By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Have you considered a change in your daily Yoga training session? Maybe you feel your personal practice needs new energy. There is a time when all of us feel it is time to “recharge our batteries.” Famous sociologist, Robert MacIver, wrote, “The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival… a brief excursion from his way of life.”
At first glance, a Yoga festival would seem to be a contradiction in terms: Yogic methods are often practiced alone, with the emphasis on nurturing the practitioner in a non-competitive manner. However, an ‘excursion from one’s own way of life’ can bring new focus and insight to one’s practice. With this in mind, a number of festivals have sprung up across the United States, and internationally. These include:
Wanderlust Festival (in 10 U.S. cities, from Seattle to New York)
Evolvefest (Vernon, NJ)
Bhakti Fest and OmMersion (Joshua Tree, CA)
Bali Spirit Festival (Bali, Indonesia)
International Yoga Festival (Rishikesh, India)
Ojai Yoga Crib (Ojai, CA)
Telluride Yoga Festival (Telluride, CO)
Many smaller local festivals take place as well, allowing for a more intimate experience. Attendees have reflected on the pros and cons of practicing in a large-scale setting, such as a festival. Positive aspects include:
Practicing outdoors in a majestic setting
Increased energy from like-minded co-participants
Opportunities to learn from many instructors and try new styles
Escape from routine, with the time to practice for an entire weekend
Making new friends and socializing
The idea of a festival is not without shortcomings, though; and critics deride such problems as:
Commercialization and the opportunity for organizers to charge high prices
Emphasis on ‘trendy’ styles, rather than solid practice
Internal clarity is replaced by a party-like atmosphere
Impact on the environment
Festivals try to respond to these issues by donating proceeds to nonprofits, offsetting carbon loads, and emphasizing recycling and zero impact. Many offer low-priced packages and the opportunity to work at the festival for waived admission, as well as on-site camping.
International misunderstandings take place too. At the International Yoga Festival in India, some traditional practitioners are shocked, and horrified, by the introduction of U.S. styles. “I’ve practised Yoga for 20 years. To me,
Attending a festival can be positive for one’s practice, when it provides an opportunity to “step outside” the comfort zone, and observe other styles, non-judgmentally. Festivals may be one more step in cementing Yogic methodology to the cultural foundation of American society.
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