National Yoga Month (late) and the search for a broader community

Logo of National Yoga Month
September was National Yoga Month

Last month, September was National Yoga Month, and I did not get around to mentioning it. In fact, I didn’t even post in September, which shows how I have shifted the focus of my practice or been preoccupied with other things. In any case, I still lived my yoga.

Activities were promoted on Facebook and on the Web, and the DC yoga community did their thing too. It is mainly an opportunity to open up studio doors to newcomers who want to sample a yoga class or take a basics course. But National Yoga Month is just a slice of time, and yoga has become a year-round activity.

What strikes me about yoga’s place in US mainstream culture is the current surge in “yoga festivals” across the country. It probably grew out yoga conference, a weekend or week-long convention of yoga studio owners, teachers, service providers, equipment suppliers and other businesses. The best known ones are those organized by Yoga Journal. But the festivals are broader phenomenon, something like mini-Woodstocks where music, dance, food, and celebration are melded with the yoga movement at an attractive outdoor setting like the Hanuman Festival in Boulder, the Wanderlust festivals in multiple sites, and elsewhere. Many take advantage of ski resorts during off-season. Others are more local affairs, steering closer to the conference formula (Also see this older article about this trend.).

Part of the yoga festival phenomenon is that there is a search for a broader social environment in which to play out yoga’s growth, without strict allegiance to doctrines, boundaries and other restraints. There is also a strong commercial presence at these events, and not just strictly yoga-related businesses: the market is the petri dish of yoga in the United States, as opposed to religious or spiritual considerations. Because the yoga  happening is so grassroots, decentralized, and amorphous, there’s no clear regional or national leadership.