Recently I’ve had the pleasure to hit the pavement and rack up about 3000 miles on the Honda to experience the wonder of being a real “Gypsy Yoga Mama”. My most recent 7 hour drive took me to Atlanta for the Dirty South Yoga Fest. My travel buddy and I chatted the entire ride; about our youth, dating, the magic of free love, and the black yoga community in general. We are both Yoga Teachers, both love to travel, and both Black females full of magic so of course an Atlanta Girls weekend was a easy decision.
We arrived Friday night, but opted out of the Friday Yoga Party to enjoy a little chill time at a local wine bar and hit the bed early. I mean, we had been on the road for about 8 hours (potty & food breaks)! Saturday morning arrived on the tail end of a thunder storm, but it stopped as soon as we parted our Airbnb. We arrived to the event location where there was a line to park. We entered the parking garage looking for our spot, and found one on the 4th floor, a tight little squeeze, but we were going to try. As my friend Krishana was backing in, and checking the camera, a chick just couldn’t wait. The thought of her being late to “yoga” made her upset to say the least, so much so that she almost hit us and another parked car, finalizing her madness with a “Fuck You” and flipped us off”! We both laughed loud as hell because the idea of her rushing into the building and being okay with flipping off people who were just trying to park and get into the same space we all paid to get into was very ironic. Strike one. We decided that parking space was too tight, and if she was a indication of the people who were there, we’d want a easy exit plan!
After finally parking we headed outside the garage and into the festivities. Oh, and as soon as that happened I was almost run over by another very anxious yogini to get past me walking down the steps! I guess I didn’t get the memo as to run down the steps. The girl literally stepped on the back of my heel; like my kids do. So I just moved over, and said please go. Run if you need to. She turned to look at me like I was the crazy one. Without a simple ‘I’m sorry for almost stepping on you’, she rushed past and down the stairs. Again we laughed, and chatted and kept saying our tag line for the weekend “Living My Best Life!” It was really a life saver for the weekend, because whenever we hit a bump; we’d simply repeat it a few times, laugh and start fresh with a renewed sense of gratitude.
Once we finally arrived in the building, there were 4 women sitting at a table with one sign ‘Parking Validation’, so Krishana headed that way, and my attention was called by a young male who asked, ‘Have you been checked in?’ ‘No’, I replied and he said he’d help me. I started to fiddle with my phone to try and pull up my ticket. As I was doing that, another lady walks up and asks the same thing. No, I replied again. I’m looking up my ticket. She tells the man he can just look up my name. They checked me in by clicking my name and gave me a wristband to prove I have paid. What struck me as weird was the fact neither one of the staff asked for proof of anything. I could have been anyone and not paid a dime. Throughout the entire day no one ever checked to see if you were actually registered for a class. We simply just walked in the room. I mean, what was the point of registering? Why even have a real schedule? Just let folks pick whatever they wanted and let them take it. There was no real organization at all. And to top that off, not one person at the front area said “Thanks for coming!”, ‘We’re glad you made it here today’,“Thank you for the support” ,“Where are you from?”,etc. NOTHING. It was real cold, basic, and lackluster. Really this was STRIKE three for me, but I was “Living my best life…” so I kept it moving. Where’s Strike 2? Well, the first class we were registered for was HOT 26. HOT 26! If you know me you know I like it hot, so I was excited about starting my day off with the loving hug of a heated room. We walked in, and it was cold. Cold 26? But the first actual word of the class description was HOT! It didn’t say Hot 26 will be done in a non heated room to get the format of the sequence down, it said it was Hot 26. I laid my mat down just to be polite really, because in my head I was like, “OH HELL NO! I’m not staying in here and hurting myself. Nope not today! I’m supposed to be living my best life.” She might have said the first 2 breaths, and I kindly drug my mat out the door, leaving Kris alone in the chambers of coldness. Really, I was thrilled to have missed the class. The morning did start a bit crazy, rushed, and not very sparkling, so this alone time would be nice. There was no communal space to reflect, write, meditate or just sit. The actual layout to the fest was really centered around the market area. So I laid on the floor near the door, wrote in my journal, and finished reading my book. That moment was nice, and so needed, but I made that moment happened and could have done it without attending the fest. After enjoying the hour and half of me time, the mad crowd was back. Adults dashed out the doors like children being let go for the summer. Rushed, frantic, and dazed were defiantly present at the fest.
