Yoga Journal Live, Wanderlust, Mid-west Yoga Festival, SYTAR; these are a few of the yoga festivals I have attended over the past 13 years of being a yogi. Since I first started going, the popularity of yoga festivals has exploded and gone from one or two festivals a year to now over 100 gatherings locally and internationally. Nearly every weekend, somewhere in the world yogis gather to experience amazing yoga teachers, music, food, nature, new friends, yoga gear, and yoga, yoga, yoga. If you have never been, here are three reasons why I believe yoga festivals are worth trying. 1. Diversity
Yoga festivals offer up a wide range of classes and give you the opportunity to take yoga from new teachers with new styles. Everyone knows about power vinyasa yoga. But what about Kundalini, Budokon, or Kula Flow? A yoga festival gives you the chance to try something new. Maybe you'll discover your new favorite type of yoga. Last weekend at the Great Salt Lake City Yoga Festival I tried Bhangra Yoga for the first time. The teacher, Atma, came all the way from NYC to share his energy and wisdom with us, and to get us bouncing, jumping, and breathing. I have never had so much fun in a yoga class before! (That's saying a lot since I have been to literally hundreds of classes!) It was fun but it was also extremely challenging physically, and by the time Atma put us into a deep meditation with the gong, I drifted into a place of absolute surrender.
Having a strong at-home yoga practice is a wonderful thing, but it doesn't compare to the energy and beauty you experience in a live yoga class. Whether large or small, yoga classes push you to challenge yourself in a way you may not do at home. Besides challenging you, each class at a yoga festival is an opportunity to meet people and make new friends. When you're in an Ashtanga class and you're on your 59th jump back and the teacher tells you to hold Chaturanga an inch from the floor, everyone half laughs half cries but then you all do it!! You leave the class together sweaty and exhausted but knowing you all just accomplished something amazing together.
I helped teach a Laughing Yoga class at the Great Salt Lake Yoga Festival and it was a complete riot of funny facial expressions and a great deal of hilarious laughter. The ridiculousness of what we were doing had us all promising that what happens in Laughing Yoga stays in Laughing Yoga. After class, anytime I saw one of those students, we would look at each other, and of course laugh.
What better way to deepen your yoga practice than by spending time on your mat? Yoga festivals are a chance to leave your work and responsibilities at home and spend some quality time on your yoga mat. After a few hours of breathing and moving, you'll learn new things about the asanas and discover new insights about yourself both physically and mentally. A new teacher may say something or adjust your body in a different way and suddenly you'll find yourself in Dhanurasana or Sirsasana for the first time. Or after two days of work on the mat, you may move into pigeon pose and find tears running down your cheeks as something magical unlocks inside your soul. That may sound a little out there, but it honestly happens and is part of the reason so many people keep coming back to the yoga mat. It's just so damn good for the soul.
If you've never been to a yoga festival, go! They are so much fun, and in my opinion, worth the time and money. There are many gatherings to choose from. Here is the best list I've found of the yoga festivals offered world wide. YOGA FESTIVALS. If you can't afford to go big, go local. Ask your local yoga studio if they know of a yoga festival near you that may not be advertised online. No matter where you go, just try it. Who knows, you may just see me there teaching, laughing, moving on my mat, and having a wonderful time.