Here’s a sentence I never imagined I’d see: There’s a yoga festival at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch!
So how on earth did THAT come about? Well, it started several decades ago when Loretta Lynn, the coal miner’s daughter from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, bought a house and land in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Over time, this evolved into Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, an open-to-the-public venue that hosts several events throughout the year – motocross, horseback trail rides, country music concerts… and now, it would seem, yoga festivals.
At first I thought it was a joke, possibly the Onion’s take on our Western habit of milking the sacred cow for all she’s worth with yet another trademarked ‘style’ of yoga-- Yodeling Yoga, perhaps, or Country Kriya.
It turned out to be a real event.
I've lived up the road from the Ranch for a million years, and I know very well that our community is not particularly progressive. How would yoga pants and mudras play in the land of cowboy boots and twang? I wondered. Would small-town yoga teachers embarrass themselves in classes led by celebri-yogis? And would the promised vegetarian meals turn out to be green beans seasoned with hamhocks and served with lard biscuits?
Supported by my omies from Lotus in Bloom Yoga Center, I set out to discover whether our rural area could accommodate an influx of liberal, tree-hugging, Prius-driving, vegetarian meditators (said the pot...)
For my first session, I chose Bhakti Flow because I had absolutely no idea what it was. This turned out to be a life-cycle sequenced, soulful class led by Alma Dunnavant of City Yoga, who chanted us in and out of the session with a mantra for new beginnings: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha
Pleasantly blissed, I imagined the words of this mantra floating up to join with lyrics sung in this very pavilion by the likes of Loretta, Crystal Gayle, and George Jones. In my mind, there was harmony.
Amused by my clever fantasy, I then levitated across a grassy bit toward the cabana, where a session was already in progress. I didn’t know what the class was, but I could tell it was smooth and mindful.
Every few minutes, another yogi would wander in to join the class. Finally my curiosity got the better of me. I crept in and spread my mat at the very back of the space, and settled into a Warrior flow led by a woman with a soft voice, a humble style, and a keen eye for alignment and safety.
When it was over, the teacher welcomed those of us who’d come late and told us, “I’m Angie.” I’d just survived (enjoyed, even!) a power flow led by Angela Still.
And so it went. There was laughter yoga and ecstatic dance; there was hot yoga and Buti; there was hiking and tubing, and a dozen other ways to move. There were classes led by Lindsey Rhodes, Samantha Dahlstrand, Dana McGowan, Jennifer Dorr, Gillian St Clair, Alicia Burns Trotter, Karen Moss, Charles Hinton, Kassandra McCormick, Julia Struthers, Katherine Connor, and Alison Fizzord.
And during the lunch break, there was a peaceful musical interlude featuring Tyler Austin Meade (with a cameo by Connie Etheridge).
Here and there, I’d hear someone say, “My grandfather is a big fan of Loretta’s,” or – on the other end of the spectrum—“Remember that fried chicken commercial Loretta did?” Goth hair, helmet hair, smooth, wrinkled, Yin- or Ashtanga-fan, everyone seemed content to let everyone else be whatever they chose to be. As the laid-back yogis roamed freely, regular tourists passed through, probably wondering what rabbit hole they’d fallen into. And yet, the two species co-existed peacefully and respectfully.
The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union.’ The goal of yoga is to unite the mind, body, and breath, in order to achieve a state of wholeness.
Is it possible that the Hurricane Mills Yoga Festival has set us on the path to restored unity by bringing Bhakti to the boonies and Hatha to the hollow? Who knows? Perhaps next year’s festival will place Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks together for a Loving Kindness meditation.
And after that, surely the rest of us will regain our collective sanity and compassion.
Om shanti, y’all.