Miss A Columnist

Originally from South Carolina, Leslie Silver earned her Journalism degree at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) and moved to the Big Apple right after school. After six years in the city she was ready for a change of lifestyle and weather and made the move to Austin. Leslie works in hospitality public relations and loves to take her experience of trying top-notch clients around the world and using those experiences to critique spas and restaurants all over central Texas.

Leslie is a Huge dog lover, outdoorswoman, avid reader and has a healthy obsession with the show Parks and Recreation. Though living in Austin for less than a year, she’s already experience quite a lot and can’t wait to learn, explore and write about everything she discovers in the next year.

Interview With Russell Burns, Director Of The Austin Yoga Festival

The 2012 Austin Yoga Festival is coming up October 27-28. After last year’s inaugural festival, Director Russell Burns has been planning for a much larger, involved festival this year.  We talked to him to learn more.

Russell Burns

Russell Burns (Photo Credit: austinyogafestival.com)

Q: How did the festival come about?

A: A year and a half ago we were looking into taking a vacation at a yoga destination/festival and decided that we could have one in Austin and start it ourselves and so did!

What is different about the Austin festival is that it is structured so that anybody can come to it. We help people understand the practice and introduce them to yoga, not have them have to pay a large fee or focus on big musician names. We stay true to our roots by keeping it focused on yoga, health and wellness.

Q: Tell me about last year’s festival.

A: We did our initial one last year and it was great, but this one will be twice the size of last year’s. Last year there were four stages, this year there are seven. Last year, there were around 45 vendors/exhibitors, this year there are more than 70 right now and will probably be closer to 90 by the time we open.

We have also moved to a larger venue- the Palmer with it’s huge canopy the size of a football field. There  will be no worries about the weather since it’s covered and classes are going to be taking place out there ranging from ones for kids and beginners to health and wellness discussions. There will be 24 workshops taking place inside (much more than last year). We have people coming from out of town, special presenters and yoga personalities that are well known around the country will be visiting.

Q: How did you get started in yoga?

A: Back in 1999, I was wakeboarding and broke my left femur jumping on a wakeboard. Prior to that, had been a runner and a big gym goer. After breaking the femur and the way I broke it, doctors told me I couldn’t ever run again. I had to find a supplement, it’s a pretty common theme of why people get into yoga. Lots of people discover yoga through rehabilitation.

At that time I thought that yoga was just a form of exercise and realized it’s so much more. I got really involved and researched it in more depth and realized I needed to become a yoga teacher and turn it into a career which is what I did.

Austin Yoga Festival

2011 Festival (Photo Credit: Mike Matsumura)

Q: What is your favorite type of yoga?

A: I teach and I practice hatha yoga which a broad term. It’s just 25 percent, or two of the eight limbs of yoga, the movement and the breathing. The movement, referred to as asana, and the breathing, referred to as pranayama. It’s tied to teachers instructing classes to inhale and exhale.

Q: Would you recommend the festival to someone not familiar with yoga?

A: Yes, one of the major points of the festival is to introduce new people to yoga. Yoga is great for everyone. No matter your age or physical shape there is a form that is for everyone, and all of the classes going on under the canopy are free.

There will be six beginner classes and family yoga classes. Also, discussions about yoga and some of the different areas, such as philosophy, will be taking place–all for free, it’s great for the whole family and the perfect place to take an introductory class.

It’s a great way beginners to get an idea of what yoga is. Removing any barrier for entry for someone wanting to see what it’s about.  Almost all of the vendors are yoga related and so if someone wants to talk to a studio about continuing their practice, there’s plenty of people to talk to.

Austin has the most yoga teachers per capita of any U.S. city.  So when I started to think about doing the festival, it occurred to me why hadn’t this been done already.  There are so many schools here that train yoga teachers, certifying 100 or more yoga teachers a year.  At our events there are a large number of teachers that show up to teach, practice and come together. Yoga music, kirtan that people come to listen to.  We have two of Austin’s most well-known kirtan musicians playing outside in the free area.

Q: What should people bring to the Festival?

A: Just your mats, a water bottle and wear appropriate clothes.

Q: Tell us about the inside portion of the event.

A: Since we do have so many people that practice yoga in Austin and many people that have been practicing for a long time, we have the workshops inside that are more intense. They last two hours long and focus on many different styles and levels, from beginners to the most advanced. Some will be very easy and some will be incredibly challenging. It doesn’t matter what level somebody is at with their practice, they can come down and find a class that will challenge them and teach them something. We have brought people in from NY, LA, Colorado and New Mexico to teach these classes.

Those workshops are offered at a very reasonable rate. They start at just $16 for the experience. We are hoping to get someone who goes to classes regularly to get more out of the workshop- as it’s twice as long and more personalized attention. You actually spend the extra time getting the one-on-one attention and stopping to focus on different aspects of what you are doing. Instead of teaching, they stop and show you how to do each thing and workshops that are more about the philosophy. Including meditation and those types of things.

Learning session at the 2011 Festival (Photo Credit: Stacy Berg)

Q: Is there one workshop in particular you are most excited about?

A: We have a number of them, there is Travis Elliot coming from Santa Monica. He just released about six months ago a series of DVDs called the ultimate yogi. It’s been featured in many mags, the Huffington Post, etc. It’s the best selling yoga DVD series there is. It’s meant for someone very serious and challenging. He’s teaching two workshops- one focusing on the challenging part and one that is broadly based on the different limbs of yoga.

Another teacher, from Beverly Hills, Andrea Marcum, has the  number one studio in LA and teaches stars. She really has an excellent clientele and is teaching two very challenging classes also.

For the really super bendy people who need to have a chance to try it all, we have a guy form Colorado Springs, Mike Matsumura, and he is teaching very advanced yoga class called Raja Yoga. It’s for those that think they have seen it all and tried it all, they should try his class. It’s for the very advanced practitioners.

Q: What are the charities involved in the Festival?

A: Our primary beneficiary is the Capital Area Food Bank and Community Food Bank. Food banks of course helps those without means to purchase food and proper nutrition.

Austin Yoga Festival

Image from last year’s festival (Photo Credit: Stacy Berg)

Community Yoga Austin takes yoga into areas where people would never have a chance to practice yoga.  They’ll go into juvenile detention facilities or local prisons or economically challenged schools and teach yoga.  As yoga is about self discipline and finding peace and happiness inside themselves they go out selflessly and teach and we help by raising money and helping those teachers teach those classes.

WHEN: October 27-28, 2012
See a full schedule of events here.

Palmer Events Center

900 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX 78704

TICKETS: Tickets start at $16 for single events but all outside activities and classes are free.

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