Midstate yoga festival transitions to virtual event

“You have such an opportunity to have an audience connect with each other."

  • By Jennifer Rehill/WLVR

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Yoga studios and wellness centers have been shuttered across Pennsylvania since mid-March, when stay-at-home orders were mandated across the state. Festivals, concerts and workshops were cancelled, and the industry’s small business owners and independent contractors found themselves out of work.

But almost as quickly, many practitioners moved to virtual classes. One midstate yoga teacher is trying something completely new this Saturday, April 25th.

When you think about a yoga festival, images of yoga mats stretched out under trees, natural foods and live music may come to mind. And that’s what the Central PA Yoga Love Festival was like – last September.

Held at a rustic retreat center in rural Perry county, it was a weekend escape into physical and spiritual pursuits.

Festival organizer and yoga teacher Chelsea Parcels says as the state’s residents were instructed to shelter in place this spring – and she started teaching classes online – she wanted to do something bigger – to benefit the whole community. So she got to work on the Central PA Yoga Love Fest – Online Edition.

“We’re going to have all types of yoga classes that are suitable for someone who is just curious, a beginner or a seasoned yogi who’s been practicing for a long time. We’re going to have some live music, we’re going to be featuring some local businesses and we’re going to be having some fun contests,” says Parcels.

The free event will stream live over Facebook, and Parcels says there are more than 30 sessions scheduled, with two or three running each hour.

Festival headliners Bob Sima and Shannon Plummer of Where the Light Gets In will offer a virtual concert that combines traditional songs and shamanic meditation practices. Plummer explains how that works.

“In a concert, for example, Bob may pause in the middle of a concert and invite people to receive a breath together, a collective breath. We may practice breath work for just a few minutes in the middle of a concert to get into a space of contemplation before maybe a more contemplative song,” says Plummer.

Plummer and her husband Sima have some experience now with hosting virtual events. They were on tour this spring when all of their performances were cancelled. So they moved the concerts and workshops online. Sima says despite the lack of face-to-face contact, it worked.

“You have such an opportunity to have an audience connect with each other, and with us. Because they can see each other, and we can have them break out into small breakout groups and them just chat with each other about, you know, what’s their favorite song,” Sima says.

Rickie Meryl Freedman, of Reiki by Rickie, will also be at the festival. She says before the pandemic struck, nearly all of her work was hands-on.

“Reiki is gentle light stationary touch and balancing right off your body and your energy field, because our energy radiates. That’s how we feel and sense each other. So certainly we are all missing that human, physical contact,” says Freedman.

These days Freedman says she is successfully providing Reiki online, and hosting virtual meet-ups and workshops.

“ There is no time and space in the energy realm. And so you can share Reiki long distance just like some people choose to share a prayer,” says Freedman.

And Freedman says the response from clients has been very positive – as folks are looking for new ways to manage stress, and see familiar faces.

Freedman will lead a workshop called The Yoga of Reiki at the virtual festival.

It’s the kind of class you might only find at a yoga festival, and Parcels says the opportunity to try new things is an important part of the online event.

“If anyone has ever been just a little bit curious about yoga, and maybe they wouldn’t want to buy a ticket to a festival, or even go into a yoga studio, this is just an excellent opportunity for you to pop in, check out a class and keep an open mind,” says Parcels.

Parcels says she hopes the event will offer something many folks are missing these days – a chance for tangible connection.

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