For those of us who have never quite understood yoga (Do you have to be real bendy? Do you have to eat yogurt?), now we find out there’s lots of kinds of yoga, to boot.

There’s power yoga, for a true yoga burn. There’s acro yoga, which involves acrobatics. And there’s aerial yoga, where folks do yoga while suspended in the air on a wire.

Some people do yoga in the ocean on a stand-up paddle board. Some do yoga with a chair.

Which begs the question: What is yoga, exactly?

“We can debate the definition, but it’s mostly a state of being. There are certainly postures people do, but the main part of it is the mind and body connection,” said Justine Carlisle, a yoga instructor at Well Heart Yoga in Cape Elizabeth.

OK, maybe yoga is one of those things that has to be experienced to be understood.

Lucky thing then, that about 30 yoga studios are collaborating on the first Maine YogaFest, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the East End Community School in Portland.

There will be more than 40 yoga workshops and lectures – enough to satisfy both experienced yoga practitioners and newbies who think yoga involves a tie-wearing bear who likes to raid picnic baskets.

The workshops cost money ($90 for three), but on Saturday evening, there will be a free “Friends and Family” yoga party. This event will include music by local singer Amy Allen, a fire-hooping performance, kids’ yoga classes, prizes and contests.

Carlisle says the idea for Maine YogaFest came to her and other instructors after some of them had visited multi-day yoga events in other parts of the United States and Canada. They liked meeting “big-name” yoga teachers and being able to sample a bunch of classes in one place.

So now there’s an event. But again – what ties all the kinds of yoga together?

In dictionaries, yoga is usually defined first as a Hindu “theistic philosophy” that teaches control of body and mind. The second definition is usually something like “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well being.”

That still leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but we know at least that yoga is a kind of exercise that combines control of body and mind.

But there are different ways to do those exercises. In acro yoga, people work with partners. In aerial yoga, they work with harnesses to experience weightlessness. By doing yoga on a paddle board, they get a heightened sense of balance.

The Maine YogaFest will include several different workshops throughout both days. During the 10 to 11:30 a.m. block on Saturday, for instance, participants can choose workshops in acro yoga, back bends, blindfold yoga, yoga for athletes and something called “rock star yoga.”

(The class description for the latter says to think of this workshop as “a meditative obstacle course of yoga set to contemporary music.”)

If you’ve never tried any kind of yoga – and aren’t sure if you want to spend money on a workshop – you might think about attending the free yoga party from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Besides music and entertainment, there will be yoga for kids, yoga demonstrations and vendors.

There will also be some free lectures during the two days of the festival, and a free “community” yoga class at 8 a.m. Sunday.

“We thought it would be great to have something in Maine celebrating our yoga community,” said Carlisle. “Before this, we had no event that tied the whole community together.”

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com