The Hippie Factor

This past weekend was the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival. I had never been to a yoga festival

before and was really interested in attending since yoga has become a big part of my life over the last few months. I was hoping to do a workshop or two, maybe walk around as a family, and see some live music over the weekend. I have recently found a love for what I think is called chanting music? Though I am not exactly sure the genre name, I do know that after many good yoga classes, the songs played during my practice will often play in my head and bring a sense of calm.

I went to my regular Wednesday class last week and with the yoga festival approaching in the following days, the teacher played Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band during class since he would be playing music Friday night then teaching yoga throughout the weekend. I had heard his music before but it struck a chord in me during class and I decided I wanted to see him live. After some passing mention of the festival to my husband, then casually having him sample some of the music, I finally nailed him down to commit to going with me. He is very open-minded but since he does not practice yoga himself, I feared he wouldn’t quite be on the same plane with me in regard to the atmosphere of the festival. And, I was correct though he raised some good questions about stereotypes. His reaction also gave me a chuckle and reminded me of my Grampy, so it was all good.

Friday night we went out for a couple of drinks prior to the show because the festival is a no-alcohol event. After some good conversation and two drinks each, we went to the show. I knew immediately when we walked in that this was not going to be his cup of tea. There was twirling, chanting, and clapping; hippie skirts and blankets; and a bouquet of essential oils floating in the air. We stood looking in to the large open room and decided to dive in, so we took off our shoes, walked in and sat down. We arrived just as one song was ending and Johnson began telling a story. He then asked everyone to make the sound of a monkey to which many enthusiastically did; in fact, I was quite impressed with some of the howler monkey impersonations. Then, he began playing Jai Hanuman which is a powerful song and as soon as the energy built, the outskirts of the crowd surrounding those sitting on blankets at the nucleus, bound up and began twirling and jumping around dancing. I immediately felt the energy and it was amazing! While I didn’t twirl, I instantly smiled and bobbed my head.  It was about mid-way through the song that the hubs said he was ready to go. He was willing to attend with me even if for only a short time and for that, I am grateful.

On the drive home, hubs almost seemed irritated. He asked why yoga inherently has to be hippie. Does one have to be hippie to enjoy yoga and how does this chanting music have anything to do with yoga? While I had many thoughts and possible explanations on the matter, I left it alone that he doesn’t share my love and passion for yoga and that is okay, we do not have to be passionate about the same things yet it meant a lot that he went anyway. And after some thought on his questions, here is my take on the hippie factor in yoga and/or a yoga festival:

It is the nature of the art that draws out a particular group of people to this type of festival. The raw, organic food, the chanting music, the beaded jewelry, the hula hooping, yoga, massage, meditation, etc.; these things are practiced in a population typically seen as hippie, free-spirited, open-minded, or progressive,  but it certainly does not mean that you have to wear the oils and the long skirts to do yoga or be a part of the festivities. In fact, conforming to a style to be a part of the action takes away from the action itself. I wore my jeans, boots and a long sleeved t-shirt, I did not twirl or make howler monkey sounds but I felt the music, I felt the energy and I loved it. I am happy that other people were expressing themselves and sharing their positive energy.

As the lovely yoga instructor I interviewed last week said, everyone can do yoga, but not everyone can experience yoga. There is a lot of truth in that statement. You have to be ready, willing and open to the yoga experience which is far more than stretching. It is meditation, silence, breathing (pranayama), surrendering, forgiving, feeling, accepting, loving and embracing. It is music, chanting, opening the body, mind and soul.

We came home and I felt I needed more but was doubtful that I could convince my husband to attend again as a family. We woke Saturday and while weekends are typically for family time, I wanted to do a workshop and since I am freelance writer and just finished a piece on a yoga instructor who would be teaching a workshop, I felt it was justified. My wonderful husband encouraged me to go feeling that maybe he had robbed me of an experience because of his own taste difference. So, I went. And on my own, I noticed the saturation of “hippie” as soon as I arrived. There were people hula hooping, smells of sweat and essential oils, beans cooking, drums playing and a man singing/talking gently reminding us to listen to the birds chirp and the bees buzz.  I found it all very entertaining and beautiful. I wandered about, met the publisher of the publication for which I wrote and then walked to the community room to set down my mat and take a workshop on Mudras & Movement. I introduced myself to the instructor as having spoken to her the week prior for an article, then I took my spot.

As often occurs in a good yoga session, I learned about ways to release and let go, how to use our bodies to deal with obstacles in our life. I learned the story of Ganesh and a Ganesh mudra. I love the idea of telling symbolic stories creating imagery to handle life’s challenges and this works for me, not for everyone. Does the fact that I cry in yoga class, listen to chanting music, feel the positive energy from a group expressing their personal freedom make me a hippie? Possibly, but I have no need for that definition nor does it change anything about my life.

This past year has presented more challenges than I would have anticipated at its beginning. I have grown in ways I was not looking yet feel that I have learned more about myself than any other point in the past. I have had moments of anger and frustration this year. Times when I felt misunderstood or judged. I have felt grief for a relationship that has morphed into something that I didn’t think I wanted, yet, pushing through the challenging times has led to greater awareness of the truth and with it anger toward those distant and others close has dissipated. An understanding of what “is” versus what I thought I wanted has taken place in my heart so that I am better allowing relationships, people, and myself to just be. Are yoga festivals just a congregation of hippies? Yes, hippies love a good yoga and music festival, but so do many other people, like myself who are just looking for better self-understanding and acceptance of others and the world.

Tolerance is what I seek and hope to give.

