It’s nearing sunset on a May evening in the jungle of Uvita, Costa Rica, and I’m exhausted, having spent the last five hours interviewing hippies about happiness and partying till sunrise at this year’s Envision Festival. Resisting the urge to nap in a nearby hammock, I force myself into a large tent structure the festival calls a “temple” to attend a yoga class with about 40 other festival attendees. Our instructor, who hails from Trinidad, cheekily warns us that many of postures we’ll assume will be “extremely inconvenient.” When I finally emerge from the tent at the end of the sessiona grueling 90-minutes of intense body twisting, soundtracked by calming trip-hopthe sky has darkened into night, and I feel rejuvenated, limber, and totally energized.
The thought of a sweaty, kale-chomping bohemian busting a downward dog while some dreadlocked DJ drops a Thievery Corporation track is enough to trigger most people’s gag reflexes. But at hippie havens like Burning Man, Brooklyn nightclubs, and festivals like Detroit’s Movement and Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, yoga and rave culture seem to be converging, and they’re changing the way people think about partying.
Over the last few years, both the yoga and music festival scenes have been growing in numbers, particularly amongst younger crowds. According to Forbes, the number of people who practice yoga in the US went from 20.4 million to 36.7 million in 2016; per a similar study from the Huffington post, 40 percent of yoga practitioners are under the age of 34. Meanwhile, a 2015 Billboard report found that a whopping 32 million people now go to at least one US music festival every year, up 44 percent from 2014, including 14.7 million millennials.
Envision festival. Photo by Jack Pasco Photography.
Amidst rampant headlines about drug-related deaths at electronic music festivals, the appearance of yoga classes at these events may offer a welcome new spin on dance music’s public image. For many of the yoga instructors, DJs, and promoters leading this growing movement, lacing your downward dogs with heady electronic bleeps is bound to make you become a safer raver, or at the very least, encourage you to embrace a more health-conscious lifestyle
“I think a festival can give them a profound experience. You become more perceptive to your mind, body, breath, and energy over time.”
With its emphasis on self-study and understanding one’s limits, yoga may also be useful to partiers struggling with addiction. Elena Bower is a top instructor who was once both a global yoga ambassador and sponsored athlete for Adidas. Now two years sober, she cites yoga-centric music events like Wanderlust as being instrumental in helping people find self-control in a different context than they’re used to. “Yoga nourishes in what happens in the aftermath of a club night,” she says. “I can only speak for my own experience, but my practice really helped me find my way back home to myself every time.”
It’s possible that doing yoga at music festivals and clubs is just a passing lifestyle fad that will be soon tossed aside like a ratty pair of Lululemon pants. DJ Tasha Blank even lamented the absurdity of people trying to trademark the concept of deep house yoga. But even if this is just a trend, it’s one that’s disrupting the way that ravers and live music spaces coexist, offering a new way to experience dance music. A great DJ set can remain stuck in your brain for dayseven months or yearsbut it’s no rival for the one that soundtracks your first flawless headstand.