Interest in yoga, mindfulness, meditation and similar self-care modalities has exploded in recent years. A 2016 survey conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal magazine found that between 2012 and 2016, the number of Americans practicing yoga grew by more than 50 percent to some 36 million people. In that same time, the number of men practicing yoga grew from 4 million to 10 million, while the number of senior yoga practitioners (defined as people age 50 and older) tripled to include approximately 14 million.
While this is still a relatively small subset of the 320-odd million people who live in the United States, such trends are nonetheless impactful. Here in Loudoun County there are dozens of locations to take a yoga class, from dedicated studios to gyms and community centers. There’s yoga for kids, cat yoga, goat yoga, even beer yoga—if ever there were a time to explore this ancient system of wellness, it’s now. Yoga is more accessible than ever, and this October, the NoVa Wellness and YogaFest Retreat offers the region three days of movement, mindfulness and mellow vibes designed to woo yogis new and seasoned to drop in and let go.
What You’ll Find at the Festival
“We really have all the bases covered,” said YogaFest visionary and founder Miriam Nasuti. “When you go to this festival, you can take a class, take a break, take a workshop, go to meditation—you can do as much or little as you want. We want people to walk around, enjoy the beauty of Morven Park and just feel harmonious.”
The three-day event, set for Oct. 6-8, can be enjoyed piecemeal or as a full-on immersive excursion. Each day includes both active and restive yoga classes, lectures, meditation exercises and workshops designed to help guests tap into their calm, compassionate core.
Activities are largely divided among three areas: the blended tent, active movement tent, and calm yoga grove. Their monikers suggest what’s to be found inside—the active movement tent will feature more athletic styles of yoga like vinyasa and Iyengar; meditation, yin and restorative yoga classes will be held in the calm yoga grove; and the blended tent will host workshops, specialized yoga classes and more.
Each environment has been carefully selected to support a specific experience and be welcoming to anyone. “This festival will have an intense focus on wellness and healing,” Nasuti said. “In the blended tent, there will be a weekend of amazing yoga classes and workshops going on. … If you’ve never taken yoga before or are curious about it, make the calm yoga grove your place for the day. There’s yin and restorative yoga, and it’s very mellow—anyone can follow along beautifully. If you’re more into vinyasa and active yoga, the active movement tent is the place to be.”
When hunger strikes, the fresh and local food tent offers a cornucopia of vegetarian and vegan delights to sate any appetite. Matthew Warschaw, executive chef and owner of Herndon’s Pure Perfection Catering, has crafted breakfast, lunch and dinner menus available throughout the day, so hungry yogis can pop in, grab a snack and head off to the next activity. Nasuti said guests are also welcome to bring a picnic from home to enjoy on one of Morven Park’s beautiful greens, but, “our fresh and local food tent is really the way to go, because it’s all right there and so convenient to go in and out all day,” she said. “We’ve located [the food tent] at the top of lawn in front of the mansion house and it overlooks whole event. It really is part of overall experience, a place to enjoy the nature and beauty that Morven Park offers, and experience that camaraderie.”
If the urge to shop or explore more esoteric activities strikes, Nasuti directs festival-goers to harmony row and wellness way. Situated near the active movement tent, harmony row will feature artisan goods like soy candles, crystals, clothing, jewelry, oils and more. Meanwhile, across from the calm yoga grove, wellness way plays host to a selection of traditional and alternative healers. Readings from Ayurvedic astrologers and psychic mediums, Reiki sessions, massage therapy and reflexology are just a sampling of the intriguing offerings here.
While all these tents, groves and pastoral settings are abuzz with activity during the day, at 6 o’clock each evening the festival will give itself over to a roster of talented local musicians. As guests enjoy their homemade picnics or delights from the fresh and local food tent, well-known area talents including Maddie Curtis, Justin Trawick and the Common Good, Joey and the Waitress, and others will serenade the sunset.
Ranges of Registration Options
There are many ways to enjoy the NoVa Wellness and YogaFest Retreat—visitors are welcome for just one day or can elect to explore all the offerings over the three days. One- or three-day passes to the fresh and local food tent are also available and can be rolled into a package admission.
For those who wish to fully immerse themselves in the bucolic Loudoun countryside, Middleburg’s Camp Highroad, in partnership with Solid Ground Shelters, is offering “glamping” packages, as well as more rustic camping options. Meanwhile, 15 minutes east of Morven Park, the National Conference Center is serving as YogaFest’s official hotel partner and will also offering special accommodations packages. Reservations for camping, glamping and NCC suites are subject to deadlines—go to novawellnessyogafestretreat.com for details on all the registration packages and booking.
Yoga: An Explainer
The Sanskrit word “yoga” means “union.” The meeting of body and breath, intangible and physical, strength and ease. For most people, the word “yoga” brings to mind lithe, flexible bodies contorted into pretzel-like shapes, robed levitators perched on a cloud of zen. While these representations can be true, they also obscure one of the most important aspects of yoga: its accessibility. Whether you’ve suffered an injury, have other health challenges, or can’t touch your toes makes no difference. Yoga can be and is for everyone—all bodies, ages and abilities.
