Yoga à gogo

The Asheville Sacred Music and Yoga Festival is all about the sacred, but the festive part still gets its due.

Higher vibration: Sarod maestro K. Sridhar headlines the Spiritual Music and Yoga Festival. Photo By Neil Greentree

“We don’t necessarily need Budweiser kegs to have a good time anymore,” says Sean Bookman, the event’s organizer. Though should Bookman’s “good time” qualifications be questioned, he points out that he graduated from Long Island University, the “number one party school in the nation.”

“This will have dancing, laughing and children. All the festival spirit, but in a clean, positive [way]. This is a real celebration of life, community, all things holistic and green,” he says.

The inaugural festival takes place this weekend at the Prama Institute, about 25 miles from Asheville near Marshall.

The foundation of the event is twofold, with yoga likely attracting an eager audience of both novice and experienced practitioners. The Asheville area is home to myriad yoga studios and a variety of fitness centers that offer yoga classes. On any given day, a yogi can drop in on a session of flow-yoga, prenatal yoga, Ashtanga or therapeutic yoga for multiple sclerosis.

“It’s getting popular everywhere in the world,” Bookman says. The popularity and the prevalence of the practice in Western North Carolina inspired Bookman and his wife Nicole, former co-owners of the Namasté Yoga and Healing Center and current owners of Namasté Sacred Events, to create the festival.

But the weekend-worth of offerings, which range from traditional yogic practices to modern spins such as “Rockin’ Flow Yoga,” executed to a live band, aren’t only for those intimate with Sun Sals and Down Dogs. Bookman says that many of the workshops are “100-percent appropriate” for even first-time students.

“Yoga is the foundation,” says Bookman. “We mean the union of mind, body & soul.” If yoga is the rock of this event, there’s plenty of roll as well. The sacred music portion of the weekend is an all-star lineup of regional conscious (message-based, often spiritually-inspired) music alongside international superstars.

K. Sridhar became the youngest member of Ravi Shankar’s orchestral group that the tender age of 12, performing on the sarod. The sarod is traditional Indian music’s answer to the classical guitar. These days, decades later, he is distinguished as the senior-most performing student of famed dhrupad musician Z.M. Dagar. Bookman calls Sridhar “a real yogi of sound.”

Locally-based, globally-flavored acts include Latin ensemble Ahora Si, fronted by percussionist Juan Luis Merced. Rooted in Cuban, Puerto Rican and Caribbean rhythms, the band touches on both a spiritual side (they’ll drum at the festival’s opening ceremony) and a danceable groove (look for a hot Latin jazz set later in the weekend).

Ethiopian-influenced ensemble Dub Addis contributes their horn-driven sound to the Saturday night festivities. Lead vocalist Dereje Tesfaye bills the band as, “determined to bring a positive sound to the masses”—a mission Bookman clearly shares.

“We hand-picked every single band to fill people up with good vibes,” the organizer maintains. “We’re feeding the mind, body and soul.”

And, speaking of feeding, what festival would be complete without edible indulgences? But even at this juncture, the Asheville Sacred Music and Yoga Festival steps away from typical regret-fueling funnel cakes and nachos. Instead, local eatery Over Easy Cafe serves as the main caterer, providing up breakfasts and lunches with the support of area farms. There will also be a smoothie, juice and elixir bar. Evening meals take on epic proportions, with the Saturday Ethiopian-themed dinner catered by Abaye Cuisine.

An Ethiopian dinner is eaten family-style; a community-promoting activity. The yoga festival is geared toward community-building on many levels. Attendees are encouraged to support local businesses through the locally-made products in the open-air market-style Harmony Village. But there’s also plenty of opportunity for the introspection that goes hand-in-hand with spiritual pursuits. The property includes Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic domes, solar-powered facilities, an outdoor stage and 100 acres of pristine nature.

While Bookman sums the weekend up as a “culmination of everything good,” yogis and music fans can judge those merits for themselves. From solar-powered dance parties to organic munchies, there’s something on the bill for pretty much every appetite—excepting a keg stand, of course.

who: Asheville Sacred Music and Yoga Festival
what: Weekend-long event featuring yoga and healing arts, sacred music, camping, local food and more.
where: Prama Institute near Marshall, N.C.
when: Friday, Aug. 15-Sunday, Aug. 17 (gates open at 2 p.m. Friday. $108 for full-weekend pass including camping. $54 Saturday day pass. 252-8149 or www.namasteasheville.com).

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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