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First festival in Santa Fe welcomes famous yogis

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Yoga is being discussed, practiced and explored during the inaugural Santa Fe Yoga Festival, which will run through Sunday with music, meditation, chanting, lectures, workshops and more. (Courtesy of Robert Sturman)

Yoga is being discussed, practiced and explored during the inaugural Santa Fe Yoga Festival, which will run through Sunday with music, meditation, chanting, lectures, workshops and more. (Courtesy of Robert Sturman)

Kurt Young doesn’t expect the Santa Fe Yoga Festival to make money, although it might manage to cover its expenses.

What it’s all about is spreading love and transforming people’s lives, rippling out to bring more kindness to the world, said its founder, who added that he feels as if he’s simply a tool of the universe in making this happen. Things just keep falling into place, he said.

“I’ve gotten calls from people all over the world who want to be part of this,” Young said.

The first Santa Fe Yoga Festival kicked off last night, and continues through Sunday with music, meditation, chanting, asana practice, lectures, workshops and more. Not to mention hikes, food and pool parties.

Young said he’s expecting 500 people, some of whom will be granted scholarships to cover the fees for the event, but co-founder Pamela Serna offered a more conservative estimate of 300.

“We have 108 classes,” Young said, adding that the number represents the 108 prayer beads strung together on a mala, used by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. Forty teachers are coming to teach the classes.

Most of the activities will take place at Bishop’s Lodge Resort and Spa, although some field trips will be offered, including a class taught under the brooding gaze of Zozobra on the day he is to be burnt.

Led by Beryl Bender Birch, a name you can often find describing yoga positions in the monthly Yoga Journal, that class will be open and free to the general public, he said.

The other public event is Chris Chickering’s “Music for Positive Change” on the Bishop’s Lodge lawn at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Serna said she and Young started joking about the idea of a local festival a couple of years ago when they were at a yoga festival in Colorado.

But when they started putting plans in place, and talking with yoga teachers and practitioners in the community, a common reaction was: “It’s about time!” she said. “They said they were just waiting for somebody to do it.”

Indeed, Santa Fe and yoga seem to go together like green chile and cheese.

While working in the food and beverage business, Serna said she has been doing yoga for 18 years and teaching vinyasa flow for two years. She quit her hotel job four months ago to meet the demands of putting this festival together.

But it’s OK, she said. “Now I’m doing what I love … I love yoga as a passion.”

Asked to name the teacher or event she is most excited about in the festival, Serna said, “There’s so many!”

But challenged, she named Michelene Berry, who teaches at Exhale in Los Angeles, and her husband, Joey Lugassy, who has worked on a musical yoga Beatles tribute. “We will be doing yoga and rocking out to music,” Serna said.

She also mentioned Mark Whitwell, also based in Los Angeles, who teaches in the hatha style and has written books about the yoga of intimacy. “He’s amazing,” Serna said. “He has a lot of wisdom and experience.”

And then there’s Santa Fe’s own Tias Little. “I learned so much (from him) about anatomy. I saw how I should be doing the positions,” she said.

Phil Goldberg and Joey Lugassy will present “The Beatles Yoga — A Multi-Media Concert” Saturday night at the Santa Fe Yoga Festival. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Yoga Festival)

Phil Goldberg and Joey Lugassy will present “The Beatles Yoga — A Multi-Media Concert” Saturday night at the Santa Fe Yoga Festival. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Yoga Festival)

“Every teacher has something different to offer,” Serna added.

Young’s background ranges from real estate to surfing to working as a personal trainer in California to founding the Santa Fe Film Festival. He said his own introduction to a yoga practice helped pull him out of a personal dark time.

“I was amazed at how it allowed me to open my heart – to forgive, to accept, to move forward,” he said. “I said if I ever got the chance, I would pay it forward.”

This festival is his way of doing that, he said. Every participant will be asked to put behind his or her varied life roles for the weekend, becoming only “a lover and a seeker,” Young said, adding that he hopes they will be able to carry that love and kindness into the world after they leave.

Both co-founders already are talking about next year’s festival and strongly believe that this will be a recurring event for many years here.

Young compared the festival to an oak tree that has deep roots and will be around for a long time.

“We are laying the foundations,” Serna said. “Of course we’re making mistakes. But next year will be bigger and better.”

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