Telluride Daily Planet
By Katie Klingsporn, Editor

dfgThe Telluride Yoga Festival started in 2008 after local yoga instructor Aubrey Hackman decided that the box canyon was the ideal venue for a weekend filled with yoga workshops, classes and fantastic guest instructors.

Her hunch paid off; six years later, the Yoga Festival has established sturdy roots thanks to a growing following of yogis who love what it’s all about: the practice.

“I think that it’s all about the yoga, and that’s why people like it,” Hackman said. “Getting to be in a really incredible town and having that experience just creates a really magical product.”

The Yoga Festival is back this weekend with four days filled to the brim with everything from hip-opening classes to acro-yoga, yoga slackers, meditations, kundalini and an ayurvedic program. Instructors include yoga luminaries like Tias Little, Beryl Bender Birch and Duncan Wong, and the festival features a schedule of free community classes and a special pass for yogis on a budget.

Hackman said organizers expect the festival to sell out this year for the first time. She attributed that to the stellar roster of instructors and the growing momentum behind the festival.

“This is one of our strongest lineups that we’ve ever had in Yoga Festival history,” she said. “Every single teacher that is coming is extremely true to their lineage.”

The festival kicks off Thursday with an all-day intensive with Little, Birch and Aadil Palkhivala, and continues through Sunday. Classes will cover everything from realigning the lower back to tapping into the energy of the Vata to exploring inversions. Participants can also take part in a special kirtan performance, screen a film about the power of perception and attend a book signing with Angela Pashayan.

Like last year, all events are centered in Telluride — venues include the Telluride Elementary School, the Telluride Yoga Center, Elks Park and the Oak Street Plaza.

As a way to make the festival more accessible, the Yoga Festival is offering a new Hippie Hall Pass option this year. The pass costs $108 — a big discount from a regular four-day pass — and will get people into all classes at the Telluride Elementary School.

“It’s an amazing deal,” Hackman said.

The Yoga Fest is also offering a schedule of free community classes that is bigger than ever. Instructors Charlotte “Sakti Devi” Matsumura, Malia Scott and Zoe Mantarakis are among the teachers who will be leading these classes, and there are free offerings each day between Thursday and Sunday.

Yoga Fest’s offerings will feature a spectrum of disciplines — from partner yoga to Prajna, Purna, Vinyasa, Iyengar and Yogic Arts. And a roster of top-notch instructors mean that there’s something for everyone, Hackman said.

Birch, a well-known yogi, spiritual teacher and author who has been practicing since 1971, will be teaching classes on astanga, tristana and pratyahara. Hackman said she is an incredible teacher.

“She just really keeps it real and simple but still teaches really beautifully deep yoga,” she said.

Other notable instructors include Duncan Wong, a pioneer of the organic flow movement and creator of the Yogic Arts synthesis system; Aadi Palkhivala, a master of Iyengar who teaches a therapeutic Purna yoga and Nancy Stechert, another top Iyengar instructor who lives in Hotchkiss.

Over the years, festival participants have come from California, Texas, Colorado and as far as Chile and Saudi Arabia for the festival, and the following seems to be getting stronger with each year, Hackman said.

People enjoy the beauty, the mountains, the quiet of the box canyon, the range of disciplines they are exposed to and the stripped down focus on yoga, she said.

“It’s a very concentrated yoga experience,” she said. “I think the uniqueness of the event creates a unique draw of people to it.”

The Yoga Festival will donate 25 percent of its net proceeds to local organization EcoAction Partners.

Visit tellruideyogafestival.com for a full schedule of events and presenters.