By Claire Harlin
A yoga instructor of nearly a decade, local resident Aubrey Hackman used to attend a huge yoga conference in Colorado each year. One year, the conference was sponsored by Fiji water, she said, and by the end of the well-attended event, the grounds were covered with empty plastic water bottles.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t right,’” said Hackman, 29. “This is a yoga event and it should promote mindfulness. People should be aware of the consequences their actions create. That’s what’s taught in the philosophy of yoga.”
Then a resident of Telluride, Colo., Hackman decided to create her own yoga event that would be environmentally conscious and not produce waste — one that would “allow attendees to accrue good karma,” she said. With that intention, the very first yoga festival was born, and it has been going strong for five years. The Telluride Yoga Festival began with about 300 attendees in 2008 and has grown to more than 800.
Not only was Hackman able to secure grant funding from the town of Telluride, but dozens of highly coveted yoga instructors from around the world have committed to being a part of the festival because they are in tune with her no-waste philosophy.
“I got huge names I never expected to get because they also wanted to be part of something that was environmentally focused,” said Hackman. “As soon as they caught wind of this event that was going to be totally different they jumped on board.”
Sponsors of the event are only allowed to provide product samples that are consumable and recyclable, and Hackman has turned away a number of companies that have offered ample sponsorship funding, but could not supply plastic-free promotional products. A portion of proceeds from the festival is also dispersed among several environmental nonprofits.
“All the paper we use is ancient forest-friendly, too. We’ve been doing that from day one,” said Hackman. “The commercialization of yoga is huge right now, a $30 billion industry. It’s enormous. I just want to focus on tradition and the older integrity of the practice.”
Hackman said the success of the festival inspired her to move to North County, where yoga is heavily embraced by the community. She said she would like to start a yoga festival here, and there have been many local people who have come forth to help her.
“It’s still up in the air,” she said. “I have what’s necessary; I’m just waiting for the right time.”
Hackman teaches yoga full-time at Bindu Yoga, located at 1130 Camino del Mar, and also at Hale Holistic in downtown San Diego (1250 J St.). She continues to orchestrate the Telluride Yoga Festival from her home in Del Mar, and the fast-approaching 2012 fest is scheduled for July 12-15.
Despite the growing popularity of the festival, Hackman said she wants to keep it small and intimate.
“Its size is what makes it unique,” she said. “Considering the caliber of teachers I bring in, at their home studios you may see 60 people in their class, so it’s really special to come to the festival and be able to take these senior teachers’ classes with 20 people or less.”
In addition to having a vast array of class options, the festival offers a vibrant selection of vendors, an evening kirtan musical performance by Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, and a workshop on slack-lining (similar to tightrope walking). The kirtan music style is a call-and-response, meditative Indian tradition that incorporates mainly percussion instruments. Local harpist Kelsey Little will also perform at the festival.
In planning for the festival, Hackman travels the world to find distinguished and like-minded teachers and performers to invite. For example, a brother-sister team Hackman met in India last fall will be featured at the festival this year. Keeping a strict focus on the caliber of teachers is how Hackman has both built and maintained respect in the yoga community.
“We have an intense focus on the teachers,” said Hackman, adding that about 30 percent of attendees are instructors themselves. “That’s really what sets us apart from other yoga events.”
For more information on the Telluride Yoga Festival, visit www.tellurideyogafestival.com. For information on Bindu Yoga, visit www.binduyogastudio.com.