8 Reasons to Add a Yoga Festival to Your Summer Festival Agenda

Article by: Dr. Molly|@drmollymd

Thu June 21, 2018 | 12:15 PM

I spent a summer going to music festivals before I went to medical school. I was registering voters for a non-profit named HeadCount. It was my first introduction to festival culture and was truly a life-changing experience that I will never forget. But, once I got to medical school I found myself really, really, REALLY stressed out. This was both because of the insane workload and because I wasn’t taking good care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping normal hours, I was drinking cups of espresso, and I was skipping meals. I had a breaking point where I almost dropped out because I was so unhappy. Then I found yoga.

The practice changed me. It helped me develop self-compassion. It taught me the importance of self-care for optimal performance in life. And, the lifestyle led me to better behaviors like limiting my caffeine, eating healthy meals at normal mealtimes, and sleeping normal hours. This isn’t rocket science, but it taught me that lifestyle medicine is really powerful stuff. In fact, I ended up beating depression without prescription drugs and improving my test scores across the board. The big thing I learned was the value of experiential learning in changing behavior for the better.

I’ve been considering yoga teacher training to take my practice to the next level, but I’m not sure where to start. That’s why I’m trying something new by going to a yoga festival called Wanderlust in California. I did some research on this event, and came up with eight reasons why you should add a yoga festival to your summer festival tour.

1. New Ideas

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Neil Gandhi Dance

Depending on where you are from, it may or may not be easy to surround yourself with like-minded people. I grew up in Illinois and frankly, I felt a little oppressed by the conventional culture. Festivals gave me a taste of progressive counter culture thought. It’s easily argued that yoga culture is now mainstream (I mean just look at the popularity of Lululemon). But, I think one advantage of going to a yoga festival is getting exposed to an even bigger array of thought leaders that you might not find in your hometown or even on the internet.

2. New Friends

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Christen Vidanovic Backwards Smiles

Ten years ago I attended a festival that changed my life. I met a friend who introduced me to Burning Man and that led to me moving to the Bay Area. There, I found my true north and a millennial, emergent, digital, nomadic, value-rich, health-conscious, experience-based community. Something tells me I probably would have found this world sooner had I spent time at yoga festivals at a younger age. I’m really excited to attend Wanderlust because it will enable me to branch out beyond my current friend network and meet even more awesome individuals who can teach me things and expose me to new worlds.

3. New Abilities

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Paddleboard Yoga

One problem with living in cities is that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of doing the same things for exercise. My current regimen for working out ranges from 20 minutes of kettlebells, an hour of yoga or ten minutes of HIIT. I’m really excited to try new forms of yoga and see what kind of abilities I didn’t know I had. Who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with aerial yoga or learn a new dance that inspires me to take more classes. The last time I took a vacation that involved exercise I learned that I was good at volleyball and Ultimate Frisbee! Judging by the sheer array of classes offered at this festival, I’m sure that I’ll find something that resonates and inspires me to up my fitness game at home.

4. New Products

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Yoga Pose 2

As much as I can’t stand consumer culture, I really love conscious consumer culture. I love my insulated water bottle that keeps my cold brew icy for 30 hours. I love my neon yoga pants that people always compliments me on. And, I love finding new skincare products that are natural and actually work. At Wanderlust in Squaw Valley, the Kula Market is going to be filled to the brink with a wide variety of handmade artisanal goods. And, who doesn’t love the experience getting to know the people who make the things you buy?

5. More Mindfulness

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Meditation

It only took me ten years, but I finally have a daily meditation practice. It started with books, then audiobooks, then mp3s, then apps, then hiring an energy healer, and then going to a nine-day meditation retreat. Now, I meditate every day and I have to admit, it’s the single most transformative thing I have done for my health and well-being. In fact, on the meditation retreat I went on, I saw a woman lose ten years from her face after she released a ton of negative blocks that were limiting her. When I meditate, I tend to stick with the Awakening the Third Eye technique I learned at my retreat, but I’m super stoked about trying new techniques and learning from experts firsthand.

6. Beautiful Locations

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Slackline

One thing I have been calling into my life is more nature. Fortunately, I live in a place surrounded by hiking destinations. I haven’t actually explored Squaw Valley, where I’ve been told during this time of year is filled with “rainbow fields of wildflowers, with a backdrop of the Sierra Nevadas serenading a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake.” I can’t imagine a better place to do yoga, listen to music, and chill out with friends under the stars.

7. World-Class Instructors

Wanderlust 2013 Ali Kaukas   29

Photo by: Ali Kaukas

More and more, we see transformative festivals bring together experts from all sorts of backgrounds to share their knowledge with willing crowds. Wanderlust takes this to the next level with world class yoga instructors, health experts, musicians, writers, artists and outdoor enthusiasts. I don’t know about you, but as someone who is addicted to learning new things, this is gonna be like a direct download of newness I can incorporate into my life.

8. New Flavors

Wanderlust 2013 Ali Kaukas   09

Photo by: Ali Kaukas

One thing I love about West Coast festival culture is the food. The first time I experienced the shift was at Lightning In a Bottle three years ago. I can’t wait to sample new granola bars, try out new smoothie combinations, and check out farm-to-table dinners. I’m not sure what’s in store for me exactly, but given it’s a yoga festival it’s probably going to be super healthy and totally delicious. These days I’m gluten-free, mostly dairy-free, and eat vegan or vegetarian about 80% of the time. The Food Co-op at Wanderlust is a great go-to stop for refueling between challenging classes.

If I haven’t convinced you by now to try out a yoga festival, well, maybe yoga festivals aren’t for you. But something tells me that I’ve piqued your interest.

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