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The Newtown Yoga Festival is stretching its reach and, for the first time, will be offering four main headliners at the festival, scheduled for August 26, from 9 am to 4 pm, at the NYA Sports & Fitness Center, 4 Primrose Street. The event is presented by the Avielle Foundation’s Spark Program.
All four instructors who have been chosen to lead the festival’s morning and afternoon community classes come from diverse backgrounds, but share a common passion for yoga and its many health benefits.
Newtown Yoga Festival cofounder Suzy DeYoung told The Newtown Bee, “In the yoga world, they’re pretty much rock stars.”
Yogi, actress, dancer, jet-setter, high heel enthusiast — that list just barely scratches the surface as to the many talents of Mrs Porchon-Lynch.
She has marched for peace with Gandhi; impressed the nation dancing to Pitbull’s song “Fireball” on America’s Got Talent with a 26-year-old partner; written an award-winning autobiography, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master; written screenplays and documentaries; and was named “Oldest Yoga Teacher” by Guinness World Records in 2012.
Having recently celebrated a birthday on August 13, she says she is “99 years young.”
Growing up in India, she was inspired to start yoga at 8 years of age, after she saw a group of boys playing outside doing what she thought was a brand-new game. When she went to join them, she found out they were practicing yoga. From that experience she was compelled to learn more.
Though some people tried to discourage her, saying yoga is not for girls, she said her attitude was “If the boys can do it, I can do it.”
In 1950, she went to California to be in films, but many people — including Debbie Reynolds and Kathryn Grayson — began asking her to teach them yoga.
She figured, “If I’m going to teach, I want to make sure I’m not going to hurt anybody and teach it correctly.”
So began her journey back to India studying, practicing, and teaching yoga. She never let anyone hold her back and proved wrong many of those naysayers who told her girls cannot do yoga.
Mrs Porchon-Lynch says she got educated on posture and the passage of breath.
“[Breath is] in everything. The trees around us — the tree is not getting older, it’s recycling itself every year. The same energy that is in the trunk on the tree is within us.”
What inspires her to continue teaching yoga to this day is that she wants to help others live their most positive lives. She has had three hip replacements in her lifetime, but does not let that stop her from reaching her goals.
“Nothing’s impossible. There is nothing you cannot do. Don’t put it off till tomorrow because tomorrow never comes. One minute after midnight and it is already today,” Mrs Porchon-Lynch said. “Whatever you are feeling, you should listen to your own heartbeat in there and realize it is all through nature, the atmosphere, and everything, and be in touch with that.”
Being in tune with one’s self is the reason she says the older she gets, the younger she feels in her mind.
Mrs Porchon-Lynch advised, “When you get up in the morning, don’t put in your mind ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘How am I going to do that?’ because whatever you put in your mind materializes. When you get up in the morning you say ‘This is going to be the best day of my life.’ And you will materialize that.”
With so much negativity and hatred in the world, she says she wants people to know that they can attract positivity into their lives by changing their mindset.
“Look for the good. You’ll find it,” Mrs Porchon-Lynch said.
She looks forward to meeting attendees at the Newtown Yoga Festival and helping them the best she can.
“If I can find something that can help other people than that’s a reason for me living on this earth,” Mrs Porchon-Lynch said. “There’s so much to do in life, so little time to do it. Let’s do it right and feel that oneness with each other.”
Ms Templeton’s mission is to help others achieve a healthy life, which is a main reason why she became an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Ayurvedic medicine is estimated to have originated 3,000 years ago in India and is believed to be one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Its central idea is that to acquire health and wellness, there needs to be a balance between the mind, body, and spirit.
In addition to this area of expertise, Ms Templeton is also a senior ParaYoga teacher and has been a psychotherapist for more than 30 years, concentrating on treating individuals with complex trauma, anxiety, and depression.
Ms Templeton’s official website says she “has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating the principles of yoga, Ayurveda, and clinical psychology.”
As a faculty member at the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale, Penn., she has founded the Himalayan Institute Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist program (HIAYS).
Ms Templeton is also a member of yoga-based groups including the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance, as well as the National Association of Drama Therapists and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.
She contributes her writing to the Yoga International website.
Before being introduced to yoga, Ms Khouri says she spent much of her time and energy working out in the gym, looking to achieve a specific image she had in her mind of what her body should look like.
