I love my morning rituals: my morning practice, my big glass of warm water, and lately listening to my morning music playlist. They give structure to windy days and changing surroundings. But I also love taking new ways home and discovering new ways of doing things, new recipes. Two weeks ago I went to Navanadi, Belgium’s first yoga festival. It was a friendly gathering of yoga teachers and students, musicians, and artists all sharing their practices, their rituals, and their art. I went to way too many classes by inspiring new teachers, met new people, and… ate amazing chocolate! One week later I immersed myself for three days in Jivamukti yoga with my teachers Patrick Broome and Yogeswari, taking challenging classes, going deeper into the old yoga philosophy scriptures and meeting old friends.
Yoga festivals and retreats take you out of your comfort zone. They break habits and make space for the unexpected, the new, and the change. They are ten times worth the travel and the bad beds. And that is the same with any trade show, seminar, race or training for something you are passionate about. In Ayurveda, India’s ancient life science, they talk about our inner fire: Agni. Agni is not only influenced by the food we eat and how much sleep we get but also by how passionately we live our lives, what gets us out of bed in the morning. Taking time out of daily routine to immerse myself in the things I love with good teachers and like-minded people relights my Agni, makes me alive again.
Here is why I love yoga (or raw food, photography, Buddhism, running, modern art, writing…) retreats and festivals:
1. You get off your bum. It is difficult to learn new things or meet new people from your couch at home.
2. You stretch. When you think your feet, hamstrings or brain have had enough, you discover a new pose, a new teacher like Kenny Graham or a new idea. And you keep going.
3. You see things from a new perspective. As always when you change the place you are looking from.
4. You support good causes. Today, a part of the profit from most events goes to non-profit organisations. Navanadi supports Off The Mat into the World, who’s focus for 2012 is to fight sex slavery and trafficking in India.
5. You get to share and challenge your views and opinions. Talking to other people about what you love (or think you hate) is different to just having thoughts in your head.
6. You do some cool shopping. At Navanadi, there was a lovely little market with new yoga clothes, yummy raw cakes, and chocolate with a story. We got to speak to one of the founders of Original Beans, learn about wild cacao, taste different kinds and ask questions about his inspiring and earth-loving new business.
7. You take a whole chunk of time off for yourself. No matter how often you tell yourself you will take a day off from madness and do a home-detox, a day at the gym or in the mountains… you don’t.
8. You grow. You do things you would never do on your own: go to three yoga classes in a row, dance with strangers, sing songs you don’t know, or run 21km.
9. You smile, laugh and cry. All day.
10. You get back home and love your rituals and habits just that little bit more.
I’ve bookmarked Navanadi Festival for 23-25 August 2013 and am keeping my eyes open for new and exciting ways or keeping my Agni burning, please share any tips and ideas!
Photos by Stefaan Achtergael for Navanadi Festival