For CheapOAir Miles Away. April 2017.
I have been doing yoga off and on for my entire life, but I still didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived at the Sedona Yoga Festival. It was early March and I was slated to attend all three days of the self-described “consciousness evolution conference,” where participants gather in the iconic red sandstone desert of central Arizona every year to partake and celebrate yoga, music, and spirituality.
It was my first time at anything like that before and I was plagued with questions. How many hours in a day can I survive doing yoga? What if I can’t balance on my head and bend myself into a twist? Is it OK to drink alcohol when you are on a yoga retreat?
Thankfully, the theme for this year’s festival was “Get Out There” meaning let go of old behaviors, wake up to your intuitive guidance, and step into the power of a collective community.
So if you’re thinking of going to a yoga festival, as well (of which there are MANY around the world), here are a few things I learned at Sedona and you need to consider before your ultimate yoga getaway…
Pick a Good Location
Part of the attraction for me to sign up for this kind of trip was the location itself. Nestled among red and orange colored sandstones, Sedona is a picturesque town in northern Arizona. It is also known for its regenerative powers demonstrated by vortexes, or high energy points. It is the only place on Earth that has four vortex locations concentrated in a small area. Other such sacred sites around the world are at Great Pyramid in Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru, Bali, Stonehenge, Bermuda Triangle, Tibet, and Ayers Rock in Australia, and also make for good yoga destinations. It is believed that doing yoga, meditation or any kind of spiritual introspection at such places is different because the energy is more intense and has special healing qualities. Just seeing the majestic red rocks and flawless sunny days is relaxing. Why not try yoga there as well?
Find the Right Community
A yoga festival is different from a yoga retreat. There are a lot more people. Over 1400 people attended the Sedona Yoga Festival (SYF) with me, and we were not hanging out together all of the time. There were a lot of solo travelers, groups of friends, and yoga instructors. There were social activities, like “health happy hours” and music and dance sessions, where you could interact with a broader fun loving community. I felt it was a great place to meet like-minded people, as everyone there had holistic views on treating the mind and body. It was easy to strike up a conversation and there were several occasions where I hugged a total stranger. But then, I also had time to focus on myself and retreat to my room whenever I needed to.
Don’t Worry About Poses
I confess, though I “can” do yoga, I have not even come close to mastering the art of bending my body into impossible angles, doing headstands or aerial splits. Seeing men and women who are in great shape and extremely flexible can be intimidating at first, but I had to remind myself that yoga takes patience and experience. “Stop looking at other people’s poses, their cute yoga outfits, or the colorful designs of their mats!” I heard one instructor remind us.
Just the fact that I was trying meant I wanted to do something good for myself.
Be Ready to Try New Things
During the festival, I learned a lot of new things that I am going to incorporate into my practice, like: Eat a piece of dark chocolate before starting your session to heighten your senses. If meditation music doesn’t inspire you, try reggae. Wake up early morning to watch the with sunrise and do sun salutations. Combine hiking with yoga.
There are also different forms of yoga — Kundalini, Hatha, Bikram, etc. And while you may not always have the time or money to try all of the different classes at home, yoga festivals give you basic exposure to them, so you can decide which one you want to stick with.
I also sat in many of the 200+ classes and workshops offered during the festival that had nothing to do with yoga, but catered to overall wellness. Attending such events means you can hear from experts on a variety of topics, such as eating superfoods, Ayurveda, meditation, building relationships and much more.
Hit a Spa Afterwords
One of the perks of yoga festivals is that they encourage spa treatments as well. On the premise, there were free massages, relaxation chairs, sound and light treatments. Down the street were several smaller spas, holistic treatment centers, and energy readers. I finished my trip with a Full Circle massage at the 25,000 square-feet Eforea Spa at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, where the festival took place. There is nothing better after a weekend of yoga than to soak in a jacuzzi and take a steam shower.
Written for CheapOAir Miles Away. April 2017.