Cheryl speaks with the founders of the Yoga Connects Festival, lovely ladies and yoga teachers Daniela Olds and Sally Griffyn about how the festival came about, the story behind the name, who’s going to be teaching at the festival and what people can expect from the three day festival of yoga!
Tell us a bit about yourselves – where are you from, what do you do and what are you most passionate about in life?
I was born in Yorkshire and my parents emigrated to Canada, I lived in Toronto for 16 years then moved to London and have been here over 20 years now. I would describe myself as an entrepreneur having worked as a photographer, property developer, writer, I even wrote a book on yoga called ‘Ashtanga Yoga For Women’, and have for many years been running events and yoga retreats. Yoga is my passion and my true lifelong love. Added to that, I have always been a very spiritual person and found early on I was attracted to ritual and ceremony. This led to a long experience of doing spiritual practices aligned with nature and Mother Earth. I have been a Wiccan for over 20 years and a Shaman healer.
I’m originally from Slovakia and moved to London 15 years ago, as I wanted to travel and experience life outside the communistic block. I was passionate about art back then and hoped to become an artist one day, later I got to do a degree in fashion design at the London college of Fashion. After experiencing the fashion industry, I decided I was not cut out for it, and that it was not for me, so I re-shifted the gears and just 3 years ago I qualified and decided to take up yoga teaching full time.
Are you both yogis yourselves and how long have you been practicing?
Definitely! I have been practicing yoga for 21 years and trained with Meghan Currie last year. I have her influence strongly in my teaching now which is about connecting to source and teaching from that place. My ethics and lifestyle are yoga, I stopped eating meat 30 years ago and more recently have really heading towards veganism due to my strong belief in Ahimsa (non-harm). My spiritual path is a combination of yoga and Wicca, a shamanistic ritualistic spiritual path of this land. Very akin to Buddhism. In the festival many of these beliefs and practices are being presented: there will be ceremonies to set up the festival on the Thursday the 2nd of July. We will honour the land and do some meditation for the land, the animals and the people. Awakening people’s consciousness and personal empowerment are of great interest to me.
I had been practicing mostly Ashtanga for about 7 years before I became a yoga teacher, but I believe I have been a yogi my whole life, I believe in destiny and that everything happens for a reason. I got into yoga very passionately after my mum passed away, it helped me to deal with the loss and pain.
How did the idea to put on a yoga festival come about?
My vision for it came from a deep place during a meditation on Meghan Currie’s yoga teacher training in the jungle in Nicaragua. I saw how there is too much separation and competition in yoga and was drawn to be the heart of connection and then to create a festival in which we celebrate all forms of yoga, help teachers spread their work, help students try out and learn yoga styles and have fun. I truly believe if you spread a good thing for everyone it will grow world wide and the business side of it will expand exponentially. Yoga Connects for me is about legacy and giving back.
I was in Austin Texas for an extended stay in January 2014, when I visited the Wanderlust studio (of Wanderlust festival). I went to one of their live band/yoga event deals and really loved the atmosphere. I wondered why we didn’t have anything like this in the UK. Yoga, and live music are both my passions.
I absorbed the vibes and started planning a yoga festival for the Yoga people in London, who were my teachers and yoga family. I wanted to focus on something where different styles of yoga are presented during a festival – from Rocket to Vinyasa, to Yin yoga and SUP. I wanted to create a space where teachers and students are able to hang out afterwards, have a drink and a chat (that does not happen after a standard studio class, as there is no time). I also wanted to give space to collaborate and create friendships between different teachers and studios.
I was really impressed by the yoga community and the warmth and friendliness in Austin that was somehow missing in the UK. After returning to London, I was offered to lead a class in Lululemon where I met Marc Laws II from Boys of Yoga , and shared all these ideas.
Who came up with the name Yoga Connects and what does it represent?
