An Interview With Aubrey Warren – Workshop Coordinator For Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain
Music festivals are an experience far beyond the music lineup. At this year’s Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain, there is a new lineup of workshops ranging from yoga to meditation to astrology and more. We asked Aubrey Warren, the festival’s workshop coordinator, a few questions regarding her background, the extensive workshop lineup, and what attendees can expect at this year’s festival.
Sensible Reason: First things first. Tell us about yourself! How did you get to where you were today? Both in your yoga career and as the workshop coordinator for Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain?
Aubrey: This is a long story, but I’ll do my best to give you the “Cliff’s Notes.”
I graduated from TCU in 2002. I had chronic bladder infections my senior year. After a year of being on antibiotics, I got frustrated with western medicine and sought out an eastern practitioner. Dr. Lee was the first person to ask me what was going on in my personal life and what I was putting into my body. THIS question was EVERYTHING! I used to be 50 pounds heavier and in attempts to get skinny, I was addicted to Metabolife, the ephedra-based diet pill that’s illegal now. Dr. Lee suggested I get off the pills, clean up my nutrition & start practicing yoga. After 6 months of practicing twice a week, my bladder infections were gone and I was no longer needing the asthma medications I had been on since my youth. I started my Yoga Teacher Training the next year, knowing I had to share this magic with others.
I’ve spent the past 16 years teaching in multiple gyms and yoga studios throughout Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past 3 years, I’ve become a Certified Yoga Education Provider, which gives me tremendous joy! It’s one thing to share yoga, but it’s completely different helping those who want to teach themselves go deeper into their practice.
We had our first son in 2007 and our 2nd in 2009 and I lost myself in motherhood. Our marriage was in trouble. In attempts to heal what was broken, we left our little boys with grandma and grandpa for our 1st music festival – Wakarusa. It worked. Through letting go of our social roles and getting lost in the music and the community, it was if we had year’s worth of therapy in one weekend and committed to attending annually as a means to intentionally keep our relationship-fire burning.
At the last Wakarusa, I had a vision of teaching yoga there and when the festival “died” my heart was broken. All the while, I was stagnant in my career. During my spiritual practice, I asked, “What’s the next right step?” And the message I kept receiving was, “You’re supposed to be teaching on a different platform.”
While meditating one day I remembered that vision at Wakarusa and decided maybe THAT is the platform Spirit was referring to. I said a prayer, wrote it down and opened up to be a Music Festival Yoga Teacher. Weeks later I got a Facebook message from a festy-friend who’s a hoop instructor. She shared that she got booked to teach hoop at Middlelands, produced by Insomniac Events in Texas and that they were looking for a yoga instructor. By the end of the day, I was booked for my 1st festival teaching gig. When it landed in my lap, I knew something bigger than myself was behind it all.
I taught at 3 festivals in 2017. When Backwoods announced taking over Mulberry Mountain, I KNEW I had to be involved. I applied online. I visualized myself teaching on the mountain daily. A few months before Backwoods, I still hadn’t heard anything back so I started digging. I eventually got connected with Javier, one of the executive producers, and poured my heart into an email. He replied back saying they already had a couple of instructors booked, but that he could feel my passion and genuine desire to serve and would make space for me on the lineup.
After Backwoods 2018 was over, I reached out to Javier expressing what I thought we did awesomely and what we could do better in 2019. I ended my email with the following statement, “So you’re left with this decision. Either bring me back to teach a couple of classes next year or hire me to coordinate a full workshop line-up for you.”
SR: This is the most extensive workshop schedule we’ve seen at Backwoods. What vision are you creating with so much to offer? Did you ever worry that it was too much while planning everything?
A: Most people who attend festivals are looking for something “more” and don’t always know what that “more” is. Many people find festival life when they get sick of playing the roles that modern life requires. We get lost in the matrix and are searching for a way out. It is my desire to feed those souls the nourishment they long for. It’s not every day you’re around others that are so open to looking at life from different perspectives, but you find that in the festival community We are planting seeds of a new way, actually, an ancient way of living that is counterculture to modern society. Music festival attendees have their hearts and minds open, like fertile soil.
It was my intention to create a workshop line-up that as a yogi I would pay to attend even if there wasn’t a music festival attached to it. Has it been a lot to manage? Kind of. There’s a lot of presenters on the schedule and coordinating with that many people takes time. However, I believe from the pit of my being that this work is bigger than me. I’m merely a humble servant of the call I feel deep in my heart.
SR: From personal experience, it can be hard to get up at 8 AM for meditation at a festival. However, this schedule is much more night-owl friendly. Tell us about the process of creating the schedule. Did you have trouble working around the music schedule at all?
