teachers impacting the people who are suffering in their communities.
How did you decide to infuse trauma informed teaching into this festival?
In the first year of SYF, in 2013, we recognized that there were a lot of yoga teachers who came to our conference because of the variety of workshops. The program is truly open to all levels and somehow simultaneously it appeals to professionals. This choice was really about having a conversation with the yoga community; so when we saw how many yoga teachers were attending the first year, we thought, what tools can we offer them that they can use in their communities? And as we were doing research we realized that there is a lot of trauma informed work that is being done out there in the world by many different communities. It’s so powerful and effective, and we decided that was what we wanted to focus on.
My partner Marc actually comes from a background of wildland fire and it wasn’t until after the first couple of years and the perceived stress and very real pressure of running a festival that he began to suffer the effects of PTSD. He began to experience the effect of that complex PTSD after we had already integrated it into our program, so perhaps the seed was planted there, yet to be revealed to us? Marc has had the opportunity to truly test all the different modalities for effectiveness. Yoga Nidra has been so powerful in his healing journey and we are very fortunate to have Kamini Desai on the faculty of the training this year, sharing about this and other powerful tools.
Because of this direction we have seen a real shift in the proposed offerings this year from teachers worldwide. A great number of class titles have words like “stress”, “anxiety”, “chaos”... Trauma informed teaching has become so important, especially with current events! People really need it! I am seeing more and more students showing up unconsciously holding their breath, mostly at the top of inhale. People are stressed out! We are balancing these powerful classes that address that real stress on the nervous system in our culture with two vital complementary aspects this year: Conversation and Celebration. We as a yoga community need to have discussions about so many things, especially, how to show up in the world. The “State of the Union” talk series will cover everything from “Music in Classes” to “Effortless Activism: Yogic Changemakers”. The talk I am looking forward to the most is the Grandmothers… Tao Porchon Lynch and Rama Jyoti Vernon have elected to have a conversation, together with us, at SYF. This is not to be missed. These are two powerful and long standing voices in the yoga community and lifetime practitioners who have worked to bring peace and change throughout their lives. It’s going to be amazing! And the celebration piece has to do with embodiment. Joy. Connection. Hemalayaa, Molly Birkholm, Saul David Raye, Dana Damara, they are really bringing the embodiment, celebration, and bhakti piece we need to tap in to.
What can we do to prepare for this amazing experience?
Sedona Yoga Festival takes place all around town and so it’s an opportunity to really integrate into and explore Sedona and to create your own adventure. Because we have so many intimate venues, we are able to have over 200 workshops that means that each person will have a unique experience. And yet we come together a couple of times a day to integrate and share those experiences. To prepare: setting the intention to come with an open heart and mind and being willing to be present throughout the weekend, is enough. Pack layers, it’s the desert so it’s sunny in the day and cool in the night. We provide the opportunity for attendees to create their own event schedule and many seeds are planted just by reading the workshop descriptions so that people can start to explore and practice. Don’t be nervous, this is a judgment free zone so get out of your comfort zone, there is something for everyone. This is a great opportunity to try things that you might not find in your local yoga studio and an opportunity to create a tool box of practices to create within yourself to bring into your daily practice. It’s an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and make connections and friendships. We are asking people this year to shift their perspective in the sense that, how you show up in the world as a yogi in effortless action, how do you find and tap into your inner wisdom and be guided by your discernment and show up in the world. So we will be having a lot of conversations this year, panel discussions and talks and the opportunity for attendees to interact with presenters on some of the topics that come up as the world evolves and the culture evolves as our yoga evolves. One of the ways that the program is designed this year in creating an opportunity to practice effortless action is that we will have shuttles around town and we do have a central location, workshops are also all around Sedona at studios and spiritual centers. And we are asking people who do bring cars to ride share, and we will give them something to put on their car so that there is an engagement by necessity. So we will be creating an opportunity for people to show up for each other and engage with one another and be able to integrate their practice with others. There is also free kids yoga all weekend that has been scheduled in such a way that parents can enjoy classes as their kids gain some exposure to yoga and yoga based activities throughout the weekend. If you want a taste of what SYF has to offer, we recorded the entire conference in one venue last year and have it all on Aumbase.live. Its a treasure trove of inspiration. Best way to prepare is to sign up now and and plan to show up!
To learn more about Sedona Yoga Festival visit: sedonayogafestival.com.
Returning teachers highlight
Robert Sturman will be returning and every year he up levels the experience.He will be helping us set that intention to shift your experience and the conversations that come with that.
Saul David Raye bringing the bhakti!
New Teacher highlight
Himalayaa will bring vibrancy and celebration of life.
Kamini Desai will be with us and we are excited because we have found Yoga Nidra to be a powerful healing and the techniques that she shares can be highly effective and she is one of the lead instructors for yoga for PTSD.