Yoga On Your Plate — Sedona Mainstay ChocolaTree Serves Up True Nourishment

Yoga On Your Plate — Sedona Mainstay ChocolaTree Serves Up True Nourishment

When it comes to living your yoga, there’s no better way to sink your teeth into it than, well, sinking your teeth into it. Nourishing your body with natural, organic, and whole foods is not only a practice in ahimsa (non-harming) to your body, but to the Earth as well. The ChocolaTree is a Sedona mainstay restaurant, serving up wholesome goodness since 2008. Their unique “treehouse-like” vibe (replete with hammocks and shady enclaves) is the perfect backdrop to sink into some of the best natural foods you’ll find in the American West. And that’s to say nothing of their famous desserts and chocolate — the cacao is hand-harvest, each bean peeled individually on small cacao farms.

All are welcome at ChocolaTree, where we truly support our vision of clean air and pure water and pristine gardens for every child,” says gardener and ChocolaTree co-creator Radhika Jen Marie. “Everything on our menu is organic, and entirely homemade, and we do this because this earth and all of life is precious and sacred. It’s our duty to steward these precious elements of life that intern nurture and sustain us.”

Jen and all the ChocolaTree co creators want everyone who comes to the ChocolaTree to leave feeling not only nourished in body, but mind. “Our intention is that one feels inspired and nourished from their experience at ChocolaTree,” says Jen. She hopes that after enjoying a meal or snack at the eatery, visitors will spring forth with “renewed vigor, inspired by the nourishing healthy foods and connection with their authenticity.” They believe that healthy vibrant foods contribute to healthy vibrant lifestyles that bring forth positivity and nurturance in the world, and this belief is a guiding principle in all they offer at the restaurant.

This principle is in line with the true north principles of Sedona Yoga Festival, and with those of yoga in general. “Within the yogic foundation is a summoning fourth of truth, authenticity, presence and connection of one’s true nature,” says Jen. “This truth is sat chit ananda — existence knowledge and bliss absolute. At ChocolaTree our intention is to be a sanctuary that nurtures authenticity.” She hopes that an experience at the restaurant encourages folks to touch the silence, and taste the silence. “Your own true nature is silence,” says Jen.

If you’re visiting Sedona, this is one spot you definitely won’t want to miss. And for SYF attendees, the invitation is even sweeter: Join us at The ChocolaTree for a Friday night Kirtan, featuring a special elixir for attendees of SYF. “All are welcome for a night of connection with blissful chanting, at an elevated bhakti session,” says Jen. She’ll craft the elixir based on the energy of the evening, but it will be a complementary beverage intended to assist all in openhearted chanting, she says. 

We hope to see you there on Friday night, and that you take the time to experience this bliss-inducing restaurant for at least one other meal during your time in Sedona. Still looking for a ticket? Get yours today! https://bit.ly/SYF22Tix

Desiree Rumbaugh — Moving Through the Ages with Yoga

Desiree Rumbaugh — Moving Through the Ages with Yoga

Desiree Rumbaugh — Moving Through the Ages with Yoga

When we tend to think of yoga that’s accessible for all ages and for aging bodies, we trend toward restorative and gentle yoga, as if our aging bodies across the board lose the will for a physical challenge. It doesn’t have to be that way, according to international teacher, author, and PBS contributor Desiree Rumbaugh. “When I was younger, I’d always hear older people saying, ‘I used to do this or that,’” she says. As a very athletic and disciplined practitioner, this wasn’t how Desiree envisioned her own practice changing through the years. She figured that there had to be a way to continue to age well, without giving up the difficult physical practice. 

As she herself crossed the threshold of 50 and beyond, that’s what her teaching began to showcase. “How do we keep the party going? How do we keep the fun going? How do we keep our wrists and our back and our knees and our neck able to withstand these poses without injury? So that’s what my teaching is like,” she says, “answering those questions and giving people a lot of ideas.”

Creating a Community 

Desiree isn’t alone in this pursuit. She has what she calls a pit crew of physical therapists, weight trainers, and different people to advise her and keep her — and her students — safe as she explores what it means to embrace physicality for older bodies. As the Western yoga world continues to move toward accessibility, Desiree says that she inhabits an important space. “I think that’s kind of interesting to go learn from the lady who’s 63,” she says, “the lady who has been doing this for 35 years, and does everything like handstands and backbends.” 

