By Kailey Fisicaro

The Bulletin

More than 100 yogis gathered under the sun at Troy Field on Saturday for a community, outdoor practice for charity.

Tourists and locals alike gawked a little as they walked by downtown, seeing dozens of spandex-clad bodies stretching themselves on mats in the grass on the other side of the chain-link fence. Some smiled or stopped curiously to take pictures.

For those who heard the soft drum beats and “oms” downtown Saturday and were curious what was going on: It was Yogis Unite Bend.

Once a year, yoga enthusiasts come together for a large, outdoor session. Tickets were sold for $12 ahead of time and $15 at the event. Proceeds are donated to CAN Cancer and Bethlehem Inn. More than 20 vendors, many of them local yoga studios, lined the fences of the park.

Brandy Berlin, co-coordinator for the event, stood in the middle of the grass late Saturday morning with people, and questions, coming to her from all directions.

Berlin, a humanities teacher at Redmond Proficiency Academy, emceed the event, along with Stephanie Lewis. Both women are involved at Namaspa Yoga & Massage.

“Anybody ever hear the song ‘Row Your Boat?’” Berlin asked the yogis Saturday over a microphone.

“If you think about it, it’s such a yogic song,” she said. “Row row row your boat? Gently down the stream?”

“Boat” is a seated yoga position in which a person forms a “V” shape with their body by bending at the hips. The back is supposed to remain straight, as are legs, extended.

The crowd sang “Row Your Boat” in rounds for a couple minutes, until Berlin and Lewis asked yogis to greet their neighbors with a “good morning” and embrace.

The yogis began with an opening chant of peace, then transitioned into kundalini yoga, led by Santiago Casanueva of Juniper Swim & Fitness Center.

“Kundalini is the noisy yoga,” Casanueva said, transitioning into singing, and then a long series of quick, short breaths out to work as an “ego eradicator.”

Following Casanueva, Breyn Hibbs, owner of Sol Alchemy, asked that yogis fold into child’s pose.

“Let your hips sink back to your heels,” Hibbs said.

Throughout the practice, teachers swapped in, taking turns leading different kinds of yoga. Each of the nine teachers led via microphone for about 10 to 15 minutes. Following Hibbs’ warm-up section was Corrie Bernard from Athletic Club of Bend, guiding yogis through sun salutations.

During the sun salutations, drums kept the rhythm for the yogis to follow the pattern of poses. Following Bernard’s sun salutations, Kimberly Richards of Bend Community Healing took her turn, marking the halfway point of the practice.

“Enjoy the sun, it’s hot,” Richards said. It was 82 degrees and the sun was beating down on the grass, with no cloud coverage. “Winter’s coming.”

The crowd laughed at the thought.

A lot of people at the event Saturday looked at home on the mat. Many could push themselves into full wheel, a backbend that leaves you on all fours, belly button reaching for the sky.

Karen Bonner, 27, looked to be one seasoned yogi. She said she’s been practicing for five years now. When she recently moved to Bend from Eugene, she started going to Namaspa and the staff there told her about the outdoor event.

“I really enjoy how there are so many different teachers and styles,” she said of Yogis Unite. She thought the event might be a good place to meet fellow yogis.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the practice was “acroyoga,” toward the end. Acroyoga combines acrobatic moves with yoga poses, involving partners or groups of people. Saturday, Deven Sisler, an acroyoga expert, pushed yogis to try something new, without really pushing at all.

She introduced a pose by showing two teachers perform it in front of the crowd. The first woman laid face down on the mat, lifting herself into a plank position — think extended push-up. The second woman took hold of the plank woman’s ankles, resting her own feet over the woman’s shoulders, so that the two bodies were stacked on top of each other.

It seemed most everyone, in groups of three so there was a spotter for each pair, was willing to tackle the two-story plank position.

A final restoration section by Caitlin Holzhouser of Sweat Happy People calmed the yogis down into a peaceful place.

“Connectedness has been presented as our theme, but I’m going to use a different word: ‘sutra,’” she said. “Thread.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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