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Hundreds Say ‘Namaste’ As Yoga Fest Fills Community Center



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The new Community Center saw its biggest crowds since opening day as vendors, instructors, and hundreds of flexible devotees descended on the 2019 Newtown Yoga Festival August 24.

Event co-founders Suzy DeYoung and Karen Pierce, along with fellow organizers Renee Kennedy, Amie Meleshkewich, Robyn Mortiboys, and Sharon Poarch, mixed and mingled while vendors stretched from one end of the long central hallway to the other — even pushing out onto an adjacent patio, where Karla McGuire stationed her “Namaste Bus” packed with gear and the latest exercise fashions.

Even the morning’s cleverly titled “Yoga Buffet” featuring multiple disciplines could not be contained, as one session featuring “Chair Yoga” with Eileen Byrnes bumped into one of the adjoining Senior Center’s activity rooms.

Throughout that segment of the festival, attendees were able to choose two sessions to sample. Among other programs offered were kids’ yoga with Denise Nobile, JourneyDance Flow with Jojo Keane, Rob Farella offering restorative Yin Yoga, Alignment-based yoga with Monica DeBenedet, Eclectic Vinyasa with David Macharelli, and Yoga Nidra with Twink McKenney.

In between and before the morning’s community yoga class with Felicia Tomasko, visitors had the opportunity to check out other vendors providing silk screen art, hand and back massages, jewelry, and fashions. Loads of attendees took the opportunity to learn about Sanctuary Angel Hawk, a “Center for Spiritual Peace,” while younger attendees teamed up with Newtown creative Paula Brinkman who led them in making a heart canvas.

Family members of Emily Todd, a Bethel resident who lost her life to gun violence in late 2018, were also on hand with their “Peace, Love & EM” booth showcasing jewelry and advocacy. And anyone working up an appetite was richly rewarded with a scrumptious meal from Pam Buchler of Aquarian Caterers, who was back at Yoga Fest for her seventh year.

Ms Tomasko, who traveled to Newtown from her home in Los Angeles, told The Newtown Bee her mission at Yoga Fest was to help show attendees how to use yoga to “feel comfortable in the body you have right now.

“I want to share a message of compassion,” she said. “I’ll be using yoga to help people feel more compassionate toward themselves, as well. As we age, I find a lot of people become bad to themselves. So we’ll be learning a lot about mindfulness and stress reduction.”

Ms Tomasko, who is also a Registered Nurse, said the kind of yoga she uses and teaches is a combination of styles that is easy for anyone to adopt.

“It’s not about playing Twister and flexing into all kinds of shapes and poses. It’s more about using yoga to cross train for everyday life by developing balance, strength, flexibility, and mobility,” she said. “We can’t necessarily stop the stresses that come into our lives. But we can practice stress avoidance through a combination of Hatha, Yin, and restorative yoga and develop a level of resilience that helps us face the everyday challenges of our lives.”

Following the lunch break, which featured live music from HannaH’s Field, more than 100 attendees filled the community center’s largest space for the second special guest of the day, Stephen Cope, a psychotherapist, senior Kripalu yoga teacher, and author, who led a class followed by meditation.

The day ended with various bidders picking up silent auction prizes and delving into the closing session, and experiencing sacred sound and an energy circle with Soundscape.

Hundreds of yoga practitioners converged on the Newtown Community Center August 24 for the 2019 Yoga Festival, which featured a “Yoga Buffet” with several instructors showcasing various types of yoga. Here, a class led by guest instructor Monica DeBenedet experiences alignment-based yoga. —Bee Photo, Voket
Stephen Cope, center, a yoga teacher, author of yoga and meditation books, and founder of Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living in Massachusetts, led Yoga Festival attendees through poses and meditation exercises. —Bee Photo, Bobowick
Parked outside the Newtown Community Center Saturday was Karla McGuire of Fishkill, N.Y. She had driven her “Namaste Bus” to the Seventh annual Yoga Festival on August 24. She was displaying goods for sale from her company, Live Your Life Gear. —Bee Photo, Bobowick
Newtown Yoga Festival co-founder Karen Pierce, left, greets morning community class leader and special guest Felicia Tomasko, who came to the local event from her home in Los Angeles. —Bee Photo, Voket
Denise Nobile, who came to the Yoga Festival from Brewster, N.Y., waited patiently for one of her Kids’ Yoga sessions to begin. —Bee Photo, Voket
Jojo Keane leads an enthusiastic session of JourneyDance Flow at the Seventh Annual Newtown Yoga Festival August 24 at the new Community Center. —Bee Photo, Voket
Yoga Festival volunteer Renee Kennedy takes a break to enjoy a hand massage from vendor Gloria Owns. —Bee Photo, Voket
From left, Sherri Delaney, Sean and Jennifer Lawlor, Carrie Delaney, and Erin Bond raised awareness and shared memories of the late Bethel resident Emily Todd, who lost her life to gun violence in December 2018. They also sold handmade jewelry and other items to benefit the Peace, Love & EM charity that was established in Ms Todd’s memory. —Bee Photo, Voket
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