It’s not only an inspiration because of her age, but because of what that kind of flexibility — both physical and of the boundaries we consider in our own minds about the physical — represents. “It’s not because I’m lucky,” says Desiree. “I’ve had to work to change habits and figure out why these pains were there. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs just like everybody,” she says. “How have I gone into it instead of around it or avoiding it?” 

This doesn’t mean just haphazardly experimenting with advanced poses. In her thirties, Desiree recalls just being able to go the park, for example, and kicking up into a handstand. This isn’t a possibility at 63, when the stakes are much higher if she falls. This “makes me more aware and conscious,” she says, “so there’s the mind aspect. I think as we age, we need to have stimulation of new thoughts and new ideas and new experiences.” That’s what Desiree’s teaching is really all about. 

What Students Can Expect in Her Class

Desiree recognizes that her approach may not be for everybody — but she’s not trying to be. She wants her students to explore their own boundaries, and learn something about themselves that they may not have thought was possible. Her classes inspire students to understand that hard work and dedication results in progress; that you have the power to change your body and your mindset for the better. She also wants to “stress the fun of playing in a yoga class with your friends, even though it can be solitary practice. That’s a big one for me,” she says, “the joy of connecting with others in a playful way where we encourage each other and the support of the community.”

That’s what being at SYF is all about for Desiree — that connection of being with others of likemind, “supported by the breathing and the chanting and the working together mindfully in the present moment.” It’s why we’re so excited to be back together after two years apart, and why we hope you’ll join us in June. 

Tickets are on sale now! Come experience the transformation of SYF with us. We can’t wait to see you soon.

Oneika Mays: Why Diversity of Ideas is Important at Yoga Festivals

Oneika Mays: Why Diversity of Ideas is Important at Yoga Festivals

Oneika Mays: Why Diversity of Ideas is Important at Yoga Festivals

Oneika Mays doesn’t consider herself a big “festival person,” and typically shies away from appearing at large scale yoga events. The New York-based Riker’s Island meditation teacher said that she’s most excited about the space that SYF is creating for the tough conversations. Among other things, finding common ground with people with whom she may not necessarily agree is paramount to Oneika’s teaching mission.

“I think the work needs to get a little messy,” she says. “And that’s what I’m hoping to bring to Sedona. I want to create a container of compassion and lovingkindness and metta — which I’m really passionate about — being able to move and talk and breathe and listen,” even when we may not agree with each other.

In the wake of Covid, civil unrest, political upheaval, conspiracy theories, and war, it’s never been a more apt time for the world to hear Oneika’s message. When we live solely on one end of the spectrum or the other, she says, “I feel like it’s damaging. The noise starts to sound the same.” She uses the hot topic of vaccination as an example. While she considers herself a staunch proponent of them, “I’m not going to cancel somebody who doesn’t believe in vaccinations,” she says. “What would that say about me?” Her work at Riker’s is the same way — she often interacts with people with whom she does not agree. “It’s all about finding places of compassion,” she says. “Walking the walk is really hard.”

Why the Experience of SYF Matters

In order to begin to bring about the collective healing for which we’re all searching — regardless of belief system of political stance — we have to start somewhere. “I think it starts with giving grace to ourselves individually,” says Oneika. That doesn’t mean that we don’t evolve, and it isn’t an excuse for the kind of spiritual bypassing that results in entirely individualistic evolution.

“The grace comes in when we understand that we all start somewhere; that our views and beliefs can change,” says Oneika. This means listening to new voices and perspectives — really listening — and then allowing for those perspectives to take root in a meaningful way. When the transformation happens within, you are able to start giving grace to others as well. 

“I think that’s what yoga is all about,” says Oneika, “having these internal conversations with the noise that’s inside your head and finding ways to understand it, or even just ask questions about it, and to do that with compassion. That’s what I’m hoping people do when they’re in community with me.”

Why It’s Important to Hear New Voices

One of the main programming goals of SYF this year is to bring some new voices to the festival circuit, like Oneika. She said that this is crucial because when we don’t see other people who have come from other places and have had other types of experiences than our own, we really can’t begin to understand the concept of oneness. “The idea of oneness is easy to say when everybody that you’re standing in a circle with looks exactly like you and has the same experiences as you,” says Oneika.

This isn’t a starry-eyed or overly-optimistic perspective. “This isn’t about gathering a bunch of different voices and everybody holding hands and singing kumbaya and sort of going off into the sunset, because that’s not realistic,” laughs Oneika. “Life is uncomfortable, and we can learn to move through discomfort in these kinds of small doses, a little bit at a time.”

