If you envision a yoga festival as a Woodstock-style event, but with modern bathroom facilities, nine times out of ten, you wouldn't be far off. But it is exactly the hippie-esque experience that makes yoga festivals a must do. Not only do they attract yogis of all levels and skilled teachers from the local area, but festivals are also a barometer of upcoming trends in yoga and wellness.
At the annual Wigwam Wellness Festival in Atlanta, which took place this past weekend, activities ranged from SUP Yoga to healing the body with food to mind-body mapping and playing with hula hoops. A reflection of the topics that are driving the wellness industry today - an emphasis on the natural, being present, and putting your phone or any other electronic device, away for more than two minutes.
So if you want to get the scoop on the latest trends before the rest of your OMies, here are five reasons to head to a yoga festival:
1. Rejuvenate Your Practice and Try Something New: We're starting with the obvious, but sometimes it isn't all that obvious. Too often, we are lulled into believing that getting on our mats in a studio is all we need to maintain our yoga "practice" with a new pose thrown in here and there. Breaking up your routine and heading to a festival will show you just how much you are missing in the studio. Choose a festival that lasts at least a weekend, such as Wigwam, to get the full experience. The energy of the festival will have you trying hop backs, handstands, SUP, and yes, hula, in no time at all - just like when you were a kid. Plus, being out of your element, you might just learn something new about yourself in the process (for example, I learned that drum circles make me feel as though I am being hunted... Apparently I was the only one).
Trend Alert 1: You've heard it before... Self awareness is the first step to happiness. And who doesn't want to be happy?
2. Face Your Inner Skeptic: How many times during a class has your teacher said something that you immediately dismissed? Probably a lot. Of course, there are yoga myths. But yoga wouldn't be around today (and so popular) if it didn't have its roots in truth. So before you say "whatevs," think about why your teacher is telling you something in the first place. One teacher at Wigwam focused on joint health and how a supine practice can "lubricate" the joints. My first thought was no way, but the second was why wouldn't I want to try this to have healthier joints? None of us are the reincarnation of B K S Ineygar, so you can always learn from a teacher - if you choose to listen. Open your mind and the rest will follow.
Trend Alert 2: Practices and studios will begin to offer more personalized classes focusing on specific injuries, illnesses, and functional fitness.
3. Commune with Nature: During a SUP Yoga session, a baby turtle floated quietly near my board and watched patiently as I transitioned from Warrior II to Reverse Warrior and back to Down Dog. When I wobbled in Tree Pose, however, he dove, egg-beatering back down into the depths. For those few minutes, though, I had a new friend. Yoga festivals, weather allowing, take place outside. It is quiet and noisy at the same time. Bright and dark. Cool and hot. In nature, duality surrounds us and is one reason why practicing outside allows our minds to focus and yet be calm at the same time. We become a mirror of our surroundings. And that is healthy in so many different ways.
Trend Alert 3: Look for a lot more classes taking place outside in nature.
4. Support Your Local Community: There are a few national yoga festivals, but most festivals are put on by teachers and studios in local communities. They grow slowly, over time, adding new classes and incorporating new ideas and experiences with each year. But all have the following in common - they bring together sponsors and vendors and other teachers who all have the same goal - to make the festival special for you - the student. By checking out a local festival, even if you've never been to a yoga festival before, you are supporting, and learning more about, where you live and who your neighbors are. And who they are, and who you are, might just surprise you.
Trend Alert 4: Everything is local in yoga. Organic will be replaced with local and that will include more just your food - the popularity (because of their authenticity) of local studios will be on the rise again.
5. Yes, There is Such a Thing as Too Much Yoga: So try other practices. Check out Reiki, bellydancing, or make your own mala bracelet. Festivals tend to offer a little bit of everything, so why not grab a friend and dance with abandon wearing a flower crown, or walk a balance line, or try Barre on a SUP (yikes). There are also vendors (such as KIND at Wigwam) giving out samples of latest products (such as KIND's new Dark Chocolate Almond Mint Bar... Delish!) to try. Or maybe just find a shady spot and listen to the wind, the birds, the festival sounds: "Silence says nothing. In the quiet, everything comes clear," - Danna Faulds, Limitless.
Trend Alert 5: Look for studios to begin blending different practices to attract new students.
Credit should be given to the organizers of yoga festivals - they don't put together a whole weekend and spend months planning to make money. They are doing it for the love of yoga and what yoga can give back to their local community. At Wigwam, Jennifer Lingvall, the founder, came to yoga and its traditions for wellness when she was diagnosed, and then beat, breast cancer, at the age of 31. She was supported by her local community and Wigwam is her gift back. The entire experience of the festival is encapsulated in that one beautiful sentiment.
So, before festivals get trendy too, add one to you bucket list, your must do list, your Evernote list, and get outside and yoga!