This past Saturday, August 18, yoga mats took over Long Island Sports Park in Calverton, as the pew-pew sounds of paintballers continued in the background. It was the inaugural Zenscape Festival, a daylong dedication to yoga.
Typically, namaste out of anything having to do with yoga — it just isn’t for me. However, when my friend Joe asked me to help him as a vendor for his new t-shirt line, Inner Strength Apparel, a curiosity took over and my adversarial wall dropped. “I’ll expand my horizon. How bad could it be?” I thought.
“Hello, my name is Rick, from Earth,” someone introduced himself to me upon arrival. I immediately turned to Joe, since he was a vendor for the day, and asked “What company is Earth?”
“Earth, like Planet Earth. It’s not a company,” Joe said.
“So, you’re telling me that guy just . . .”
“Yes, he did.”
And so, my day began.
Zenscape classes and workshops ran from 9 AM until a torrential downpour kicked in, with a mobile meditation van ready at all times for those who needed it (to meditate, not escape from the rain). Offerings included Dharma Yoga Wheel with Dov Vargas and Raquel Vamos; Acro Yoga with Gene Feis, Nick Viscovich, AudreyRose Luciano, Donna Squires and Regina McGowan; SUP Yoga with Rita Marie Krepela; Yogability with Amanda Loevner; Pranayama Yoga with Angela Williams-Jones and, my personal favorite, Aerial Yoga with Kelly Hinshaw.
There were even art installations, sound baths, aromatherapy, essential oils, Green Living, and hula hooping!
At 10 AM, I was peacefully stretching, cocooning, flipping upside down, and eventually flying with Hinshaw in an aerial hammock. I’d done aerial fitness before and separate silks, but never the actual “aerial yoga.” This kind of class I could get behind, a bit more focused on upper body strength with the benefits of stretching, meditating, and, of course, feeling like part acrobat (emphasis on the “bat”). Best of all, Hinshaw amused with quirky comments all throughout the 45-minute session. If you’re driving up island, check her out at Emerge Yoga Wellness in Massapequa.
By 11 AM, to escape the heat, I was enjoying the magical inflatable unicorn spraying water. Eventually, dozens of festival-goers partook.
Headlining the debut event, co-founded by Jennifer Eagen and Dean Del Prete, was NFL All-Pro athlete, Keith Mitchell. Although I wish he had a pigskin in hand for a casual game of touch football, Mitchell was there to guide guests through a two-hour, mid-day Unity Yoga to break up the session of “oms.” While I opted to stay by the vendor table, along with getting a new henna tattoo, the atmosphere was enlightening.
Observing a group class of roughly 75 people out of the 250 attendees partake in the same meditative experience in unity filled the air with a tangible sense of positivity and acceptance. “We’re elated to share this light,” said Eagen, who owns her own company Pop Up Prana Yoga. “Our intention was to move, touch and inspire. We look forward to inspiring others on the path of personal development,” she added.
My observance as an outsider revealed the healing powers of yoga. I might not join a class, unless it’s in a hammock, but I believe in the good that the yoga community inspires. It inspired me, and I can’t wait to see Zenscape grow into the next moving yoga festival on the East End.
To learn more about Zenscape Festival visit www.zenscapefest.com or @zenscapefest.