Yoga has become more and more popular in recent years and now for the first time Napier is to host a yoga festival.
The Hawke's Bay Yoga Festival, run by Yoga Festivals Australia, promises a weekend of unlimited yoga and mindfulness, on August 7 and 8 at the Napier War Memorial Centre on Marine Parade.
There will be workshops and classes in yoga, movement, meditation and mindfulness. It is the perfect weekend for absolute beginners and seasoned Yogis alike - a space to experience the mental, and physical wellbeing yoga creates in a supportive community environment - all while enjoying the seaside surrounds of Napier.
More than 18 yoga instructors will offer a diverse programme of more than 30 classes.
"This community-driven celebration of yoga offers people from all over the country a unique opportunity to try invigorating and relaxing yoga styles over one expansive weekend," said Rosie Richards, who created the festival, and who also runs the Starlight Festival and Yoga Festivals throughout Australia.
I asked one of the festival yoga instructors, Amanda Hanna from The Self-Agency Academy, some questions.
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to become a yoga instructor.
While I first came to yoga for the physical and mental aspects of the practice, I've stayed because it saved and continues to change my life. I've been practicing for more than 13 years, teaching for more than 7, and undertaken many trainings, workshops, and further development over this time in anatomy, mental health, mindfulness and more. The practice of yoga never ceases to challenge, surprise and humble me. I first did a 200-hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training in Mysore, India, and since that moment my life has never been the same. I was a very busy, driven (regardless of the cost) person and this came with many personal and health-related issues that I had to overcome. When I discovered Yoga Nidra, Yin, and Restorative Yoga, I knew this is where the magic was held for me and I've taken a deep dive into those realms ever since to bring these healing and transformative practices forward for others. My main focus is mental health and trauma-aware approaches to not only yoga but all forms of interaction, both on and off the mat. I've since stepped into the realm of training Yin Yoga teachers while focusing on the mental health approaches to the practice. I'm a certified trauma-sensitive yoga facilitator and this is the lens through which I approach every offering and my practice as a whole because to me this is what it means to be human.
Yoga has become more and more popular in recent years, why do you think that is?
I believe more and more people are beginning to understand the profoundly transformational effects of the practice beyond simply the physical. It is something that is truly accessible for all when approached with the understanding that yoga is about union and connection to self and others. Whatever your jam is, yoga has something for you and it morphs and evolves as you transform, constantly unravelling and offering you something new.
What are the benefits of yoga?
The benefits are plenty; mindfulness and meditation have been shown to change the structure and function of certain parts of the brain, guiding people towards more self-empowerment, increased emotional regulation, decreased levels and symptoms of stress, more longevity and health within the tissues and systems of the body, and so much more. Each person meets yoga where they are at and over time yoga gently invites them towards the benefits they need most - be it physical, mental, emotional, energetic, or spiritual.
Have you been involved with yoga festivals before?
I have facilitated at a variety of festivals in Canada and New Zealand, both large and small, and every experience is so uniquely powerful and wonderful - I can't wait to see what unfolds at this one.
What should people expect at the festival?
From the festival as a whole, I would say we can expect a whole lot of laughter, fun, connection and growth. Festivals are one of the most profound experiences because we get to experience collective joy and interconnectedness on a grand scale. After the time we've had over the past year or so, I'd say the thing I'm most looking forward to is being immersed in community and seeing the love and connection we hold for ourselves and others.
What are three basic yoga poses that people would benefit from learning and practicing at home?
I'm going to venture out of the asana/pose here and offer three things within yoga that are available any time, any place with immense benefits: the breath, loving-kindness, and pockets of mindful awareness. The breath is one tool we can work with at any moment to change our physiological state to either tap into energy reserves to stimulate and activate or to down-regulate and calm the nervous system. Loving-kindness asks us to take a moment and extend feelings of care towards others (known and unknown) and wish them well, this has been shown to also change our own internal state and have similar effects on the brain and nervous system as does things like meditation and gratitude practices. Mindfulness is something that again is always available and it brings us into the present moment experience where all of our senses come online to immerse ourselves in whatever is on offer right here, right now. This has been shown to decrease stress and its symptoms as well as a whole host of other benefits. Life can often feel very busy and sometimes isolating, these practices are ways of supporting overall wellbeing and mental health while simultaneously improving connection, empathy and understanding towards yourself and others.
Tell us why you love yoga?
I love yoga because it is truly a way of life and always keeps me grounded and centred - and definitely reigns me when I lose my way. For me, it is coming home to my most powerful and truest self. It is so much more than simply the asana/pose; it is my compass towards being the best human I can and encourages me to constantly strive towards more just, equitable, and resilient communities.
When: August 7 and 8
Where: Napier War Memorial Centre, 48 Marine Parade, Napier, NZ.
Price: $55 for one day. Two-day weekend pass $65. (Unlimited yoga classes included with festival entry)
Tickets online or at the door. More info and tickets: yogafestival.co.nz