Iowa City Yoga Festival | A Yogapalooza on the Plains

Nationally known teachers will speak and give workshops at the Iowa City Yoga Festival, Nov. 5-7, 2010.

James Miller has been to dozens of yoga festivals and conferences across the country. So when it came time to plan the Iowa City Yoga Festival, James, director of Treehouse Yoga Studio in Iowa City, knew exactly what he wanted—and didn’t want.

“I didn’t want the long boring keynote speech or the low-key flute music,” says James, 39. “I want this festival to be entertaining. The emphasis is on yoga, but it’s equally on fun.”

By organizing the November 5-7 yoga festival, which will be held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Iowa City, Miller is bringing to Iowa the first festival of its kind. Since cost often keeps people from attending such events, he sought to make this one accessible and affordable. The two-day festival is $249. Comparable festivals cost about $400.

For their money, festival goers will have lots of options: classes, events, yoga demonstrations, and 42 different workshop opportunities with renowned teachers like Max Strom, Jim Bennitt, Krista and Brock Cahill, and Hemalayaa Behl. In keeping with the “entertaining” thrust of the festival, Miller is bringing in MC Yogi, who will perform yoga-inspired world hip-hop music during a Project Green Benefit Concert on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m.

He’s particularly excited about having Sadie Nardini, a native Iowa City yogini who, Miller says, “has gone from hometown girl to yoga industry icon.” She will share her meteoric rise to success in yoga at 8 p.m. Friday, November 5, just after the welcome party at 7 p.m.

“If you go to a national festival, you would see the same teachers that we will have here, but you might be in a room with a couple hundred other students. Here, we’ll have breakout sessions with smaller numbers of people, so it’s going to be a lot more intimate.”

Lisa Marie Scaglione, 45, owner of Zenergi Hot Yoga in Iowa City, says she was excited and “jumped on board” when James shared the idea for the festival with her. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to learn more about the power and depth of yoga for total well being,” she says.

She hopes the festival will go beyond attracting longtime yoga practitioners and also draw in newcomers. “Too often people are frightened by what they do not know,” she says. “Stepping through that door is the biggest step, and from there, the rewards are many.”

Victoria Watson, 25, has discovered those rewards. Victoria discovered yoga at age 17, but only dabbled in it until she discovered Treehouse Yoga Studio. Now she practices two to three hours per day, Monday through Friday, and an hour each weekend day. She even teaches yoga through Treehouse and will assist James at the festival.

“My childhood and early adulthood was tough,” she says. “I realize now that everything I’ve lived through wasn’t in vain. My difficulty with my yoga practice initially has deepened my love for yoga. I finally feel like I am on the path best suited for me. I know what a day without yoga feels like and I cannot go a day without it.”

James also knows how transformative yoga can be. He sees it daily in his studio. He knows it from his own experience. James discovered yoga after he left the Marines in his mid-20s. “It took over everything I did,” he says. “It showed me how movement can be a means of transforming your whole self.”

James says he sees anything we do to refine our bodies as yoga “if we’re doing it consciously. My goal is to broaden the spectrum of what people perceive to be yoga.”

Jewel McDonald, 59, owner of Morning Star Studio Yoga Center in Fairfield, says she is grateful to Miller for coming up with the idea for the festival and bringing it into reality.

“It’s the time,” says Jewel, a certified yoga instructor. She hopes festival goers will realize “there are as many ways to do yoga as there are people.” She encourages people to come to the festival with an open mind.

McDonald says she can’t wait to study with new teachers, learn new things, and be able to “share in that energy that James has created.”

“I love yoga,” she says. “It helps me stay connected with the source of joy. Every morning when I practice, it reminds me of the deeper truth of who I am and why I’m here. It opens my heart, quiets my mind, and keeps me strong and flexible.”

The yoga festival, she says, “is a real gift to the community.”

James is already making plans to bring the festival to Iowa City again next year. He plans on making it even bigger—and he hopes it will move from a local and regional event to a national one.

“I think our festival will have a certain unique flair that other yoga festivals and conferences don’t have,” he says. “Iowa City has its own flavor. I see this festival as hip and cutting-edge, but at the same time, grounded and down-to-earth, just like Iowa City. I think it fits this community extremely well and I don’t see this thing stopping.

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