116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Yogis will be taking over Guthridge Park on Saturday as the city’s first yoga festival takes place.
The event was created by Dusty Swehla, owner of Panda Marie, a wellness spa in Hiawatha that offers a wide range of services, including holistic healing therapies, yoga, nutrition coaching, life coaching, massages and more. In partnership with the City of Hiawatha and a host of event sponsors, Swehla was excited to bring the experience of a yoga festival — something she’s enjoyed in other cities across the country — to her own backyard.
“I’ve gone to different yoga festivals, and I always leave there feeling so energized and inspired and just really, really good,” said Swehla. “But I realized that traveling to another festival might not work for others right now, so I wanted to bring that experience close to home.”
The idea was conceived while on retreat and Swehla was encouraged by other participants to pursue the idea. So for the past six months, she’s been working to make the event a reality. She feels especially passionate about people connecting with yoga and its benefits.
“There are many benefits to yoga and mindfulness and just being present,” Swehla said. “It can boost your mood, helping you let go of what is no longer serving you. You can free anxiety and sad feelings. It can turn your mind around and get rid of those negative feelings. And of course, physically, it’s so good for your body. As we get older, it can help with our mental states, with our memory, but it can also help with just over all with our joints, ligaments, tendons and more.”
Swehla said the event is open to everybody, young and old, and whether you’ve been practicing yoga for years or are brand-new to it. Plus, she said, the timing for the event is ideal as the country begins to open back up post pandemic.
“With all that we went through in 2020, I see a lot of people that do not have any wellness tools to deal with that. Maybe they’ve been sitting on their couches and they don’t do yoga or mediate or focus on self-care and turn to things that aren’t serving their body and mind,” she said. “So throughout the day we are going to be sprinkling in some of those wellness tools and, hopefully, planting some seeds for people who want to focus on feeling better. This might be a first step or a step in the right direction.”
“I'm most excited about having the group of people together,” Swehla said. “I feel that whoever is there is meant to be there. It's busy as the world is opening up, but I'm just so excited about who's going to experience this for the first time and walk away with joy in their mind, body and spirit and just good positive energy. I’m just really excited for the sense of community and connection and offering these wellness tools to those who join us.”
It won’t just be a day filled with yoga poses.
“I think people will be surprised by the variety,” said Swehla. “It's not just a yoga festival. People will say to me, ‘Are we going to be doing yoga all day long?’ No, not at all.”
The event kicks off in the morning with a 5K and Mindful Mile. There are opening and closing yoga sessions, but there also are four breakout sessions throughout the day where participants will be learning about and experiencing other self-care and healing practices.
“I designed these sessions to kind of make people step out of their comfort zone a little bit and learn about something different,” she said.
Plus, Swehla hired a DJ and put together a playlist for the day to complement the event that she said she’s very excited about.
A portion of the event is free and open to the public as well. There will be food trucks set up all day, starting at 8 a.m., offering a variety of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There also will be a vendor market set up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for participants and the public to browse.
And Swehla said she’s especially excited about the concert to wrap up the event at the end of the day. Alisabeth Von Presley will be preforming from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on the Guthridge Park stage. This part of the event is also free and open to the public, and she hopes a lot of community members bring family and friends to enjoy it.
“I have been really fortunate with people wanting to support this event — including my committee and sponsors and the City of Hiawatha — and my goal is to make this an annual event on the last weekend in June going forward,” said Swehla. “So hopefully this first year is a success.”
Tickets for the event are still available and can be purchased in advance or the day of until noon for a discounted rate. If affordability is an issue for anyone interested in participating, Swehla said those individuals should reach out to her directly. For tickets and more information visit www.eventbrite.com/e/hi-yoga-festival-tickets-145925325577 or www.naturallyfeelingbetter.com/.
When: 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, June 26
Where: Guthridge Park, 704 Emmons St., Hiawatha
Cost: $33, $55 or $111