Kris chatted about the ‘Cold 26’ class and we both talked about how dangerous it is to practice a heated sequence in the cold. If you’re not familiar with a HOT 26 or Bikram, they are built to be accompanied with heat. Some of the asanas are crazy to do if your body is not warmed up. You literally can hurt yourself because the ligaments aren’t warmed enough to perform such advanced asanas. Nonetheless, we continued to move on to the next scheduled event. As I mentioned before no one was there to really direct anyone in any direction, or help with lost folks, no door greeters, or check in folks, they just have you following a map they handed you and to go on your merry little way. We found the room upstairs, and headed into Ashtanga Primary Series. I love the Primary Series not only because I’ve studied it so long, but also because no one can mess it up. There’s no room for error or change. It is what it is. You’re always sure as to what is going to happen. And that room was actually hotter than the HOT 26 room! Thank the heavens this class was on the schedule otherwise I might have requested a refund. Even though we did’t get the full 90 minute Primary, (which easily could have been added to the schedule) we got a lot done and I broke a sweat. Grateful! Again the mad dash started because most folks only had an hour to shove food in their faces, and be back on the mat by 2. Yes, a real school schedule was made for this event. No time to encourage free play, meditation, creative thinking, resting, just a go go go schedule of yoga. We skipped the mad dash and went back to our Airbnb to chill, blow some, eat and drink coffee. We made it back in just enough time to walk in late again to the class. This 2pm class was taught by my dear friend Eazy and he was full of happy positive hippie magic. I probably would have loved really flowing in his class, but my body was a bit tired for the 75 minute Ashtanga practice just a hour before, belly was full from coffee, and kale shots, and I had the giggles. So we crawled in the back of the room, laid our mats down, and did what we could. A few backbends here and there, some belly rolls, lots of Chaturangas, and eventually just sitting in lotus until the class was over. Eazy is really my friend so I didn’t feel bad I couldn’t give the class my 100% because I can practice with friends whenever. The 2pm class was in the big room, so before I knew it the mad dash was about to start again! I began rolling up my mat, because I didn’t want to be crushed and we were right near the door. I just knew the restless 5yr old adults would rush in and trample me. I was pretty much over the fest by now, and after we exited the classroom I knew I was skipping the final class of the day. I had told Kris were I’d be sitting and waiting on her and she entered another room. Not 15 minutes into the class I ran into a friend and we chatted about her upcoming wedding, her and I both changing our career directions, and just the fest in general. Kris comes out and has a look on her face, and I just know… She said ‘No. I’ve had enough!’ and we chatted a bit more, and left the fest before the mad dash could claim another victim.
Overall the Dirty South Fest was nothing like I expected. First, I assumed the name Dirty South would include other locations than just Atlanta. There were only Atlanta studios and teachers. Being in Atlanta I assumed there would be a bigger BLACK YOGA population at the event (I mean look at Instagram, it’ll have you believe that everyone in ATL is super fine, super flexible, and practicing yoga everywhere) so to only see a handful of us there was a real shock. The schedule was very limited, and nothing new or inspiring was included. Every class was something you could take at any local studio. The staff just sucked. No greeters, no smiles, no real encouragement to stay there at all. Really I couldn’t tell you who was the staff because lots of folks had on a Dirty South T-Shirt on. They were selling them, and you could have gotten one if you bought the VIP Pack (which was also on a Atlanta Bargain App for about $50 cheaper). The fest in general didn’t seem like it catered to anyone other than folks in Atlanta. If you were like us and actually traveled to be there, I’d say skip it next time. You’d be better off getting a week pass at a local studio. There was nothing ‘Dirty’ about this Fest. When I hear ‘Dirty’ I think of: sweaty, getting low, grounding, natural, real, earth, anything that references the making of Life or some parts of it. The ‘South’ part of the Fest was also missing. Again when I think ‘South’, I think ‘Southern’ : sweet, polite, smiling, good food, relaxing, outdoors, and barefoot. I think they should change the name to “Squeaky Clean ATL Yoga Fest”. We welcome all that rush through life, and are into mainstream yoga practice, with a little to to spare on myself. But these are just my thoughts and opinions, and who am I but just a girl with a computer and time to write.