Have you ever practiced yoga in a room without walls? Have you ever taken a class that has dance breaks instead of chattarungas? What about one where you can wear costumes? Or howl at the full moon like a wolf?
If you’ve only ever practiced yoga in a studio, I highly encourage you to try out a yoga festival. While each festival feels a little different and has its own unique flavor, teachers, and students, there’s something in common with all festival events: the opportunity for true authenticity.
At the Arise Festival this past weekend, yoga teachers and students gathered outside of Loveland, Colo. on the Sunrise Ranch for three days of yoga, music, permaculture, and general silliness.
Here are 5 things I learned from practicing yoga at the Arise Festival this year:
1. Come as you are. In one class, I was sandwiched between a man drinking a PBR and a topless woman. Both seemed equally pleased with their situations and did not seem to care at all what other people might think. Festivals are a beautiful space to be exactly who you are, without inhibition, in the moment. On the flip side, leave your judgments at the gate. The unique atmosphere of festivals invites authenticity and openness for all the parts of you.
2. Participate. Arise featured world-class instructors including Shiva Rea, Sofia Diaz, Nataraja Kallio, Tyrone Beverly, and Patrick Harrington. Local teachers included some of the aforementioned, along with Steph Schwartz, Gina Caputo, Rob Loud, Jenna Bee, Dayna Seraye, Erin Keeley and Booster Blake, to name a few. Just showing up for yoga classes in this kind of environment can open a yogi up to different types of practices beyond the norm—even if you’ve been to these teachers’ classes before. In a yoga space without walls, the festival experience flows freely in both directions: yoga permeates the festival grounds, and the festival integrates into the practice. Try something new and see what happens.
3. Talk to your neighbors. You never know who you’ll end up sitting next to at a yoga festival. Yogis travel far and wide to festivals all over the country, and who knows? You might meet your next best friend, business partner, or travel companion on the mat next to yours. The Arise yoga classes fill quickly, so getting to your mat early is essential if you want a spot in the shade. While you’re waiting for class to start, strike up a conversation!
4. Notice your boundaries. Many festival classes become interactive: hold your neighbor’s hand, run to the front of the space, have a dance party, breathe in a particular way, make animal noises, etc. Each of these invitations is exactly that—an invitation. If you feel like joining in with the class, do it! If you feel like lying on your mat by yourself, do that. It’s okay to play, and it’s okay to say no.
5. Boogie when appropriate. One of my favorite invitations in festival yoga classes is the invitation to dance. At Arise Festival, most of the yoga teachers taught alongside musicians, and some of them highly encourage boogie. As Gina Caputo said in her “Yoga for the People” class, her accompaniment, The Copper Children, have “big musical balls,” and based on the enthusiasm that resulted, most of the students seemed to agree. If you’re not danced-out from the night before, it’s likely that your festival yoga classes will give you the opportunity to boogie.