A: Honestly, the 8 AM meditations aren’t for the people who have been sleeping. I put those on the line up specifically for people who attend the Sun Rise sets. From my experience, sleep can be hard to find after raging all night. Soothing the central nervous system is key, and many people aren’t versed in this practice.
You actually don’t see workshops that take physical energy until after 11 am.
From experience, I recognize that many people who wander into the workshop area have never done yoga, hoop or anything else. They are simply ready to step-out-of-the-box and try something new, so I found it appropriate to give them lots of choices to explore.
Actually, I didn’t worry about the music schedule at all when creating the workshop lineup – except for the 8 AM sound healing. As I said, it was my intention to create a schedule that would stand alone. I realize that nothing is getting in the way of an attendee seeing their favorite band or DJ, and I wasn’t about to guess what would pull people where. I just focused on the quality of the workshop schedule. Attendees can decide how they want to spend their time.
SR: There are a plethora of workshop leaders this year, how did you find all these experts for each session?
A: I’ve been teaching yoga and attending festivals for so long time and know lots of awesome people. Half of the presenters are personal friends of mine or people I worked with before. A few were in contact with my producers before I got the gig and we were introduced. Others applied online and I was deeply moved by their passion and vision.
SR: Some of the workshops are a series much as Intro to Astrology. Do you recommend attendees try and catch each one?
A: Each presenter has vast knowledge in their subject area. I know a little. As a means to help them organize their work into bite-sized chunks, we brainstormed these mini-lesson topics. Giving the presenters an intention for each discussion, keeps them focused and lets attendees know what’s coming. I suggest attendees listen to their intuition and trust the flow of their desire.
SR: The workshops you’ll be leading are geared toward yoga and meditation. What are some of the other workshops you’re excited to bring to Backwoods?
A: Shanti, the Intro to Pranayama & Music for Meditation instructor, is one of my dearest friends and most beloved teachers. She has taught me how to experience different mental-emotional states through manipulation of the breath, which has helped me on so many levels! I’m excited for her to share this wisdom with the Backwoods community!
Astrology is a new love of mine. The more I pay attention to the cosmos and our seasons, the easier it is for me to find my flow. I don’t know enough to teach it, but I’m super excited to have someone else offer it.
Clean eating is a part of my wellness regiment and it’s changed my life. 2 years ago, I gave up coffee and started making medicinal quality chai tea instead. This simple shift has made a huge difference in my mood and energy levels. Food is medicine, but it’s not common practice in our culture. Substance use is common in festival life, but it’s not sustainable. Thus, I’m excited to introduce a teacher passionate about the power of plants!
Studies show that the amount of people claiming to be “religious” is declining, while those who claim to be simply “spiritual” is on the rise. While so many were spoon-fed dogma of times past, it’s easy to reject anything mystical. However, the answers we seek are often hidden under layers of mysteries and magic just waiting to be remembered. Studying ancient cultures and world religions is one of my favorite past times, so I can’t wait to see what Jay Means has to share in his workshops!
SR: There are some unique workshops on the lineup such as Forbidden Knowledge, Laughter Yoga, and Spiritual Alchemy. Can you describe what attendees can expect at some of the more offbeat sessions?
A: (I think my last answer encompasses a lot of this.)
SR: What would you say to someone on-the-fence about attending one of the many workshops offered this year?
A: Wander in. Feel the vibe. If it feels good, if it calls you in, stay. If not, keep wondering. However, my best suggestion is to follow your curiosity. If you’re curious, there’s probably a reason. Trust your intuition and explore what sounds interesting.
SR: What should attendees bring to each workshop?
A: A yoga mat and a water bottle is a good idea for all the classes. You never know when you’ll want a place to sit and staying hydrated is vital. If you’re a note-taker, bring a journal. Write down a few nuggets of inspiration that you want to remember when you get home. Bring your drum and lawn chair to the drum circle.
SR: Are you hoping to catch any music at Backwoods this year? If so, who are you excited to see?
A: Space Jesus is always a great show! Nahko & Medicine for the People is my FAVORITE band – so I’m excited to see what Chase Makai does when he flies solo. It’s my prayer that Backwoods brings Nahko back to the mountain eventually…
SR: What advice would you give to a first-time festival attendee heading to Backwoods this year?
A: Bring sunscreen & lots of layers of clothes. You never know what the weather is going to bring, so be prepared for anything! LADIES, your cycle may shift being around so many other women. Even if you don’t think you’re going to start your period, bring supplies! If you don’t need them, you may be a fellow sister’s saving grace!
Check out the full workshop schedule below.