August 17, 2011

Yoga Festivals 101. ~ Stephanie Sullivan


Photo: Brad Coy


How to get the most out of your (spendy!) experience

Yoga Festivals are an excellent way to go on vacation, try a new style/teacher and meet a ton of new people. I’m just returning from the Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley, and as a Yoga Festival newbie, I am more jazzed than ever before about yoga. I’ve learned that attending a yoga festival is an excellent way to rejuvenate your yoga practice.

There is something about being in a large group of people that share an interest of yours that’s a little bit inspiring. I admit, sometimes I keep my yoga geekiness to myself so that I don’t weird anyone out (I imagine I’m not the only one that does this). However, at a yoga festival, yoga geeks are completely allowed and encouraged. I’ve never been to an event filled with so many friendly and talkative strangers in my life.

Everyone was having a great time; they wanted to talk before class as we were waiting in line to get the best spots for our mats, they wanted to talk after class about how they did, or the corrections they got, they wanted to talk while you were in line ordering your gluten-free, dairy-free, cruelty-free crepe of the day. Everywhere I turned around I was talking to strangers. This is not something I normally do, I live in a metropolitan city and normally avoid strangers at all costs. However, yoga strangers are a special breed, everyone was very warm and inviting, it was almost as if we already knew each other.
Of course, as this was my first -ver yoga festival, I kick myself for not being more outgoing and willing to try new things. There was so much to do or see that it was almost overwhelming. I attempted to stick too close to my plan, which was go to as many classes as possible. Though next year – yes there will be a next year, I’ll be a seasoned veteran and be able navigate this yoga festival thing like nobody’s business. Here’s my plan:

  1. Bring a lightweight mat  . I put this as numero uno because 5-6lbs might not seem like a lot when you think about it, but when you’re lugging that thing around with your water bottle, blocks, straps, towels and change of clothes, 5-lbs might as well be 5-tons.
  2. Sign up for as many classes as possible, then get on the waitlist for more classes. This might sound insane…I’ll admit, it is! But where else can you have access to all of the yoga teachers you hear about, founders of a particular style? Yoga festivals are filled with celebrity yoga teachers as well as many others.
  3. Buy tickets for ALL of the days that the yoga festival is happening. I only purchased tickets for two days, but I wish I had purchased tickets for all of the days just so I could attend the entire series that Maty Ezraty, founder of YogaWorks, was teaching. I also missed the premier of Yogawoman because I didn’t buy a ticket for that particular day.
  4. Take a class I would never take at home. This is an opportunity to try something completely new and out of the box. I’m not the biggest Shiva Rea fan (Eek! Don’t un-friend me yet!), but this would have been an excellent opportunity to try one of her classes and see if I felt differently once I experienced the way she teaches and the things she had to share with us in class.
  5. Check out the non-yoga asana activities. There were lots of lectures, musicians, artists and vendors. If I had tickets for every day, I would have had the opportunity to see absolutely everything, but there just isn’t enough time in two days! On the very last day, I learned the festival had a tearoom that was completely donation-based and played live music all day. I ended up spending the rest of my time in there sitting at a table and enjoying tea with my newfound friends.
  6. Volunteer! Tickets to Yoga Festivals can get pricey, especially if you also need to find a way to pay for lodging, airfare, car rental and food. Signing up to volunteer can be a great way to save a little bit of money and meet a ton of new people (and possibly score some free Yoga Swag!).

I did expand my horizons a little bit by letting go of my stranger-danger upbringing and offering to take anyone from the airport to Squaw Valley. Only one person took me up on my offer, a Chicago-based yogini who enlightened me on ParaYoga a la Rod Stryker, all the way to the valley. Though I was nervous at first, it was awesome to converse with someone who was into yoga as much as I was, right from the start of the trip! This may not be for everyone, but there are a few ways to save money at a yoga festival whether it be ride-sharing from the airport or sharing lodging.

Though I was sad to leave this amazing place filled with yoga and say goodbye to my newfound friends, I am more excited than ever to get back on my mat. It was a nice reassurance that my mat is where I belong and that there are a ton of people who are just as passionate (if not more!) than I am. There are a ton of yoga festivals to choose from, pick the one that tickles your fancy, pack your travel mat and go meet some new yogis!

Have any of you attend any yoga festivals this summer?


Stephanie Sullivan is a self-proclaimed tech geek from the Pacific Northwest and is relatively new to the yoga scene. When she isn’t talking to computers you can usually find her trying to get her heels to touch the ground in Downward Dog, face planting in Crow Pose or praying she makes it through her practice in Child’s Pose. You can find her future ramblings on her website.

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