The months of hard work of hundreds of individuals from various artistic and non-artistic backgrounds has finally culminated over the past few days in the long-awaited NEON Festival. NEON stands for “New Energy of Norfolk” and new energy it certainly is. The NEON movement has taken what was previously an underutilized part of the city and created something truly unique and beautiful. Dozens of large-scale public art projects created by the collaboration of local and national artists now decorate many of the previously barren walls in this burgeoning arts district. To celebrate the fruits of the NEON labor, the NEON Festival was born. This past Thursday and Friday, artists of musical, yogic, performance, comic and culinary backgrounds came together to build upon and showcase the public art that now illuminates our city.
My contribution to the festival, of course, came in the form of yoga. With the help of the event coordinators, myself, and fellow Bhav Brigade teacher, Danielle, as well as many, many others, Glow Flow yoga classes were added to the event schedule both nights of the festival. I taught the first class Thursday night and Danielle taught Friday night, closing out the festival. The Harrison Opera House graciously offered up their lawn and sound system for the classes. Friends and strangers (friends we hadn’t met yet) donated supplies. Trees were adorned with 6-foot black lights, hundreds of glow sticks littered the ground, and a high-energy feel-good soundtrack flowed from the speakers. Thursday held a lot of “firsts” for me—my first time teaching yoga at a festival, my first time having anything to do with a festival for that matter, my first time teaching a class of over 100 people, my first time teaching a class so large I needed a microphone to be heard (though I’ll admit I may have been waiting my whole life to say “testing 1-2-3” into a microphone and actually mean it), my first time feeling really, really nervous to teach a class. I instantly forgot all of this once I started teaching, spirits were high and I was so, so happy to be there.
We started on our backs in supta baddha konasana (“reclined bound angle pose”–think soles of the feet together, knees fall wide)—my favorite!—taking just a few moments to breathe and connect to the present moment, while I read Pema Chodron’s “Experience Your Life” to set the tone for the class. What followed was a dynamic vinyasa flow class, each pose linked to the next by the fluidity of the breath and a theme of celebrating life (we were at a festival, after all). An hour later, the class found themselves on their backs, once again in supta baddha konasana (I often like to start and finish classes in the same pose so that people can feel the changes in their body that have taken place as a result of their practice, and also because continuity is a good thing) with one hand over the chest, one hand over the belly. They felt the beating of their own hearts, the rise and fall of the chest, as I gently reminded them what a gift it is to have a heart that beats, what a gift it is to have woken up today, to have a body capable of carrying through a 60-minute yoga class, to be able to move and breathe with ease—these are privileges denied to many and are to be celebrated. Even when everything else goes wrong, you can always come back to these things. There is always, always something to celebrate. Thank you NEON Festival for reminding us of this.