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Opening hearts – California Spirit Festival takes root in Sacramento

California Spirit Festival co-founder Sukhbir Collins.

San Francisco hosts the Yoga Journal conference, Colorado gets the Hanuman festival, Squaw Valley has the coveted Wanderlust festival, and Joshua Tree is home of Bhakti Fest. These big-name yoga festivals draw thousands while providing a safe place for growth, support and play, and soon enough, Sacramento will lay claim to one of its own.

The three-day California Spirit Festival will be held April 26-28 downtown at the Masonic Temple (1123 J Street), and is more than just yoga – it’s meditation, music, dancing and community building. And it’s bringing together some of the area’s top teachers, along with those around the state and beyond. People like Janet Stone, Les Leventhal, MC Yogi, Steve Gold, and Jai Jagdeesh.

The weekend is designed for everyone, and is accessible to anyone regardless of experience, say organizers, who are expecting 700 to 800 attendees over the three days. One could participate the entire weekend without taking a downward-facing dog if they wanted to, said co-founder Tyler Langdale.

"And they could still walk away being blown away, heart wide open, mind wide open," he said.

"It’s really exciting to have the different styles of yoga, dance and music that don’t really all come under the same roof, and oftentimes aren’t practiced at the same studio, and to go beyond the studio to increasing people’s awareness of what’s going on in the community and state, and make a difference in how we’re living our lives," said co-founder Sukhbir Collins. "It’s an open door to people interested in exploring, as well as people who have experience exploring paths to increase the spirit."

Classes will be held simultaneously in five rooms – there are four temple “classrooms” and a grand ballroom. There will be 40 presenters, more than 45 classes, and the cost to attend is far less than what you’d pay for Wanderlust or the Bali Spirit Festival, Langdale says. "We’re creating a killer, kick-ass event at a reasonable price that won’t break their bank, but still give them an incredible value," he said.

The roots

The seeds of the festival were planted about eight years ago, shortly after Sukhbir opened Midtown’s first yoga studio – Deep Yoga at 21st and H streets. "Like anything else, it starts as an idea and becomes more clear as life unfolds," she said.

Through being part of Sacramento’s budding yoga community, she made connections with other teachers, many of whom would go on to open their own studios in the area. Sukhbir continued following her dreams of creating different types of community, and enhancing the spiritual consciousness of everyone she encountered, eventually moving away from running a studio to focus on her calling – teaching.

"We started as a unit, but there’s only so long you can contain energy, before energy starts to expand and grow," she said. "Amazing things started to happen to everybody."

She eventually sold Deep Yoga in 2011 to Langdale – it’s now called Yoga Shala – and aside from teaching Kundalini yoga classes around town and working with St. John’s Women’s Shelter, she’s a co-owner of Dad’s Kitchen in Land Park.

Then around this time last year, the idea of a spiritual festival resurfaced, and really took root when Sukhbir collaborated with Langdale to realize the idea.

Langdale was down, and started working immediately with Sukhbir to create an event that featured "all the major spiritual work that’s taking place in Sacramento." They looked at other models and festivals, and found ways to "do it our way," Langdale said.

"And it’s actually grown and taken off in a way I didn’t anticipate, especially in the first year," Sukhbir said.

"We truly believe this event will support, and really bring positive vibes and energy and consciousness to the Sacramento area during the weekend," Langdale said.

California Spirit Festival co-founder Tyler Langdale.

The lineup

There are yoga teachers, musicians, DJs, dancers, and meditation and contemplation leaders coming from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and right here in Sacramento. Many studio owners – such as Zuda Yoga’s Anne Marie Kramer and Bill Prysock, Asha Yoga’s Cori Martinez, and One Flow’s Kate Saal, among others – will be leading classes.

On Friday night, Sukhbir and Jai-Jagdeesh will lead a 90-minute "Journey of the heart," a Kundalini yoga kriva (yoga set) that releases deep-seated tension and energizes the lungs and heart. Kundalini yoga is both a physical and meditative practice, meant to develop strength, awareness, character and consciousness through mental, spiritual and physical discipline.

"Get ready to chant, dance and move your spirit toward the pure essence of self," the class description states.

On Saturday, Les Leventhal and DJ Nate Spross will lead a detox flow, a vinyasa-based workshop that will open the hips by stretching the hamstrings and relaxing and strengthening the quads and thighs, "while cultivating awareness of the challenges that we hold deep in our hip and pelvic regions."

Janet Stone will be teaming up with Girish Sunday morning, for an all-levels yoga class themed around Hanuman, or overcoming seemingly impossible odds. “Like Hanuman, we face trials and demands we think we can’t possibly accomplish or overcome, yet with the power of devotion, with a leap of faith, we can do things we never thought possible,” the class description says. "In this workshop, we’ll test our limits, both on and off the mat, and see how a devoted and fearless heart can take us anywhere – even into hanumanasana."

For those with limited experience, Sukhbir suggested going to the site and reading the class descriptions. And "if you’re in any way, shape or form drawn to something, there’s a reason," she went on to say. "And when we’re new, we let the fear factor take over…see what it can do for you."

The interior of the Masonic Temple, at 1123 J Street, and the venue of the California Spirit Festival.

The venue

On the corner of 12th and J streets sits the Masonic Temple, one of the city’s most intact architectural period pieces. It was built between 1913 and 1918, and in 2001 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its three large event rooms and grand ballroom "sets the stage for three days of consciousness-lifting yoga, music, dance, food and more." The building will be decorated with ornaments and fabric that Langdale brought back from a recent trip to India.

The setting is ideal, Langdale says. "This temple is absolutely amazing, the decoration, the thought, and it’s been used specifically for spiritually-minded people to gather for more than 100 years," he said. "It’s larger than life, and it’s one of the best kept secrets in Sacramento."

Connecting the rooms are wide hallways, with large stained-glass windows, and marble and cast iron staircases that will be filled with local vendors, according to the festival’s website.

The food

As you may expect, the food will be sourced locally and the menu will be tailored to what’s available for harvest. Chris Haynes and Ryan Tubbs of Dad’s Kitchen – which Sukhbir co-owns with Julio Peix – will be overseeing the food, and there will be vendors selling fresh kombucha, fruits and veggies.

The menu will include vegetarian, vegan and raw food choices (no meat here), which is being prepared by current students and graduates from St. John’s Women’s Shelter’s hospitality training program.

Festival Spokeswoman Jen Skondin said the food will be “grab-and-go” style, will include as many organic ingredients as possible, and will cost between $5 and $10 for a meal. The menu will be posted online next week.

The message

This is Sacramento’s opportunity to support what’s already here – the spiritual community that’s been bubbling up over the years, Sukhbir said. The festival is a way "to break down the walls of what people’s ideas behind yoga are, especially the people who have been hesitant, or see it as a specific dynamic or for a specific genre of people," she said. "And it’s really up to us on how we choose to show up."

The festival is a "collaboration of many different spiritual modalities that are coming together under one roof," she said. It’s designed for those who want to expand their consciousness, increase their joy level and connect with something greater than themselves.

"More than anything else, the time is now for us to recognize how truly powerful we can be," Sukhbir said. "And if we choose, we can use our power to overcome obstacles."
And the more people who do that together – in community – the more powerful that impact is. 

Editor’s note: Every Thursday we deliver a local event guide straight to your inbox, right on time to make your weekend plans. Sign me up.

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