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Step Out of the Studio for 2017 Yoga Festivals

Hatha Yoga   |   June 12, 2017

It’s almost officially summertime, which means that it’s festival season! Yogaville is gearing up to take Integral Yoga into the outdoors for local Yoga festivals.  Yogaville will be present at several festivals this year, the biggest of which are Shensara, Floyd Yoga Jam, and LoveLight.

We sat down with two Integral Yoga instructors, Shankari Bowmaster, Shensara’s festival director and a talented kirtan artist, and Sita Rose, Integral Yoga Academy Manager and the coordinator for Yogaville’s presence at Floyd Yoga Jam, to discuss Yoga festivals.

Shankari and Sita shared their insights as to why Yoga festivals are so popular, and gave us a better sense of what to expect for Shensara and Floyd Yoga Jam this year.

What’s exciting about Yoga festivals? What is experienced at a festival that can’t be experienced elsewhere?

Shankari: Most Yoga festivals are multiple-day outdoor events and they give yogis and yoginis an opportunity to practice in an outdoor space. There is a merging of nature with one’s Yoga practice that allows for a deeper connection with nature. Festivals also provide a setting of larger groups and communities, which can be quite powerful when it comes to sharing a practice together. There’s power in numbers when it comes to chanting and breath.

A big theme across the board for Yoga festivals is the question of how we choose to consciously create community. Festivals are offering practitioners tools to use in daily life that they can use to build community. Shensara specifically offers workshops and classes on farming, activism, and philosophy. It’s exciting to consider how you can take that knowledge, those tools, and use them consciously in everyday life.

Yoga festivals also bring together diverse teachers of all different styles and lineages that may not be available to you in your local community. On Shensara’s lineup, you can find really fun, unique classes such as kundalini Yoga, Acro Yoga, animal Yoga, water Yoga, Rocket yoga, a class that merges Brazilian capoeira with Yoga, and more. These classes are so unique they could really be considered specialized workshops. When you come to a festival, you’re paying for a ticket that allows you to experience it all. It’s possible to experiment with a lot of different styles and find what works for you.

Sita: Another reason Yoga festivals are so amazing is that they are serving as a gateway—one that draws people from festival culture and shows them a healthy lifestyle through Yoga. These festivals are a bridge for those that have a sense of something deeper in their practice—a spiritual interest. They provide an alternative way to enjoy your summer and promote a healthy lifestyle.

2017 Yoga Festivals

An instructor leads a Yoga class onstage at Shensara 2016.

Shensara is in its third year, and it’s clearly growing.  What’s new about Shensara this year?

Shankari: This year there are more teachers—world-renowned teachers—and national and internationally acclaimed performers and musicians. Shensara is also the only festival that I’m aware of that is dedicated to sponsor one nonprofit per year. For every VIP ticket sold, a nonprofit gets a portion. Shensara is really committed to giving back and working to serve. There will be a panel discussion this year at Shensara featuring Yoga teachers dedicated to social justice and bringing Yoga to underserved communities such as low-income families, minority communities, those with disabilities, the incarcerated, and at-risk youth.

In this way, Shensara is more than just a sensory experience like the typical music festival. People come for community, a deeper, nurturing connection with others, and education.

How do you envision Shensara in the future?

Shankari: Ideally, what is taught and shared at Shensara will be implemented for community activism and growth. My vision is that people are inspired to bring the tools they acquire home with them and form collectives to share information and grow the community. It would be amazing if Shensara could foster a community that grows beyond the weekend.

2017 Yoga Festivals

One of Yogaville’s instructors learns to fly during an Acro Yoga class at Floyd Yoga Jam.

Sita, could you describe Floyd Yoga Jam? Why has it become such a popular festival?

Sita: Floyd Yoga Jam was started out of a desire to find a more family-friendly environment, not just a party festival. It’s a fun, unique, safe and sattvic gathering that’s great for all ages, from babies to the elderly; it’s very inclusive. They offer so many workshops—workshops in meditation, Raja Yoga, Hatha of every kind and tradition, and all the fun stuff like silks and slack-lines, too.

The location is of course gorgeous and quite spacious, so that even with 2500 people, you don’t feel crowded. Part of the draw of a Yoga festival like Floyd is being in the beautiful outdoors and taking the practices with you.

Floyd Yoga Jam is in its 6th year and you’ve been attending every year. How has it changed over the years, in your experience? What can we expect this year?

Sita: Well, the first year that Yogaville had a presence at Floyd, no one knew about us! People had never even heard of Yogaville, though some of the musicians knew.

Now Yogaville is highly visible. We have a community tent and a big group meal on Friday nights. Now, almost everybody at least knows about Yogaville. Many people are starting to ask deeper questions, and we are having deeper conversations. Yogaville has 12 classes at Floyd Yoga Jam this year. We are expanding our presence as Integral Yoga teachers, and there is an awareness of it as a school and lineage. Integral Yoga is not just a Yoga studio—there’s a lineage with a monastic order, and I think it’s great that we’re visible in that way to festival attendees. Last year, Swami Arivananda attended Floyd Yoga Jam, and people saw that’s how far you can take it—you can go that deep into your Yoga practice that you pursue sannyas. This year, Swami Asokananda will be teaching classes at Floyd Yoga Jam, so that aspect of the lineage of Integral Yoga will be represented again.

Over the years, Floyd Yoga Jam has really honed the lineup, too. There are great teachers leading wonderful classes. Shirley Ann has done a great job with the festival—she has been running it since the beginning, so kudos to her!

2017 Yoga Festivals

Yoga Festivals are all about fun and connection—with nature, others, and yourself.

Lastly, why are festivals a good venue for Yoga teachers to share their knowledge and practice?

Shankari: Festivals are a great way for teachers to network amongst each other and share space with someone they wouldn’t normally have met! You can share, inspire, and see what’s working for other teachers. You learn how to be supportive of others as you encounter the diversity in the Yoga community.

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