At the NoVa Wellness and YogaFest Retreat, guests will find several different modalities of yoga, some active, others very still and mellow. More experienced practitioners may be drawn to the active yoga tent and the vigorous styles offered therein. Others who are new to yoga, children, seniors and those with health challenges may gravitate toward the yin and restorative offerings in the calm yoga grove.
All classes are taught by instructors with a minimum RYT-200 certification through a Yoga Alliance-affiliated school, meaning these yogis know their stuff.
But, what do all these terms mean? Following is a brief explainer of the different styles of yoga on offer at the first-ever NoVa YogaFest, as well as some commonly heard terms related to yoga.
This designation is supported by the Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit member association representing the yoga community, and indicates an instructor has completed at least 200 hours of training with a program recognized by the nonprofit. All instructors participating in YogaFest have at least an RYT-200 certification.
This designation is also supported by Yoga Alliance, and indicates an instructor has completed at least 500 hours of training with a program recognized by the nonprofit. This is typically achieved by combining a 200- and 300-hour training program and indicates an advanced level of education and experience in the instructor who carries it.
This Sanskrit term refers to several different modalities of controlled diaphragmatic breathing used in yoga and meditation. Those familiar with more active yoga styles have likely heard of ujjayi pranayama, aka, “breath of fire,” “victorious breath,” etc., that helps sustain and cultivate energy within the body during yoga practice. There are dozens of pranayama and YogaFest visitors will certainly learn more about them as various classes and meditation sessions are explored.
This style of yoga includes six rigorous series of postures practiced in a particular order—primary, secondary and so on. Students move quickly from pose to pose, linking breath with movement. This style of yoga is appropriate for students with few health challenges and is excellent for building strength and stamina. Sequences in many other styles of yoga, particularly Vinyasa and Flow, include permutations of Ashtanga series.
Most all styles of yoga practiced today could fall under the umbrella of Hatha yoga. It is one of the six original, ancient modalities (the other five being Raja, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Tantra) and its postures can be found echoed in almost any class. Hatha can be calming or more strenuous, depending on the sequencing of postures.
Hatha yoga classes during YogaFest can be found in the calm yoga grove and are appropriate for all levels:
3:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Kim Klemecic presents, “Soothe Your Soul: Gentle Hatha”
3:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Donna Reuss presents, “Good Energy through Hatha Yoga”
Vinyasa, sometimes called Flow yoga, is perhaps the most common modality found in our immediate area. The sequences and postures found in this style are largely derived from Ashtanga yoga, but can vary widely from studio to studio or instructor to instructor. Vinyasa classes are generally more active and involve pranayama, balance postures and strength building.
Vinyasa classes at YogaFest are approachable for all levels, but may be challenging for some students. They will be held in the active yoga tent as follows:
3-4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6: Instructor Carly Pla presents, “Vinyasa Flow: An Exploration of Breath and Movement”
4:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6; 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7; and 9:30-10:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructors Andrea Boyd and Jeffrey Cohen present, “Born to be Wild”
8-9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Colleen McHale presents, “Rise ‘n’ Shine: An Invigorating Vinyasa Flow”
9:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Jennifer Topper presents, “Soul Powered: A Vinyasa Flow Class”
12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Ginny Loving presents, “Yoga Jam, Freestyle Flow”
2-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Anthony Gonzales presents, “Dynamic Free Flow”
8-9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Vinaya Saunders presets, “Suriya Pranam (Sun Salutations)”
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Lauren Christian presents, “Power Vinyasa: All Levels”
3:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Stevie Bolger presents, “Embodied Vinyasa”
Yin yoga involves a great deal of stillness, breathing and sometimes guided meditation. Students will hold one posture for several minutes, breathing consciously, before moving to the next posture. Yin is an excellent modality for seniors or those wishing to experience a slower, more calming practice.
Yin yoga sessions at YogaFest can be found in the calm yoga grove and are appropriate for all levels:
3-4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6: Instructor Sue ‘Sumati’ Sedlazek presents, “Joyful Yin”
2-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7: Instructor Turi Nevin-Turkel presents, “Yin”
8-9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Kelly Armstrong presents, “Delve ‘Yin’—A Yin Practice to Create Space and Calm the Mind”
12:30-1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Jami McClellan presents, “Yin Mindfulness”
Kundalini yoga blends movement, pranayama and chanting of mantras to create an ecstatic experience that builds strength and awakens the spiritual fire within.
Kundalini practices during YogaFest can be found in the calm yoga grove and are appropriate for all levels:
4:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6: Instructor Stuart Hill presents, “Intro to Kundalini Yoga”
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Livdhyan Kaur Khalsa presents, “Kundalini Yoga: Movement for Relaxation”
Named for creator B.K.S. Iyengar, this form of yoga emphasizes correct alignment and often features slower-paced, deliberate sequencing, allowing students to sink into poses, adjust, deepen and breathe.
