Telluride Yoga Festival: Director Erika Henschel

Telluride Yoga Festival: Director Erika Henschel

Purchase your pass to the the 2019 Telluride Yoga Festival, Thursday, June 27 – Sunday, June 30.

Learn more about the presenters here.

View the schedule here.

Scroll down to learn more about festival director Erika Henschel and listen to her podcast.

Definitions of yoga abound.

Riffing on Desikachar who wrote the contemporary yoga bible, “The Heart of Yoga”:

Yoga is the movement from one point to another, higher one.

Yoga is the bringing together, the unifying of two things.

Yoga is any action with undivided, uninterrupted attention.

Those definitions have one thing in common: the idea that something fundamental changes.

In the summer of 2007, Telluride local and Jivamukti instructor Aubrey Hackman had just returned from her third yoga teacher training, a four-week intensive taught by lineage founders David Life and Sharon Gannon. Her bum wrist, the result of years of cumulative stress from hitting it hard on the mat, was really acting up. The wrist is an extension of the heart chakra, the center of emotions such as love, happiness, compassion, and loving oneself in a non-egoistic way.

The message came through loud and clear.

Aubrey shifted her focus from the need to win big on and off the mat to Karma Yoga, embracing the idea of action without attachment and selfless service. In that ah haa moment, she decided her Karma yoga, her duty, was to create a yoga event as unique as Telluride, one that would put the region’s best face forward to the world. A critical component of the idea became the thread that would run through the nascent Telluride Yoga Festival and help define it.

“Ahimsa” is a way of behaving in the world that roughly translates to “non-cruelty” with regard to oneself, towards others, and towards the earth. The Telluride Yoga Festival would support the green agenda the region had laid out for itself and be a zero-waste event.

Telluride Yoga Fest’s Erika Henschel & Albert Roer. The duo took over in 2012 and since then, have grown the festival and made it more sustainable, read financially viable and greener.

That core idea of non-harming on all planes did not change when new management took over the now nationally celebrated event in 2012, namely the dynamic duo of Albert Roer and Erika Henschel. The mission of Yoga Fest remains fostering heath and wellness in the Telluride community and beyond by creating an intimate, authentic, world-class yoga festival filled with yoga, chanting and music, meditation, wellness education, and other activities that feed body and soul – all with minimal impact on the environment.

Today the Telluride Yoga Fest aims to make yoga, health, and wellness accessible to every single body and build a sense of community (with an emphasis on “unity”). What’s more, the event is dedicated to leveraging the paradise that is Telluride to create unique programming that can only be experienced in a setting like home sweet home.

Albert Roer was first introduced to yoga in the Berkshires in 1978 as a sophomore in high school. In 1989, when he returned to the Berkshires to work at the Canyon Ranch Spa, he was reintroduced to yoga, then dabbled for the next 15 years.

However, since 2006, Albert has been a devoted student of Yoga and Vedanta, taking daily classes and traveling the world to seek yogic knowledge, experiencing an immersion at the Sivananda ashram in the Bahamas, attending Yoga Journal conferences, Bhakti and Shakti Fests, as well as numerous workshops.

In 2011, Albert seized the opportunity to partner with Kristin Taylor to take over ownership and management of the Telluride Yoga Center.

And in  2012, as mentioned above, he partnered with Erika Henschel to take over the ownership and management of the Telluride Yoga Festival.

For over 20 years and counting, Erika Henschel has benefited from the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of a robust yoga practice.

Erika Henschel, director, Telluride Yoga Festival.

Yoga in the West often misrepresents the physical practice known as yoga asana or just “asana” as the whole enchilada, but the more ancient forms of what comes down to both an art and a science – Jhana Yoga or studying spiritual texts; Bhakti Yoga or devotion as yoga; and Karma Yoga or community action as yoga – included little or no physical postures.

Classical yoga is, in the end, a holistic practice comprised of the eight limbs as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, compiled by Sri Patanjali around the second century BCE. He defined yoga as chitta vritti nirodha, which roughly translates to “you are in a state of yoga when the mind is stilled.” Erika programs the Telluride Yoga Fest to align with that ancient definition of a practice.

Erika Henschel moved to Telluride in 1997 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. She brings marketing and event planning experience to Yoga Fest having worked for advertising agencies in both San Francisco and New York City, as well as for the Telluride Ski Resort and the Telluride Film Festival in event management. She and Albert took over the reins of the Telluride Yoga Festival after her stint with a health and wellness startup.

In addition to her obvious passion for all things yoga, Erika loves her family and being a mom, also just about any activity in which she is able to get into nature. She draws inspiration from the mountains around her and is an avid skier, hiker, mountain biker, and an Ironman athlete.

Erika & her beautiful family.

Along the lines of that old trope “the more things change, the less they change,” or another, “what goes around, comes around,” one of the featured teachers Erika is bringing back to town is Scott Blossom, once on Yoga Journal’s list of “21 under 40” top instructors who would shape the future of Yoga in America.

Scott was the lead presenter at the very first Telluride Yoga Fest.

At the time he approached to teach at the freshman Telluride Yoga Fest, Scott Blossom had been involved with all kinds of yoga events, big conferences, and small boutique gatherings, but by setting a yoga happening in place as beautiful as Telluride, he was convinced a wonderful kind of alchemy would occur spontaneously and the entire town would become a yoga venue.

Scott was right on.

Scott Blossom returns after an absence of a few years to teach four classes over Yoga Fest weekend, including “Ayurveda for Brain and Cognitive Health.” (For more on Scott’s classes, go here.) He is joined over the weekend of June 27  by other renowned yoga instructors, among them: MC YOGI, Gina Caputo, Ashleigh Sergeant, Eoin Finn, Amy Ippoliti, Kia Miller, Tommy Rosen, Tymi Howard Karl Straub, Anton Mackey, the YogaSlackers, Jeanie Manchester, Mary Susan Stults, Amanda Giacomini, Tyrone Berverly, Kate Mulheron, Rebecca Butler, Dana Damara, and more.

To learn more about the Telluride Yoga Fest and its director, listen to Erika Henschel’s podcast.

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