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Yoga Festival Magic Hidden in the South

Gabrielle Garrett
September 11, 2016
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When you think Pensacola, Florida - you might think tourists, beaches and tacky flamingo visors. When you think about the south and yoga combined, a vision of southern accents and small studios might cross your mind.  While we do like a cozy studio, and sometimes close our class with a "Namaste, y'all", the culture of yoga is deep and rich with experience and knowledge here in Pensacola. We benefit from those who have traveled the world and found solace in the beautiful beaches and charming community Pensacola has to offer.

When you combine our depth of knowledge with southern hospitality and beautiful scenery, it's the perfect place to spend a weekend learning from those who call the south their home, and even some who travel from far to spend a weekend with gulf coast locals, teaching us a different approaches to our practice. In it's fifth year, the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival will honor the year of the Fire Monkey, a time to shake things up, create change, and innovate a new path. 

The first year of the festival, I was a junior in college. I had $25 dollars in my bank account, but since I'd been practicing yoga regularly in the community for a while now, I wanted to show up and experience the day. I went to the bank and withdrew the entirety of my account. (You only live once, right?) then I spent upwards of an hour picking out the right outfit. I hadn't quite learned the ego lesson of yoga yet. I arrived at the beautiful location.  Observing the still water reflecting the sun, palm trees surrounding the vendor tents and a nice November breeze accompanied by friendly smiles; I walked up to a vendor tent to pursue a selection of scarves and tye-dye yoga pants. She greeted me and asked, "Are you an instructor here?"

My ego responded (thinking of my cool outfit), "Nailed it!" (I was rougly 20 years old, so it's safe laugh about this now.)

"No, just here for the festival." I replied.

I would return to the festival for the next three years. Each one a milestone for how deeply I'd fallen in love with the practice. This year will be my fifth year of attendance, and my first year arriving as a 200-hour registered yoga alliance teacher. I can answer "Yes." now, "Yes, I am an instructor here."  

It's beautiful to have a milestone and a culmination of growth that a community shares and offers to the outside world. It's not only a milestone for me to grasp how far I've come since the last November, or since my first November as a college student with $25, enough to do a kundalini workshop and have an organic peanut butter and banana wrap. It's how far my studio has come, how far our community has come, how wide our audience has become. Most importantly, how beautiful it is when we breathe together in such an amazing space.

If you're like me and can relate to only having enough in your bank account for one workshop and a wrap, the festival offers an exchange of six hours of karma yogi (volunteering service) in exchange for a $100 weekend pass. I've taken advantage of this the past three years.

Wherever you are in your practice, in your budget, and in your life- I invite you to pack up your flamingo visor, yoga mat and leave your cool outfit behind. Experience sound healing, meditation, yoga nidra, acroyoga, slackline, aerial yoga, vinyasa, kundalini, restorative, and yin yoga. Music is also alive in a majority of our daytime workshops, including special concerts in the evening including Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band and Jaya Lakshami and Ananda. 

Feel the love, Share the love, Be the love and come experience the hidden culture of yoga in south for yourself. Namaste, y'all.

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PS: Loved this blog? You'll love my book, 50 ways to magic! Click here to read.

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