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Ahimsa Yoga and Music Festival 

click to enlarge Participants in the 2013 Ahimsa Yoga and Music Festival at Windham Mountain.
  • Participants in the 2013 Ahimsa Yoga and Music Festival at Windham Mountain.

For the second year in a row, Windham Mountain Resort will play host to the Ahimsa Yoga and Music Festival during the first weekend of October. The two-day celebration of movement, song, and meditation has been expanded from a one-day festival jam-packed with dozens of yoga classes for every level and devotional music and chanting known as kirtan. What hasn't changed about the festival, however, is the affordability. A two-day pass will get festivalgoers three yoga classes a day plus all the music their hearts desire, for $125. Those coming just for Saturday can buy a one-day pass for $75 or a Sunday pass for $65. If you're coming just for the music, it's even cheaper: $40 for a weekend music pass, or $25 for a Saturday or Sunday music pass.

"What I think is fantastic about this festival is that it is affordable," says Linda Lalita Winnick, owner of Shakti Yoga studios and one of the 39 teachers at this year's Ahimsa. The festival, explained Winnick, is "a large buffet, a variety of teachers." Attendees will also notice a distinct lack of big-name celebrity yogis and yoginis. "We're not celebrity yoga teachers, so it kind of makes it a little more equal opportunity for everybody. There's definitely enough of these big, humongous yoga conferences that have what we would call 'celebrated yoga teachers,'" Winnick continues. "What [Ahimsa] seems to offer are people who are celebrated in a different way, on a different scale." The down-to-earth atmosphere is why Winnick came back this year to teach a "Spirit of Woodstock" yoga class on Sunday, October 5. The open-level class will feature upbeat rock music and energetic, flowing sequences. Winnick assures "good vibes, good music, and I'll be bringing my own assistants to come in and help the students have a really good experience—minus the psychedelics."

Most of the teachers and musicians presenting at Ahimsa, explains organizer Bernie Walters, come from areas close to Greene County and around the East Coast. This accounts for one of the reasons why the festival remains affordable. "We're not drawing from big-name teachers or musicians from the West Coast to avoid those big travel costs and everything," says Walters.

In addition to Winnick, other teachers include Sadie Nardini, Peter Sterios, Meghan Currie, Sondra Loring, Coby Kozlowski, Gaurapriya Tester, Be Shakti, and many more. The teachers represent a multitude of yogic styles, and classes range from beginner-level to advanced. Some classes will focus more on yoga asana, or the physical practice of yoga, others will delve into meditation, and some classes center around pranayama, the breath-work practice intrinsic to yoga.

Ahimsa isn't just about exploring the body, mind, and breath from a yoga mat. A cadre of musicals acts are slated to perform at the festival this year, including David Newman (Durga Das), Guara Vani, SRI Kirtan, Steve Gorn, One Love, Brenda McMorrow and John de Kadt, Masood Ali Khan, Adam Butler, Carrie Grossman, John William Bauld and Shonna Brown, and Devadas.

This year's expanded festival will also include food and merchandise vendors on site at Windham Mountain, providing plenty to do and see when participants aren't taking yoga classes. "We're offering five different musical acts on both days," Walters explains, "and we have a huge vending area this year. We have over 25 vendors already, [and] there will be food. Last year, nobody seemed to get bored."

The festival's name, Ahimsa, is Sanskrit for "not to harm" and is the first of the precepts known amongst yoga practitioners as the Yamas, or, the rules that govern how one should live. Indeed, the name is apropos for the nonviolent and peaceful nature of the yoga community. "Everybody involved with the [festival's] organization has those Ahimsa beliefs," says Walters. "It seemed like a good name."

The Ahimsa Yoga and Music Festival will take place at Windham Mountain, October 4 and 5. Ahimsayogafestival.com.

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