In doing this, Oneika believes that we really can work together to create a more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding society. It’s when we truly look through the lenses of truth and honor that we can live our yoga — no matter what your personal beliefs are. This is what grace truly looks like.

Join Oneika for the tough conversations, and create the space in your life for transformation by joining us this June! Tickets on sale now.

Crisanto Santa Ana: How Music Creates the Space for Grace

Crisanto Santa Ana: How Music Creates the Space for Grace

Crisanto Santa Ana: How Music Creates the Space for Grace

A big part of what makes SYF special is undoubtedly the music. It’s true that music is the language of the soul — when in the pursuit of mind-body transformation, music can have a powerful effect. In addition to its renowned lineup of spiritual and kirtan music, SYF also brings some of the best regional and international DJs and performers to Sedona, who not only inform the experience and provide a foundation for true evolution of the soul. 

Crisanto Santa Ana is a California-based DJ, artist, videographer, and creative director who currently helms creative operations for LiveFree Productions. “I wear a lot of hats, as far as creating art,” he says, but “music has been my first love. It started with DJing. I’m excited to showcase and share space at Sedona in 2022 and share my music.” 

Crisanto will be providing a soundscape for several yoga classes — an experience that is different than his usual on-stage showcases that have taken him all over the country. “It’s very energetic,” he says, “between myself, the teacher, and the students.” At previous SYF conferences, Crisanto has also put on nighttime shows, sharing the stage with the likes of MC Yogi and DJ Drez. “And then I’ll just DJ maybe at the pavillion or the marketplace, and just keep it mellow,” he adds. “Wherever there is music needed, I inch my way toward that.”

Through music and his day job, Crisanto is no stranger to the wellness world, but he’s also a regular in the party circuit. He plans to bring some of those vibes, albeit mindfully, to SYF. Events like SYF, he says, are more intentional — people come with an intention to feel the vibe, and to be with people and interact with them. 

“Mindfulness is the word that comes to my mind when I think of Sedona in comparison to other transformational festivals,” says Cristano. “It’s the amazing programs, classes, and workshops,” he says, “but there’s also a vibe to it. It’s the vortexes, too.” 

The SYF theme to Give It Up For Grace is an apt one for this year, says Crisanto, given that we’re coming out of lockdown, coming off of all the time we had to spend apart. We’ve had time to be with ourselves and to examine what grace is necessary to deal with these difficult times. Crisanto says that the idea of grace is particularly interesting when considered through the lens of music. 

“People are just graceful about being in that space, you know?” he says. “Music automatically puts you in the present moment — it just takes over. And you’re there, rather than drifting into the future or to the past.” He said that he’s looking forward to being in that present moment of grace with SYF attendees, and through sound and movement co-creating the space of grace together. 

Crisanto said he’s also looking forward to being back together in community after two years apart. “Time tends to slow down a little bit,” he says. “I’m looking forward to being united with the yogi community, and seeing all the teachers and students I haven’t seen in so long — just reconnecting with the festival and the land.” 

Join Crisanto Santa Ana and many more luminaries, leaders, and teachers this June! Tickets on sale now. We can’t wait to see you there. 

A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Solstice

A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Solstice

A Rumination on Darkness and Light for the Winter Solstice

As the end of the calendar year approaches we on the SYF Team find ourselves contemplative, in preparation for the long inward journey of winter. As the light begins to fade in the Northern Hemisphere and days reach their shortest and nights their longest, we can’t help but lovingly explore these moments of darkness for what they can reveal both personally and collectively. 

In the time since we last gathered together in community, we’ve experienced a moment of global darkness. While it’s safe to say that every generation can lay claim, in some capacity, to a tragedy or sorrow that begets collective mourning, it’s arguably been a century since the world has undergone the kind of massive disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We need not foray into heated political discussion to acknowledge the pain and loss that has been endured around the world. 

And yet in these darker days is an opportunity to cultivate light, to not run from the sadnesses of the world, but to allow our practice to inform how we approach it. To Give It Up For Grace is a celebration of joy, a return to community — but also a practice in the beauty of letting go. 

“Grace is the intersection of that moment when you get out of your head and into your heart,” says SYF Programming Lead Reggie Hubbard. Allowing the heart to lead, to infuse purpose with care and consideration is to recognize oneness, and to take action to ensure that when darkness sets in, all people have a pathway to light. “The only way to fix the mess we’re in,” says Reggie, “is if we do it together. We need to listen more than we talk, and take action toward collective healing.” 

