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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Stacey Vann Lives the Mahabhuta Vision

Dec 03, 2012 06:14AM ● By Jude Forsyth

More than a year ago, Stacey Vann, awakened by a dream at 4 a.m., clearly knew what she would be doing the next year. “It was so clear to me how I was supposed unite all the yoga communities in the region. I visualized a neutral space to celebrate and heal with yoga, warm water and sun, great food and kids and so much more,” explains Vann.


Then Vann wrote her vision into existence so she could inspire the regional yoga community to join her in her vision to “celebrate yoga, music, art and the environment; elevate consciousness, unify local communities, create abundance through mutual support, education and conscious consumerism, and inspire you to be great.” With that, the first annual Mahabhuta Yoga festival came into being, and Vann sprang into action to make her vision come true.Gary Young and Stacey Vann

As a yoga teacher at Abhaya Yoga Center, in Pensacola, Vann had a busy practice of her own, but persisted in making the festival a reality. “There was such a wonderful response as I reached out the yoga communities across the Gulf Coast,” says Vann. “Most things happened pretty easily, at the right time, wherever I was in the project.”

The inaugural Mahabhuta Yoga Festival, co-sponsored by Natural Awakenings of NW Florida, was held from November 16 to 18, at the Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Resource Center, in Pensacola. More than 20 regional and local yoga instructors and studio owners provided classes, music, healing arts, food, kid’s activities and an artisan village. Registration topped 400; in addition, more than 100 children enjoyed activities like yoga swings in the trees and marionettes.

 “We had people from across the Gulf Coast, including Texas. We had attendees from Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, even New York,” says Vann. “Whenever we would ask students to raise their hands if they were from our area, only about a third of the group did. The warm water and the many activities drew more people from much further than I thought.”

Vann chose the element of water for this first festival, because 2012 is the Chinese Year of the Water Dragon, and she wanted to honor the sacred waters of the Gulf of Mexico and bring healing to all the waters along the Emerald Coast. She says, “Waters carries energy, it is a conduit of awareness, and that is part of the resiliency of our area.” Participants honored the environmental and spiritual water theme by bringing their own bottles and filling them with free, alkalinized Kangen water. “We kept the water flowing for everyone without adding more plastic into our environment,” states Vann.

Kim Lee and Aaron LindAlong with flowing water, Vann made sure the yoga movements flowed constantly throughout the three-day event. Participants had many choices of yoga levels, practices and instructors, in several choices of rooms, including the main studio that held art by the visionary artist Geoglyphiks, aka George Atherton, the creator of the festival poster. “His art brought its own energy and peacefulness in to the studio,” says Vann.

Friday night provided the first insight for Vann. “I was so inspired by how the group created the medicine wheel Friday evening—we set the intention for the weekend, and then it came about as it was supposed to,” she says.

One exciting surprise for Vann was the unexpected visit of D. Gary Young, founder and president of Young Living Essential Oils. “It was extraordinary that he changed his whole world to be here to share with our group,” explains Vann, also a Living Oils representative. Young co-taught sessions about essential oils, and attendees enjoyed a drop of lavender oil as they started their yoga classes.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the long weekend for Vann was trying to keep herself well for the event. “I was sleeping two hours a night; I had great focus and energy,” she says. “I was so blessed to have dedicated crew and family members who kept me well fed, hydrated and supported throughout the event.”

Food at the festival also followed a healthy theme. Many local groups offered gourmet vegetarian cuisine, including Cafe Organic (FWB), End of the Line, Beach Pops and Wild Roots (Pensacola), Raw and Juicy (Seaside) and Sweetwater Baking Company (Floyd). “If some of the attendees weren’t vegetarian before, they probably had their eyes open this weekend. The food was excellent,” says Vann.

Saturday night offered an evening of music with the transcendental sounds of The Human Experience, Kaminanda & Govinda. “Yogis are pretty mellow anyway, but it was perfect for the mood of the group,” says Vann.Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band

The festival may be over for this year, but its memory will live on when Vann donates a portion of the proceeds to the Mahabhuta Yoga Foundation to provide each participating studio with a scholarship fund for Gulf Coast residents or regional teachers to participate in yoga teacher trainings, workshops and continuing education. “If they grow, so will the festival grow—every year, more new students and instructors will enjoy Mahabhuta,” explains Vann.

Plans for next year might not see many changes, because Vann feels the festival was close to flawless this time around. She added she might keep the after party onsite next year and add video streaming of the classes.

A tired and satisfied Vann shares what was her most inspirational point of the festival, “There was a moment when I found myself just watching it all unfold, just like I saw it, just like I dreamed it; it was so true to my vision, and that gave me such a peaceful feeling.”

To attend yoga sessions with Stacey Vann, visit To see pictures and read comments about the festival, visit Pictures of the festival will be available on soon. 


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