Iyengar yoga is appropriate for most practitioners, but could be challenging for some individuals. Classes at YogaFest will be found in the active yoga tent and include:
1:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6: Instructor Leanne Cusumano Roque presents, “Stand on Your Own Two Feet—Iyengar Yoga”
This exciting yoga style combines acrobatics and yoga—hence the portmanteau, AcroYoga. Here, students partner to create intriguing shapes while building strength, trust and support. AcroYoga is playful, a great workout and a fun way to spend an hour or so. This style is appropriate for most levels, although some students may find some of the postures and strength requirements challenging. AcroYoga offerings will be found in the active yoga tent as follows:
2-3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8: Instructor Glenn Payne presents, “Beyond Balance: Intro to AcroYoga”
The NoVa Wellness and YogaFest Retreat is replete with experienced yoga teachers, meditation guides, naturopaths, mental health workers and other professionals whose life’s work is dedicated to health and healing. Following highlights on a selection of these experienced teachers and caregivers—go to novawellnessyogafestretreat.com for detailed information on all participating practitioners.
Andrea Boyd and Jeffery Cohen
These delightful yogis are playing a major role in YogaFest, leading their signature “Born to be Wild” class each day in the active yoga tent. The dynamic, creative sequence is designed to uplift and energize. “The class will be a physical, energetic, emotional and spiritual adventure into our natural inclination to be our self,” Andrea Boyd said. “The class will entail song, yoga asanas (postures), relaxation, meditation and yoga philosophy. What makes it special is the desire we all share to be free, as well as spending time in reflection of what it means to be WILD. What it means to be BORN. What it means TO BE. That’s all I will say. What will make it special is if you who are reading this…come!”
Northern Virginia Integrative Counseling Center
Inspirational Journeys LLC
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the blended tent, licensed professional counselor, wellness coach, meditation teacher and energy medicine practitioner Nixon will lead the 45-minute session, “Centering Meditation: Finding Balance Within.” The class will help participants connect with a deep sense of peace and calm, finding refuge from an often tense and tedious environment. “It is easy to be knocked off our center and lose connection with our self,” Nixon said. “Mindfulness centering meditation provides a way of finding refuge, connection and alignment within.”
Glenn Payne, Colleen McHale and Kelly Armstrong
The YogaShak boasts an impressive roster of yoga instructors, including the handful who will participate in YogaFest. Bringing an element of fun, lightness and whimsy to the event’s yoga offerings is Glenn Payne, RYT-200, with his “Beyond Balance: Intro to AcroYoga” session at 2 p.m. Sunday. This exciting modality uses partner work to create beautiful postures while strengthening and stretching the muscles.
Colleen McHale, RYT-200, and Payne’s colleague at YogaShak will lead “Rise and Shine: An Invigorating Vinyasa Flow” bright and early at 8 a.m. Saturday. This powerful practice will get folks ready for the day and energized to enjoy all YogaFest has to offer.
Another YogaShak regular, Kelly Armstrong, RYT-500, will lead two workshops during the festival: “Let Your Love Flow! Understanding the ‘Conditioned Mind’ to Awaken Limitless Loving Kindness” at 4:30 p.m. Friday; and “Delve ‘Yin’—a Yin Practice to Create Space and Calm the Mind” to start the day at 8 a.m. Sunday. Both offer calming, supportive atmospheres for participants to become quiet and look within.
Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW, CSAC, MAC, SAP
Compassionate Beginnings LLC
Anyone who has experienced a painful loss, overcome a debilitating illness or endured some other personal strife will not want to miss Kimberley Berlin’s moving workshop, “Return to Yourself—Healing During Challenging Times” at 8 a.m. Sunday. Berlin will detail breathing techniques, journaling ideas and other tools that can be employed to help get us through life’s most daunting challenges in a healthier way.
Sunday: A Day of Peace for Teens
Much of the final day of the NoVa Wellness and YogaFest retreat will focus on teens and their special spiritual and emotional needs. Workshops throughout the afternoon Sunday will touch on the role of karma in major life events, dealing with stress and a special session dedicated to LGBTQ+ teens.
Part of the inspiration behind founder Miriam Nasuti’s vision for the festival was her own experiences with her teen son, Connor. Like so many of his peers, Connor put himself and his family through some heavy challenges that required compassion, love and support to overcome. Nasuti found refuge in yoga and has personal experience with its power to shift perspectives and transform outcomes for adults, teens and children. “I am so happy to focus on teens because of what Connor went through and me having to watch him struggle. I wanted a piece of this to be for teens—for them to come, listen, talk and just be a part of it all.”
Several workshops aimed specifically at teens can be found in the blended tent Sunday between 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. Check novawellnessyogafestretreat.com for the most up-to-date schedule.