It was the result of meditating about the yoga scene in London and how various yoga studios separate and don’t connect with one another. I found this small way of thinking was the backdrop to my life in London yoga for many years. I reflected on how we could all unite and make a great yoga scene for students, teachers and businesses based on abundance.
I came up with the name on a plane out of Nicaragua while talking to one of my best friends Marc Laws II about it. When I said the name Yoga Connects he said BOOM! We high fived on it and when I got off the plane I bought the domain name. The rest is history.
What do you believe the essence of yoga is?
Love in the heart. Love of moving. Love of body. Witnessing whether you like the asana or not. Kindness. Non-competition. Spiritual development. Deep connection to source.
Yoga is such a universal creation and we feel it needs to be celebrated in any way or form possible. We want to create an event that makes people happy.
For me the essence of yoga is to be a good person, and being yourself. It takes some time to discover who you really and truly are, accept it, and make the best of who you are.
Yoga teaches you not only to be strong, healthy and mindful but also compassionate, loving, kind, open-minded, able to detach and to let go of grudges and the ego, it allows you to discover the true self.
Which leading yoga teachers will be showcasing at the festival?
Meghan Currie, Dylan Werner, Patrick Beach and Yoga Beyond, the Acro geniuses. Big yoga stars rising are Celest Pereira and Jivamukti teacher Luis Valentine, the Stand Up Paddleboard yoga taught by Nichola Cummiskey, Acroyoga teacher Anna Karides and Felix Price who teaches Shamanic Yoga.
We are friends with all the UK teachers whom are involved and we are proud to connect and collaborate with them to create a one off opportunity for all these passionate people to be in one space, to showcase their talents and also get to know each other. Our motto is of collaboration and shared vibration, and we really focus on the light heartedness of the yoga scene.
Besides yoga what else can people expect from the festival?
Lots! A gorilla circus to learn trapeze, live music from incredible musicians, Shamanic Ceremonies, raw, vegan and gourment vegetarian food, inspirational speakers on food and lifestyle, meditation, yoga raves, a spa and hot tub, swimming, canoeing, wilderness runs, a Photographic workshops from Robert Sturman – a world class yoga photographer about how to shoot yoga even on your phone for Instagram.
What are you most looking forward to at the festival?
The best will be a manifestation of this vision I have with the other two directors Daniela Olds and Marc Laws II. Standing in the middle of it, seeing all those amazing yogis and happy people – realising the dream. The idea that in three days people could actually transform is my inner vision. The festival is a playground in which we cause people to alter for the better – in terms of consciousness toward animals, the planet and other people. I’m really excited about the meditations, Diahann plays a beautiful crystal singing bowl.
I am mostly looking forward to seeing everyone enjoying themselves, and the event just happening, after months and hard graft of preparation, organisation, logistics, meetings, emails, skypes, brainstorms etc. It will be awesome to see the the fruit of that hard work right there in front of my eyes with a hazy sunset as the backdrop.
How many people are you expecting to attend?
We have an agreement of up to 2000
What’s your vision for the future Yoga Connects
We will have a Yoga Connects Festival every year in early July at Stanford Hall that is agreed and then in 2016 introduce a second one in Ibiza in September. From there we will expand to having more in Europe and in the winter, events around the world. This is an expanding and worldwide vision.
We are the heart of collaboration and shared vibration.
Celebrating passion connection health and love.
We are the dream team who met by complete chance, so we feel our purpose and connection was simply meant to be.
What are the details: dates, location, costs?
3rd-5th July at Stanford Hall just outside of Rugby, Leicestershire
Prices and passes:
Day pass £85
Two and three day tickets range from £180- £265 (Gold or Silver pass) which include two nights camping, yoga classes, an activity and talks but you can also choose accommodation in luxury hotel rooms onsite, posh Yurts, Glamping and of course regular camping so there is something to suit every budget.
Sally will be hosting a Yoga Connects Afterparty Yoga Retreat that Dylan Werner and Ashley Galvin are teaching on from the 5th-9th July. Details and further info can be found at www.sacredmasteryyoga.com