Close this search box.

How to Survive a Yoga Festival

Ever consider going to a festival where the music takes a backseat to movement, where staying up till three in the morning is reserved for the cleaning crew, where the people are less concerned with scoring a hit of molly than getting their chaturanga polished by Maty Ezraty? Welcome to the Yoga Festival.

Summer is right around the corner and by now you’re probably starting to plan for all the exciting concerts and festivals. Pick a festival- Wakarusa, Lightning in a Bottle, Sonic Bloom, whatever. Most Likely, you’ll find some version of a yoga space where you can take a class and stretch out your sore body after a long night of dancing your ass off. These can be a great way of working off the inevitable morning fog after a wild night of partying, because after all, it’s only Saturday, and you’ve got to do it all again tonight. 
    But wait! Perhaps you’re going to one of those festivals where the music takes a backseat to the yoga, where staying up till three in the morning is reserved mainly for the cleaning crew, where the people are not so concerned with scoring a hit of molly, but rather getting their chaturanga polished by Maty Ezraty. Welcome to the Yoga Festival- where the landscape is not littered with passed out teenagers sleeping it off until Opiuo hits the stage, but throngs of beautiful, fit, attractive people schlepping their rolled up mats to the next pavilion where they’ll take a 2 hour class with any number of A-list yoga celebrity teachers. 
    If you live in a place where good yoga is hard to find, these festivals can be a godsend. The teachers are knowledgeable, radiant, and speak with an authenticity that only comes from experience. At the other festivals, you’ll probably take a class with some girl named Lotus who just graduated from teacher-training, spins poi and pole-dances on the side, and is happy that her friend Destiny is responsible for booking the yoga teachers. The bar is low for her. Half her students are still trying to remember where they left there shoes last night. The other half just wake-and-baked with a hit of Blueberry shatter and really don’t care. 
    At the yoga festival, clarity is the order of the day and that can be very refreshing. Even if you’re a little run-down from those two gluten-free pilsners you had at Xavier Rudd’s show last night, most likely you’re back in full-stride after a rigorous morning Vinyasa class with Kathryn Budig. Thank God, because you’re signed up for an inversion clinic at 11:00
    So whether you’re a seasoned veteran of Wanderlust, or simply a friend who was gifted a pass by someone working the Kombucha booth, here’s a list of a few do’s and don’t’s for maximum enjoyment at this summers yoga fest:

Do: Take advantage of all the free samples of energy bars, juices, and snacks that are being handed out around every corner. Carry a bag because it’s a lot classier when you don’t have to dump out a small version of Whole Foods from your pockets before your first down-dog. Feel free to go back for seconds and thirds, because usually these booths are manned by friendly, smiling folks who are not as concerned with making sure each and every person gets exactly ONE pack of agave-sweetened cashews, as they are with giving away as much product as they can so they can go catch Sean Corne in the late session.

Don’t: Litter. There’s probably more recycling bins than there are trash cans, so sort that packaging out and keep the space from looking like a refugee camp. Remember, consciousness goes beyond your triangle pose. Walk the talk.

Do: Pace yourself. Rather than signing up for 3 intense flow classes, take a restorative class or a Pranayama workshop. You’ll be doing more yoga in one day than you’re probably used to in a week. Remember that fatigue is the midwife to injuries. There’s a lot more to yoga than headstands and backbends. Go easy, because you’ve got another day or two of this.

Don’tTry to sneak into another class if you’re not signed up for it. Sometimes, you can switch your registration up as organizers are pretty sympathetic to your needs and are happy to give you a spot in a class that didn’t fill up in the first week of ticket sales. You don’t want to miss a session because you were too busy on the other side of the campus pleading to catch Shiva Rae’s completely filled-up bhakti flow with DJ Drez.

Do: Make friends. People at a yoga festival are approachable and usually in a great mood. Chat it up. “Who’s class did you take?” “Are you going to see Desert Dwellers tonight?” “Spot me in a handstand?” These are great ways of building meaningful connections with like-minded people who are just as passionate about yoga as you are.

Don’t: Be a star-struck douche who barrels over a group housewives from Ottowa in a mad rush get a spot up front hoping that the teacher will call on you for a handstand demo. Be humble. Don’t get too big on the fact that you’re a yoga teacher. Half of these people are too. Get over yourself. And indeed get over the foolish notion that you’ll get more if you can be closer to the teacher. These teachers are not gods and goddesses. Your “vibration” is not raised because you were front and center for the opening OM’s. “But, I want to be able to hear!” Relax. They have a headset. You’ll hear every word.

DoTake classes from the broadest possible palette of teachers. “But Janet Stone is my teacher!” Great, take a class with her, but consider that your myopic belief that there really are only few good teachers is wrong. Please get this and take it home with you. The yoga community is dense with people who are stuck in a mindset of preference where they’ll only take classes from a select group of teachers. Sadly, yoga festivals perpetuate this by ONLY showcasing the talents of teachers who have been vetted by the yoga magazines as the best teachers. It’s become a high-school lunchroom table where only the cool kids sit. Good luck joining the table. A lot of talent is overlooked because we get so fixated on taking classes with the most popular names in the industry. As a result, the festival teacher roster can be almost interchangeable from one state to the next and all but impossible to break into for up-and-coming local teachers.

Don’t: Be surprised if you take a class from some big-name teacher only to find that it didn’t live up to the hype. No choir of angels in savasana? Still didn’t learn handstand? Not feeling very enlightened? Welcome to reality. It’s only yoga and you’ll soon learn that all the pedigree in the world can’t help you touch the face of the divine. Sometimes it happens. Often it doesn’t. Drop the expectations that your spiritual evolution will take a quantum leap because you took a two-hour class with Richard Freeman. And please, in the name of all that is sacred, don’t name drop these teachers on your own yoga resume as if you’ve “studied” with them. As someone once said, “Saying you studied with Rod Stryker because you took a class with him at a festival, is like saying you studied music theory with Jane’s addiction because you went to their show.”.

DoTravel on the cheap. Try to carpool. See if you can couch-surf or camp nearby. The less you spend on the extras, the more likely you feel like you got your money’s worth. There’s nothing like a blowing a thousand dollars on a ticket, food, and lodging and feeling like you could have done better spending it on a week-long trip to California where you could probably drop into any of these teacher’s classes for less than $20.

Don’t: Sweat the expenses. You’re on vacation even if only for a weekend. Eat good food. Tip where appropriate. Buy some new clothing from a vendor. Remorse around how much you paid only perpetuates scarcity consciousness. Let it go. It’s only money. You’ll make more.

 There it is. Above all, have fun! You’ll learn a lot about yoga and yourself. Hopefully, you’ll even break through some of the misconceptions you might have had about what makes a great teacher. See ya on the mat and try not to step on my pile of Luna Bars.

–Matt Kapinus teaches at Yoga Pod ( and is featured on Gaiam TV.

Share this post:

Discover more in the Rockies: