Words by Victoria Derr / Photos by Vivian Morellon
Eight-year yogi and longtime desert lover, Brittany Filips seems to glide through life with a bounce in her step.
I first saw her as she was crossing the street in Carlsbad Village, her smile noticeable from a few yards distance. We greeted each other outside the boutique yoga studio, Woven We Are. Posters in the window showcased upcoming events at the studio – a yoga class schedule alongside non-asana events, like a Cacao Ceremonies and a Libra full moon gathering.
Meet Brittany Filips, a San Diego based yoga teacher scheduled to lead yoga classes at the upcoming Joshua Tree Music Festival. “I’ve gone to the fest thirteen times now,” she laughs. “Since I started going, I haven’t missed a fest.”
Her appreciation for music was apparent from the start. Before the interview, Brittany queued up a playlist that set the tone for the entirety of our conversation. She referred to the upbeat music a few times, seamlessly bringing my awareness back to the tunes. After connecting her playlist, Brittany spritzed an essential oil blend into the air and danced into it, giving a carefree laugh. Music and movement were the two first impressions I got of her.
We sat on a long wooden nook in the yoga studio, textured pillows propped up against the wall. Our shoes had been (happily) removed, and stuffed into the wooden cubbies underneath us.
I took a moment to appreciate the space we sat in – surrounded by quartz geodes and handmade crystal jewelry. Inside the practice space itself there was a living plant wall, three foot long pothos vines giving into gravity.
Nestled into the pillows on the yoga studio’s wooden bench, Brittany shared her story with us. From her roots in yoga to her deep appreciation for the desert and music, NTCH got the chance to sit down with this yogini and chat about it all.
So, how did she first begin her practice?
Her legs crossed underneath her as she answered. “Yoga has always been around without me even really knowing that it was. It’s something that’s always been there for me.” Already in lotus pose, she shares an anecdote from her childhood with us. “I found a picture of me as a kid in lotus pose,” she laughs. “I was doing full lotus when I was little, but like as a party trick. I would walk on my knees and everything.”
“Yeah,” she sighs. “A lot of the patterns I had growing up, and thought processes, have always been integrated in yoga, without me knowing it. It’s just interesting to see something that’s always been there and now have a name for it.”
Between hitting lotus pose as a child and softballs as a teen, Brittany seems well settled into the continuation of her movement evolution into teaching yoga full time.
And how does her practice come off the mat?
Exactly through that – teaching. “Teaching makes me more aware of what causes a response or a reaction. How often do I get triggered, and how often can I–” she snaps twice “–switch from a response or reaction to something that feels a little bit more appropriate for my character.”
Let’s paint a picture – think of the infamous interstate 5, on a Thursday at 4pm, bumper to bumper and with the ETA on the Google Maps app colored red. Red font is like red brake lights. Traffic. These moments are never easy to approach with zen, especially if your destination comes with a scheduled meeting time. A far too frustrating, out of control moment that could easily cause a fight-or-flight reaction, panic, or frustration – all of which place anger at the wheel.
“Sometimes there’s car bullies,” Brittany said. I thought of the traffic bully I had encountered on the way to the interview, a white Ford F150 who revved and skirted into my lane with little notice care for the cars around him. Car bullies. “And that’s where I notice my yoga in the easiest of places – just move over in your car, you’ll get to where you need to get to and who cares what they do? It’s those little things.”
The small, but sometimes hard things to let go of.
“It’s easier when I’m practicing because I’m able to sit in that place of patience a little bit more.” Ahh, patience. A very Taurus virtue to strive towards; fitting considering Brittany’s birthday typically lands near the JTMF, happening on May 16th till the 19th this year. A Taurus season festival. Music in the desert suddenly seems appropriate to be happening during the sun’s transit through the earthy, sensual sign of Taurus. Sensual in the sense of sense-based. Sound.
“It’s become much more than just a festival.” Between creating relationships with musicians and bouldering in Joshua Tree, the desert and its community seems to call her back often. Like synchronicity usually goes, Brittany works with another yoga teacher who knows the same JT musicians. And the story of building a bridge between a JT community into Brittany’s life continued to unravel. Her first attendance to JTMF was a result of luck – tickets won in a giveaway, October 2012.
After her first experience at the festival, Brittany felt the need to get involved. She sent an email, and the rest is history.
“That’s why I haven’t stopped going, because I get to share everything from this yoga community to that yoga community. Share what I love!” She talks about the festival with excitement, from the opening act of Gene Evaro Jr to the Thursday night collective meal. She shared with us her story of acquiring yoga blocks for the festival; she had wanted to give her classes with the aid of yoga blocks, and began a GoFundMe to get blocks. She was overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity of donations, in particular the female musicians. Again, Brittany loops back to the theme of community at JTMF, the crossover of music and yoga. Musicians and yogis.
From burning her hand with hot water minutes before her class to working with miscellaneous music during teaching, Brittany speaks of not only the physical challenges, but the mental and emotional challenges as well. “I have gone through so much through these festivals, that each time it’s so different. I started going to JTMF as little hippie Brittany, barefoot all the time. Went through some heartbreaks, went solo a couple of times. By myself, for growth…yeah, a lot has changed.” Her eyes shift from holding eye contact to stare into space, her mind scrolling through memories of thirteen festivals past.
The community she camps with also reflects the changes: starting with a tent, going to RVs, and eventually evolving into a rooftop tent. “This year I’ll be staying with the other yoga teachers, in a tipi,” she giggles. “Come visit us in the tipi!” She explains how being among the yoga teachers takes away the anxiety of having to check her watch to stay accountable for her class times.
Teaching one class a day during this four day fest would keep us checking our watches, too. But for now we’ll be checking our calendars, counting down the days until this spring’s 17th annual Joshua Tree Music Fest. We said goodbye to Brittany, with the promise of attending her class in the desert and the anticipation of experiencing the eclectic festival itself.