“Growth. An expansion of perspective. A looser grip on life” is what you can expect to come out of this weekend’s Drishti Fest. Basically, Hampton Roads gets to host a massive, very plural, and very uplifting four-day yoga party.
What’s most exciting is that this event is by the community for the community. As if raising a banner, the local yoga and wellness communities have unified to create a life changing flood into our region.
images | Drishti Fest
Even the preparation leading up to the event has catalyzed the gathering and collaboration. There have been several events across Hampton Roads over the past few months designed to raise awareness of the event, but more importantly to raise funds for charities with whom the local studios have partnered. Already, Drisht Fest has charted inspiration and growth in the community and this weekend will be lift-off.
A huge piece of the festival’s mission is the education and personal growth. The depth and breadth of the wisdom and experience being offered is staggering. Fourty-four (yes, forty-four) teachers/presenters will be sharing lessons and teaching across the four day event. Obviously the HR yoga scene will be representing in full force but teachers/visionaries from Hawai’i to L.A. to New York and everywhere in between are joining forces at the oceanfront.
The more I got into and wrapped up in the excitement of the event, the more I realized how big this will be for our community. As someone who doesn’t have a tremendous amount of experience with yoga, I hope I can offer the perspective that this isn’t just a yoga festival for yogis. This is a yoga festival for humans. Check out the mission statement:
“Drishti Fest is about establishing focus, and our focus is set on providing a community-driven, world-class yoga event, that leaves participants feeling inspired, connected, and just plain happy. Join us on the beautiful Mid-Atlantic Coastline in Virginia Beach, Virginia for four days of yoga, music, art, service, laughter, beach-walks, stillness, dancing, learning, growing, breathing, connecting, sharing, devoting, supporting, and transforming. Peace and Smiles Guaranteed.”
Anywhere that guarantees peace and smiles is exactly the kind of place I want to be. And as wonderful as that sounds, authenticity of the founders and their desire to see growth and healing in our community is really what’s going to bring beautiful, transcendent things out of all of us.
I was fortunate enough to hear from two of the founders of the event, both yoga superstars: Ann Richardson Stevens and Kate Baldwin.
Jake Hull (that’s me): Where did the inspiration for Drishti Fest come from?
Ann Stevens: There are four of us on the Drishti Fest Team, Buddy Wheeler, Kate Baldwin, myself and Pete Hangen. Pete’s wife, Danielle, was one of the supervisors on the build out of Studio Bamboo. That is how I met Pete. They became students of mine over five years ago. When Pete retired from the city he and Buddy Wheeler founded an event planning company called Vital Capacity. They have done much in Sports marketing and were trying to come up with something different, something new. Pete approached me on a yoga festival, and because I had worked with Kate on a few other festivals both here and in Hawaii I reached out to Kate.
Kate Baldwin: The Community. With over forty yoga studios in Hampton Roads, we thought the community would benefit from a festival. Traveling out of the area to similar events can be quite costly, and we wanted to provide the Hampton Roads community the same unique experience while staying close to home. We took the very popular yoga festival model and scaled it back in an effort to deliver the same world class yoga instruction you would find at other festivals, however we offer it in a smaller and more intimate learning environment.
How has collaboration with local yoga instructors and studios helped pull this event together?
KB: We couldn’t do any of this without community support! We have been blessed with a number of local studios who have came on board as festival partners, and through their promotional support we were able to get the word out. We also teamed up with a number of dedicated yoga teachers who have served as Ambassadors, hosting pre-festival events all across the area to raise awareness for the festival while also raising money for charity. These events have raised funds to purchase an adaptive bike for a child through the non-profit Preston’s March for Energy. The child will be presented with the bike at the festival. In addition to Ambassadors and Studio Partners, we have fifteen Hampton Roads yoga teachers who will be sharing their wisdom alongside our nine Featured Instructors. We also welcome twenty three other regional teachers who will be joining the Drishti Fest faculty for the weekend. There will be a lot of wisdom under one roof.
Talking about community gets really exciting. It’s fun to talk about everyone getting together and doing together kinds of things. But what makes those gatherings so powerful are the stories that all of us come with and the lives that, through yoga, are changed. In talking with Kate it was clear that her own journey to and through yoga had been transformative:
KB: I showed up to yoga feeling broken and lost; and, as cliche as it sounds, it was yoga that put me back together. I think the reasons that drive many people to a yoga practice are reasons that aren’t easily navigated through without tools; and, in yoga, breath and movement become the tools. Breath and movement harness us to the present moment, and the present moment is where we find true peace of mind. There is no illusion, no worry, no fear… just peace. Breath by breath, movement by movement, yoga leads us to a healthier, happier, more peaceful version of ourselves. And that’s just the first layer. Yoga is like a rabbit hole that can parallel and compliment just about any belief system, and the deeper you go, the more tools you find. And then one day you wake up livin’ in the moment. And that is enlightenment.
Once I found my way back to myself, I knew I had to help others find their way. First I started teaching, then I started training teachers, and then I started organizing festivals. Because my journey with yoga changed my life so profoundly, I wanted to get yoga to as many people as possible. I have produced a few other yoga events in the past, and last year I joined forces with Pete, Buddy, and Ann, and together we breathed life into Drishti Fest.
How can members of the community get involved beyond just attending the event?
AS: We have SEVA classes free and open to the public FRI-SUN. We’ll just ask for a little donation for one of the two of our charities, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans or Preston’s March for Energy. Our Mindful Market is also open. We are even showing a moving called AWAKE. Just come by, support and say hello!
In case you missed that last part… there are free classes. Ok, you’re right there’s a suggested donation but put in perspective how ecstatic the experience will be and the rich learning that you’re definitely going to get. A few bucks? Not a big deal. Just come hang out. Come be with really really happy people.
To register, head here.
I’ll be there every day. You can even catch me playing sitar and facilitating a drum circle on Thursday night as part of the opening ceremony. That too is open to the public and, honestly, I’d love to see you there.