Last weekend I attended the 6th national New Zealand yoga festival in Auckland.
It was held at the beautiful Kawai Purapura retreat center in Albany, which is owned and run by the Wellpark College for natural therapies. The festival started on Friday evening with an opening ceremony and finished on Sunday evening with a closing ceremony.
I had a little hurdle to conquer before I got there – on the Tuesday evening of the week before the festival, I ended up in the A&E at Nelson Hospital for three hours. I’d helped a friend shift a heavy wooden table, but the top of the table slid off and landed on my foot before it hit the ground. Ouch! Luckily the x-rays confirmed no bones were broken, so I decided that I was going to the festival and be careful in the yoga classes.
There was so much to explore at the festival, with classes held in different buildings and even in tepees and in a big pool for paddle-board yoga (SUP yoga). There were many market stalls, food stalls and massage stalls selling fancy yoga mats, clothes, crystals, pendants and more. The festival was nicely spread out and included lots of little resting places like a big grass area in front of a stage playing, playing various live music as by the main building and cafe with outdoor seating. Some people stayed the night in the accommodation or the campground on site.
It was very special to be around so many like-minded people who love yoga. At times it felt a bit like being back in the 70’s, when everyone was a hippie. But you don’t need to be a hippie to take part in this wonderful festival.
I counted 99 yoga classes or yoga related workshops available over the Saturday and Sunday. As you can imagine, there was something for everyone.
There were many yoga teachers there from New Zealand and overseas. We started on Saturday morning with a workshop of ‘transformational yoga’ led by Utkarsh Sanjanwala from India, who is now a resident of New Zealand. This was a Hatha yoga class, with breathing exercises and chanting while you hold the poses. This style of yoga was new to me and I felt energized after the class – it was a great start to the festival.
Interestingly enough, most of the classes were a slow style of yoga, with only a few faster or power yoga style classes available. I think this is a reflection of what most people need nowadays, to slow down, calm and relax. But there were many different classes available, including meditation and connecting yoga with movement like dancing. And if you brought your children along, they would have been happily entertained with the children’s yoga classes and in the children’s corner. Needless to say, it was a family oriented festival and very well organized.
I went to the festival with my friend Natasha who studied with me at Wellpark college 16 years ago. We both agreed that it felt like being back at college in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. We chose to attend three classes on the Saturday and three on Sunday. And even for a yoga teacher like me, there was plenty new to learn. I think we never stop learning and it is a great experience to try out different and new yoga classes.
My least favourite class was aerial yoga, which is practising yoga off the ground. You are held securely while doing the poses in a ‘yoga hammock’. I had wanted to try this style but didn’t realise how much the hammock would swing during the class, which made me feel a bit of motion sickness – but it was still fun to try it out. You don’t know until you try! If you don’t suffer from motion sickness, then you would probably really enjoy this style of yoga.
My favorite two classes were with Tim Seutter who usually teaches his style called ‘yoga fire’ at the Loft yoga studio in Whangarei. The first class on Saturday was fast and strong, like a power yoga class. Tim chats away and even jokes in his classes, putting everybody at ease. It was a great class and I really enjoyed it. The class was challenging at times but he encouraged everybody to work at their own pace and to their own abilities and to adapt the yoga poses if needed. And on Sunday, for our last class at the festival, we finished with Tim’s yin yoga class which was a very slow and restorative type class. That was the perfect way to wind down our experience at the festival. After such a wonderful weekend, I felt more grounded, calm and balanced. I’m glad I had the opportunity to go along.
It was really nice to see so many people embracing the practice of yoga – and I can highly recommend attending this annual festival. I found there was something for everyone, whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned yogi.
I always like to tell people, if you can breathe, you can do yoga. If you like the idea of making yoga part of your well-being routine, you’ll find the right yoga class out there for you. I teach yoga twice a week at the Richmond town hall. For more info on my classes click here.
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The advice written in this blog post is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalized advice from a health professional.