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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014
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Hundreds expected for Tampa Bay yoga fest in Odessa

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ODESSA — When Nathan Bangs began practicing yoga more than a decade ago, he didn’t know it would lead to an annual festival drawing nearly 1,000 participants from the Tampa area and beyond.

After all, Bangs is a South Tampa real estate agent.

“I’m not a yoga studio and I’m not a yoga teacher,” he said. “But to connect with like-minded people I started Yoga Tampa Bay, just a Facebook fan page.”

Fast forward several years. Bangs was conducting a Greater Tampa Bay Association of Realtors seminar when a developer familiar with Bangs’ yoga interest offered use of vacant land in Odessa for a festival. The offer coincided with Bangs considering traveling to Miami for Wanderlust, a yoga festival.

Bangs did the math: Registration and two nights at the $400 host hotel would run $1,200 to $1,500. “So I made the joke: For 1,500 bucks, I’d do my own. That’s when Yoga Tampa Bay Festival was formed,” said Bangs, founder and planner of the event entering its fifth year.

The weekend event, rechristened Rasa-Lisa Fest to incorporate the Sanskrit term for “the dance of love,” is Oct. 4-5 at Camp Brorein, Odessa’s sprawling Boy Scout camp.

The two-day event offers more than yoga. There will be workshops, musical entertainment and everything from belly dancing to hula-hooping. There will be two stages for yoga, and two others for lectures about organic foods, meditation and more. Paddleboarding will be available on the property’s lakes, with other physical challenges offered including the camp’s climbing wall.

A DJ, sound engineer and lighting specialist will help stage Friday night’s pre-fest celebration and entertainment, highlighted by the Glow Yoga Dance Party, a “glow party” featuring body painting, black lights and yoga in the dark, Bangs said.

Last year, 75 festival attendees spent the night in the camp’s large tents, erected on concrete slabs. Perhaps about 100 of those who attend the Friday night pre-fest will camp overnight on the property, where modern bathhouses recently were constructed, Bangs said.

“You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but you’re two minutes from Publix,” Bangs, 40, said of the 64-acre rural camp.

Rasa-Lila Fest admission ranges from $15 for the Friday night pre-fest only, to $500 for a VIP ticket providing weekend admission for four people and a group-sized tent for overnight camping. Children younger than 12 are admitted free. For information and tickets, visit www.rasalilafest.com.

This is the third Rasa-Lisa Fest in Tampa, Bangs organized two others in Orlando that, he said, broadened the audience for Tampa’s event. While traditionally about 80 percent of participants are from the Tampa area, the remainder are from elsewhere, including yoga instructors from Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Vero Beach and Sarasota.

“What’s amazing about the festival is it has become Florida’s festival,” said Bangs. “It’s just been a blast to put it on,” drawing 800-plus people. “To think little old me started it up years ago on a tiny little budget,” said the self-described “mainstream regular guy who lives in downtown Tampa.”

gwilkens@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7124

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