“When I found yoga, it let me feel good in a sustainable way. It shifted my state a lot more deeply than a regular workout did, and it helped me connect with myself in a really different way that felt good,” Ms Khouri said, having started practicing yoga 25 years ago.
Ultimately, it was a health crisis that solidified her path to shifting her focus to yoga.
“I really found yoga in a deep way when I was 24 and diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, which is a form of cancer,” Ms Khouri explained. “I started to think about healing and realized being fit doesn’t mean being healthy.”
Today, she has been teaching yoga for 18 years and became one of the creators for the nonprofit group Off The Mat, Into The World, an organization that bridges yoga, social justice, and community engagement together.
“Yoga to me is about connection,” Ms Khouri said.
With a master’s degree in counseling psychology — and currently pursuing a PhD in psychology — she finds that yoga and psychology go hand-in-hand.
“I think that yoga is very psychological, because it puts us in touch with how we think and our emotional state,” Ms Khouri said.
She is trained in trauma work, specifically with somatic experiencing. She describes somatic experiencing as a body-based psychotherapy that addresses how trauma shows up in the body.
“What trauma does is affect our body’s ability to self-regulate,” Ms Khouri explained.”So we might be feeling anxious when there’s nothing to be anxious about or feeling sad and depressed when there’s nothing to be sad and depressed about. Trauma kind of traps us in the past. Whatever that past experience is, our bodies can get stuck in that experience.”
She continued, “Yoga can be a way to rewire the mind and the body. Rewire ourselves so that it we are not always feeling like we are in this past terrible event, but we are able to be present in what’s good. Yoga is a really great vehicle for that. Yoga puts us in a state of connecting to our sensations, being present, and slowing down.”
Yoga has the ability to help shift some of the common patterns, like learning to tolerate and work through discomfort rather than running away from it.
Ms Khouri says her hope for those attending the Newtown Yoga Festival is that “they will find a nurturing space where they can be with themselves, wherever they are at, and find ways to use yoga in a really healing way.”
Over the last 37 years, Mr Norian has been practicing a variety of yoga styles that have led him to design his own style, called Ashaya yoga.
He was first inspired to learn more about yoga after a friend of his had lived in a yoga retreat center.
“When I saw him, he was completely glowing and radiant. That image of his health and vitality — I asked him what he was doing, and he said yoga — that really stuck with me,” Mr Norian said.
At 20 years old, he began practicing yoga at Iyengar Studio in Miami, across the street from the university he was attending.
He later joined his friend at the yoga retreat, Kripalu Center in Pennsylvania.
“I went there for a ten-day course and stayed there for 13 years,” Mr Norian said.
During his time there, he not only learned how to teach yoga, but became a Kripalu trainer for new teachers and helped make the manual. He went on to train more than 1,000 teachers while he was there.
In 1983, the Kripalu community moved to Massachusetts, where he met and married his wife, and they left in 1996.
“I studied Anusara yoga for the next 15 years,” Mr Norian said. “That was another strong influence.”
After learning those different styles of yoga, he decided to craft Ashaya yoga in 2012, which focuses on precise biomechanical alignment.
The term ashaya means “abode of the heart” in Sanskrit. He chose the word for its reference to the heart being a refuge and a sanctuary for the deepest aspects of one’s self.
Mr Norian describes Ashaya yoga as “a path of alignment techniques. It’s very refined. The techniques help to reestablish the natural alignment in your body, such that all of your joints have a balance of stability and freedom.”
He finds that most injuries come when there is either too much tension or too much flexibility in the body, so his method of yoga focuses on finding a place in the middle to help people fulfill their optimal health.
“In addition to the precise therapeutic qualities of this yoga, it’s based in a philosophy that’s called tantra… This path of tantra is the path I call ‘radical affirmation,’” Mr Norian said.
It is about wanting people to learn how to say yes to life and feel awakened, he said, as well as to understand challenges in life are not meant to push a person down, but to be an opportunity for people to rise up and find inner resources to become strong.
A specialized element that he brings to his yoga classes is his own musical accompaniment. Having been a piano performance major at the University of Michigan before completing his bachelor’s in jazz, he now records his own CDs that he plays during his classes “to serve the heart and help people reduce stress.”
Those attending the Newtown Yoga Festival in August, Mr Norian said, can expect “yoga for body, mind, and heart.”
To purchase tictkets to see Tao Porchon-Lynch, Kathryn Templeton, Hala Khouri, and Todd Norian at the Newtown Yoga Festival, visit newtownyogafestival.org.