Brighton Yoga Festival 2016: An Ashtangi’s story

Languages teacher, blogger and yogi, Victoria Hodder, has been telling us all about the Brighton Yoga Festival at our meet ups for months. Having been a participant for the last few years, Victoria decided to volunteer this year on the marketing team. Her enthusiasm inspired a number of us to go along too.

Victoria's written about her experience in this post - but before we let you read it, we'd like to say a personal thank you to Victoria and all those involved in the festival for putting together such a wonderful event. 

Summer is when Brighton truly comes to life.

Suddenly, there are tourists. Students. Hen parties. Stag dos. Festivals. Music. Drinking. Eating. And at a moment’s sunshine we rush to the beach in hordes, squeezing where we can onto the pebbles.

Exciting… but at the same time, a little chaotic.

Yet in the midst of all this comes the Brighton Yoga Festival.

Photo credit: Rene Solari 

Photo credit: Rene Solari 

This would be the BYF’s third year celebrating yoga. It would also be my second year as a participant and first as part of the organising team. And I have to say the experience on every level was extraordinary.

I am a dedicated Ashtangi, so a part of me believed that I didn’t need to go to any of the classes. I know the style I like. I practice every day. That’s enough.

This would be the BYF’s third year celebrating yoga. It would also be my second year as a participant and first as part of the organising team. And I have to say the experience on every level was extraordinary.

I am a dedicated Ashtangi, so a part of me believed that I didn’t need to go to any of the classes. I know the style I like. I practice every day. That’s enough.

Yet, that doesn’t mean I am not a beginner in other ways.

My practice and my lifestyle doesn’t leave much room to try other forms of yoga. So the BYF was my chance to have a look around, play with different kinds of yoga and push my mind beyond its borders.

And my were my borders challenged!

Photo credit: Rene Solari

Photo credit: Rene Solari

I began the day with a restorative class led by Emma Cole where we were given the space to relax our bodies into poses.

Lying on my back for the first time in weeks, my mind was finally allowed to settle, and as the tears began to flow and I released what felt like a month of tension.

Later in the day, a workshop led by Marc Woolford on the Quality of Touch tested my interaction with the mat: do I want to push myself against the floor or do I want to let it support me? Do I stretch my muscles or let my bones do the work?

By focussing on touching the space around me, I had time to see ways I would bring non-violence into my own practice rather than diving head first on to the floor.

Photo credit: Rene Solari

Photo credit: Rene Solari

Making it easy with Marc Woolford. (Photo credit: Rene Solari Photography)

Finally in a twist of plans, I followed a friend to a class on hip openers with Kayleigh Alwill.

It was the end of a long day, the room was stuffy and we were surrounded by clanks and shouts from the closing festival, but still Kayleigh created a space of stillness and joy. A sign of a good teacher if there ever was one.

I also had the opportunity to witness first-hand the journey of someone experiencing yoga for the first time.

I tentatively suggested to a visiting friend that she come to restorative with me, guessing that it would be a gentle introduction to one of my passions in life.

An hour later, she left enthused, both relaxed and confident enough to walk into another class in the future.

If that isn’t a success story, I don’t know what it is.

Photo Credit: Brighton Yoga Festival's Facebook Page

Photo Credit: Brighton Yoga Festival's Facebook Page

Finally I would like to voice my thanks to all of the organising team.

Firstly, for allowing me to become involved in the first place. I was able to see how much time and love and effort goes into this event, while offering what I could to spread the word.

Secondly, for pulling the whole thing off. In an event on this scale, a lot can go wrong. And I personally, cannot find one thing to fault it. All of the volunteers were welcoming and professional, helpful and human. Registration was slick. And the venue was incredible.

It was one of those days you didn’t want to end.

Indeed it took several announcements from the Brighton Dome for us to finally roll up our mats and leave.

Though when we did, we left with our souls free and our minds open with chants from the closing Kirtan echoing in our hearts.

Photo credit: Rene Solari

Photo credit: Rene Solari

I am of the opinion that the more events we hold like this and the bigger our community grows, the greater impact we can have in this life.

It is for that reason that I am truly grateful that festivals like this exist.

And in this time of chaos, may we remember what we learnt on this day and carry it into the world.

For in the words of A Course in Miracles:

“Protect all the things you value by giving them away, and you are sure that you will never lose them”

Keep in touch with the Brighton Yoga Festival here and here.

See more stunning images of the day from our official festival photographer, Rene Solari here.

Also posted on Victoria's blog, Life's Long Twist.