18 thoughts on “The Hippie Factor

  1. I have worked for years to have my inner me match the outer “hippie” me. I have used essential oils since high school to help my body heal naturally. My mom created a line of organic products when here sister was diagnosed with cancer and was going through chemo in order to help her sister heal. I believe that music can and should affect your soul. I think that our breath controls the world and what we think today becomes our reality tomorrow.
    I get that others look at me like I’m weird.

    I’m also a super Type A OCD personality that has to be in control. I will listen to relaxing music if I’m getting a massage. But I have always struggled to meditate. I can’t sit still and clear my mind. There is too much going on there! 🙂 I can do yoga… sort of… off a DVD – but my belly is too big – in downward facing dog you are supposed to bring one foot forward and then the other and then stand up. yeah… It takes me like four moves! My feet don’t come up far enough! I’m too big to do yoga effectively… and again, I fixate on that and then my mind goes all OCD and defeats the purpose of clearing my mind and being in the moment! 😉

    I’m super glad you went, glad you followed the pull of your soul! And kudos to your hubby for making it as long as he did!

    • Ha! You are so not wierd! 🙂 do u think the essential oils work for healing? I’m interested and have dabbled in holistic stuff but am pretty mainstream when it comes to medicine. Wondering about the placebo effect of the oils too.
      And I am a total type A controller too but am so desperately trying to relieve myself of those duties, it’s just all too heavy!
      I beg to differ that you can’t do yoga. There are alignments and positions for everyone. I say bypass the DVD and go to a yoga studio, tell the teacher your concerns and go from there. You can totally do it and in a class is where you may feel the meditation work more effectively. Xo

      • I love essential oils and they have worked for me as pain relievers. Peppermint oil dropped on a cotton ball and nuked for a few seconds and then put in the ear relieves ear aches. Mandarin oil helps prevent my bad headaches from becoming migraines. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic and anti bacterial. Lavender is relaxing and helps with small headaches. 🙂

  2. Kerry, this post was just …beautiful. I’m not sure exactly why, but I found myself crying at the end of it.
    I have so many questions and curiosities about the yoga culture, but fear that I would react the way your husband did, turn and flee. Your description of your experience helps to ease my mind that I need not worry about not ‘fitting in’. So I will venture forward in exploring this more. (But secretly wish I had a like-minded friend like you to drag along with me!)
    Thank you for sharing such a moving and real post. xoxo nancy

    • Awww, sweet success to make a reader cry 😉 lol…but seriously, I am happy this touched you and inspires you to join the yoga culture just as you are without trying to be anything else. There is much to be gained for sure! And I would love to be your cohort, to bad we live so far apart!

  3. Glad you were able to go and enjoy. My husband was skeptical of the hippie aspect of yoga for a long time too, but once he went to a few classes with me he was hooked. He doesn’t practice regularly, but he jumps at the chance to go when it presents itself. I am certainly no hippie, but I do enjoy chanting and essential oils. I meant to recommend Krishna Das to you. I’m positive he’s been played in some of your classes, he’s kind of a yoga staple. But his voice is SO soothing. I think the most beautiful thing about yoga is that you bring what you want to it and get what you want out. There are no expectations. If you never want to utter an Om, fine, if you want to go to an hour-long meditation and chant class, fine. It’s all about what you make it.

    • Yes, I agree. I’ll check out your music recommendation. There is no script as to how you have to look or be to benefit. That is the beauty of humanity & serendipity, you cannot judge by outer appearance. That elementary notion hit me in the face after having kids and my closest friends didn’t resemble what my typical friend would look like. I don’t think I realized how subconsciously judgmental I was pre-kids! I digress 😉 thank you for the comment. Xo

  4. So interesting. We live on the fringes of what I like to call Hippie Heartland and Monkey’s dad lives right in the thick of it. I think we can all participate and enjoy all or parts of this sub culture in our society. I think I practice my own elements of it in my daily life for sure even though I am hardly what one would describe as hippy. For example today as I was running I just kept thinking “judgement weighs me down, acceptance sets me free” . Quite hippie 😉 There is a downside to the hippy lifestyle and that can be a group of self involved people who find it difficult to contribute to society. Those people bug me and give a negative view of this group in general but there are negative elements to all areas of society so I’m just going to do my best, like you, to do let the judgement go and the acceptance set me free. Great post x

    • Thank you. Xo That is a fantastic mantra, I may have to grab that 😉 and you are so right, it is the extremes that set the stereotype. We all have an inner hippie…but the beauty is we can connect while still having our very own unique style without mimicking the norm.

  5. I prefer the second tune.
    I did a yoga and pilates class for quite a long time and loved it. Then the class changed nights and it wasn’t convenient. I thought I could keep it going myself. But I didn’t. I’m laughing at the hippy bit. I was a bit of a pseudo hippy in the seventies, my teen years. Patchouli oil and long floaty skirts. I still love my long floaty skirts right enough.
    There are definitely stereotypical images attached to hippies just as there are with all ‘sub-groups’. Some of them are probably true. It is the essential parts, as you outlined, that make for what is important.
    Good for hubby for going with you. Even if it was only for a while. We just can’t all be into the same stuff. My hubby’s a mad keen runner, runs every day, runs for Scotland even. I don’t get it. But it’s his thing. He doesn’t ‘get’ my writing. But it makes for a bit of diversity.
    You sound as if you get a lot from it which is surely what is important.x

    • I really do, yoga has been instrumental to my personal growth this year. I also was a patchouli, long skirt wearing teenager/college student. I took a hiatus from that hippie lifestyle and am now into it in a whole new more beautiful way. Om Hari Om was my first favorite song but I now love the whole album. Fantastic tunes.

  6. Pingback: Diary of a Yoga Teacher Trainee | Winding Road

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