Wellbeing

Why You Should Never Walk Past The Yoga Tent At A Music Festival

People used to flock to festivals for big name line-ups, but a changing scene tells us it’s about much more than the music.

The music festival scene in Australia has been changing for years. Large-scale festivals like Future Music, Soundwave and Big Day Out continue to fold, while a slew of boutique offerings have flourished in their wake. From Mountain Sounds to Secret Garden to Subsonic, it’s clear that what people want is an experience, and a relationship with a festival that deepens over time.

Give the people what they want

Catering to the demands of changing public taste has seen a holistic approach incorporating wellness practices, culinary delights and artistic endeavours flow alongside the tunes, and always in locations surrounded by pristine nature.

It’s heralded a wave of new-breed festivals people are happy to pay (and travel) for, where you’ll find revellers frolicking in fancy dress, wandering into hidden fairy-lit pockets, and feasting on organic meals at long tables among the trees. It’s all about a bespoke experience.

Into the forest we go… #secretgardenfestival

A photo posted by zeedie (@zeedie) on


One festival with a strong focus on wellbeing is Lost Paradise, held on NSW’s Central Coast for three days over New Year’s Eve. Their health-focused offering to festivalgoers was the Shambala Tent, a self-described “magical space to enliven your mind, body and soul.” There were activities like a belly dancing workshop and Acro Yoga, but a strong spiritual emphasis was considered in the curation of events. Rather than scare punters off, these events proved popular. But should we be surprised that people are as equally inclined to a fist pump as they are to participate in an introduction to Tantra?

Spirituality and music

Music and spirituality are intrinsically and historically linked, from devotional chants (or Bhajans), Vedic mantras, Gospel music and Indigenous drumming, to the primal beats, polyrhythmic percussion and deep bass lines of techno – all of which evoke a deep-seated need for movement, whether physically or internally. The late legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles (known as the Godfather of house music) described techno as “church for people who have fallen from grace” while Beethoven recognises “music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.”

So theoretically, offering people the chance for soul-searching and healing at a music event seems like a natural fit. But does it work in practice? Yoga teacher, spiritual mentor, Tantrika and 5elements dance facilitator, Sarah Jane-Perman, taught a few different sessions in the Shambala Tent. She was impressed by the openness of the festivalgoers who were eager to delve into spiritual practice.

“I often wonder how deep I can take it at a festival catering for so many (those who are there for the workshops and those who are there to party)” she says, “but everyone who came to my sessions was totally ready.”

The appeal of the heal

The first day of the festival, Sarah-Jane held a yoga flow (or Vinyasa) class, which was packed – “a total surprise at 9am on the opening morning, so I was thrilled to be greeted by 60-odd eager yogis.” But yoga was as mainstream as it got.

  What better way to start your day than with group yoga in the Shambala Tent!   A photo posted by Lost Paradise (@lostparadiseau) on


Sarah-Jane also held space for a Goddess Puja and Cacao Ceremony. The Goddess Puja is an ancient practice with roots in Tantra, considered the ‘art of adoration’ and an offering to the divine within every living being. In other words, women are celebrated and adored as Goddesses.

“If every guy at the festival knew this was going to happen, I would have had 2000 there… and not enough mango!”

Sarah-Jane was aware that it was “a little risky” because it rested upon participants’ comfort levels in dealing with “conscious intimacy.”

“When I gave an indication of what we were going to do, I saw some concerned faces,” Sarah-Jane laughs, but instead of a bunch of socially awkward people wondering what the hell they just stumbled into, “everyone’s guard dropped and by the end, our goddesses were dancing like the sensual Shaktis they are.” The men who attended also got a treat: “they were honoured, fed mango and caressed with feathers by a host of beautiful women (all whilst blindfolded). If every guy at the festival knew this was going to happen, I would have had 2000 there… and not enough mango!”

Is there any potential concern?

In an environment where it’s impossible to know what substances partygoers are enjoying, and one that supports emotional shifts, should there be cause for concern or control around sessions? One such example is a cacao ceremony, where participants drink a cacao elixir, which, when coupled with breath work and meditation, can have strong physical and internal effects.

Sarah-Jane explains that it isn’t your usual, full-strength experience. “The cacao ceremonies I offer at festivals like Lost Paradise are very gentle and the cacao dosage is very low. A usual ceremony would be a whole day or night,” Sarah-Jane cautions. “This was just a taster of 1.5 hours, so everyone received a little glimpse of what a full-blown experience would be like.” She also says that participants were informed prior to the ceremony about the physiological effects and what to expect from the cacao.

 

Let the Cacao Ceremony begin! @lostparadiseau #ShambalaTent #MTVTrippers #NewSouthWales #GlenworthValley @sydneyfun

 

A photo posted by mtvtravel_au (@mtvtravel_au) on


Other workshops on offer included raw foods, Gendai Reiki-Ho healing, Sacred Geometry, an Indigenous workshop with YARN Australia as well as meditation sessions, laughter yoga and Kundalini yoga.

A sense of community

Festivalgoer and on-site dome builder, Tyler Saunders, described the tent’s presence as a “conscious hideaway” that “provide[d] a piece of peace and harmony to the rampant festivities that one can return to after centering and breathing properly.” Tyler playfully dubbed the group patrons as “Giddy Gurus, Secret Swamis and Poorly-Paid Prophets.”

Alistair Hart also attended many of the workshops in the tent, and described the experience as life changing in that he was able to “learn amazing things, meet amazing people and connect in with myself, the land and the community.”


Offering a space for healing, spiritual and wellness practice enables festival attendees to enjoy in a shared experience that doesn’t recognise colour, race or religion – in the same way music does. As such, it is another avenue to bolster a sense of community larger festivals struggle to authentically provide.

Sarah-Jane feels that these modalities are at home in boutique festivals, because people are already blown “wide open” from the festival experience itself, making them more receptive “to stumbling into a sacred geometry or Tantra workshop and having an experience they might not have otherwise sought out in their day-to-day life.”

And like the memories of an epic set from your favourite DJ or live act, these experiences can have a lasting effect. Sarah-Jane adds that they also have the potential to “open your eyes (and heart) to other ways of being.”


Sonia Taylor is the editor of The Cusp and attends the Church of Techno.