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Whether you regularly practice yoga or have yet to do your first down dog, the local International Day of Yoga (iDoYoga) celebration on Saturday, June 18, will offer both dedicated yogis and newcomers a glimpse at San Antonio’s yoga scene. This second annual yoga festival will be held at TriPoint Event Center from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
This free event will include a variety of classes, talks on healthy living and the benefits of yoga, activities for children, a health and wellness expo, and dance demonstrations from different cultures. Local studios will set up booths and offer information on their classes, workshops, and events.
The annual International Day of Yoga was founded by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2014. Its goal is to encourage citizens from all over the world to adopt a regular yoga practice to improve their health and prolong their lives. A total of 175 nations have adopted the resolution, which is the highest number of co-sponsors for any UNGA resolution of its sort. By suggestion of India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, the assembly declared the day of the Summer Solstice, June 21, the International Day of Yoga.
San Antonio is celebrating iDoYoga for the second time this year. SEWA USA organized last year’s event and filled Alamo Plaza with close to 100 colorful yoga mats and Sanskrit chants while Yoga Day, a local nonprofit that provides free yoga classes to underserved people of all ages in San Antonio, hosted its own festival at TriPoint. This year, the two organizations have combined forces to raise money and deliver yoga to underserved populations in San Antonio.
Since its inception in 2011, Yoga Day founder and director Carlos Gomez and his team of teachers have held lessons in city parks, retirement homes, schools, and public libraries all over the city – basically anywhere people have the desire to learn about yoga.
Gomez was first introduced to yoga in 2008 and received a full scholarship to the Bikram Yoga College of India. Had it not been for the scholarship, Gomez said he wouldn’t have been able to afford yoga teacher training. Ever since, he has made it his mission to share yoga with those whose access to the practice is limited or inexistent.
“The goal of Yoga Day and this event in particular is to promote yoga in all its expressions,” Gomez said. “We believe that all yoga is good yoga and that everyone, regardless of their age or socio-economic background, should have access to it.”
One of Gomez’s mentors is San Antonio’s “Yoga Godmother” Esther Vexler. At 98 years old, Vexler is the oldest yoga teacher and practitioner in the city, arguably in the state. She’s widely credited with establishing the yoga scene in San Antonio, one of many significant contributions she and her family have made over the years.
When asked if she still practices yoga today, Vexler didn’t skip a beat.
“Yes. It’s not just a question of what you’re doing in your class, it’s (about) trying to bring it into your everyday life, so that you can discover more about yourself,” she said. “I always think of yoga as a discovery process – every day you learn more about what you’re here for.”
She sees self-motivation as another imperative in building an effective practice, on and off the mat.
“Each person has at least two sides – a dark side and a light side – and we need to accentuate the good side. We all have the bad side. Cleansing out the bad is part of what yoga is about. You can’t clean up somebody else’s mind or thoughts, they have to be self-motivated and do it themselves. The best yoga teacher in the world can’t tell you how to wipe out all the negative and put positives in their place, but every little bit can help.”
Vexler is the guest of honor at Saturday’s event. She and Nydia Darby-Tijerina, a prominent teacher in San Antonio’s yoga community, will be co-teaching the celebration’s main class.
Another highly anticipated guest and the event’s keynote speaker is India’s Consul General Anupam Ray.
“This is the consul general’s first time visiting San Antonio,” Gomez said. “He’s coming specifically for this event and a similar one in Austin next week. So, you can see, promoting yoga and educating people on it is high on his agenda.”
San Antonio’s yoga scene has blossomed and grown in many different directions over the past few years. This festival will bring all its members and their different approaches under one roof – Gomez is expecting more than 500 people to participate in Saturday’s festivities at Tri-Point Event Center.
I have a special relationship with yoga. I was born and raised in Innsbruck, Austria, where I stumbled into competitive rhythmic gymnastics at age 6. I spent the next 12 years traveling the globe, competing in European and World Championships. An injury took me out of the game in 2004, so I seized the opportunity to attend St. Mary’s University, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in English communication arts in 2008. Two great things happened during my graduate studies at Texas State University: I met Robert Rivard and I found yoga. I pursued the latter, earning my 200-hour certification at Southtown Yoga Loft, where I still teach vinyasa classes. Bob’s and my path crossed again after four years and I’ve now joined the Rivard Report team as a production editor.
Top image: More than 100 yogis practice downward facing dog at a Yoga Day event at TriPoint Event Center in May 2015. Photo by Stacey Anne Photography.