Back in 1999, some yoginis came up with the idea of offering a smorgasboard of yoga classes, free, in Austin. It was a hit. Free Day of Yoga (FDOY) now takes place across the country in places like Dallas, Houston, Corpus, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and even Guam.
Even though there were no doggy bags allowed, yoga is definitely something you take home with you. When I was a kid, we were taught to fill up our plates at the buffets. While that concept turns me off now, I must have some of that mentality still with me. For the last three years I’ve stuffed my day with as many classes as possible at Austin’s Free Day of Yoga, while eating just small amounts of power food during breaks.
While our past definitely contributes to our present, another reason why I may “get my money’s worth” at FDOY is that I’m a type A personality. I’m not into R&R vacations. I want a vacation with a purpose. A vacation chock full of activity. So for Labor Day, rather than be a couch potato (mind you, I don’t watch TV or eat potatoes) or host a barbecue party (it would need to be BBQ sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, plantains and tofu cubes) I treasure the ability to do a yoga marathon. I get my relaxation too, in the form of savasana, or the deep relaxation that is the frosting on the yoga cake.
Austin’s FDOY can make you dizzy just trying to plan your schedule. There must be at least 20 venues for free yoga, and just as many styles. This year, I started at 4:30 a.m. with a kundalini workshop followed by a one hour kundalini sadhana with live music. It was a beautiful way to start the day. I was surrounded by a sea of kundalini enthusiasts dressed in white who knew all their kriyas and mantras.
Since I wanted to pack in a good ten hours of free yoga classes to honor my body and soul for Labor Day, I selected most of the venues along the Lamar Street corridor, both north and south of the river, with a few classes smattered in on the near east side of town. One of the things I love about Austin is that is a very easy city to maneuver. All of my classes were just five to ten minutes apart from the next, which allowed me to experience a good number of studios that I hadn’t frequented in the past years.
For the yoga newbie, this is the best way to sample yoga. Most all the classes are appropriate for beginners, though many a yoga teacher participate in the classes just the same. I’m over 50 and have never been into cardio workouts. Yet I completed classes nearly back to back from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and didn’t even feel sore the next day. I interspersed my day with Yin Yoga and Vedic Chanting to pace myself appropriately.
Yoga and Austin go together like OJ’s glove. It’s such a tight fit. Austin is a progressive city where people of all ages embrace natural living and yoga. It’s a treasure for me and one of the reasons why Labor Day is so special for me now.
While I realize they host FDOY in many other cities, it just feels to me like Austin has the right vibe for this special day. Austin also most certainly has the right food offerings for the yogis. My favorite places to pick up light fare –or a square meal—are Mr. Natural and The Daily Juice, both of which are bound to be close to the yoga studios.
Mr. Natural has two locations in Austin. Both have a fine selection of all-vegetarian options, most of which are traditional Mexican style foods. For my quick fix between yoga sessions, I picked up a bean and tofu gordita and a gluten-free, agave-sweetened pumpkin empanada, the best I’ve ever had in my live. And, I’ve eaten a lot of these in the last few decades. The tab? Less than five dollars. Mr. Natural also has packaged non-perishables for sale.
The Daily Juice has got to be my all time favorite vegan place in Austin. Its three locations each have a different vibe and different menu options. Although its juices are the mainstay, I tend to buy their quinoa dishes from the refrigerator section. Quinoa has never tasted so good. These are cold salads with international pizzazz, like kung pao broccoli quinoa or thai chili quinoa with cucumbers.