Pensacola Magazine

Fourth Annual Mahabhuta Yoga Festival

Our lives are busy. They can be hectic and demanding. Our days are filled with a series of tasks, which we are expected to complete one after another, often without thought of the benefit, enjoyment, or joy that can be found in doing the task. At the end of the day we question, are we human doings? Or are we human beings?

Yoga is an ancient meditation, philosophy, religion, and physical practice, which originated in India. A common thread-of-thought in the practice and teachings of yoga is being in the present. The idea is, in order to fully appreciate a moment, or a task, you must fully commit to that moment. Be present in it. Be aware in it. The word yoga in Sanskrit means “to add” or “to join” and “connect.” In the most simple of ways, even the word invites you to connect, join, and be.

For the weekend of Nov. 20-22 Breathe Yoga and Wellness Center is hosting the fourth Annual Mahabhuta Yoga Festival. The festival will be held at Sanders Beach Community Center in Pensacola, Fla. The festival’s mission is to celebrate yoga, music, art and the environment. The festival is open to the public, over 40 shopping and food vendors, music, art and entertainment appropriate for the entire family is free. There are 24 yoga workshops (various styles of yoga at all levels) offered throughout the weekend with tickets available to attend. This will be a big event. Over 70 presenters are coming from the Gulf Coast area and beyond to participate in the festival.

Every year the festival has a different theme. This year the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival is honoring the Wood Sheep. 2015 is the year of the Wood Sheep according to the Chinese calendar and the year of the sheep is a time of healing, self-care and kindness. Sheep year celebrates family and an open acceptance of all love. Stacey Vann is director of Breathe, teacher and founder of the yoga festival and her desire is to help facilitate and foster a connection in our community.

“I always say the hardest thing to do, for someone who is brand new to yoga, or say someone who is coming to this type of festival, is walking through the door,” said Vann. “This is an invitation for our community to show up and be present and experience something maybe they’ve never experienced before.”

Vann is adamant about giving back to the community. According to Vann there has been a renaissance in the community since Hurricane Ivan. This festival puts Pensacola on the map in the world of yoga and is an opportunity every year for the community to gather for a unique experience. The festival is locally supported and driven. All the presenters create their classes and presentations around the theme of the Wood Sheep. According to Vann, since the year of the Wood Sheep is centered around self-care, there will be a cohesive feeling resonating throughout the festival, which is expressed and interpreted in every performer’s unique way.

Another unique and much anticipated aspect of the festival is the Galactic Child Tent. Parents are encouraged to bring their children to experience the free yoga classes, face panting, music, activities and the beloved marionette show featuring the Mountain Marionette’s “Animal Antics” on Saturday and Sunday.

Vann hopes people will discover something new, maybe something they didn’t realize they needed. According to Vann, people go to a yoga class for the first time for a variety of reasons. Some try yoga to reduce stress, or as a gentle physical exercise because they’ve had an injury, but what they gain on the other side is more than what they could have ever imagined.

The timing of the festival is no accident. It is before Thanksgiving, before the holidays. It is a time when families are coming together. Tara Taylor is a director of Breathe, yoga instructor, therapist and life coach. According to Taylor the festival is a highlight of the year, and an opportunity to be with like-hearted people. Her favorite part of the festival is the celebration of community, like a big family reunion, especially the evening events when all come together.

“It’s a reminder of what there is to be thankful for,” said Taylor. “You’re going into the holidays feeling like your cup is full.”

The festival provides a lively atmosphere with vendors’ art, jewelry, clothing, and music. There is much to enjoy at the festival and many ways to participate. According to Vann showing up is participating. It doesn’t mean you have to sign up and go to a class.  Participation can be just showing up, and seeing what the experience is like. According to Vann that brings a lot of positive energy to the space.

“It’s not about escaping your life,” said Vann. “It’s really about being present with people. It’s more about coming home to yourself. It is about celebration and about having fun and having a good time, but doing it in a mindful way. It’s about retreat, reflection, and finding yourself.”

A big aspect of the festival is connecting the community with a support group. It is an opportunity for people who share mutual ambitions and love all things yoga to enjoy each other’s company and to connect.

“If you’re interested in learning about how to eat healthier, how to reduce stress or tension in your life, how to incorporate movement into your life,” said Vann about this support group, “here’s that well that you can come dip your cup in for the weekend.”

Everyone is invited to attend the festival and is encouraged to take a moment and practice self-care. Reflect on what you have to be thankful for and decide to be present. Decide to connect. Decide to be. More information, including a complete event schedule, list of special guests, volunteer details and ticket prices can be found at