Yoga festivals might seem counterintuitive for those seeking a peaceful, quiet practice, but they are great opportunities to try different styles and experience a sense of community. There’s something special about doing sun salutations in a group of two hundred people from around the country; it’s as though you all agree, which somehow makes lofty ideals like world peace seem attainable.
Imagine an large entire city’s worth of yoga class offerings all packed into one venue over one weekend, with internationally-known teachers on the mats. You can flow in the morning, focus on backbends before lunch, try on meditation in the afternoon, and twist before dinner. Then wrap up the evening with some mind-blowing music, and your body and heart will be buzzing for weeks.
Last June, I had the chance to attend nearly a week of yoga in Brattleboro, Vermont at the Anusara Grand Circle and Wanderlust that followed. Now that Anusara founder John Friend has stepped down over allegations of unethical behavior, it feels like a gift to have had the chance to see him in action while the community was still intact. Practicing to the beat of live drums with hundreds of other people who grooved on Friend’s heart-opening was powerfully joyful.
Immediately following the Grand Circle was the four-day Wanderlust Festival, chock full of amazing classes in addition to music at night and an eco-friendly marketplace. My sense of connection to my body deepend in my first experiences with Kundalini yoga. Tommy Rosen’s class was included “Getting High” in the title, and the breathwork and movement certainly got many of us in the class to an altered state.
One area of Rosen’s work is to help people through addiction and depression through yoga. Yoga, he said, teaches those who feel out of control how to breathe and see themselves as powerful and in control of their own lives. Rosen told the class members to “become your own GPS,” and shared afterward in an interview, “the experience I’ve had is such that I can access change in my mood without a drug, without a person, without having to reach outside myself in any way.” His yoga community uses language about “thinking better” and accessing a “higher vibration.”
So even if you go into a yoga festival for the physical challenge and cleanse, it’s hard not to come away with something on the order of the spirit. Going to two or three or four classes a day with different teachers and different students creates a sense of a greater yoga community and a momentum toward mindfulness and peace that is reassuring in troubling times. And, yes, it feels really good in your body, too.
This spring, the Tadasana Festival, organized by Rosen and event producer Fabian Alsultany, aims to be a “three-day transformative experience” near the beach in Santa Monica, California over Earth Day weekend, April 20-22. Later in the season, Wanderlust returns to Brattleboro at the Stratton Mountain Ski Resort June 21-24 and has added a new venue of Copper Mountain Colorado for July 5-8. It returns to its original home of Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe July 26-29 and will close out the summer in Whistler, British Columbia, August 23-26.
Another option in Colorado is the Telluride Yoga Festival July 12-15
. In Joshua Tree, California, there’s Shakti Fest May 11-13 and Bhakti Fest September 6-9. The Bhakti Fest Midwest lands this year in Madison, Wisconsin June 29-July 1.
For those looking to stay closer to home on the East Coast, there are ongoing retreats and workshops at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York and at Kripalu in western Massachusetts. Yoga Journal is hosting its annual conference in New York April 12-16. If you’re in the vegetarian camper crowd, round out the summer with Evolve Fest in New Jersey
Here in the Washington area, DC insiders can head just a few hours toward Charlottesville to the Yogaville Ashram any weekend or for special retreats offering throughout the year – or to live if they really wish to make the community of yoga their home.
For locals without traveling shoes, or or the newly interested, DC Yoga Week offers free classes throughout the DC area May 13-20 , featuring Yoga on the Mall on May 19.