I’ve never attended a yoga festival, and still do not have much of an urge to go. Contrary to what many readers might assume, my aversion doesn’t have much to do with anti-commercialism, or some well-thought-out thesis on the commodification of spirituality. In fact, until this very moment, I’ve never examined why I’ve avoided yoga festivals, in part because I haven’t actually “avoided” them. It just never occurred to me to go to one.
If I think about it, I guess my lack of yoga festival cred is due to the fact that my yoga practice begins at an hour unsuitable for festivaling, and so when I actually get around to thinking about a festival I’d like to attend, “the yoga” is already done and doner. What’s left are only those festivals that have some sort of appeal to the rest of my me-ness, so to speak. The International Pickle Festival comes to mind.
For those whose interest in the yoga fest has yet to be tickled, Silvia Mordini has a thoughtful piece on what she feels are the top five reasons one might attend a yoga festival. The list is telling:
It’s a chance to travel somewhere by yourself, facing uncertainty and growth all at once. It not only gets you out of your comfort zone but also your normal yoga clique.
It is a smart way to network with a lot of passionate yogis all in one place. So whether you are trying to grow awareness, establish your personal brand, or sell a yoga product; there’s no place more conducive to doing so. The joy of connecting face-to-face instead of via social media sites like Facebook or Twitter heightens the power for future collaboration.
A yoga festival is a direct opportunity to see what is currently trending and popular in terms of clothing, style, music, sequencing, and much more.
Learning new perspectives from a variety of geographically diverse teachers boosts our collective creative energies. You can’t help but feel the life-enhancing power of being a part of the creative process.
A yoga festival or conference is not only partly a retreat but also a kind of yoga vacation. The locations offered this year alone are in beautiful parts of the world such as Bali, Whistler, Sedona, Arizona, Lake Tahoe, and Colorado. What better way to spend your time away from work than doing something you love and investing in your own personal growth and development?
Regardless of where you fall in the “Is yoga about practice or lifestyle” debate, it’s hard not to notice that missing from the above list is asana practice. Most of what we have here is some sort of vague self-empowerment type of attraction. In fact, if we were to replace any reference to yoga in the above list with references to a “leadership conference” the list would read more or less the same.
However, what’s interesting to me is that before attending her first yoga festival, Silvia had some apprehensions specifically related to her yoga practice. She wondered if her “yoga addiction” would be outed. She wondered if she was “good enough” to practice alongside “die-hard” practitioners. And, while after finally making it to a fest she found that practicing in the presense of a diverse array of teachers helped to inspire her commitment, what seems to have set her at ease is the very lack of practice one must be involved in at a yoga festival. Not only that, but no one seemed to notice her:
“What I found instead was no one paid any special or particular attention to me.”
But, let’s not make more of this than it is. This article does not in any significant way prove that yoga festivals are primarily geared toward the proliferation of a trending culture of commercial yoga. But, it does add to the growing pile of evidence that weigh heavily in favor of such an idea.