This past weekend was Hanuman Festival in beautiful Boulder, CO. Being a local festival, I decided to go. This means three long days of yoga, community, music, sunshine, green juice and of course, Hanuman. The days were long, but they were also exhilarating, transformational and fun.
I’ve never been to a yoga festival or conference before, so this was a brand new experience. Needless to say (since I’m blogging about it), it was a worthwhile experience. To elaborate, here are 5 reasons why yoga teachers and practitioners should consider attending a yoga festival:
1) Exposure to a Variety of Classes With Respected Teachers:
In my normal practice, the teachers and styles of classes are limited. In larger cities, you might have more variety, but here I don’t. The beauty of festivals is the wide variety of classes, styles and teachers. At Hanuman, I practiced Jivamukti and Kundalini, two styles not represented in my community. Granted, it’s all yoga and there are definite similarities between styles, it’s fun to experience some of the variety of yoga asana or poses.
Just like the exposure to class styles, yoga festivals are a great opportunity to practice with a variety of respected teachers. Granted the “yoga celebrity” concept is strange and kind of counter to the essence of yoga, there is no denying that it’s fun to take a class from someone you’ve seen on the cover of Yoga Journal. Some of them really are fantastic and accessible and knowledgeable – with others, that’s debatable, but everyone has different needs and wants out of a teacher, so that’s just my opinion.
2) Like-Minded Community
In my experience, yoga people like to chat with other yoga people. It bonds us. Going to a yoga festival means these people are everywhere. But beyond the physical practice of yoga, there are vendors offering products and services that fit your lifestyle and food that you actually eat. There was no shortage of green juices, gluten free snacks and health-conscious snacks to purchase. Being one who is often quirky, here I wasn’t. Nothing I did was weird and quite the contrary, I seemed like your average person. Granted not everyone is of the same mentality, but compared to any other event, a yoga festival is the place where you can fit in no matter your preferences.
3) Meet New People
Whether you’re in line at the healthy food truck, sitting watching an inspirational talk or setting up for class, people are everywhere. This festival wasn’t huge so it didn’t feel really busy, but there was still plenty of time to chat with others. Sometimes it was commiserating over a challenging pose or talking about your likes and dislikes of the class while walking to the next activity. If you want to stay solitary, you can. But if you’re looking to meet new people in the local yoga community, you have that opportunity.
If the festival or conference is a local event for you, volunteering is a great way to meet fellow teachers and serious practitioners in the community as well as the event organizers.
4) Expand Your Yoga Horizons
With yoga festivals, you choose the classes and activities you attend. For many, this means sticking with the safe route or taking classes and doing things you are familiar with. The beauty of these events is there is a huge opportunity to expand your horizons. Hate flow (that’s me), go to a power flow class. Interested in Hindu deities (again, yes that’s me), go to a talk on the deities and expand your knowledge. The festival can really be what you make it. If you’re there to just practice, you can do that. If you’re there as continuing education, you can take classes that offer new ways to teach poses. If you’re there to transform, you can do classes and activities to facilitate that.
5) Get Your Butt Kicked
While this isn’t usually what I’m looking for, it was a nice part of the festival. Each of the three days had three class sessions at 2 hours each. That’s the possibility of 6 hours of class per day, or 18 hours over three days. I didn’t attend every classes session because I was also volunteering, but I did one class Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each morning, I literally rolled out of bed to do it all over again. My body was aching in places I didn’t even know existed. I was definitely mentally challenged in these classes, but I also found a new level of ability, strength and flexibility in my body. It worked hard this weekend, but it felt great on some level too.
Of course, there are downsides to yoga festivals too. The primary one is the external representation of what is called yoga here in the West. It was a lot of spandex, leggings mostly, and appeared to be a bit of a fashion show. It’s hard as a participant to stay internal because these external things, music, noise, colorful pants and people who can do poses better than you are everywhere. It was a definite challenge. The other challenge is in the classes. Sure I learned new things and was challenged, but I would’ve like to see more variety of classes that covered all of yoga, not just the physical asana and who can do handstands.
But if you know these challenges going in, it’s easier to put that aside and appreciate the event and the opportunity to learn, grow and transform. That’s what it’s all about after all.Have you been to a yoga festival? If so, what was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments (whether you agree with me or not!).