A Time of Service

These contemplative weeks leading to the winter solstice are prime for taking stock and exploring, and tenderly beginning to make plans with what we’ll do as the light returns. In some cultures, the weeks around the winter solstice were traditionally a time of service. According to History.com

“Yalda night” is an Iranian festival celebrating the longest and darkest night of the year. The celebration springs out of ancient Zoroastrian traditions and customs intended to protect people from evil spirits during the long night.

On Shab-e Yalda, (which translates to “Night of Birth”), Iranians all over the world celebrate the triumph of the sun god Mithra over darkness. According to tradition, people gather together to protect each other from evil, burn fires to light their way through the darkness, and perform charitable acts.

Creating the Light

To be of service is to live in grace — and to live graciously. It’s no secret that our society is polarized and discordant, and that our disagreements often seem louder and more sure than the ties that bind us. Yoga, like winter, is about the long inward journey; but it’s also about creating the change and the light we want to see. This means disagreeing compassionately, and finding empathy for one another even when we vehemently oppose certain beliefs or ideas. 

This also means creating the conditions so that all people feel seen, heard, and welcome. At the end of the day (or the end of the year, as the case may be), we’re all in this together, interconnected and interdependent. When a neighbor is hurting, the neighborhood suffers. Our community, both our yoga community and our global community, is like this. The solstice is a good time to ruminate on what you can do to bring light to those around you. How can you use your practice to inform the creation of a more just, compassionate, and kind world for all?

Non-Attachment as the Light

There’s also solstice musings in traditional yogic philosophy. In Sutra 1.36–1.37, Patanjali explores the idea of nonattachment, and how detaching from the world into the cave of the heart helps us on the path of light, toward true connection and deep, unwavering joy. When we come to meditation with the desire and striving to release ourselves from the pain (and pleasures!) of the world, we cultivate that ability to step into the light of our truest nature. To say—we all experience the darkness of ignorance, avidya. Life, and spiritual pursuit, is a long journey to transcend this darkness, and to work toward that understanding. 

This is pertinent to keep in mind as we wade through these dark weeks leading up to the solstice in the Northern Hemisphere — and as we work toward collective healing of the experiential darknesses of the past year. 

May you all find light in your personal journeys, as well as inspiration to be the light in your community. Happy winter solstice! 

Be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the end of this page to be the first to know when 2022 tickets go on sale. We hope to be in community with you soon.

Making Plans as a Practice of Presence

Making Plans as a Practice of Presence

Why Making Plans is a Practice of Presence — and Can Bring Meaning to the Now

If you’ve exprienced or survived trauma or loss, you may be familiar with the feeling that the future feels daunting. The lessons of our yoga practice teach us that cultivating a sense of presence and appreciation for the here and now can help us to feel grounded and content, and may even help to combat symptoms of depression. And yet when we cannot think about the future, we often experience an acute sense of longing, an inability to find that feleing of grounding or content. In his 2018 groundbreaking book, Lost Connections—Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions, researcher and writer Johann Hari posits that a lost connection to the future may be one major reason we experience depression or anxiety; when our connection to the idea of the future has been severed, we struggle to find meaning in the present.

The Greater Good Science Center in Berkley, CA, backs up this idea that planning for the future can have a similar effect to our psychological wellbeing as does mindfulness practices. “Prospecting,” as sociologists call it, is different from anxiously anticipating the future—it’s a way of dreaming up possibilities. “Besides helping us make decisions and reach our goals,” writes Summer Allen in a 2019 article for Greater Good Magazine, “there is evidence that prospection may improve psychological health more generally.” 

Dreaming up possibilities in turn fosters a sense of optimism. When we view the future as bleak, without anything to look forward to, it’s much more difficult to relish the present moment. My parents used to have a saying in their marriage: Always “wreak H.A.V.O.C.” — “Have A Vacation On Calendar.” It was meaningful for them to always have something to look forward to, particularly when things got difficult. Rather than an obsolete goal or desire, making plans for their immediate future allowed them to get through challenges, motivated by a tangible reward. 

One of the most difficult things about the Covid-19 pandemic has been not only the canceled vacations and plans, but the feeling that future plans themselves are obsolete. Luckily for all of us, vaccines, antibodies, and the hard-won knowledge of the pandemic has allowed for us to again look toward the future with optimism. As such, one of the best things you can do to celebrate is to get that vacation on the calendar. 

What better way to do so than to return to mindful community presence at Sedona Yoga Festival? While May may feel like a long way off, creating the space to imagine the possibilities—and carving out the time for something meaningful to your future self—could be just the thing to help you navigate those winter blues. 

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