Yoga Festival Headliners Present 'Safe, Practical, And Effective' Yoga
It is that time of year again where the yogi community gives a welcoming "Namaste" to the sixth annual Newtown Yoga Festival. The event is scheduled to take place Saturday, August 25, at the NYA Sports and Fitness Center, 4 Primrose Street, with registration opening at 8:30 am.
According to the Newtown Yoga Festival website, the entirely volunteer-based organization was created "with the intention of being a healing presence for Newtown and the surrounding communities affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012" and has donated nearly $14,000 to the Sandy Hook community.
For the second consecutive year, the festival has partnered with The Avielle Foundation, a local nonprofit founded by the parents of Avielle Richman, one of the children killed on 12/14. The Newtown Yoga Festival is a current project of The Avielle Foundation's Brainstorm Experience, designed to achieve the efforts of the foundation specifically in the local area.
During the Newtown Yoga Festival, the NYA courtyard will be full of vendors, food, live music, wellness demonstrations, and will include a special Lunch & Learn talk. Inside the building, there will be a guest speaker and three main community classes on the turf field, led by experts in the yoga world.
Bessel van der Kolk
As part of The Avielle Foundation's Brainstorm Experience, Bessel van der Kolk, MD, will lead a talk the evening prior to the Newtown Yoga Festival, at the Edmond Town Hall, in addition to also being the primary guest speaker at the festival.
At 9 am, Dr van der Kolk will give his opening remarks and be accompanied by Licia Sky, who will be on site guiding participants through gentle movement exercises.
Dr van der Kolk is a clinical psychiatrist and author, known for his New York Times best-selling book The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
He worked at the Trauma Center in Brookline, Mass., for the past 40 years before abruptly being fired in January following allegations of misconduct, which he denies.
Suzy DeYoung, cofounder of the Newtown Yoga Festival, explained that her organization is aware of the claims against the festival's speaker and that it has already assessed the situation.
"After reaching out to colleagues of Dr van der Kolk's, as well as others who have hosted him for speaking engagements, the Newtown Yoga Festival is not deterred by the news and remains committed to bringing Dr van der Kolk to Newtown," she said. "The education and insight on trauma that Dr van der Kolk can offer the Newtown Community is invaluable and the Newtown Yoga Festival is honored to host him."
She says those looking to review Dr van der Kolk's remarks about his termination can visit besselvanderkolk.net/behind-the-globe-article.
The first morning community class of the day will start at 10 am and be led by Ray Crist, who has attended the Newtown Yoga Festival twice before.
More than a decade ago, Mr Crist founded the Jaguar Path that helps people obtain a Yoga Alliance 200-hour Teacher Certification and/or a Shamanic Healing Certification.
"It specializes in giving 20 shamanic tools that are immediately applicable [in] healing different matters," Mr Crist said. "Some can be psychological, some can be physiological, some are clarification of ways in the structure of thinking."
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2003, and told he had only months to live, Mr Crist left his life in Greece to go to John Hopkins in 2004. The following year, he volunteered for a kidney cancer study, where he underwent laparoscopic surgery to remove his right kidney.
Despite the surgery, he was told he would need follow-up appointments after to monitor him, because doctors had discovered something in his other kidney, lungs, and liver.
During this time, Mr Crist began his journey through Peru and Mexico to seek out shamans and sorcerers to help fully heal him, knowing they customize their remedy to not treat the disease, but to treat the person.
"A shaman is a person that will work with herbs and with elements of the earth to help you," he explained.
When Mr Crist returned for his first surgery follow-up he said that to the doctors' surprise, they found some of those areas of concern had not only reduced in size, but some had gone away completely. He attributes the success of his health to the surgery as well as the journey he took for alternative healing for his soul and body.
Through the experience, he said, "I came out with being healed and being appointed by spirit that I need to teach this. I had an agreement with spirit that I would live, but I need to teach this and this needs to be the purpose of my life: to bridge these two worlds and two realities - both for matters of health and, first and foremost, matters of heart."
