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The word seva means giving selflessly to help other living beings. It's more than just a word to Santosh Maknikar, founder of Yoga For People, who built the Great Salt Lake Yoga Fest around the concept.
"We wanted to make it available for everyone," Maknikar said, "affordable for everyone to explore all types of yoga."
Festival organizers believe the practice of yoga is beneficial and healing, and the price of classes shouldn't be a barrier.
Each of the 35 teachers, who are coming from around Utah, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and even London, has volunteered time and expertise. Events like this in other cities would cost $500, Maknikar said, but using volunteers keeps the price low just $35 for a pass to all three days of seminars, workshops and yoga classes.
Four hundred people attended last year's festival. "Last year our classes were so packed we have made a backup plan to make room so people won't have to miss out," he said. "We even have an outdoors venue."
This year, there will be 75 classes structured for those new to yoga and advanced practitioners alike. The three-day festival will feature classes on various styles such as Gentle Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laughing Yoga, Flow Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Power Yoga, Kids Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yoga for Dancers and Partner Yoga.
"We'll have yoga in the morning, then break for music, fresh juices and food. Then in the evening, more yoga," Maknikar said. Kids classes will be held in the late afternoon.
Throughout the festival, an artist will be doing live drawings and yoga paintings. There will be kirtan music, mantra chanting and even a quiet corner for those who need a break to meditate.
Speakers will share their research about yoga and stress management, and the basic question of how to be happy. The popular laughing yoga class will return; it addresses the science of laughing, breathing techniques and the endorphins that are released. "We had 220 [in the class] last year. We laughed for an hour," Maknikar said. "I felt so good afterward."
There will be a raw food cooking class demonstrating how to do it and discussing the benefits of healthy breakfast foods. Vegetarian meals will be available to purchase.
New this year will be a class on Sound Healing with nine instruments, singing balls and teaching techniques for musical sleep.
To wrap things up on Monday, the yoga students will be invited to bring instruments to play along in a jam music session.
Helping people yoga style
The Utah-based Yoga For People teaches yoga free in homeless shelters, prisons, schools and libraries in Salt Lake City and Park City. Santosh Maknikar founded the nonprofit in 2011 with the goal of making the healthful benefits of yoga accessible.
"When I moved to the United States, I was surprised to see how many more people go to yoga classes in the U.S. than in India," said Maknikar, who is from Latur, India. "But I was also surprised at the high cost of these classes."
That's when he decided to make yoga available to people who had financial or health limitations.
In June, Yoga For People provided its 300th free class in just eight months. The nonprofit is always seeking to expand its volunteer base.
Yoga For People is supporting the 2012 Great Salt Lake Yoga Fest by paying for a discount for attendees from women's shelters, rehab centers, correctional facilities, the cancer institute or other like groups.
"We wanted to bring out the real heroes those who work with rape survivors" and others who are dedicated to helping people, Maknikar said.
2012 Great Salt Lake Yoga Fest
When • Saturday through Monday, Sept. 1-3, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where • 965 E. 3370 South, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Preregistration: $35 for three-day multiple entry pass. At the door: $40. Single-day passes available. Information at http://www.greatslcyogafest.com