OM Rising: A Yoga Newbie Takes On His First Festival
Cover Photo By Meghan Smolka Photography
By Timothy Paul Priest
How to love a yoga fanatic
I’m in a relationship with someone who loves yoga. My girlfriend uses yoga as both a spiritual practice and an exercise/wellness routine. I was a bit intimidated when she proposed going to a yoga retreat, especially one that she would be teaching at. I felt self conscious about not knowing all the poses and their sanskrit names, and how my body would respond to the flexibility needed for practice. However, the idea of camping in the redwoods, with someone I loved, and attending a few days of yoga classes didn’t sound terrible.
My first yoga retreat
While there are many yoga festivals to choose from, my girlfriend recommended that we go to OM Rising for my newbie experience. This festival was a combination of yoga, spirituality and music that was held at Camp Navarro in Mendocino County. The festival was small enough to feel intimate, but still attracted high quality teacher, speakers and musicians. Tim Dale, the original creator of Yoga Tree, is the mastermind behind this beautiful gathering, and his presence seems to attract teachers with amazing vibes.
The main attraction for me, straight out of the car was the venue. Ancient redwoods peppered the landscape and a beautiful creek ran through the grounds and lead to an amazing swimming hole. We decided to set up our camp right by the creek, the sound of the water rushing over the rocks acting like a real life white noise machine. (Yes, we have lived in the city for long enough that I thought of it as a white noise machine instead of what it really was, nature!)
Unlike other yoga festivals that I had researched, OM Rising was very financially accessible. A tip to all of you who will want to attend next year; look out for a teacher who is teaching at the festival, they have discount codes! Also, camping is… FREE!!! We bought a brand new teepee looking tent, prayer flags, a camping stove and a blow up mattress for the same price as a deluxe teepee would have cost. We promised (let’s see how that goes) that we would camp more, so for us, this was a great option, and saved us a few hundred dollars. However, the other lodging options, including the cabins and bunk rooms, looked amazing and were about $100 a person for 4 nights (Thursday-Sunday nights).
Since I was a newbie to the festival, I wanted to try a little of everything, while still being available to help at the kids yoga camp (where my girlfriend was teaching). I tried morning yoga, a beautiful tea ceremony, ecstatic dance, and a men’s healing circle. I went in with a beginners mind acknowledging that I was new and didn’t know much but willing to try new things and learn. I found the community very welcoming and open.
Tips for your first yoga retreat
Bring and open heart and willingness to try new things
If there is a men’s circle (or your gender circle) - attend, you won’t regret it.
Go to the ecstatic dance events and dance - but really let go and just move your body in any way that feels good
Buy some sandals/shoes that are comfortable but that you don’t mind ruining and only wearing at festival (sometimes the dust won’t come out)
Go the first day of the festival and find a great place to camp that is both beautiful and an oasis, learn the venue and sign up for classes that look interesting you (many fill up)
Pick a few classes you want to attend and your priorities and don’t try to do everything. You are there to have fun and relax too.
Celebrating the Divine Masculine
The most amazing part of the experience was the men’s circle I attended. In this era of the ‘me too’ movement, I feel that men have a lot of growing in the spiritual and emotional realms to work on. I was impressed with the men who showed up, fully transparent and unassuming, ready to work on their masculinity/ sexuality and how to show up more authentically in the world.
The men’s group was powerful. Nearly 40 men showed up. We moved through exercises to help us feel and appreciate our bodies (men can often feel numb and disconnected from their bodies), shared feelings, collectively and individually released some of our worries, grief and shame in a group roaring, we connected with the other men near us through eye contact, energy transference and touch. We danced and honored each other as powerful men, kings.
One of the statements from one of the co-leaders of the men’s circle was “it’s okay to have fucked up, it’s okay to be imperfect, to have made a mess.” While acknowledging that we still had to clean it up, a key step was forgiving oneself for past mistakes. This resonated very deeply with me and I experienced a profound relief and release of pent up energy as I let go of my shame around past mistakes while also striving to be a more open and heart centered person in the world.
Women’s power is unquestionably rising in the world today. As men we have choices about how we respond. Some men feel threatened by a perceived loss of power and are fighting back with overt misogyny while other recognize that the rising power of women can lift us all if we men raise our own emotional intelligence, and vibration to match the powerful women around us. Gathering like OM Rising, and more importantly, yoga events that create a safe container for men to raise their vibration, are increasingly more important in today’s political climate.
Go and Grow
OM Rising did an amazing job creating space for growth introspection and wellness. I highly recommend attending OM Rising or another yoga retreat. Regardless of which one you choose, if you go in with an open heart and willingness to try new things you will have an amazing time. Also going will make your yoga fanatic partner very happy. ❤️
Till next time, thanks for reading my rookie yoga adventures.