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The yoga festival, a day-or-weekend-long event with yogis practicing en masse, has been a growing trend in recent years. Yoga and new-age lovers descend on parks and open spaces by the thousands to take classes from high-profile instructors and learn about different techniques, yoga clothing lines, and everything new-age. V Elements (pronounced five elements), staging its third festival in San Diego on September 27, is fast becoming one of the most popular of the yoga festivals by bringing a unique spin to this trend and growing its audience by thinking outside of the ashram-shaped box.
The trend of large yoga festivals began to pick up speed around 2009 with the advent of Bhakti Fest and its spinoff, Shakti Fest. These festivals began, somewhat surprisingly, in the Midwest and began to gain momentum and move to different regions after 2010. Yoga Rocks the Park is another popular festival, with more frequent festivals in more locations throughout the U.S., where the focus is exclusively on practice as a community rather than the other aspects of new age and meditation-focused spirituality.
Wanderlust, which just had a huge turnout of over 3,000 yogis at the Santa Monica pier, is one of the larger proponents of this new trend, but classes itself as more “yoga retreat” than festival. In addition to these, there are countless local festivals which seem to be springing up everywhere around the U.S., either small affairs led by individual yoga studios, or massive-scale yoga parties which are well-organized by production groups and slick marketers.
V Elements checks both of the latter boxes when it comes to how the festival is presented, but also takes its own unique angle in order to draw more diverse crowds. The festival is attached to one local studio, Indie Yoga in the Ocean Beach area of San Diego, and thus far the V Elements festivals have been local to the San Diego area.
Additionally, Indie Yoga has some heavy backing by a PR and talent management firm called The Madero Group, and common ownership with Alternative Power Productions, a staging and production company which runs events with 100 percent green power sources. Alternative Power has already had many high-profile clients for whom they’ve provided staging and sound such as the Van’s Warped Tour and the ESPY awards.
Jamie Minotti, owner of the Madero Group and co-founder with Mark McLarry of Alternative Power, says they came up with the idea with Brooke Kettering, manager of Indie Yoga. They came up with the idea for V Elements quite independently of the growing yoga festival trend. They were trying to come up with an idea for an event that would involve as much of their own team as possible at the time. “During a meeting I jokingly said ‘so when are we going to do a yoga festival?'” Kettering told the GLV in early September, “I didn’t think it would go anywhere, and now here we are.”
The first V Elements was in April 2013, and it was originally set to be an annual event with the second festival taking place in April 2014. According to Minotti, “we had such a huge response that people seemed to keep saying, you know, let’s do this more often, so we decided to do this upcoming fall event. The events in April are about 2,500 to 3,000 people, but the fall events, which we’re kind of calling ‘petite events,’ are held at the Broadway Pier so obviously capacity is much more limited and we’re looking at maybe 1,000 to 1,500 people for those.” Within a year, then, V Elements has expanded from an annual to a semi-annual event. Minotti also told the GLV that some ideas have been thrown around to expand to other cities but nothing is concrete yet.
With the three companies providing all the resources needed to get the festival going, the team also wanted to make V Elements stand out from other yoga festivals. The team thought one item was key to make V Elements not only about yoga but about music. Thus the three of them became co-producers of the festival and set out to create something new within this popular trend.
“We have DJs during all of the yoga classes throughout the day and music woven into the workshops, but then at night there’s a big concert. People can come for the yoga and stay for the music,” Minotti told the GLV. That seems to be a theme throughout the festival, and the V Elements team seems to really want to bring together not only different elements of yoga and the new age culture, but also different elements of the festival culture.
“It seems as though a lot of music festivals are just about partying,” said Brooke Kettering, “but a lot of yoga festivals have little to no musical element aside from what yogis would want to hear; new age, chimes, etc. Our goal, then, was to combine the two things and maybe give music lovers a festival with a little more purpose while also providing some different music options to yoga people, so bringing different elements of festival culture together was one of our goals with this.”
V Elements’ name reflects this idea in an even more concrete way. The “five” in V Elements represents the four elements in nature: earth, water, fire and air, and the fifth element, as any good yogi knows, is spirit.
The yoga classes during the day correspond with those four natural elements and, as Kettering told the GLV, the fifth element of spirit is represented in the music during each workshop. The instructor for each class designs a series which corresponds to his or her assigned element, and the DJs design corresponding musical sets to represent each element.
“This is not your typical yoga class music,” Kettering said, “it’s definitely going to be chill and fit the class, but the whole idea is to bring the spirit element in a different way through the music.”
In addition to the five elements-themed yoga classes, there also be a number of workshops throughout the daytime portion of V Elements, including a Qi Gong workshop, Sound Healing meditation and “Acro-Yoga,” a new form of yoga which is a big trend in and of itself.
Both yoga classes and workshops will be led by well-known instructors such as Katie B who leads teacher training at CorePower Yoga, and the yoga class DJs such as Shamans Dream are known locally and nationally in the electronic music scene. There will also be a whole cultural aspect of the festival, focusing on sustainability in the festival atmosphere and lots of vendors and experience booths set up where festival-goers can experience even more elements of art, sound and education on green issues.
After the daytime portion of the festival, a full concert will commence at night with indie and electronic musical acts like the experimental Eskmo, house producer and DJ Dantiez Saunderson, and Pat Mahoney from LCD Soundsystem. The concert is sure to bring in the diverse crowd the festival organizers are hoping for.
“It’s a great way to bring the two communities together,” said Kettering. “People can take classes and do workshops and learn during the day, and then at night it’s not so serious so people can kind of let their hair down after that and just celebrate life.”
Five years ago the idea of holding a large yoga festival was a new and unconventional idea in its own right. Now, events like V Elements are pushing the boundaries of what a yoga festival should be by bringing new elements of music, education, and most of all, fun to the yoga community.
“We’re trying to create a bigger community with this,” Brooke Kettering told the GLV, “where the festival community maybe didn’t have a lot of substance, and the yoga community was a little bit cloistered with only serious yogis. Our hope is to bring these two together and create a larger sense of community around all these elements.”
V Elements seems to be on the cutting edge of the yoga festival trend, so much so that there soon may be a new term for what they do. With the bringing together of so many aspects of yoga, culture, music and sustainability, V Elements may someday become not only the name of an event, but a whole new type of community gathering of its own.
Opinion By Layla Klamt
Wanderlust.com (yoga festivals)
Interview, Jamie Minotti CEO Madero Group & Alternative Power Productions
Interview, Brooke Kettering Manager Indie Yoga San Diego