May 30, 2011

Yoga Festivals 101. ~ Sonja Bjelland

Photo: Brad Coy

Seems like every weekend this summer yogis will be gathering somewhere for a yoga festival or mini-version of one.

My first class at the BaliSpirit Festival  left me with sweat dripping off my hair. I could barely keep up with the amount of water I needed during the five days of yoga and dancing.

What else did I need? Here’s my list of what to take:

  • A really good yoga mat: preferably an eco-friendly one so you don’t feel a guilt trip when some teacher inevitably preaches about being green.


  • Refillable water bottle: Enviro-safe and PBA free  (see previous note). This does work better if you’re just going for a few days and not traveling for a long time like I was It can end up rather gross when you don’t have a way to clean it. But a good one with a flat top can double as a yoga block.


  • Photo: Brad Coy

    Towel: Something small so you can keep wiping sweat off your face and hands.


  • Sunscreen: An absolute must because if you’re competing with the “yoga babes,” you won’t be wearing much clothing and practicing yoga while sunburnt just hurts. And it doesn’t at all follow the principle of being non-harming to oneself.


  • Bug stuff: But none of that DEET crap. If you get it on your hands and touch your mat your hands might just peel the plastic off.


  • Hand sanitizer: Just because you’re all focused on being healthy doesn’t mean the bathrooms will remain spotless. And you’re putting your hands and feet on the same place all day. Yes, lots of hand sanitizer.


  • Tissues: For when those bathrooms don’t have enough TP for a crowd that’s 80 percent women or blowing your nose before breathing exercises and maybe for that unexpected teardrop in class.


  • Face and hand wipes: You’re just going to feel gross. There’s no way around it. But at some point you might want to wipe down.

    Photo: Brad Coy


  • Small notebook and pen: Something a teacher says may resonate with you or you just want to jot down the email address of a new friend to send that photo you just shot of her rocking a funky pose.


  • Sarong: Can serve as a sun cover, an extra layer or a ground cover. Even serves as a mat cover if you really need it to.


  • An open mind: You might end up in a class way over your head or with a teacher whose voice you just can’t stand. But festivals are fun. Make it your own practice and try as many different styles and teachers as you can. You never know what you’ll learn from that experience.



Sonja Bjelland has been covering life’s underbelly for daily newspapers for over ten years. She originally sought out yoga to change up her workout routine, but discovered that yoga helped her deal with the daily tasks of listening to tearful courtroom testimony or interviewing a mother who had lost a child. As the newspaper industry crumbled, she decided to give back to the yoga community for what it gave her. Her website Bliss Passport  is dedicated to providing a forum for discussions about all types of yoga-related travel and sent Sonja across Asia discovering yoga retreats, yoga spas and yoga resorts so readers can make educated decisions.

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