Natural living festival in Sarasota puts spotlight on holistic medicine

Herald Health CorrespondentNovember 5, 2013 

When Kimberly Braun moved to Sarasota from Washington D.C., nine years ago, she was impressed by the city's diversity of holistic health practitioners offering classes and services from energy healing and voice mapping to diverse styles of yoga.

She decided that everyone should know about them, which is why she rented 40 acres in Sarasota's Phillippi Park for her first health festival in 2009. With all the practitioners and resources in one place, people could see what was in their own community.

"I really wanted the mainstream community to be aware of what is right at their fingertips," said Braun.

Since the first festival, the health fair has morphed in structure, location and size. On Nov. 9, it returns as the Vibrance! Natural Living Festival on Main Street in Sarasota with an added focus on eco-commerce, sustainability and holistic pet care.

Last year, a crowd of nearly 10,000 people came out to see the exhibits and experience mini-sessions of yoga, dance, energy healing and massage.

"We always keep expanding," said Braun.

Here is a sampling of what you'll find this year:

• A children's section featuring cooking demonstrations from Kids in the Kitchen, a Junior League initiative dedicated to teaching children about healthy diets, and a Four Square tournament.

• Exhibit booths with everything from the Pulmonica, a harmonica for exercising the diaphragm and vibrating the lungs to improve breathing, to the Lightworkers Healing Method of angelically guided energy healing.

• An eco-commerce and green living section.

• Three tents where practitioners will be offering free treatments such as chair massage.

• A main stage for demonstrations of practices like laughter yoga and guided meditations with the medicine wheel.

Mary Masi will be encouraging the giggles with laughter yoga, guiding onlookers into hearty, spontaneous laughter. Jokes and humor aren't used to promote laughter; instead, breathing exercises and "faking it until you make it" with some forced guffaws leads to an eruption of spontaneous laughter, she said.

Introduced in India in 1975, laughter yoga stimulates oxygen intake, boosts the immune system and helps produce endorphins, said Masi, who teaches laughter yoga at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota.

Zan Benham will introduce the medicine wheel and animal totems. The medicine wheel is an ancient tool for marking time and seasons; it was used not only by Native Americans but also by groups such as the Celts and Druids, said Benham.

"We will drum and chant and I'll lead them a little bit on a mini-shamanic journey" through a guided meditation, she said.

Holistic health practitioners like Sarasota naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist Jessica Lipham will be available to talk about wellness and what they have to offer.

Chiropractors, massage therapists, natural product and food vendors, and supplement makers also will be setting up exhibits.

"People will be able to see all the access they can have for guidance about well being," said Lipham. "A lot of people don't know where to look."

Susan Hemmingway, Herald health correspondent, can be reached at


What: Vibrance! Natural Living Festival

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9

Where: Main Street, downtown Sarasota

Cost: Free admission; proceeds from beer and wine sales will benefit Girls Inc.

Main stage demonstrations: 10 a.m. Laughter Yoga for Health and Joy, 11 a.m. Ashtanga Yoga Short-Forms Practice, Noon The Essence of Ultimate Movement & Breathing Exercise, 1 p.m. NIA and 2-4 p.m.: Playing in the Medicine Wheel

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