Recently Sunday School took the Yoga out of the classroom and onto the road, heading to the Prana Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. Around 20 of us made the trip from London for the weekend festival, arriving Friday morning and leaving Sunday evening. Whilst it was a long way to go for a couple of days, it was totally worth it! An 8am flight from Stansted meant a very early start on the Friday to get the Express from Liverpool Street. Too early for some it seemed, who, naming no names, in the daze of a late Thursday finish, apparently misjudged what time they needed to set their alarm (you Kam always rely on at least one student on any school trip to nearly misses the bus…!).
The tone for the weekend was immediately set once a few of us were together – all laughs and good vibes! The journey was full of them, and increased with each person who joined the entourage, with lots of friendships between people who see each other regularly, some who’d met before and were getting to catch up/know each other better, and completely new connections being established – the airport is a magical place.
After a quick breakfast to refuel after the early start we were on the plane ready to roll…or not – Ryanair had other ideas. As we were delayed getting onto the plane we’d apparently missed our take-off slot, and were told we’d have to wait on the plane for an hour for another one. You could definitely spot the yogis on this flight, as whilst everyone else made sure their ire was heard, those heading to Prana maintained their yogi zen and couldn’t care less. If anything it was great as it meant more time napping (my choice), chatting, and apparently a peanut butter snacking party between a few!
After a flight and taxi ride later we were at our hotel for the weekend, the Scandic Rubinen, on Kungsportsavenyen – the main boulevard of Gothenburg. I believe all of the London crew stayed there, (as well as a lot of other teachers on the festival line-up and some out of town attendees), which was great not just for ease of communication and organisation of the SSY crew, but it meant we really did get to spend the whole weekend together. The hotel was lovely, with free, very good wifi (useful for the weekend whatsapp group and social media fiends), the largest breakfast spread I’ve seen in a hotel, boasting over 100 items (some hardcore yogis had Tupperware with them and were able to take a few items for snacking through the day), and was only a 10-15 minute walk from the festival!
Friday afternoon was spent wandering and eating our way around the city, until the weather turned a little too wet and we were forced to seek refuge and refreshment in a quaint establishment, before heading back to the hotel and then out for an amazingly delicious dinner at The Barn, accommodating all the fussy yogi dietary requirements. (Be warned though, Sweden is an expensive city to visit – I must have spent close to £100 on food over the weekend, including snacks and dinners out, and food at the festival stalls.)
Saturday morning was rather wet but we weren’t going to let the weather dampen our spirits, and we headed en masse to Trädgårdsföreningen (The Garden Society) - a park and horticultural garden in the centre of Gothenburg, where the festival was being held. We arrived early to collect our festival bands and avoid queuing in the rain as much possible. We were also each given a printout of the classes we’d selected to attend when we purchased our tickets, which we’d need to show to get us into each class – super efficient from the Swedes indeed! (Don’t worry though, if there was a class you wanted to attend but hadn’t registered for you could if there was room (which there always was) after those who had booked got priority entry.)
In supportive team spirit we all head over to Michael (James Wong)’s first class of the weekend in the Palmtent. This was no popup tent, nor a gazebo erected over a patch of grass with a piece of felt to separate you from the mud, but an impressive 180 person (p), laminate floored, four ‘walled’ structure complete with decoration, stage, lighting, sound tech, and ushers to welcome you with a smile, check your printout and band, and ask you to remove your shoes just inside to minimize the effects of the rain inside the space. It suddenly hit me that this wasn’t a low budget, group of hippies in a field event, but had some serious time, effort, organisation, and capital behind it to provide all the yogis in attendance with a fantastic experience!
The festival comprised of three tent stages: Lagerhuset (90p), Flowtent (180p), Palmtent (180p); the indoor Trädgårn stage (120p); an outdoor music stage (open to anyone in earshot, including members of the public passing through the park); and a SUP yoga station (7p) on the river running along a boundary of the garden. Between the tents were the food trucks catering the festival (Rollin Bistro, Frill – The Frozen Smoothie, Filipinofusion, and the super delicious Burrito Bros), and numerous stalls promoting local yoga studios, brands, clothing, accessories, etc.
Depending on which classes you’d booked (/how ambitious you’d been with the number of classes you’d booked and actually wanted to attend) depended on how much free time you had between classes to eat, hang out, and just enjoy the festival vibes. Luckily the weather had improved and it allowed the majority of the London crew to reassemble and chill out for some refuelling, a quick group photo, and debrief of evening plans.
Sunday brought much of the same, including some sunshine – not that I really got to enjoy it though as apparently I’d decided to go all out for the last day with two 90min classes and two 75min classes, giving myself max 30 mins between things to eat something. No regrets this end though, as that day just flew by and I got to practice some fantastic classes with amazing teachers. The line-up for the festival was a mix of well know international names (Dylan Werner and Rusty Wells to name a couple), some London-based teachers, and more local Swedish teachers. This was great, and offered me (and others) the chance to practice for the first time in a foreign language, which was a really cool experience (albeit challenging and actually quite humbling – like doing a yoga class for the first time again, looking around at everyone else trying to figure out what was going on!).
After a quick shower back at the hotel and a speedy pizza (unless you were MJ) at a nearby restaurant it was time to head home. The majority of us were flying back that evening on late flights (so we could get the most out of the festival), but some were either staying on an extra night or off to another destination, so goodbyes were said and hugs given. We were sad it was over, but all on a high from the weekend.
Whilst the yoga over the weekend was great it’s not what made this short but sweet trip so fantastic for me; it was the people. The opportunity to connect with myself on the mat over those 10 hours of practice I did was great, but what I really appreciated and took away from the weekend was the yoga off the mat - making new friends, building on old relationships, and simply connecting, laughing, and smiling with amazing people with whom this shared love and appreciation for yoga draws us together as a community. Thanks all who made it such a great weekend!