..On the festival grounds as the air began to cool and the sun went down my soul swooned …” – Vampire Weekend
Festivals are certainly all the rage these days and for those looking to broaden their teaching horizon this can be the perfect opportunity to test yourself out, try some new teaching methods or simply have some fun with a slightly different crowd. But for those new to the game I would offer five tips after a summer of teaching yoga and meditation at music festivals throughout the UK. You may have to be as flexible in your approach as in your practice but I promise you it will always be worth it!
Never overestimate your yoga shala
In my experience nice flat floor surfaces are unlikely to materialize! Hopefully the yoga tent won’t be pitched on a slope but I’ve seen this before and even had several large nails jutting out of the makeshift floor in certain positions. So the message is work with what you have, and if the floor is really uneven then restrict balancing poses or hand-stands. I recommend having a quick look around the tent before the class so you can move people away from rugged areas.
If you like to work with sound then always bring your own speaker in case the PA system fails. And don’t expect the yoga tent to be pitched in its own secluded valley with unicorns roaming and away from the bustle of the festival. The harsh reality is it can often be just behind the drum and bass tent. Finally, you need to forget the notion that the space is protected and sacred once the class begins. You will have people wandering in and out and although there may be someone on the door offering to help she is likely to be 18 years old and have stayed up all night on a free workers ticket.
Never underestimate your yoga shala
Against all odds you can create a small island of Zen where people will be transported despite the ravages of alcohol and worse and electronic dance music blaring non-stop for 72 hours. Poor wandering and damaged souls will be drawn to the oasis of calm where they see people lying and sitting down and are attracted by visions of relaxing for just 30 minutes away from the chaos. They will come traipsing in and out and even place their mats on the grass outside when there is no room.
My tip here is see your role as a yoga teacher more like a missionary – just be welcoming! And so your tent becomes more like a soup kitchen. Build it and they will come!
Never over-estimate your audience…
While you may get a few practicing yogis most attendees are likely to be new. Keep it simple and above all keep it fun. It is a festival after all. Yoga doesn’t have to be serious and somber all the time. I like to focus on movement rather than text-book postures. A few nice back and neck stretches are always well received after a night sleeping on the ground. The power of music can work to get everyone in the right spirits. Be playful I like to think I pioneered the world’s first yoga conga working in this way!! If their first experience is positive then you just may have started them on their yoga journey.
Never underestimate your audience.
At times yoga classes at a festival can resemble a circus cast. As well as one of two strongmen and a clown you may get other archetypes – the dancer, the surfer, the pregnant lady and the breast-feeding lady. Perhaps even the intergalactic storm trooper! And don’t expect them all to rock up in perfectly matching Lulu Lemon kit. There’ll be dresses, fancy dress outfits, glitter and fluro or even just a general lack of clothes!! It will be chaotic – they will talk, they will crash out, they will come and go but they will be grateful and they will keep coming – especially if the yoga is free..
Finally, never underestimate the power and magic of yoga.
Working in a totally different environment from the safe studio you bring people together working in a group – a mini community even if just for 30 minutes or so. They will switch off or switch on, both calm and rejuvenate their bodies and for just a few ethereal moments the whole really will seem bigger than the sum of the collective parts.
How about you, yogis? Have you been to or taught at any festivals? What was it like?