How Fields of Yogis Makes a Difference for a Vibrant, Robust Local Community and a Peaceful, Healthy World
Interview with Ally Thompson
Karma yoga, the practice of selfless service, has taken on new meaning for many yogis across North America this past summer. Parvati.org’s grassroots campaign Yogis Unite for MAPS (the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary) has spread through the continent and was most recently at Fields of Yogis in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yogis Unite brings yogis together to speak up for a healthy world by protecting the Arctic Ocean, our world’s life support. Yogis Unite inspires action and enthusiasm to spread the joy of making a difference. When Fields of Yogis founder and organizer Ally Thompson heard about Yogis Unite, she and fellow organizer Sarah Driscoll immediately wanted to be a voice for MAPS for all of their attendees. We caught up with Ally after the festival and she shared how it can take just one person to make something beautiful happen.
Parvati Magazine: Your community was changed after the 2008 Iowa flood. How did that impact you in the years to follow and ultimately propel the creation of Fields of Yogis?
Ally Thompson: The 2008 flood was a blessing in disguise for our community. It brought forth immense change. Before the flood, downtown/NewBo/Czech Village was an unappreciated, lifeless, food desert. The now vibrant cultural attractions [in the community] are almost unimaginable without the flood. They set the stage and we envisioned the fest. I had personally been going to many festivals around the country and felt as though with all the change we had been undergoing in the community, we were open to welcoming the kind of dynamic change that yoga and yoga festivals bring to communities.
Parvati Magazine: You are fresh off your fourth festival. What were some of your personal highlights? How have community engagement, and going the extra miles to create a festival for everyone to enjoy, changed your lives?
Ally Thompson: I can’t even believe we’ve made it this far. Running a festival is challenging and there are so many moving parts that you can’t imagine. I feel especially lucky to have such an amazing team. Our community has really rallied behind us, and that helps us push forward through the challenging moments. It’s in pushing through our comfort zones that we had find how limitless our potential is.
Parvati Magazine: You offered more vigorous activities to complement the slower pace of yoga workshops, such as aerial skills taught by a yoga teacher and circus performer, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and slacklining. Why did you go this route?
Ally Thompson: Our motto is “Choose how you grow”. Just because it’s not your [typical] “Hatha Yoga Practice” doesn’t mean it doesn’t give you that same divine sense of self. Yoga and meditation are a lifestyle practice, where we learn to choose how we grow, what thoughts we are feeding ourselves, and what choices we are making to improve us and the lives around us. If there’s anything we can learn from these many different styles [it’s that] we are all one, working towards a similar goal to better ourselves and hopefully our communities. By introducing our bodies and our minds to different forms of movement and ideas, we are creating more open, accepting conversations as to what makes us whole together.
Parvati Magazine: Our team was delighted with your enthusiasm for Yogis Unite. What was it like for you to give your voice to MAPS? What response did you receive?
Ally Thompson: It was an honour to give MAPS a voice. I’ll be honest, because we are a small festival of a couple hundred, I’m always honoured to be seen by such large organizations such as yourselves. Our community seemed excited to see such an amazing project working to better the world.
Parvati Magazine: Can you share why tapping into enthusiasm can help to address apathy and hopelessness in the face of the challenges in our world today?
Ally Thompson: We need to be reminded that change starts with us, so it can move to our families, our communities, and the world at large. We have to be willing to make the changes within; that’s what the festival has taught me. When I started, this was for the community, but the festival has really made me address the challenges I haven’t faced and teaches me how to work with and learn from those around me.
Parvati Magazine: How has Fields of Yogis grown year to year? Do you foresee a fifth festival? If so, what experiences from this year do you want to bring back or change?
Ally Thompson: It has steadily increased in size, while taking on new forms of growth from art and food workshops. Year five is the year for some new adventures. This past year made me realize how ready our community is to dive deeper into the parts we don’t always share with everyone else and how brave and ready they are for new experiences.
Ally’s yoga journey began at a young age, but it wasn’t until she rediscovered her practice over ten years ago that yoga became the real love of her life. Four years ago, she wondered why Cedar Rapids didn’t have a yoga festival. Without any experience, she organized the first Fields of Yogis festival in August 2016.