YogaFest attendees find peace of mind on a picturesque autumn afternoon at Christmas Hill Park. By Balaji Vaidyanathan.

While the first YogaFest at Christmas Hill Park didn’t attract the 2,000 attendees event organizers hoped for, the 700 who showed up were treated to a brisk autumn Sunday afternoon of peace, good health and a bounty of multiculturalism. YogaFest Director Deepak Sridhar plans to bring YogaFest back to Gilroy next year.
“We’ve been very happy with what we’ve seen,” Sridhar said. “It’s been a flowing crowd throughout the day and they’re really excited. Part of this is bringing that one world family feeling to everybody. We are bringing people together despite the differences that divide them. We want to celebrate our differences and we feel that is the true essence of yoga.”
Hosted by the Art of Living, a worldwide non-profit organization that works to promote peace of mind through yoga and meditation, YogaFest made its first foray into Gilroy after two years hosting the event in Morgan Hill. YogaFest decided to come to Gilroy to help spread awareness of yoga and meditation to a new community.
“A lot of locals have come,” said festival organizer Amit Verma. “This is something new to Gilroy. Many people here haven’t seen so many cultures come together like this. That is yoga.”
Christmas Hill Park’s amphitheater served as the main stage for not only a variety of yoga classes, such as the Art of Living Yoga with Kasia Fraser and Laughter Yoga with Manoj Joshi, but also African drums, a Venezuelan dance performance, meditative music and dance.
“It’s nice for the whole family,” said Erin Steed, a Gilroyan who was there with her husband, Bob, and their two boys, Emory and Cedar. “There’s an array of a lot of different things, multiculturalism and dancing.”
More than a dozen local vendors displayed handcrafted wares, exotic herbal teas and two workshop areas with classes on how to manage stress with Ashwani Dhall and a meditation workshop with Paula Whang-Ramos among more than a dozen other courses. YogaFest also hosted a kid’s area, which taught yoga lessons for children up to 12.
Starting at 9am and running until 5pm, attendees were treated to a day full of interactive fun and learning. YogaFest is not for the passive spectator.
“You’re always doing something instead of just watching,” said Bob Steed.
Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco present the keynote speech to kick the event off Sunday morning. YogaFest is donating the proceeds of the event to help rebuild Sonoma County following the fires which devastated the area. A large poster board, bearing love and well wishes written by festival attendees to residents of Sonoma County will be hand delivered by Sridhar to Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey.
YogaFest organizers are eager to hear from Gilroyans and hope to get feedback at [email protected].

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