He hopes to use his community class at the Newtown Yoga Festival to pass on some of the lessons he has learned from his varied background and help inspire others.
Following Mr Crist's hour-long session will be Kathryn Templeton's community class at 11 am.
Ms Templeton is an Ayurvedic practitioner of what is believed to be one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems. It focuses on gaining health through balancing the mind, body, and spirit.
She also is a contributing writer for Yoga International, a faculty member at the Himalayan Institute, a Senior Para Yoga teacher, and has been a psychotherapist for more than 30 years.
Last year, at the Newtown Yoga Festival, Ms Templeton taught an afternoon class, emphasizing posture and breathing for participants.
"Every part of our breath has the ability to nourish us and to cleanse us," Ms Templeton said. "It is up to us to give proper space and time, so we might be able to examine a life with compassion."
The Newtown Yoga Festival will have a special Lunch & Learn talk led by Guinness World Records' holder for "Oldest Yoga Teacher," Tao Porchon-Lynch, who on August 13 will be 100 years young.
Mrs Porchon-Lynch was inspired to start yoga in 1926, when she first saw a group of boys in India practicing and was told by her aunt that girls should not do yoga.
Not one to be discouraged, she followed her passion and has since traveled all over the world studying, practicing, and teaching yoga. Her goal has been to help each person live their most positive life.
Mrs Porchon-Lynch has also written award-winning books, marched for peace with Gandhi, danced on America's Got Talent, and been in MGM films - which led her to teach yoga to celebrities like Debbie Reynolds and Kathryn Grayson.
She caused quite a stir headlining the 2017 Newtown Yoga Festival, receiving a standing ovation at the end of her community class and having many admirers eagerly line up to take her picture or get a signed copy of her book.
Mrs Porchon-Lynch told The Newtown Bee last year that even though her body ages, her mind continues to feel young. She attributes it to a positive mindset and starting each day with purpose.
"When you get up in the morning, don't put in your mind 'I can't do this' or 'How am I going to do that?' because whatever you put in your mind materializes," she said. "When you get up in the morning you say, 'This is going to be the best day of my life.' And you will materialize that."
The last community class of the day will be taught by David Schouela, who specializes in trauma sensitive yoga.
After originally committing years of his life to working in Canadian banking, he sold the company he was part of and decided to use his "golden parachute" to finally follow his passion.
"I said to myself 'What is it that I really want to do in this short life that we get to live on this earth?'" Mr Schouela explained.
Over the next few years, he dedicated himself to the world of yoga and meditation by going on retreats and getting trained at Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Mass.
"That led to meeting Dave Emerson, who founded The Trauma Center yoga in Brookline, Mass., and it was at Kripalu I met him and learned about his program," he said. "I was intrigued by it, and I got certified and got the teacher training through him. Then he asked me to join the training faculty."
For the past four years, Mr Schouela has been teaching Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY), which he describes as a body-based intervention that was specially formulated for people who have a history of complex trauma.
"This intervention is a very gentle, sensitive approach to help people reconnect with their bodies in a way that empowers them. It is very much around choice and empowerment," he said.
Mr Schouela also cofounded the Buddhist meditation retreat center, True North Insight, in 2004. It has meditation courses and retreats, mostly throughout Eastern Canada.
"I'm really looking forward to being part of this festival…" Mr Schouela said about coming to Newtown later this month. "All of the yoga that I'll be offering can be done on a chair or on a mat or standing, and people get to choose what's right for them. It'll be a very safe, practical, and effective approach to doing yoga."
The Newtown Yoga Festival is a BYOM (bring your own mat) event and encourages attendees to bring their own yoga props, too. The suggested donation is $50, and children under 16 years old attend for free. For more information about the Newtown Yoga Festival and to register online, visit newtownyogafestival.org.